Stu glanced at his phone and saw that his messages had gone unread:
morning sleepy head
I watered your damn petunias
now quit nagging me abt them
By that he meant he “watered” them properly, of course. With water.
He kind of wished Jace was still here, too. Instead he had to go and be an adult and do adult things, leaving Stu friendless once again. He sighed and slipped his phone into the pocket of his jacket. But it didn’t quite go in and instead fell clattering to the sidewalk. Stooping down to pick it up he narrowly avoided walking into a lamp post. God, he was barely keeping it together, and the school day hadn’t even started yet.
But it was a new academic year, and because of that he tried to stay positive. Who knows? Maybe school would be different this time round -- it might even surprise him.
Quite a few things have changed since the beginning of summer break actually, and they haven’t all been bad.
He’d grown somewhat, his voice was deeper and he didn’t look as much like an eternal momma’s boy now. He was taller, too. Tall is good, right?
He was living in a mansion. Elise’s mansion, to be specific. Dad said the commute was easier from there, but he knew it was just an excuse for the two of them to move in together. They hadn’t gotten to the stage where they shared the same bedroom yet, or maybe they had and Stu didn't know it yet.
Speaking of sharing bedrooms, he had been sharing Jace’s, which wasn’t as bad as it sounded. Jace was finally teaching him how to play the guitar, making him learn a few new chords everyday. Soon he would be able to charm all the girls, obviously.
Another thing. He was no longer blonde, on account of him losing a bet to Mason. Stu said no way Elise was going to make him repeat a year for beating Aaron up on account of Stu. Well, he was wrong. At first he hated it, but it kind of grew on him. He was thinking perhaps his classmates wouldn’t recognise him this way. Maybe, just maybe, they’d stop calling him Neck Tie.
Oh, and he’d been going to the hospital every day. Not because he was sick or anything. All the nurses knew him by name. He also had the onus of telling that one nurse that he wasn’t actually Stu Jackson, but rather Stu French.
‘Stu French. . . Aren’t you the one that got sick drinking all that vodka?’
‘No,’ another nurse chimed in from behind the reception desk. ‘He’s the one that fell into a sink and got twelve stitches.’
‘Yeah,’ he admitted shyly. ‘That was me.’
‘Which one? The vodka or the sink?’
‘Um. . . both,’ he said.
Anyway, Westbrook seemed pretty dead this morning. He'd arrived a lot earlier than anybody else. That's because he came in the car with Ash, Dad and Elise. Oh yes, one last thing. . . Elise was kind of principal now. It was too soon to say whether this was a good or a bad thing. Who was he kidding? It was bad. Really bad.
After lingering awhile in the car park, going around in pointless circles, kicking up clouds of dust, Stu glanced at the time and decided it was time to get a move on. OK. Positive thoughts. It can’t be that bad, right? It can’t be worse than showing up in a suit and neck tie.
With newfound courage the sophomore headed for the main entrance. Zen calmness. Carpe diem. Sieze the day. Let the past die, kill it if you have to. Focus on the now. Be the change that you wish to see in the world—
Suddenly he heard a fateful sound and looked up. . .
Right then a roundish object fell from the sky and struck him dead where he stood:
Aaron woke up before the Sun- A rare occurrence he usually despised.
Today was different. You see, today, Aaron would be going back to the Hell known as high school, and that meant sleep came in even more drastic fits and starts than usual.
Summer break had felt like barely any time at all, but maybe that was just his desire to avoid the drama that had risen up at the end of the last year for the rest of eternity.
To be fair, he’d barely managed to avoid it over the Summer.
He’d deleted Twitter early on, the masochistic urge to scroll through and read the arguments and misgendering and comments about how ‘the bitch had deserved it’ enough to make him actually feel something. That was of course before you even got into the rumors, and the tagging, and the horror of seeing people try to drag Casper into all this.
It all just made Aaron hate Drake and Mason and Stu and, hell, to some degree even Maisie just a bit more.
Aaron finally forced his eyes open, admitting to himself that sleep wasn’t going to return. Not yet. With a sigh, he sat up, straightening his nightshirt and pajama pants. He stood, stretching his arms as high as he could, noting the lack of sunlight with derision.
Of course his body couldn’t just hold it together this one time. That was just inconceivable.
He needed more sleep.
He crossed his room, slowly creaking open his closet drawer, and began to move boxes, finally reaching the one labelled “Frida’s Clothes (⅘)”. With a smile, he removed the lid, carefully shuffling through undergarments much too small to fit his current form- It would be a lie to say the thought didn’t fill him with a malicious sort of glee- before he reached what he was looking for.
He pulled out the joint almost reverently, smile softening into something much kinder.
If there was one thing that had gone right this Summer, it was probably managing to land himself a supplier. It had been something he’d been meaning to do, but never quite found the time for. Then again, when you had acquaintances, and eventually even a friend willing to share their weed with you, it wasn’t particularly necessary, was it?
Another wave of bitter anger swept over Aaron as the days spent in the hospital passed over him, the implants and surgery for a facial fracture more serious than he would have liked. Everything had turned out fine, of course.
Everything but his nose.
Every time he saw the crooked thing in a mirror, a new wave of discomfort and loathing crashed over him, and it was hard to pretend it was directed at anyone but himself.
Of course, this just made him hate Drake more.
He shut the lid of the box, again stacking them up as he exited the closet, shutting the door loosely as he grabbed his lighter off his desk, one of the few even semi-personal belongings he kept within view, and even then only allowed within anyone else’s sight due to the candles in various stages of burnt scattered with clear intent across his desk.
His destination laid outside the window, and he moved the bedside table in front of the one easiest to reach with careful ease before sliding the window up and slipping outside.
In the time it had taken Aaron to gather himself, the sun had begun to rise, and he couldn’t help but appreciate its barely there presence, growing stronger with every passing moment, the sky a dark purple and red as orange just barely visible behind the two story abomination across from Aaron’s own, with the same grass laid across its front and back yard, only different due to being too old to be planned like a modern development.
He tried not to think too hard on that as he settled, looking down only to light the joint, hands visible in a nice, blue-tinted manner. He took a hit, checking his window and not particularly caring as he realized he hadn’t shut it even a little bit after he exited.
He needed rest. He really did. But the feeling of smoke entering his lungs and knowing the affects that would soon be wrought was enough for now.
For now, he could simply feel numb.
There was no point in denying he was angry.
After all, his entire life had been ruined, and why? Because some scrawny brat who had somehow managed to reach ninth grade still didn’t know how to follow instructions the first time, and apparently putting him in his place was just a step too far.
He let out a huff, hands beginning to shake as he shut his eyes for a moment.
This sucked. This all sucked.
Today was going to be hell, and it was going to hurt, and his heart was going to seize underneath him, but then it would be over, and he could come back home, and…
And things would be the same way they had been all Summer, with his entire family treating him like a god-damned princess, emphasis on those last two letters, as if he were some delicate thing in need of protection.
His dad had even been doubling down on that whole ‘Protect your sister, Casper, you know how she can get’ thing in front of Aaron’s god-damned face.
And it wasn’t like he could get out.
He had nowhere to go, no one to see, and after that… incident earlier this Summer, he wasn’t about to just let himself wander again.
Was it really any wonder he’d started drinking more heavily.
Granted, some might argue that drinking too much was exactly the reason that that incident earlier this Summer had even happened, but Aaron knew better than that. He would have done it even if he wasn’t intoxicated.
He took another hit. Now really wasn’t the time to think about this. He was expected to be up and functioning in a couple of hours anyways.
He felt himself begin to relax, and that was enough, especially when he had to make this last. He put out the joint on the shingles of the roof, hard and digging into the skin of his ass, and after a moment longer, he slinked back inside.
He was pretty sure he’d be able to sleep again now. At least for a little bit.
Casper had eaten his cereal, gotten into some of his new clothes- too loose in the top, not quite long enough in the legs, and not all Casper’s colors- taken a shower, woken up… And now he was in the car, bag at his feet as he adjusted to the fact his legs no longer dangled even a bit.
It was an adjustment.
He still couldn’t bring himself to look at Aaron- Frida- Aaron? Summer always made everything so confusing, and this most recent blip in the road made it worse. His stomach clenched.
Aaron hadn’t told him what had happened- Aaron hadn’t told anyone what had happened- but Aaron hadn’t needed to. Not with the way everyone was making sure it wouldn’t be forgotten any time soon.
Casper shouldn’t have told Maisie.
He fought the urge to sniffle, eyes on his navy sweater as he played with the sleeves.
Daddy was saying something. Casper should probably be at least trying to listen, especially when Aaron- Aaron- wasn’t filling in any of the gaps, either.
Somehow, that made Casper worry even more, even if it didn’t make sense. After all, Aaron never responded to Daddy.
…What if Daddy was talking to him? That had been happening more over the Summer, and it made Casper ache with how much he missed him, even if he wasn’t really talking to Casper for Casper’s sake, more worried about- Aaron than anything else.
He wished his dad would just ask him about him again. He imagined when he was younger, when his father would smile at him as he drew, a hand on his shoulder, asking him what he was drawing, how his day had been.
He was brought back to reality by a sigh from his father as he turned up the Christian rock station he listened to on his way to work every morning. “You two aren’t going to speak to me. I guess you’re just getting too old to have any respect…”
Casper’s eyes widened, and his lip wobbled. He was sure he was going to cry, but he managed to push out, “No, Daddy, it’s not that! I just… I’m distracted, that’s all.”
Aaron laughed derisively, saying at the same time as their father, “You’re always distracted.”
Aaron shut up pretty quick after that, and Casper just looked down to his hands, trying to keep himself calm as he picked at the fluff of his sweater. He didn’t know how to explain to his family that he was trying, he really was. It was just… hard, and Casper wasn’t being lazy about it, really. It was just… hard to focus a lot of the time. Or it was too easy to focus on the wrong things. Or-
It didn’t matter. Casper was just making excuses, right?
Thankfully, he didn’t have too long to stew in his thoughts. Soon enough, they had reached the school, and Casper gave his dad a smile and wave as he got out. His dad didn’t notice, too busy giving Aaron a smile instead. That hurt, if Casper were honest, but… it was normal. He should have expected it, and maybe he had.
He was an idiot for wanting something more. He shut the door to the car, watching his dad drive off, and then he sighed, sagging a bit as the reality of the situation hit him.
He was back to school.
Back to homework and grades and stomach ache after stomach ache after stomach ache and mocking and-
He didn’t want to think about it. He could get through it as long as he didn’t think about it.
“We should go to classs,” Aaron said, and Casper jolted at the sound of his voice, even and flat and so different from when they were younger and spent their days climbing around outside, just the two of them.
His heart sank lower as he nodded.
“I’ll see you at lunch,” Aaron said curtly, and then he was gone.
Casper wished they could sink further into the ground.
Summer had been interesting to say the least. After the play incident, her subsequent suspension, and then her running away with Stu for the day and crashing her car in Boston, Alaska had pushed her mother to the limit. Viola had called the twins father and shipped them off to New York to spend the rest of the year with their father until she could figure out what to do with them. Both twins had thrown a giant fit over moving halfway through the school year when all of their friends were here, but to no avail. Out of pure spite Alaska had dyed the ends of her long brown hair purple, just because she knew her mother would hate it.
Adjusting to New York wasn’t as hard as Alaska had thought it would be. She pretty much kept to herself and managed to stay out of too much trouble, or at least less trouble than she’d gotten into at Westbrook. Even with Ryder around, she was still lonely in a new city with no friends. The high school was huge, it was almost impossible to get to know anyone, not that she was exactly trying to make friends. Luckily, her brother had more easily made new friends than her and she manger to tolerate them for the most part. Despite the giant fight they’d gotten into, now that the twins only had each other they were closer than ever.
Still, she thought about Stu, Drake, Sawyer and most of all Raven daily. She had kept in contact with her friends when she’d first moved, but eventually Raven had stopped responding and Drakes responses were very sporadic. If it were anyone else she wouldn’t worry, but when she had left he’d been in awful shape and she worried constantly about whether her best friend was even alive or not. As worried as she was, she refused to ask Mason how his brother was doing. She’d rather die than talk to that asshole ever again, especially when Drake let it slip that Mason and Raven were a thing. It hurt, but she couldn’t blame her for moving on when she’d left so suddenly. She could blame Mason, however.
The school year eventually ended and over summer the twins interned at their fathers work to “keep them out of trouble”. It was pretty boring work, and the twins busies themselves on the weekends party hopping as much as they could with the few friends they’d acquired throughout the year. But through the entire summer Drake never once responded to her, and she was almost ready to break down and call Mason when her father announced they’d be heading back to Westbrook.
For once, Alaska woke up early for the first day of school, more excited than ever to see her friends. All three of them. Still, the few friends she had were precious to her and she couldn’t wait to catch up with them.
The first thing she did when she arrived at school was search for Drake. She was practically panicked as she roamed up and down the halls searching for her friend, her nerves getting worse and worse until she finally spotted him wandering in through the front doors.
“Drake!” She called, dashing down the hallway and wrapping him up in a bone-crushing hug. “Where have you been? Are you mad at me? You haven’t answered me in months.” The brunette frowned, letting him go from her grip so she could get a good look at him.
The last few months had been interesting to say the least. He and Ash had never gotten to resolve all the drama that had torn apart their relationship, and him moving to New York ruined any hope he had of winning her back. Maybe it was for the best anyways, it seemed like all he and Ash did was hurt each other anyways.
Though he was pissed off about having to move in the first place, it was nice to get a fresh start in a town where no one knew his name. It was easy for him to make friends, though he wasn’t particularly close with any of them. He still managed to have fun, and there was no Mason or Kanen or even beanie bitch to get into fights with. He made it through the rest of the school year with only one detention, which was shocking for him.
Overall the year hadn’t been a total waste, but he was more than excited when his parents agreed he and Alaska would come back to Westbrook for their senior year. He had missed his friends and he was excited to spend his last year of high school with them. He was, however, dreading seeing Ash again, but he’d heard that she’d moved on and so had he so maybe things wouldn’t be so bad after all.
Westbrook was exactly as he’d left it, bustling with tired teenagers who wanted to be anywhere else but the bleak hallways of high school. This year would be much different than the last, hopefully much better. He quickly headed to his locker to throw his things in before looking for a familiar head of brown hair, heading over as soon as he spotted her with a grin.
“Hey babe.” He greeted, placing a quick kiss on Nova’s lips before leaning against the locker beside hers to wait for her. The two had been friends when he’d left, though they hadn’t been as close when he was dating Ash and she’d been with Jace, but when he’d moved to New York they’d texted a few times and when he’d come home over the summer the two had hung out and found that they got a long really well together. They’d only recently started dating, but he really liked Nova and he’d promised himself not to make the same mistakes he had with Ash.
Tatum had rolled out of bed as she heard her alarm going off. The resounding pain in her brain with each wail of the alarm going off. In an attempt to silence the sound Tatum had swung her hand and felt the clock and knocked it down hearing the thud as it hit the ground still wailing. Of course she was hungover on her first day of senior year, she had been hungover almost every day of the summer, mostly since Caleb had left and her parents had been hounding her to start figuring out where she wanted to go for her future studies and in all honesty Tatum had no idea where she wanted to go or what she had wanted to do. That not knowing had caused problems between her and her father like it always had, plus Brayden had moved in which had caused a far new stress in the house.
Brayden had constantly been pestering Tatum about how much she had been drinking but he didn’t understand, really no one had understood what was going on with her. She had felt alone and broken and then she had really screwed everything up. She had made a mistake and she regretted all of her choices after that. She could still replay her mistake in her mind like a dvd and all she wanted to do was drink to forget it. She wanted to drink to numb her pain and now she was going to have to face not only Caleb but the whole school. Everyone now had expectations of her, and she barely wanted to get up anymore. She wanted to die, to never leave her room or her bed.
When she finally rolled out of bed, she threw on a t-shirt, sweatpants and left her hair in a messy bun. She had no desire to even try anymore. She had grabbed a water bottle and filled it with more liquor. There hadn’t been a chance that she was going to be able to face the school sober. Her parents had tried to talk with her over the summer and even offered her therapy and all she wanted was to be left alone. How could she explain to anyone what she had done? She made Brayden drive because she had not been capable of the drive and she wasn’t about to kill her best friend even if she hadn’t wanted to be around him.
As they arrived at Westbrook Tatum covered her eyes and entered the building, “Here’s to a year of hell.” She mumbled to Brayden before heading towards her locker. That was when her eyes had seen someone she hadn’t wanted to see. The side view was the giveaway and so she did what any girl would do and turned in another direction. She could avoid, she had done it before, and this was no different. She could only hope he hadn’t seen her.
Brayden had been annoyed when he first moved to Westbrook, all the issues that had occurred at his old school, he had never quite gotten over the anger of having to up and move, yet today was the day and he was getting ready to start his junior year at a brand new high school and he only knew Tatum. Tatum had been a mess all summer, she hadn’t left her room or talked with him for most of the summer. He had tried to go and talk with her and had seen her room littered with alcohol and she had reeked of booze. Of course, he tried to talk with her only to be shut out so he had decided her mess was her problem and he wouldn’t help her. She had done it to herself at that point in time.
When he had made it downstairs, he couldn’t believe how unkempt Tatum looked, she had always been so put together, but this was the first time he had really seen her up and moving and he knew something was seriously off with her. He had exchanged looks with the Browne’s and not one of them knew what was wrong. She wouldn’t talk with them or even attempt to make a conversation.
He had driven them to Westbrook which had probably been for the better and then when they got there, she had just left him. He didn’t know his way around Westbrook and now he was going to be lost. He stared at the endless halls wondering where his locker was and where his first class was. He already hated everything about the school, Tatum included.
It was the first day of high school for Gianna. She had never been more excited and nervous at once. She had planned out her outfit the night before and already had her bag packed and ready to go. She had gone to the orientation so she could find her locker and classes. She was glad to have gotten through middle school, but now she was a little fish in an extremely large pond and that made her even more nervous. The only person she knew well enough had been Camden, but he wouldn’t talk with her, he was a year above her and though they were neighbors they were far from friends. So, when she got to the bus stop, she said nothing just waited patiently for her bus.
The nerves had been building in her stomach all morning and as she got off the bus, she stared at the large foreboding building in front of her. It was the start of a new era for her, a start to another chapter in her story and that scared Gia more than anything else. Kids were rushing past her as they entered the building, but she hadn’t been ready to go in at that moment she had still been staring at the building.
Camden had been ready for the school year, his father had been pushing him hard all summer to prepare him for the many sports he would be playing, but he was also ready to be out of the house for a little, he had been tired of hearing his father talk about all the girls that would swoon over him, he didn’t care about that, though he did enjoy being swooned over. His father had seemed to be living his dreams out in him. His younger sibling didn’t have the responsibilities he had and that had been hard for him to handle. Both his parents pushed him more than anyone else in the house which made him want to go to school, just to escape their pushing. He felt like he couldn’t quite live up to the expectations because always felt like he could do better and should do better.
While at the bus stop his eyes caught sight of his neighbor, she looked nervous. He had sat by her on the bus just so she wouldn’t have to sit next to someone she didn’t know but neither of them talked the entire way towards the school. He had already left the bus before her and entered the building. His locker was easy to find so he hadn’t felt the need to rush around anywhere, but it felt better being back at school where he knew he could excel at most anything thrown his way.
As an alarm clock sounded across Sawyer's still dark bedroom, she found herself having flashbacks to the first day of her Junior year. She'd gone in with so much happiness. Finding Grace and having a generally decent year and then everything had gone to shit and now she was starting her Senior year with absolutely no want whatsoever. A hand slammed down on her alarm clock and this time, with some strength she'd gained over the summer from working out to distract herself, it actually broke. That was all right, she needed to start using her phone like a normal teenager anyway. But enough of that. Sawyer's eyes closed again and she started to drift back into the sweet embrace of sleep when her door banged open and her light flipped on and a shrill and very female voice filled her room, calling her name. What the hell? Sawyer shot up in her bed, her head slamming against the headboard as she did. Cursing, she rubbed the back of her head, her eyes closed. The person at the door gasped and a shoe hit Sawyer dead in the forehead. Great. Only one person would ever throw a shoe at her.
"Gran? What are you doing here?" Sawyer finally opened her eyes and was net worth the sight of Greta Andrews in her full glory. The white haired old lady simply crossed her arm and glared at Sawyer, tapping her foot expectantly. Sawyer just stared in confusion for a few moments until she got the hint and quickly fumbled out an apology. "Right. Cursing. Sorry, Gran." The old woman finally smiled and uncrossed her arms in favor of placing her hands on her hips. Greta Andrews was the epiphany of a Grandma who refused to believe she was getting any older. The woman dressed with the times, spoke with the times, and just generally acted like she was a 20 something hipster. She definitely was not. The only thing that seemed outdated on Sawyer's Grandmother was her hair.
"You're dad called me. Said you'd been all mopey so I figured I'd come help out." Gran moved forward to pick up and replace her shoe that had bounced off Sawyer's forehead onto the floor, "Now." She said as she straightened up, "You get ready. I made pancakes and you're going to eat them and go to school with a smile on your face." Sawyer reluctantly got out of bed with a sigh and a 'yes ma'am' and Greta's facial expression softened. She grabbed Sawyer by the shoulders and with an odd amount of strength for a 64 year old woman, yanked Sawyer down to her eye level.
"You listen good, SeeSaw." Sawyer cringed at the old nickname but said nothing, "I know you're sad about Grace, your dad told me, but you've gotta let yourself live. This is your Senior year." She patted Sawyer on the cheek, "Those doctors know what they're doing, I'm sure your little Grace will be just fine." Gran let go of Sawyer's shoulders and pushed her toward the bathroom. Sawyer took the hint and shuffled in to start getting ready. Greta watched for a second to make sure Sawyer was actually getting ready before leaving to return to the living room. Her dad had always said his mother was a character, and time and time again she'd proved it. Sawyer just hoped she wasn't going to be like this the whole time she was here.
When Sawyer finally made her way into the living room, bleary eyed, and still looking a mess, she was met with the largest plate of pancakes she'd ever seen in her life. Sawyer's stomach rumbled in spite of her and she found herself smiling, if only a little. The smile soon disappeared when she started thinking how much Grace would live her Gran and she was back to mopey. She did sit down at the table, but she only took one pancake from the plate. She suddenly didn't feel very hungry anyway. Sawyer had been costing Grace almost every day since the accident and every day the bags under her eyes seemed to get darker. She figured her father had called in the calvary because he didn't know what to do anymore. It wasn't for lack of trying, he had tried. Oliver had been working out with Sawyer, spending more time than he ever had with her, trying to break through the shell that she'd put up. When nothing worked it seemed that he had turned to his mother for help. Sawyer didn't think that would work either. Nothing would work until Grace woke up.
"Aren't you going to eat more than one?" Her father questioned from across the table.
"I'm not very hungry. I've gotta go soon anyway." Sawyer grumbled as she slowly ate the pancake in front of her. It tasted like sadness. Everything tasted like sadness lately.
"Are you sure? There's plenty." Gran said, gesturing to the heaping plate.
"I'm sure. Thanks anyway. They're good." Sawyer took two more bites before standing up from the table and going to pluck up her backpack. Gran and Oliver glanced at each other worriedly but said nothing as Sawyer went about getting ready to leave. She pulled her beanie low on her head and shoved her shoes on her feet. A jacket was pulled over her shoulders upon Gran's request and she was loving toward the door.
"We love you, SeeSaw." Gran spoke as Sawyer's hand hit the doorknob. Sawyer pretended she didn't hear.
Sawyer Andrews pulled up to the school for the beginning of her Senior year with a deep frown on her face. She did not want to be here. She sat in her car for a solid four minutes before finally shutting off the ignition and getting out. As she was walking, headphones covering her ears, she saw Stu. Her eyebrows raised. He looked….different. she hadn't seen him all summer. Maybe she should...she stopped short when she saw Stu get plastered by a football to the head. Or maybe not. Sawyer continued her slow walk toward the front doors, ignoring any calls from teammates or friends. She really did not feel like socializing.
Once inside the school, she just stood at the entrance with a dazed look on her face, unsure of whether she actually wanted to continue or not. After a moment of deliberation, she continued walking. It was the first day. They never did anything on the first day and Sawyer didn't figure anything could get much worse. What did she have to lose? So, squaring her shoulders, Sawyer attempted to walk down the hallway with at least some dignity but failed miserably. The bags, the unkempt hair coming out from under her beanie, and her glossed over eyes didn't make for a very put together appearance. Sawyer gave up soon after and continued her hunched, slow stroll to her locker. She attempted to put in the code and open it but the thing didn't budge. Frustrated, she tried again. And again. And again. Sawyer punched the locker and hissed at the pain that seared up her hand. Stupid fucking locker. This time she reared back her foot and kicked it. The thing popped open and slammed right into her face. Sawyer cursed rather loudly and grasped at her throbbing nose. Everyone in the hall glanced her way, looks of pity marring their faces. Sawyer sneered at them.
"What the fuck are you looking at?" They looked away and Sawyer was alone again. She closed the locker after shoving some things in it and leaned her head against it with a heavy sigh. What a great start to her Senior year.
One. Two. Ezio glared at the almost empty can of Red Bull in his hand. Just one more. His hand rose shakily to his mouth and he quickly paired the rest of the heart stopping liquid down his throat. Three Ezio smiled and crushed the can between his fingers, tossing it into the trash with the rest of the cans. He did a few little jumps and tapped the counter three times. The liquid energy that was Red Bull coursing through him and giving him an almost crazed look as his pupils dilated beyond reasonable means. What a way to start the first day of American school. To say Ezio was excited would be an understatement, he'd heard that this school had an assortment of different problems in the last year and Ezio was looking forward to causing even more. He had a general idea of the people that actually mattered from reading over Twitter posts and other social media, and taking it upon himself to make sure he was everywhere. From his research he'd come across a small group of people he found especially interesting. The haughty cheerleader with a big secret, the golden girl fallen comatose, the bad boy with a yearning for trouble, the dealer trying to redeem himself, the addict who'd caused a whole lot of pain, the kid with a penchant for wolf costumes, and the basketball star with a broken heart. Ezio was determined to insert himself in every circle he could, and find out everything he could. He thrived on drama and Westbrook was far from lacking.
"Mijo? Shouldn't you be gone already?" Peter Tierno shuffled into the room, his eyes dark with sleep and a pair of bunny slippers over his feet. He looked like a four year old come to ask his parents if he could sleep with them. Ezio loved his Tio, he did, which was a lot coming from him but the man was a child in a man's body. In all his eighteen years, Ezio had never met a grown man who wore bunny slippers and still cut the crusts off his sandwiches. He assumed that this sort of personality helped out with the work that Peter did, but it was still an amusing sight. Peter was an amusing man. A rather popular stand up comedian, his Tio traveled to lots of places around the States to perform in bars and anywhere else he could get a gig. There'd been more than a few people while he and Peter were out and about that had run up to them in hopes of getting his Tio's autograph. Ezio wouldn't say he was famous, not quite, but he was very well-known especially in his hometown. That sort of standing did help him make friends with a few stragglers at the highschool that could clue him in on his main interests. The outcasts always knew the most and Ezio took full advantage of that.
"Sí. Estoy yendo ahora, Tío." Ezio assured Peter as he plucked his bag off the counter and moved to exit the building. His Tío clucked a tongue as he moved and Ezio stopped short, shaking his head with a slight laugh.
"You're forgetting something, Mijo." He spoke with that crooked smile of his and as Ezio stepped slowly closer to him, Peter wrapped him up in an ironically strong embrace for a man in bunny slippers and gave him a very unironic peck on the cheek. Ezio turned bright red and wiggled his way out of his Tío's grasp, fake gasping for air as he did so.
"Okay, okay. Goodbye, Tío. I'll see you…" Ezio stumbled over his English, still a little rusty even after a full year learning it. He quickly gave up on remembered the word he was looking for and spoke in Spanish instead, "más tarde." The door was open and Ezio was standing in front of his friend and informant, Wayne Mullins, when his Tío decided to try and embarrass him further.
"Te amo, Sobrino!" He yelled unnecessarily as he picked up the coffee Ezio had made for him off the counter. Wayne looked at him with an expectant and amused grin, his hands shoved in his jean pockets. Ezio sucked in a deep breath and shot Wayne a glare that screamed 'say anything and I'll strangle you' as he responded to Peter.
"Te quiero también." Ezio closed the door right after his last word to avoid any further embarrassment. He grabbed a now laughing Wayne by the arm and dragged him away from the front door of his apartment. Ezio had met Wayne on his first day in Westbrook, since they lived in the same apartment building and just so happened to be hall neighbors. When Ezio found out that Wayne went to Westbrook, he'd taken it upon himself to befriend the guy if only to get inside scoops. But, as he did so, Ezio found he rather liked the rugged boy and started to consider him a real friend and not just an inside man. Ezio might even already consider Wayne his best friend. It helped that Wayne was decent at Spanish and was able to understand Ezio when he had a hard time speaking English, he even went so far as to correct Ezio when he was wrong and try to help him understand. Ezio was grateful to have made a good friend so fast. As much as he liked to pretend he was some kind of lone wolf, everyone needed a reliant and Ezio wasn't an exception.
"So, the big bad foreigner is actually just a big softy?" Wayne said jokingly as he was dragged down the hallway toward the elevator, "I never would have guessed." Ezio shot him another glare and tightened his grip on Wayne's arm, only enough to startle him. Wayne only laughed and Ezio let go of his arm in favor of a punch on the shoulder. This time, Wayne rubbed at the attacked spot and stuck his bottom lip out in fake pain. "Jeez, relax, Superman. I'm only joking."
"You tell anyone and I will chop your head." Ezio narrowed his eyes at Wayne. The other boy cocked his head to the side at the odd choice of words.
"Off." Wayne corrected, "You tell anyone and I will chop off your head." He explained. Wayne was never rude or offhand about correcting Ezio's misscomings, which was something Ezio appreciated, "Makes it more specific, I guess. Chop your head sounds like you're just gonna like karate chop me in the forehead or something." Wayne chuckled, "Also, you say I will a lot. You can use I'll. Faster, makes you sound less ...stiff." Ezio nodded thoughtfully at Wayne's words and silently mouthed the I'll, trying to get it to come out with less of an accent.
"Si, yes. I'll." Ezio smiled down at Wayne, "Thank you, hermano." Wayne chuckled at the endearing term and rolled his eyes at Ezio.
"Brother? There you go being soft again." Wayne took off before Ezio could punch him again and Ezio took off after him. The two of them chased each other down the hall all the way to the elevator where Ezio finally got a hold of Wayne and thumped him in the ear. Hard. Wayne yelped as the elevator doors slid shut and Mr. Edwards, an older man in that lived in the building, passed by and gave them a disapproving look. "Look you went and got, old man Edwards all mad. Way to go, tipo duro." Wayne pushed Ezio playfully, and Ezio shoved back.
"That was your fault, you…" Ezio's eyebrows creased, "How do you say...ah...bebé grande?" He questioned Wayne.
"Big baby." Wayne told him with a laugh.
"Si. You big baby." Ezio spoke, proud of himself for the pronunciation of the words. Wayne only ran a finger down his face in the path of a tear as the elevator door opened. He motioned for Ezio to come on and the two boys left the apartment building at into the parking lot. They climbed onto Wayne's beat up Chevy and took off toward the school, Ezio's anticipation growing with every second.
When the school came into view, Ezio became positively giddy with excitement. Wayne gave him a side ward glance and made a face. It was weird to him how a guy could be so excited for school. But Ezio was weird so maybe maybe it wasn't really that odd. Still, it was high school, it kinda sucked. Especially in Westbrook fucking Maine. To wash their own. Ezio was excited for the experience and most of all, the drama. He'd seen so many American high school shows and even if they weren't typically very accurate, it was still something he believed was. Besides, even if it wasn't like the TV shows, it was still very much drama ridden. That's what happened when you threw a bunch of hormonal teenagers in a building together. Chaos. Ezio loved chaos. A lot.
"Calm down, Ezio. You act like you're about to explode." Wayne chuckled.
"I am. You Americans have terrible schools. I love it." Ezio grinned from ear to ear, completely serious.
"Hey we do not." Wayne said, slightly offended. Ezio looked at him with raised eyebrows, "Okay, we do, but you're still weird for loving it." Wayne relented as they pulled into the parking lot. Ezio was out of the car in a flash before Wayne even came to a full stop. He breathed in a full breath of cold Maine air and turned back to Wayne, beckoning for him to hurry.
"Come along, Wayne. I want to talk to the secretary. If I can get her to like me, she will be good for information. Secretaries always know the gossip." Ezio literally ran toward the school, leaving Wayne trailing behind him with a heavy sigh.
It was easy for Jace to see, but everyone else seemed to be too busy and stuck in their own minds to worry about her. He had dropped out of school to help with her over the summer and had been there for most of her therapy appointments. Although she had mostly turned back to normal, she was still... off. So very off, and it hurt Jace to watch.
Most of the time, she would stare off at something that Jace couldn't see, and he'd try talking to her and Ash wouldn't respond. It broke his heart. And most nights, Ash wasn't even around. Jace knew that she almost always stayed the night with Sean. "I have nightmares," she had told him absently. And that was that, and Jace hadn't tried to push it anymore.
Jace had tried to convince his mother that he needed to go to school with Ash. To keep an eye over her and watch her. But Elise had brushed him off, saying that Dakota would be able to help her enough.
So now Jace was pacing frantically in his room. The only good part about this summer had been how well he'd gotten to know Lulu, Sean's sister. She was sweet and yeah, Jace wanted to ask her on a date. Maybe. One day.
She had tried her best to convince her mother to let her walk to school, but it was no use.
The car ride was horrible. Ash flinched every time a car went by, or they passed a stop light. Her fingers played with a beaded bracelet that Jace had gotten her. One, two, three... She counted the beads on her wrist, trying her best to distract herself from outside. Four, five, six... Oh god, was she going to start crying?
Deep breaths. Keep calm.
Last night had been the first night in forever that Ash hadn't stayed at Sean's. She was scared about going back to school today, but the insomnia had been strong without him there beside her. Ash had woken up part way through the night with a panic attack that had seized her body and made her unable to move.
Those were the moments she wanted someone beside her. Being able to reach over and feel Sean and know that he was still there for her... yeah, it made her feel a lot better.
She hadn't been able to sleep following that, so instead Ash had stayed up. Her room had been mostly put together following when she had destroyed it the previous year. A new mirror. Jeffrey's cage removed. Her eyes fell on the pink wallpaper, and Ash wanted to get rid of it. She hated pink. She hated wallpaper.
Fuck, that wasn't hit. She hated her life.
So Elise Summers had walked in that morning to find her daughter scratching at the walls, trying to pull down bits and pieces of the wallpaper. The horrifying part? Ash's fingernails had broken so there was blood smeared on the walls and on the tips of her bruised fingers. Elise had stood there for a moment, and then grabbed her daughter and helped to clean her up. When Elise had asked why she hadn't stopped, Ash had said she didn't know she was bleeding.
Ash was a mess.
But now they were at school. And yeah, she wasn't particularly happy about it. Ash had managed to dodge most people, even ditching her cousin Dakota temporarily. Her fingers were shoved in the pockets of her jacket. Maybe to cover up the still bruised and scarred tips of her fingers, and maybe just because. Ash didn't know anymore.
She pushed in through the front door, and found two people that she had thought were gone and... yeah, that was definitely Ryder kissing Nova. And Ash was still, and quiet, like a deer caught in the headlights for a moment.
Okay, not like a deer caught in the headlights, because Ash knew how that ended. Blood. Tears. Death.
But Ash didn't have it in her to say anything, but Jace had asked for her to relay something to Nova. Who knew that exes could actually stay friends? Could've fooled Ash.
So she stopped on her way, her gaze focused on the ground. Eye contact was impossible these days. She didn't like seeing life in someone's face, just to know that in the snap of a finger, it could be gone.
"Hi Nova. Hi Ryder." She started. "Jace fixed your guitar. He wants to know if you can pick it up later." And well, Jace had also told her to ask Nova for a car ride home. He didn't trust Elise driving his sister.
But there was no way Ash was asking. She hated cars.
After the kiss with Raven and being told about his suspension, Mason was fucking going back to fucking high school. He hadn't gotten Ariana back yet, and it hurt. Fuck, he wasn't even allowed to see her. The fucking court system was fucked and he was pissed. But at least he'd managed to find a decent apartment and get Drake out of residential which in his opinion, was way worse than wherever Ari was. She was a cute, well-behaved, very sweet toddler. She was in a good foster home.
The apartment was shitty, but it qualified. Of course, Mason had needed something to distract him over the summer. Which had involved a LOT of girls. Well, not a lot of girls, but a couple hotties that kept calling him back. What could he say? Once you got a taste of Mason, apparently you wanted more. Raven had.
Both of them he was pretty sure wouldn't even be here. Holy fuck, Mason really did have a thing for blondes, apparently. Either way, they'd kept his summer occupied.
That is, until he met Laurel.
Of course Mason had known of Laurel, but never talked to her much. With him coming back and being football captain again, and Laurel apparently wanting to secure cheer captain for herself... she'd asked if they could date. Not in a smoochy lovey dovey kind of way, but as a mutual benefit to each other. Mason was her arm candy, and in return, he got laid.
Best. Deal. Ever.
But now, he was just arriving to school. Via walking since he'd had to sell his fucking car. But at least he had this lovely football, which he was tossing in the air and catching as it came down. And that was when he saw Stu walking up.
"Hey, Stu, catch!"
Mason threw the ball... and that was when he realized that Stu hadn't heard him.
He winced as the ball slammed into Stu's head, knocking the poor little dude over into the grass.
Residential, in case you didn't know, is like hell on wheels. He had been left in a bedroom ALONE without DRUGS for almost four months before Mason finally was able to bust him out of there. The only time he really got a lot of socialization was the single weekly visit he was able to get from Mason. It was torture.
Finally, it was the first day of school. And Drake was like 90% clean. Okay, so since he had been free, Drake maybe had taken back up a few lighter drugs. And since it had come to light that it was Drake's "fault" for giving Ash the drugs, the school hadn't exactly been very nice to him. What a bunch of jerks. Maybe residential had been best.
He was in school, heading for his locker, when out of nowhere came Alaska.
Fuck, Alaska could really hug.
He laughed, wrapping her back up in the hug for a moment before he let go. "Hey! I was... uh... in residential for a while." He explained, a bit sheepishly. "Which like, fucking sucks. They leave you in a little room alone because apparently, me couch-hopping was not legal." Drake explained with a laugh as if it wasn't a big deal.
Being back in the halls of Westbrook High was the definition of bittersweet for Nova. There were the best of times and the worst of times last semester... maybe more of the worst of times... in fact, it almost felt like the good times were blurred by the trauma of this violence-motivated hell hole but hey, there were times that were definitely had.
Needless to say, Nova’s second homecoming to Westbrook wasn’t what she thought it would’ve been. In fact, it was something she was still dealing with, both mentally and emotionally. The night she had come back, her first night free of her father, her first night free of the looming dread of moving, her first night being firmly planted in Westbrook was the first night she had ever cried as hard as she had. Nova knew all along that Ian, her boyfriend at the time, struggled with depression and anxiety. She knew that and accepted it... but hearing that he drove nose first into a tree an hour after he had left the prom was a different story. It had, for lack of a better term, frightened the hell out of her. The brunette felt a mixture of shame, guilt, and hollowness when she had gotten the news. Because how else are you supposed to react to something like that? It ruined her to think that he had done it because of her... so she didn’t like to think of it. She had figured their breakup went without saying that night and didn’t speak much with Ian. It scared her to think of it, to think that the sight of her could push that boy over the edge.
Instead, Nova spent the summer ‘reinventing herself’. She spoke almost exclusively to Jace for most of it, not interacting with many others from Westbrook. She chopped her hair to her collarbones, began going on runs, delved more deeply into learning to read music and her sketching. Became a little bit more confident in herself and learned how to stand up for what she thought was right, while still keeping that Nova kindness. She learned that to accept the past and learn from it didn’t mean it had to be forgotten... but the most dramatic change was one she had never expected. And that was the appearance of Ryder Vaughn in her life.
Sure the two had always been friends, but after he had moved back they slowly but surely grew closer. They opened up to one another about their past relationships, what had gone wrong and what still haunted them. They opened up about family drama and their own personal wants and needs. Most of all, they were just human with one another. And that was something that Nova wanted more than anything. Someone to just be human with. Plus, it helped that Alaska was his sister. But even after a month the guy never failed to give her butterflies. “Hey handsome,” Hazel eyes flickered with a bit of light as they settled on her boyfriend. The label still made her giddy, but hey, she couldn’t help it! Ryder made her feel safe, he was kind and gentle with Nova and she knew that not many were awarded the pleasure of seeing that side of him. It was something she reveled in and adored. Ryder was the exact opposite of the boys she had dated in Westbrook, he held this glint of danger that was both exciting and troublesome. He was funny and hard headed, and Nova felt like he balanced her out a bit. It felt like he was slowly teaching her how to just relax for once, while she was teaching him that it was okay to take some stuff seriously. They were a little scale, tipping between even on and off. It was nice and comfortable. More importantly, being with Ryder was easy.
Before she could ask if he was free tonight (knowing that he was because it was their designated movie night) a ghost of a blonde appeared at her side.
Nova had heard was happened from Jace, the two transitioning into the best of friends, no longer really seeing one another as exes. A few times she had managed to make it out to the hospital and bring him a change of clothes or food, knowing he didn’t want to leave his sister’s side... but seeing her like this was different from just hearing the stories. She was... off. Not in the way you think, she just didn’t look herself. It was as if the light from her eyes had gone, her skin almost paler than before. Her voice sounded low and broken, like she was unsure of what she was saying even though it was simple fact. And even though Nova and Ash hadn’t always gotten along, that didn’t mean she didn’t feel for the girl.
“Oh I totally forgot, thank you for reminding me,” She cooed, afraid that if she spoke any louder it would scare the poor girl. “I can pick it up after school, just head straight over there.” It wasn’t lost on Nova that this was probably uncomfortable for Ryder, she knew a bit of his and Ash’s history and well... that’s what it was. History. Aside from that, and even Nova’s own history with the West girl, she was still Jace’s sister though. The brunette glanced over to Ryder once, giving him a small smile. He knew who Nova was as a person deep down, and even though it was Ash, she hoped he wouldn’t be too upset with her. To be fair, she would’ve done it for anyone. Which is the only reason she asked.
It felt amazing to be hugging Drake, knowing he was safe and well when she’d been worried about him for so long. He was surprisingly more muscular than she remembered her scrawny friend being, which put a smile on her face knowing that meant he was eating well and staying somewhat healthy. She probably should have asked Mason about him over the summer, but it was a good thing she didn’t because clearly he was fine. Well, as fine as Drake could be. Even before she had left, it had been a very rough year for the younger boy.
“W-what? You were where?” Alaska asked, shocked by what Drake was telling her so casually. He had spent the summer in the foster system? What had happened when she’d been gone? There was a sinking feeling in her stomach as she suddenly reinspected the brown-haired boy before her, noticing the crooked hook to his nose and wondering if that had been a result of his rough summer or something else. She most definitely would be asking him about that later, but right now she was still trying to process what he'd just told her so nonchalantly.
“I just got back last week. I didn’t know, I’m so sorry, I would’ve let you stay with me.” It hurt her heart knowing she’d been doing just fine living in her father’s penthouse and her best friend had been here suffering. Where had Mason been during this? She'd been back for a whole week and she hadn't really searched for Drake, though she knew she wasn't welcome at his house she still drove by and noticed that it was most definitely not Drake's family living there anymore. That should've been more concerning to her clearly, but she'd figured they'd moved and she just hadn't known. What was she supposed to say now? Sorry your family sucks?
Coming back to Westbrook was sure to be a shitshow knowing how much drama he'd left behind and was now going to have to confront, but easy-going Nova managed to ease his nerves and not worry so much about what people were going to say now that he was back. Despite his flaws and everything he'd done, the little brunette managed to pull out the best in him anyways. Ryder was about to reply that yes, of course he was free for his favorite girl, but the words died on his tongue when he saw a not so familiar face approach them. It felt like someone had punched him in the gut, he almost didn't recognize her, she was like a hollow shell of the bright and bubbly Ash he'd known before. The dark circles under her eyes and the hollowness of her cheeks were striking against her pale skin, this wasn't even close to the girl he'd left behind only a few months ago.
Of course, he'd heard about what had happened. Nova had been the one to tell him actually, and after he'd called her in a panic demanding more details about what had happened, he'd locked himself in his room and cried in silence for the rest of the day. Sure, it had been months since he'd left and forever since they'd talked, but she was still Ash. Even if things hadn't ended on good terms she was still the first girl he'd ever loved and one of his best friends on the entire planet. There had been a time when he couldn't imagine his life without the annoying little blonde, but now they were just strangers who shared a broken heart.
"Hey, Ash." He spoke, his voice soft as if speaking too loudly might break her. Nova had told him the damage was bad, but he couldn't even begin to imagine what was going on with her. It wasn't his fault she'd driven herself into a tree, but he couldn't help feeling guilty about it all. Maybe if he hadn't left things would be different. Or maybe they'd be worse, he'd never know.
"Oh don't worry about it. It's not too bad." Drake said, scoffing as if what he'd gone through had been nothing. "It was better than when I was like, living in the locker room and stuff." He admitted with a laugh, as if that had also been normal. "They give you -- get this -- three square meals a day. And the hot water never gets shut off, so I could take the longest showers ever." Drake had been used to cold showers, or no showers at all when his mother would forget to pay the bills. And forget about three meals a day! Mason had done his best to provide for himself and Drake, but there was only so much his older brother could do.
"It's fine, though. Mason is cool and finally got custody of me. Like, I'm sleeping on the couch and I think I saw a rat run across our apartment yesterday, but hey, it's a home!" And Drake was nothing if not willing to accept the simple pleasures in life. Like being able to sleep with his brother in the living room of their apartment.
"Oh, but how was New York? Did you have fun? What did you do? Sightseeing? How's your dad? How's Chase?" Hey, Drake may have had his eyes set on Maisie (who he still needed to find after that amazing kiss followed by four months of silence thanks to residential), but it wasn't like he didn't like to appreciate the finer things in life.
She hadn't expected to see Ryder, granted, but she had told herself that she would be fine. She. Would. Be. Fine. Ash had had plenty of time to get over him, right? She had Sean now and he was an amazing boyfriend. He was calm, sweet, and he didn't punch things or yell or get into stupid fights with her like Ryder had. Sean was everything that Ryder wasn't, and she knew that he was good for her. He treated her well. He'd been there for her every night since the accident.
So why did she still feel something when she saw Ryder?
Her head was swimming, her gaze on the ground. Nova was talking, but Ash was barely hearing her. No, she'd walk home. Jace didn't like her walking home alone, granted, because she may have tried walking out in front of a car one time. It had been when everything had hurt and she'd wanted to give up. But she was still capable of taking care of herself.
And then Ryder spoke, and that was all he had to say to her after all this time. Just... hi. Granted, she hadn't offered much else up in the way of conversation, but what was she supposed to say?
So instead, her head snapped up, her gaze locked onto Ryder's, and she punched him in the face with all the force she could muster.
"You're a dick. I kept waiting for you to call me or say good bye or something and you never did. I thought you fucking cared about me. And then you show up dating Nova and don't say anything."
And yeah, there may have been tears in her eyes, and her hand may have really hurt.
She wanted to say more, but her words choked up in her throat. So instead, Ash just shook her head, backing away and holding her hand against her chest. One, two, three. She counted the beads on her bracelet, trying to steady herself.
Dakota looked up at the 'Westbrook High; Home of the Wolves" sign skeptically. Wolves, that's really the best they could think of for their mascot? Tragic. Although she hardly expected anything more from the town of Westbrook. It always had seemed like a boring town during her brief visits, nowhere near as exciting or lively as New York had been. Dakota sighed. Admittedly she missed New York already, but she had made her choice and now she had to follow through with it; Montgomery's don't quit.
" Dakota, a word?"
Dakota jumped lightly, startled by her Aunt's sudden appearance. "Elise, yes, of course."
Elise frowned. "Principal Summers." She corrected with a huff. Dakota looked back towards the High school sign in an attempt to hide the roll of her eyes from Principal Summers. Since arriving nearly a week ago, Dakota had been reminded that Elise was now the Principal of Westbrook High at least a dozen times a day. Dakota could sense the same conversation arising once again. At this point she could almost track it like a script. 'Dakota, while at the school you will address me as Principal Summers. I expect that you will not step out of line. One word of your misbehaviour and you will be dealing with me. Don't forget, one word to your father and you'll be sent to-"
" Forest Ridge of the Sacred Heart." Dakota interrupted with a soft sigh. "I know. Don't worry Principal Summers, I'll be on my best behaviour. Promise." She attempted to hide the sarcasm in her voice, and paired it with a warm smile. If there was anything worse than being sent to Westbrook it would be attending the all girl's catholic school 'Forest Ridge of the Sacred Heart' in Connecticut. It would be a cold day in hell before Dakota Montgomery would attend a school like that. She vowed to try to keep her promise to her Aunt and Father and to behave, and if not, vow to never let them find out about any trouble she is causing.
Elise nodded. It seemed as if her niece's promise had been exactly what she needed to hear. "Good, and please keep an eye on Ashton today. She's going to need us." It was the first time she had heard genuine compassion and care in her Aunt's voice. Dakota agreed hastily. That was a promise she could keep. Dakota and her cousins had always been close, and recently Ash had been a disaster. Dakota barely recognized the shell of the blonde who used to be so vibrant and alive. Now she just seemed empty, pieces of her mind and soul scattered, lost.
Dakota excused herself from the conversation and made her way into the school. It was time for the 'new student's tour', an event Dakota despaired having to attend. How very boring. How very Westbrook.
Now being angry about her and Ryder's relationship was something that Nova could understand. Of course it wouldn't sit well with Ash, hell, Nova could go clean the graves of Veterans and that probably wouldn't sit well with Ash either. Nothing the brunette could do would ever be alright in West girl's eyes but this... well it wasn't hard to see why Ash was upset.
What as hard to understand, however, was why the fuck she had to go and deck him in the face.
"Are you kidding me?!" It was half a groan, half a shout. Obviously it startled the girl, most violence did, but that was just unexpected. Maybe not uncalled for, but in the moment, unexpected. Dropping the books in her hand back in the locker at her side, the hazel eyed girl made quick work of trying to look over her boyfriend. "Can you at least give a heads up next time?!" It was shouted more behind her than directly at Ash, but the question still stood. It was like the West girl's right hook had come out of thin air.
Softly, she pulled his hands away, paying no mind to the blonde that was storming away behind them, and gave Ryder the softest of grins. Once his hands were no longer blocking the assaulted area it was pretty clear to see that... yeah no, he was definitely going to be bruising. The area was already swelling and color was beginning to show. For a girl with hardly any strength in her, Ash could throw a punch. That was for sure.
"Turning out to be a fun first day huh?" She whispered in a teasing voice, pecking a kiss to the Vaughn boy's cheek before reaching into her locker for her materials. Westbrook couldn't go two seconds without a punch being thrown but why did Ash have to sucker punch Ryder? And in the face? You could be mad at that face all you want but punching it? Well if you asked her, that just seemed like a downright sin. "Not even to lunch and you've already been punched in the face, Ash has reinstated her hatred of me and I'm pretty sure we've made her 'top ten people to cut up with a machete' list." More than anything Nova just wanted to make light of a pretty grim situation. Seeing Ash couldn't have been easy for Ryder, she knew that almost as clearly as she knew that if it was her and Ian, it would probably be a similar feeling. Dark, twisted and gloomy.
But what happened happened, and there was nothing that could be done to change that. Slipping her hand down his forearm to his palm and locking fingers, the Seattle native leaned closer to Ryder's face, nudging his unharmed cheek with her nose before planting a kiss there. "I'm sorry..." She whispered calmly , pursing her lips to the side.
She would have to tell Jace what happened... and that, well... she wasn't looking forward to that.
Dakota leaned against the cold brick with her arms crossed, looking around disdainfully. It was a surprisingly large group for a welcoming tour. Perhaps even big enough that they wouldn't have noticed if one student had slipped away, but before Dakota could claim her chance she was stopped by a mass of curls. The girl, introduced as Kiana, gave off an excess of energy that made Dakota inwardly cringe. So it begins.
"Dakota." She answered with a bored voice. Her attention however was brought to a sound of snorting from behind the curls. Charming. She thought disgusted, but then Dakota had noticed the boy, well more like man, that made the sound. Tall, dark, and handsome, but most importantly exactly her type. Dakota perked up and smiled widely. In a suddenly more cheery tone, "Kiana, that's a beautiful name. Very unique."
Despite speaking to the young girl, her attention never left the man by her side. It was obvious that the two were connected somehow, most likely siblings. He seemed less opening than his assumed sister, but much much more appealing, nonetheless. "And I'm sorry, you are?" She asked with a bat of her lashes and a grin.
She tried to focus on what Drake was saying, but she was too shocked and upset to do anything but seethe with anger. The Vaughn siblings had a much different relationship than Drake and his brother, but she couldn’t imagine Chase or Ryder letting her be put into residential without putting up a fight. Mason was never one to ask for help, and as much as she loathed him if he had asked she would have helped, only for the sake of Drake. Hell, she would’ve at least come home to visit if she’d known what was going on with her best friend back at home.
“Not too bad? Drake why didn’t you tell me? I would’ve tried to help, I could’ve come back and tried to help you figure it out.” She proclaimed, angry with herself for not noticing and upset with the situational over all. Drake was the sweetest person she had ever met, he wouldn’t hurt a fly and he had been nothing but an amazing friend to Alaska. It hurt to think about him sleeping in a locker room, scraping for food.
“What the hell is wrong with Mason?” Alaska growled, ignoring Drake’s questions completely as she started walking past him and out the doors to look for her least favorite person. There were so many things she hated about Mason, even more than just his attitude. He was a shitty brother and overall a shitty person. When she’d been upset about Kanen ditching he’d insulted her and then slept with her while she was too drunk and upset to think properly, and to make things worse Ryder had thrown a huge fit after finding out and hadn’t spoken to her for weeks. It had been one of the worst weeks of her life and he hadn’t thought of it as anything more than a casual hookup. Then, he’d stolen Raven from her and apparently lost custody of his own brother. The last time she’d seen Mason he’d beaten the crap out of Drake when he was already almost suicidal. She had had enough of Mason’s shit.
“Hey, asshole!” The little brunette shouted, marching up to the jock with a frown planted firmly on her face. He was standing over a knocked-over Stu who was rubbing his head, and she lost it.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” She pushed him away from the smaller boy, not managing to do much damage with her small size but still decking him in the chest anyways. He was a horrible big brother to her best and pretty much only friend in the world, and she knew exactly how he treated women and she was sure he’d done the same to Raven as he had every other girl. She hated Mason for having two of the things she adored most and mistreating them.
While he hadn’t exactly expected Ash to greet him with a hug, he definitely hadn’t expected her to sucker punch him in the face. She’d yelled at him all the time for being to violent and punching instead of using his words, and oh how the turntables. Clearly, he had no idea who Ash was anymore. What had happened to her while he’d been gone? Of course he knew him leaving would affect her, but was this really all just because he’d left?
Before he could even really process what had happened and responded, the blonde had already turned to walk away. He wanted to yell after her, but there was nothing he could say to fix things, and he didn’t even know if he wanted to. He’d survived months without Ash, and he was happy with Nova now. Wasn’t he?
His had was still swimming as he looked at Nova, trying to comprehend what she was saying but he couldn’t stop thinking about Ash. In all of their years as friends he’d never seen her that mad. The two constantly teased each other and even when they’d fought while dating she was never really mad, usually just disappointed in him. This was a side of Ash he’d never seen before, and it was a little scary. It seemed like his little ray of sunshine was lost forever. Not that she was his anymore.
“Man, I thought by now people would hate me a little less.” He grumbled, offering his girlfriend a weak smile as he rubbed his face tenderly. Guilt swelled in him as he replayed Ash’s words again in his head, he’d had no idea how badly him leaving had affected her. She had a new boyfriend, he thought she would have been fine by now. Clearly, he’d been wrong.
“Hopefully if I’m already bruised no one else will feel the need to beat me up.” He joked, trying to shake off the encounter as he wrapped his arm around Nova’s waist and leaning in to give her a light kiss.
She could almost see it on his face, that mixture of embarrassment and guilt that seemed to hit the minute the Ash’s fist connected with his face. Not that Nova could blame him, the blonde had definitely said all the right words to stab at the heartstrings a few times. “I’m sorry,” Was all that she could muster at that point, her eyes flickering to the West girl as she stormed through the double doors of the main entrance, leaving an air of bitterness with her. Nova knew that she was hurting in every sense of the word; emotionally, physically, mentally. And maybe that was why the brunette wasn’t in a total frenzy about Ash punching her boyfriend in the face. She was going through a lot… that gave her a free pass in Nova’s book.
“I don’t think she hates you, I think she’s hurt. And as much as that sucks, that’s something that she’s allowed to feel,” Nova cooed as pressed the kiss back to Ryder, leaning into his touch and laughing a bit at his remark about being already bruised. He was right, in a sense. No one wants to kick a man when he’s down right? Unless you’re Kanen… Nova was pretty sure that guy would continue to beat a corpse if he hated the person enough. “And yeah, if you could avoid getting the shit beat out of you I’d really appreciate it,” She was only half joking, as she knew that her boyfriend had a tendency to seek out flying fists. “You have a movie night to attend and I don’t want to spend the entire time nursing your wounds.”
Not that she wouldn’t because obviously it was Nova and she would if need be… she just preferred that the need not be. Her mother was gone on business, the house was quiet and clean, and all she wanted was a relaxing night with her boyfriend… as relaxing as it could be.
“One last thing, I know we have class but uh,” The brunette sank slightly as her eyes averted down, her fingers fiddling with the fabric of Ryder’s shirt that laid over his chest. “Are you spending the night?” Nova knew the answer to the question depended on Ryder’s sport’s schedule; if he had an early morning practice then it would most likely be a no. But it never hurt to ask… nights were hard ever since the accident.
Today was a fresh start. A new school, a new set of classes, new friends… well that was a long shot, but a girl could dream right? Besides, Elle was used to having her only friend be her old white kitten, Daisy. The move to Westbrook only proved that the rescue cat was her one true companion, for when she was packing the car and posting on Facebook that it was her last day in Michigan, no one did anything. No one sent a message, no one pressed the ‘like’ button on the announcement. The only thing that the Great Lakes State would miss about her was the blonde’s Sunday morning walks on the water, feeding the ducks and reading at one of the worn wood benches. She would miss that too… Maine didn’t seem like the place to do such things.
“You have your planner?” Her mother cooed as Elle headed out to her car, new license in hand and a white and blue striped canvas bag hanging on her shoulder. “Yes mother,” Of course she had her planner, the two had spent all night organizing her things for school. “And the copies of your transcripts? I don’t want them sticking you in any of those regular cla-” “Mom,” Elle cut off her rambling mother with a quick spin, the two face to face with the high school sophomore resting her hand on the handle of her white Rav4. “I’m ready for this. I’m always ready for school. Just trust me, okay? I’m going to go in and ask to be in the AP courses, I’ll go talk to the choir teacher about getting into the competition class, I know what I need to do.” And it was true. Elle knew that anything less than advanced courses and extracurriculars would send her mother into a frenzy. If that could be avoided then there wasn’t anything the blonde wouldn’t do to make it happen.
After a few hugs and a tear or two from mom, Elle was finally able to hop in her car and drive to school. An old City and Color album played softly through the drive, navigation telling her which way to turn and where to stop as she made her way through unfamiliar streets and passed unfamiliar houses, making her way to an unfamiliar school with unfamiliar faces. A sigh involuntarily passed through her body and into the dead air of the car at the thought. It was just another high school, with a bunch of kids who were having fun and living their lives. And then there was Elle.
Parking was fairly easy, easier than she had thought, and have only five minutes she managed to pull into a spot, grab her things, and exit the safety of her trusty Toyota. With a deep breath and a tug to her heather grey cardigan, she took the first step onto Westbrook High, looking around at what would be the next few years of her life.
And with that first step came the image of a blonde guy getting thwomped in the head by a football that seemed to come out of nowhere. Elle stood and watched as it made contact with the guy, knocking him off balance and into the grass and yeah, ouch… ouch. Before she could even make a move, an angry looking raven haired girl and a lithe jock-type were battling it out over the poor guy who was stuck on the ground, gingerly rubbing at her head were the ball had made some impact.
“Are you okay?!” Of course he wasn’t, he was just dive bombed by a football, but hey, it seemed to be the only thing to say as she rushed over to the stranger, bending down a bit and extending her hand. It’s not like the other two who were bickering seemed to have time to help the guy up. In fact, no one stopped to do such a thing. It appalled Elle that no one else stopped to help the guy, most just laughing or shaking their heads to turn and walk the other direction. Rude… people were so rude.
Extending out a hand and a meek smile, the blonde grabbed the boy by the wrist and helped him up. He was light… really light… but he had a clean cut look and an innocent looking demeanor about him, and hey!! Maybe he would be nice enough to show her to her classes. “Rough way to start the first day huh?” She joked, reaching down to pick up a book that had flown from the boy’s bag and holding it out to him.
I’m gonna be there in ten minutes and if you aren’t awake you can walk your russian ass to school
No caramel macchiato for you
Typical of the boy to still be sleeping but like c’mon, really dude? It was the first day of school for the both of them. Dani was going to be student interning and shadowing one of the science teachers on campus and Milos well… Milos just had classes. It’s not like this was out of character for him though, that boy could sleep for eternity if he had the option to.
None the less, Dani had been serious about being outside of her best friend’s door in ten minutes, walking to her car in her jeans and white button down shirt, a yellow cardigan laid over the top. Very professional indeed. Maybe not her first choice in clothing but that’s what she got for wanting to be a teacher, right? Right. Getting into the tiny yellow car that she loved so much (even though it was a total rustbucket) she made her way down the street, taking two lefts before landing in front of Milos’ house.
“Get your butt out here or I’m telling everyone you still read the Twilight novels!!”
“Try not to get kicked out of this one, alright?”
“I didn’t deserve to get kicked out of the last one and you know it.”
“Kidding, dad. Love you.”
A quick peck on the old man’s cheek, snag of the to-go coffee cup on the counter and a swift butter of the toast that had popped up and Lacey Newman was out the door. Mornings were easy in the Newman household, what with life at the junkyard starting early. The guys that worked the morning shift were usually out bringing in new beaters, taking parts and sorting them, and of course, coming in the house for breakfast. John Newman always made a spread for his boys (and daughter) which was probably why it was rare of him to lose an employee. He, as well as Lacey, thought of the employees of the junkyard like family. They did honest work, never complained, and were stand up gentlemen. That, and Lacey liked feeling like she wasn’t an only child.
Walking out into the semi-humid morning, Sean was already up front inventorying new arrivals; some rusty old frames from what looked like the sixties and seventies, some newer cars from the mid 2000s that probably just didn’t run anymore and of course, boxes of car parts. People dumped stuff off and left a check for the Newman’s taking it in all the time. And if it wasn’t for Sean, they probably wouldn’t be so up-to-speed on getting the stuff sorted. “You know we appreciate you right?” She called to him with a grin, shoving the key into her rusted out ‘67 Mustang and leaning over to pop the hood. As much as she loved this car, it couldn’t hold a charge for anything. It had been given to Lacey as a project over the summer by her father, and it quickly gained interest among the yard’s boys. Specifically, the old beater was worked on by Sean, Cal and Lacey over the summer. The day they got the thing to run was one that the blonde girl will never forget.
“Cal is gonna be by after school, he’s gonna try to pull some starters from these newer cars. I think dad said somethin’ about you taking the tow truck out east a ways to pick up some cars? I dunno, check in with him yeah?” Lacey shrugged her shoulders as she undid her starter box, hooking it up to the car’s battery and turning it on before looking back up at Sean. They did this every morning, he’d get in the car and rev the engine a few times until the thing finally chugged to life. And today was no different.
“Hows your girlfriend doing by the way?” Lacey tilted her head to the side as she asked, genuinely curious. The raven haired boy had been pretty beat up about it over the summer and well… it hurt to see him like that.
He was at home, hard at work repairing a laptop that someone had brought him the day before. Jace was seated at his brand new work space, a desk in the front room, his gaze focused on the laptop. Carefully, he was trying to replace the broken parts. As usual, he had a beanie on, but this one was special. This one had been given to him by his favorite brother, Stu. It was yellow like his old one, but had been embroidered with "Beanie Bro" on the front. A loving token of brotherhood.
And then, the front door slammed open, and Jace jumped, the little very expensive piece flying onto the ground.
He spun around in his chair to see Ash storming into the house, a confused look on his face. "Ash, why aren't you at school?"
"Nova is fucking Ryder!" She snapped.
Jace tried to follow after his sister, but that little piece was expensive... so he ended up looking for the piece and placing it on his desk before following after Ash, only to start up the stairs and hear her bedroom door slam shut.
He knocked on the door. "Ash, please, let me in."
"Ash, I will unlock the--"
The sound of a dresser being shoved in front of her door shut Jace up, and he found himself helplessly slamming his head against his little sister's bedroom door.
With Jace successfully shut up, Ash started pacing in her hair, her hands tangled up in her hair. Tears were streaming down her face as she walked around the room, sobs wreaking havoc in her already aching chest. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Why was she stupid? Why did she never make a good decision, or turn someone's life around for the better?
All she ever did was fuck people's lives up.
Her dad was getting sued by Kate.
Grace was in a coma.
Sean had a heart attack.
She'd cheated on Ryan when he was in the hospital.
Jace had to take a semester off to take care of her.
Sebastian had almost had a chair thrown at him protecting her.
And it wasn't like those were even secluded instances! Those were just the most recent events that she could think of. What else had she done to drag everyone down around her? It was just a constant tornado of destruction, and it was centered around her. God, why the fuck did she destroy everyone around her? Even her fucking ferret had gone and died!
She looked around her room, trying to rub away the tears in her eyes. The wallpaper was torn and laying in piles. Blood stained the walls from where she had scraped away at it, sick of seeing the pink wallpaper that had been there for every fucking thing that had gone wrong in her life. Ash was done. She hated this. She hated herself. She hated her room.
So Ash decided hey, she'd fucking redecorate.
Ash walked over to the desk that sat in front of her floor to ceiling windows, and she kicked it. The desk crashed through the glass, shattering and falling to the ground in glittering shards of fractured glass. Next went the chair, and soon it was followed by books. Her clothes. Her blankets. And then the wallpaper. Her fingernails had been chewed down by anxiety, so all that she left to pick at it was broken nails. She dug at it, ripped and tore, until it was mostly gone. Her fingers started to throb, and blood started to swell up from the pure pressure of digging at the wall like an animal. Blood smeared the walls.
And then her blue eyes fell onto a shard of broken glass that had collapsed just inside her room, balancing on the edge of the floor. She was drawn to it. Ash walked towards her, her voice slowing and calming down as she stopped beside the piece of glass, stooping down to pick it up. She clenched it in her hand and then looked outside. She was standing on the edge -- tilting forward just a bit would send her over the edge, and she could fall onto the cold cement beneath, or maybe her broken body would land in the pool and she could sink to the bottom, forgotten and alone forever. It's what was best.
Her fingers curled around the glass shard, the shard cutting into her palm and causing small drops of crimson to fall from between her fingers to the ground beneath her.
And then Jace's face appeared amongst the wreckage. "Ash! Open the door! Please, just... talk to me." He was desperate, distressed, tears flowing down his face as he looked up helplessly.
So Ash turned away from the edge, with the shard of glass still cutting into her palm and made her way for her bathroom. She slammed the door shut behind her and then sank to the ground in front of her bathroom door, sobs heaving and wracking her body once again. Her body was shaking, her hands aching.
Ash dropped the glass shard to her side and picked up her phone. She bit her lip, looking at Sean's contact in her phone. She wanted to call him, to beg him to come and hold her so she could maybe feel safe for even a split second. Ash felt safe sleeping alongside him, so this would help, wouldn't it? But Ash was... just... destroying him.
So she went onto Twitter. A public breakup would mean there would be no need for questions, right? Her fingers were trembling as she typed in the words, and then she dropped her phone smeared with blood to the side.
She had broken everyone.
Her dad was in a shitty apartment. Jace wasn't going to meet his dreams. Sebastian almost got his head taken off by a chair. Grace was in a coma. Sean had been in the hospital for months. Fuck and now even Ryder wouldn't talk to her or even acknowledge her. And she'd been ruining people's lives far past this. Her last boyfriends had ended in the exact same way. Heartbreak and gone, without a trace or a single word back to her.
Fuck, her mom had even left her like that.
Why was Ash so unlovable?
Mason did generally feel bad about decking Stu out. Who knew that throw would knock the poor kid out?
And he was just about to be a caring friend when fucking Alaska showed up.
He was not about to deal with his second year of fucking senior year with a little fucking high and mighty princess. As if he was about to let people tell him that he was a shitty person when all he was trying to do was help fucking Stu out. He hadn't meant to hit the crumpet fucker with a football, and Mason was pissed.
"Oh fuck off, princess." He snapped and then in one swell swoop, he scooped Alaska up over his shoulder, and stormed off towards the lovingly very close school pool.
And without a second thought, he tossed her in.
Everything seemed to happen slowly, and then very fast.
Drake had done his best to keep up with Alaska, but he was running as fast as he could go, and still Alaska's fiery little self was gone. And just like that, he was watching as she was accusing Mason of things that weren't true. Okay so yeah, maybe he did knock Stu over with that ball, but that would surprise Drake. They had become friends!
And Drake was ready to explain this all as a simple misunderstanding when, without any words, Mason scooped up Drake's best friend -- Drake's ONLY friend it seemed these days -- and carried her off towards the school's outdoor pool. Which, for the record, was rather remarkable and a great place for a swim. Maybe he should--
Their mother had dropped them off, and Beau had made sure to wear only her classiest outfit for her first day of school. Her "I Maine" shirt (appropriately pink), a pair of sky blue skinny jeans, and sparkly pink Converse. A light blue denim jacket was pulled over her shirt, and there was a matching blue bow in her hair.
O. M. G.
She was away from Tom in a matter of seconds, hurrying away from her embarrassment of her little brother. Who wore a freaking bow tie to their first day of school? Only someone who ended up wanting to be bullied for the rest of the school year and given some stupid nickname like... Bow tie. Pfft. Beau could not be seen with that.
Her exploration of the Westbrook campus meant that she saw hot boy after hot boy after hot--
Holy heck in a coconut shell.
What angel had come down from heaven and created that hot hunk of Spanish bullfighter?
Beau was on him in an instant, clinging to his arm. After all, her bae was in prison and Beau wasn't sure when they'd be reunited. Surely he wouldn't mind if Beau had a little side dish. A little appetizer before he was free. After all, her bae was in prison, and... well, you know what went on prison. Yeah, shudder. Not for her.
"Hey, handsome." She said with a bright grin, her arms wrapped around his. "I'm Beau, your new girlfriend."
It was such a ridiculous, trivial thing at this point. The entire school system was flawed and built upon a set of constitutions written by the winners of society, while the losers died and stared at their overlords with the same distaste that Ava found herself now staring at a group of jocks as she made her across the parking lot towards the high school.
A world defined by who was the fittest, had the best "washboard abs," and could run the fastest was not a world that Ava respected or enjoyed being in. So her stomp across the parking lot, with her angry attitude and bitch face, made sure that everyone left her alone. Good. She liked it -- of course she did... right?
Her walk through the school ended when she arrived at her locker. She was starting to put in the combination, when the smell of alcohol washed over. Or, rather, punched her in the face.
"Hey, dude, uhh... so like, I don't if maybe you took a shower in vodka or something, but you smell like a whore that gets paid in shots rather than cheap cash."
"Were you issued a warrant before searching Mr. Fiaco's car?"
"Was there a warrant out for Mr. Fiaco's arrest?"
"Well, no. But tha-"
"Was Mr. Fiaco actively committing a crime at the time of arrest?"
"We all know he's guilty of the charges!"
"Maybe you weren't taught this in whatever backwater police academy you attended, but there are procedures to making arrests. Was Mr. Fiaco even read his Miranda Rights?"
"Not exactly, but that doesn't wave the fa-"
"My client's constitutional rights were violated on the night of the arrest, and continue to be violated to this day, and yet this court does nothing! Due Process has all but been ignored here, every Article from Section 7 to Section..."
Kanen just sat back and watched as the cop on the stand was torn to pieces by his lawyer. A cocky smirk slipped across his face and Kanen didn't even try to hide it. After months sitting in some cell, Kanen was going to walk free today. There was no doubt in his mind. Some little court in Maine couldn't just decide to ignore the Bill of Rights. (Though they'd practically tried to so far.) There would be no denying his freedom today. By the end of the night, Kanen would be having dinner on a yacht in the Massachusetts Bay. He'd finally be done with Westbrook, for good this time.
For months, all Kanen could do to occupy his time was read and workout; You can only read so much before your eyes get tired, and you can only workout so much before you start looking like a meathead. More often than not, Kanen just silently fantasized about what he was going to do when he was finally out. Selling drugs was a no-go now. When he was arrested, the Mafia had practically abandoned him. Kanen's pride wouldn't let him go crawling back there. He had money saved up though. Enough to go to school, or maybe travel? Who knows. Kanen would be living the good life for at least a little while.
"...Until further notice, you assets will be frozen and you will be required to remain here in Westbrook."
The Judge's voice snapped Kanen back into reality. What was he supposed to do in Westbrook with no money, and no job?! Kanen could here his lawyer arguing with the judge briefly, something about 'Status Quo' or whatever, but it went right over Kanen's head. He was dumbstruck. sure, they were letting him out of prison or whatever, but he was still trapped here in Westbrook. Nothing ever changes, does it.
The judge smacked his gavel and everything was quiet for a moment. "Mr. Fiaco, I take no joy in letting you walk." The Old Judge grumbled, looking down at Kanen from his seat. "Frankly, if it weren't for your lawyer's clever arguments, I'd have you thrown in a prison cell for the rest of your life. As far as I am concerned, you a nothing but a scourge to society. A dredge, oozing malice and respite." The Judge continued. He paused for a moment, his eyes becoming a little softer. "Your Parole Officer will be in contact with you. I hope you prove me wrong. Court Dismissed!"
After spending the better half of a year sitting in a prison cell, Kanen was free just like that. However, the circumstances of his freedom weren't exactly what he was hoping for. Westbrook was the last place he wanted to stay trapped.
The Sun felt good on Kanen's skin as he walked out the front doors of the courthouse and just stood there for a moment. He mumbled softly to himself, something about the Judge being an asshole. Sure, he'd let Kanen go, but he might as well have kept him in the cell! What the hell was Kanen supposed to do now, with no job, no money, and just the clothes on his back. What did they even expect him to do? Just be homeless for a few weeks or something? Yeah, because that was a great idea. Brilliant. Bureaucracy at its finest, folks. Nothing better.
Kanen kept grumbling to himself as he walked down the street, staring down any poor fucker who looked at him wrong. With anger came determination. Fuck the Judge. Fuck every cop in that Station. Fuck Westbrook. Fuck it all.
Fuck Ash for putting him in this situation to begin with. Yeah, they'd been fighting, but she really went and told the cops that he'd sold her drugs!? Who the fuck does that!? Kanen called her some mean names, and her response was to try and get him thrown in prison. Yeah, that's fair.
Fuck Ash in particular.
She could go on thinking that she was better than him, but Kanen would prove her wrong. He didn't care how, what he had to do, who he had to face. Kanen just wanted every dumb motherfucker in this city to realize something; No matter how messed up he was, no one was ever going to look down on Kanen again.
If he was going to be stuck here in Westbrook, Westbrook was going to be his. Kanen wasn't going to tolerate anything less. He was done sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else live their lives. He was done letting everything go on without him. It was time for Kanen to finally stop feeling sorry for himself and move on. If not for himself, than to just prove a point.
Kane was back. Not just Kanen, but the old Kanen.
No more bottles, no more pills, no more anything. He wasn't going to be defined by drugs and alcohol anymore.
He was reluctant to take the girl’s hand as he lay there in the grass. Great. Now everyone was watching him being helped by a girl. They were jeering, mocking, whispering among themselves – the Westbrook way. Thanks Mason. Thanks a bunch Mason.
‘I’m– I’m fine,’ Stu said, remembering to let go of her hand as soon as he was back on his feet, though. The back of his head was still ringing with pain, which he tried to massage away. He made a mess of his hair.
When the girl said it was a rough way to start a school year, he replied, nonchalantly:
‘I’ve had worse.’
At least he didn’t show up with a necktie this time round. Even Dad must have realised what a mistake that was, because he tried to make up for it by giving Stu lots of money and shooing him off to the mall to pick out some new clothes.
Thanks to Mason, those clothes were now covered in wet grass and dirt. It was a shame, because he did like his brand new jacket, too. He spent a long time choosing it off the shelf.
Recovering from the humiliation Stu turned to the girl again, muttering his thanks, and then said: ‘I’m Stu. . . I haven’t seen you around, I don't think--’
And typically, if you haven’t been seen around by the Westbrook Wolf, you haven’t been around.
Stu shrugged a little.
‘. . . You know he did that on purpose,’ he said, gesturing in Mason’s direction. Of course he did it on purpose.
He was about to say more when he saw an angry female marching up to Mason, almost not recognising her at first. And before he fully processed the scene, Mason had already gone and tossed her in the water!
Stu hadn’t been angry with Mason for throwing the ball at him, but throwing Alaska into the pool?
‘Bloody hell, Mason.’ He shot him a look of bewilderment, shaking his head as he brushed past him. ‘. . .What’d you do that for?’
Without much thought, Stu lay down on the edge of the pool with a grunt and scrambled to get his arm out in the water, trying to pull Alaska out of the pool. Well, this was certainly more interesting than their trip to the aquarium: Alaska had, for all intents and purposes, become a fish.
The summer was quite eventful for Sean and that was saying something considering the summer before he spent traveling around the country. First at prom he had gone into cardiac arrest. With the help of his sister and her boyfriend at the time he had made it to the hospital before anything seriously bad happened. Turns out he had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and it was likely hereditary. The list of reasons he didn't want to ever meet his biological father continued to grow day by day.
Second Ash West, his girlfriend was in a very serious car accident and was sent to the hospital. The stress of learning about that combined with the physical exertion of rushing to see her ended up causing Sean to go into cardiac arrest in the first place. So both he and Ash spent their summer in the hospital. As soon as he was able to he spent his nights in Ash's room. He practically refused to leave her side, broken ribs and weak heart be damned. His recovery was a lot quicker than hers but you can bet that even after given the okay to leave the hospital he refused. Day after day, night after night Sean was there. There wasn't many instances where you wouldn't see Sean sitting in Ash's room in one of those extremely uncomfortable chairs.
Those rare instances where Sean wasn't with Ash he was working. Marty, who was much more of a father than his biological father is or ever was, helped Sean get a job under John Newman. The thought was Sean would be under less stress there and therefore safer, while also still working and getting paid. Needless to say he was exhausted. Very little sleep was had over the summer and he couldn't even drink coffee. Some days he couldn't help but be openly bitter that his heart had one job and couldn't even do that right. Thankfully he was felt very welcome at the junkyard. Mr. Newman was very kind and all the other employees were nice. He was genuinely friends with everyone there, including Lacey Newman. Lacey was someone who was always herself. She never pretended to be someone she wasn't and she spoke her mind and Sean always respected people like that. The junkyard, particularly Lacey, became a welcome way to take Sean's mind off of his stress. He was always worried about Ash, but everyone needs time to relax sometimes.
Even after Ash was cleared to leave the hospital her anxiety was severe and so Sean continued to stay by her side at night. She seemed relaxed whenever he was around and so he did whatever he could to help her. Ash was staying with Sean for the time because Elise refused to let Sean sleep in Ash's room. He supposed it was sort of understandable, but it's not like they were doing anything. That level of physical activity might kill Sean. Last night however Elise demanded that Ash stay the night in 'her own home', without Sean. So he set an alarm every hour to wake himself up in case Ash needed him. He didn't get a whole lot of sleep, but he was used to that by now. Ash never ended up calling or texting so hopefully that meant she was alright the night by herself
Early that morning Sean made his way to the junkyard for work. He thoroughly enjoyed working for Mr. Newman as he was a good man. He made breakfast for his employees in the morning and always asked Sean how he was feeling. He never gave Sean a physically extensive task without asking if he could handle it first. Currently this morning he was taking inventory of what was coming in. He was drinking decaf tea, pretending it actually was caffeinated to retain a sense of normalcy, when Lacey came out. She called out her appreciation for his work and he responded with a grin. "Your appreciation is appreciated." he called back. She then told him that her dad had some cars he wanted Sean to pick up with the tow truck.
Sean set down his tea and followed Lacey over to her 'car'. Every morning was the same routine since they had actually managed to get it running. He got in to rev the engine a Lacey asked how Ash was doing. Sean let out a tired sigh and shrugged. "Last night was the first night she's been alone in a long time. She didn't call so hopefully that means she was alright." His eyes held a weary worry in them. He wasn't sure whether he actually had hope that she had been okay last night or if he was just trying to convince himself.
As Sean was driving to get the cars Mr. Newman requested Sean's phone vibrated with a notification. Before prom night last year he would have ignored it but now- now every notification could be life threatening. Looking at it he saw a tweet from Ash, trying to break up with him. He sent a quick reply and then sent a message to Mr. Newman. He would finish his job later, but this was important. Ash was clearly not okay and he needed to go to her. He drove, only slightly over the speed limit, to the West house. Once there he called Jace to get him to let him in. Elise wouldn't give him a key for fear of him sneaking into Ash's room, which to be fair he would totally do, just not for the reason she thought. Winonatxlos
Laurel's day was going great- Well, as great as it could be with Tatum as cheer captain. She wasn't about to let her blood boil over that, though. She was fine. She'd done her morning jog, and taken a nice cold shower, and had a hearty breakfast after she got dressed in something cute.
Sure, she'd had to drive her sister to school and the little twerp had tried to nag at her over her driving or something, but that was easy enough to ignore- She'd just turned the music up.
And then she'd grabbed her bag and gone to meet Mason where they had discussed.
She was lucky he walked by. Of course, she was a little less happy that when he walked by another woman was in his arms. Even less so when he dropped her in a pool.
But she kept her zen. She could stay cool. She was as cool as a cucumber, and that's why she'd make a great cheer captain, right?
She walked up, smiling and taking careful effort to feel it, and, very polite, said, "Mason. Why in the hell are you throwing people into pools on the first day of school?"
“Don’t worry about it, it’s not your fault.” He shrugged, wanting to move on from whatever the hell had just happened and focus on surviving the rest of his first day back. New York had been boring, but he definitely didn’t miss getting punched in the face on a daily basis. Either way, he was still glad to be back in Westbrook, even if it was bad for his health.
“I wouldn’t miss movie night even if I had s broken face.” Since returning to Westbrook, Nova was the only normalcy he’d had. Everything was chaos as usual, but his time with Nova was always the calmest he felt. He only had a few friends left here and it was nice to have Nova around, their relationship was easy and he never had to worry about her adding more drama into his life. Their relationship was one of the only things that was going to keep him sane during this sure to be dramatic school year.
It pained him to see his usually bubbly girlfriend act so timid and shy, he knew that since everything that had happened with Ian she’d been having trouble sleeping. It seemed like while he’d been gone everyone had been going through something traumatic, he was almost glad he hadn’t been around to witness it.
“Yes, of course.” He agreed, wanting to be able to help his girlfriend out as much as possible. Ash seemed far past help, and maybe it would ease a little bit of his guilt to help someone else. “I’ll bring snacks and whatever else you’d like.”
The tiny brunette was ready to keep swinging on Mason, but before she could even raise her fist again she was suddenly upside down and being carried away by Mason. How dare he pick her up like a child when she was trying to beat him up.
“Put me down!” Alaska demanded, smacking her fists against Mason’s back in an attempt to force him to set her down. Suddenly, he was tossing her and before she processed what he was doing she was submerged in the pond. That wasn’t what she had meant when she’d asked him to put her down.
“You fucking asshole! You’re gonna pay for this, Mason!” She called after him, seething with anger as she tried to get out of the cold water without slipping. Thankfully, her knight in shining neck ties showed up, and Stu was trying to pull her out. She grabbed his hand to try and climb out, but it was slippery and suddenly they were both falling back into the water.
“Hi.” She sighed, turning to her friend with as much of a smile as she could muster up as she finally climbed out of the pool. This wasn’t how she had imagined her first day back to school. Naturally she had expected it to a little bit dramatic, it was Westbrook after all, but she hadn’t expected to be losing a fight before her first class had even started. Not that she had lost, because Mason had cheated.
Noah didn't have a lot of friends, and while he hadn't noticed this during the hellish period which was his junior year, during the summer, he realized just how lonely he really was. He didn't really travel anywhere like his parents did, so he just spent the summer holed up at home, trying to be productive, but ultimately failing and going back to doing some stupid thing like watching Netflix or reading some sappy teenage romance story where the guy dies at the end, and that leaves the girl heartbroken and alone. Noah would've gladly said that he didn't cry while reading, but that wouldn't be the case.
Other than watching Netflix, reading cliche books and sleeping, there actually were a few things which changed Noah's life this summer. The most important thing would be that three more people moved into the Stewart household, and the family expanded from three to six really quickly. The first person was Noah's grandma Mildred who decided it would be best to move in with her dear grandson seeing that his parents weren't home most of the time during the week. The second person was Noah's brother Josh who had decided that college was way too hard for him and that he would rather go through it at home, and the last person was Dante Novello, Noah's best friend from the time he spent in Italy being a foreign exchange student, whose parents decided it would be best to send her to the USA hoping she wouldn't have bad influences around her.
Right now, however, Noah and Dante were standing in front of the school entrance, or behind the bushes close to it, to be more exact.
"Una sigaretta per il sogno americano?" The blonde girl asked, holding an opened pack of Marlboro Reds out to Noah and he couldn't help but smile.
He didn't usually smoke, like at all, since he did track and all that, but he did take one cancer stick out of the red and quite aesthetically pleasing box. It was somewhat of a tradition between the two seeing that these were how the first few minutes of his friendship with Dante were like and he didn't want to break this tradition of smoking a cigarette before starting a new school year.
It didn't take long for the two to finish smoking their one cigarette, but it did take a bit longer for Noah to finish than it did for Dante, seeing that he coughed after taking in the smoke into his lungs almost every other time.
After throwing the buds on the ground and stomping on them, Noah offered Dante a piece of gum seeing that having your mouth reek of smoking wouldn't be a good first impression, and Dante, thinking the same way as Noah did, took the offered piece of gum.
Even though their breaths didn't stink, their clothes did, not a lot, but a scent could definitely be noticed. Knowing that they couldn't do anything to fix this, the two headed on in to the school entrance. Even though they wanted to enter and that entering was their main goal, seeing a scared and nervous teenager made the, stop. He looked like he'd seen a ghost.
"What are you so scared of?" Dante asked, her Italian accent not being very obvious, but still a tiny bit noticeable. She had a colorful bag/backpack loosely hanging from one of her shoulders. A black sleeveless crop top covered her torso, and on the lower part of her body were some mom-jeans as well as a pair of heels. The crop top being sleeveless made the tattoo on the back of her shoulders pretty obvious. It was a little triangle with a little tent and a campfire inside. Noah had gotten the same one, but his was under his armpit, on his ribs.
Unlike Dante, Noah wasn't wearing a sleeveless crop top, but just a plain white t-shirt and some ripped jeans, so something he usually wore to school.
"This is Westbrook High. You're not supposed to be anxious while you're standing outside of it, you know?" Noah said, a smile on his face. "I'm Noah." He put his hand in front of the boy, waiting for him to shake it.
If you put together ten Nicki Minajs, three Miley Cyruses, two Katy Perrys and added a bit of Agatha Christie into the mix, you would get one Mildred Williams, because that's just how badass she really was.
Other than being one badass bitch, which is definitely a personality trait, Mildred also works as the school librarian for Westbrook High. She might not be as qualified as other people who had applied for this position, but she sure does fit the look of a school librarian. The biggest mistake you can make, however, is thinking that the nice older lady sitting in the school library won't sucker punch you because you are talking or eating something crunchy in her library. Instead of getting shushed every so often like you would in other libraries, you will get a trip to the nurses office in a matter of seconds. Legends say that a student entered the library and never came back because he yelled at her, but that's totally not true.
At the moment, this elderly lady, who was quite fast for her age, or any age for that matter, was walking down the hallway of the very familiar high school. The hallway was already kind of crowded, and Mildred smiled and waved hello to the students she liked while she ignored the ones who were a pain in the ass, which would basically be most of the cheerleaders or the jocks or the class clowns. Who she was really hoping to see would be her grandson, who had gone to school some time before her, and seeing him would mean that he didn't crash the car and kill himself while trying to get past that one roundabout. Even though she loved her grandson dearly, she would've never gotten into a car with him because that would be the only thing that could be the end of her.
Soon enough, after pushing through a group of teenage boys who were talking about some sport or something, Mildred unlocked the library before entering it and closing the door behind her. It was already pretty bright inside the library, since it was sunny outside, so Mildred didn't need to go to the other side of the library to turn on the lights. She put down her bag on her desk, following a Starbucks cup filled with some extravagant secret menu beverage. Probably a Pinkity Drinkity.
Tatum had been successfully avoiding people. She still felt like trash, but no one had seen her. She had finally slowed in the halls when she felt like a certain someone hadn’t seen her before she had looked at her phone. Of course, she had opened Twitter because it was the only way to figure what was even happening in Westbrook. That was when she had seen it Ash, had made it public and Tatum made one response before she ran into someone and heard them speak. She couldn’t help but roll her eyes, not like the other girl could see them. She recognized the female and that was when it clicked, she had won prom king. Ava, that was her name. Tatum let her gaze linger on the red head for only a moment, “Maybe you should keep your comments to yourself.” Her words were full of anger.
Why was she angry? Tatum had almost never been angry at least not towards someone like her. She looked her up and down, “And you smell like a bitch.” Tatum shrugged. Sure, she was coming off aggressive but a red head with no reason to even speak to her had made a comment that she hadn’t appreciated. She couldn’t stand certain people, or really most people for that matter. They could all disappear, and she wouldn’t care anymore. Life had no reason for her to care. Her phone had been silent since she got to school. She had to avoid Elise, that woman was the biggest nuisance. Tatum hadn’t really wanted to be head cheerleader and then it was handed to her and she had to keep up her happy act, even though she would have rather drank herself to death.
She kept her eyes set on Ava, “Maybe if you didn’t act like the high queen people might actually stop thinking your heartless. So maybe don’t butt into my life cause you sure as hell don’t want me in yours.” She just wanted to be left alone. Why couldn’t Ava have left her alone? Now she couldn’t even stop her words from sounding angry, but it’s not like she was going to tell Ava what a screw up she was.
Brayden had been livid with Tatum for leaving him because he was more lost than ever. Students had been passing by him and he was still standing inside. He was ready to leave the school and Tatum; he could care less about staying. He’d been kicked out of schools already, so it wasn’t an issue to get kicked out again. As he had turned to go outside, he had seen a boy get knocked with football and a girl had gone to help him. Well, there were some nice people just not the ones he knew. He couldn’t take his eyes off the small blonde; her niceness was appealing to him and of course he had to go find out about her. See if she would even be worth his time. Most girls weren’t.
As he walked over to her he gave her a smile, and rubbed the back of his head, “That was a nice thing you did for him.” Brayden hadn’t had time to go help so he didn’t feel too bad about not offering his help. He had looked over to where the commotion was happening and used his head to motion in the direction, “What’s happening over there?” A girl was soaked head to toe from the water and he was still lost. He could only hope that maybe this girl would be willing to help him out, he just had to make sure not to say the wrong thing.
That was a good word to describe JJ’s summer. While most of it was spent with Sawyer, the beanie girl proved to be a good distraction from the many things that many people wouldn’t get over, Sawyer being one of them but thankfully she dropped it whenever Juliette brought up a new topic. Ever since prom night, Ava had been treating her as if she was this fragile toy. It happens. What more can Juliette say? Unfortunately, she managed to keep it from the school but her parents were a different story. When a sixteen year old girl comes into a hospital bleeding through her prom dress, much to her dismay parents are called.
Was her mother’s exact words. And... maybe she was right. Now isn’t the time to dwell over that. Today was the first day of school.
New year New JJ.
She’s killing it already, maybe she didn’t become cheer captain or talked through with Ava whatever happened at prom— all that didn’t matter. Juliette had a boyfriend now, this time he wasn’t a total douchebag like Bryan, or was suddenly just going to avoid her like Zach.
This time was different. She was sure of it.
She walked towards her locker which was conviently placed next to Sawyer’s this year. Maybe, just maybe Juliette wished she was still across from Ava. What? They’re friends. Kind of. Sure, she’s been a little distant but that’s just because Ava was... scrambling her brain in more ways than just one. “You want a tampon? They help with nosebleeds.” She gestured towards Sawyer, opening her locker as she did so.
“Do you know that fucking Tatum got cheer captain? I mean, c’mon. I know Grace is doing her own thing or whatever, but Tatum? She’s only been here for a few months and I already hate her.”