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A day late but congrats to my small writer family of Edenridge. We hit 200 posts. I’m so proud of you all and I can’t wait to see how far we take our dark, twisted tale. You’re breathtaking.
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Fuck. Typo. I am drunk. I’m going back to talking to my friends. Bye. Enjoy attention seeking boo.




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In Edenridge 6 days ago Forum: Casual Roleplay
Timestamp: After My Anchor
Location: The Osso's Main House



Sitting in front of the Osso house, Lydia sat in her parked white 2018 Honda Accord gathering herself. It’s been months since she last saw Robert. Sure, they walked past each other in town and waved, but other than that, she avoided him. They had a messy past and she didn’t know how she’d react if he did that thing where he saw behind her mask and tried to get her to talk.

There was nothing to talk about.

They tried to date twice already and they both ended the same way where they mutually decided this wasn’t going to work, where they mutually decided the best route to happiness was protecting the other. Even if it was against her true desires. She knew he deserved better. Someone less broken. Someone that wouldn’t trigger his PTSD and make him feel more shitty than he already felt about himself. Someone not her.

Her most recent client, Theodora, reminded her so much of her younger self. A girl whose hand was forced because of the cards dealt to her. So much so that she didn’t get much sleep recently. Nightmares of her childhood friend, who should’ve known better, hanging herself from her fan, above her bed, leaving Lydia to pick up the broken pieces. Nightmares of her mother in her coffin, after she was shot to death from a domestic abuse call. Nightmares of her father never seeing how desperately she needed him to be a father. Nightmares of her bleeding out, needing a soldier to carry her because she didn’t know how much she could keep doing this. She didn’t know how much longer she could fight. Nightmares of Bobby putting a gun to his head because of his own trauma and her not being able to save him, like he’s saved her countless times. Nightmares.

If she was being honest with the kid, she’d tell her it doesn’t get better. One day, you will find a purpose, maybe you’ll seek to help people heal mentally, like she tried, maybe you’ll become a teacher, but whatever you choose, that was only a bandage to cover up your wounds. Novacaine to take away the overwhelming sensations, and promise you, you won’t feel a thing.

Her job gave her something to do, kept her busy. It was her way of quieting the beast because at least she was helping people that needed it. Really though, when you’re alone at night, with grief, loneliness, and pain, in an apartment too big for one person, drinking whiskey in hopes it’ll help you sleep, the demons creep their way back into your dreams. The throbbing migraine that is all your unresolved issues is simply a reminder that you’re not strong. You choose to ignore it because somehow, you’ve convinced yourself that is the best way to live. Lydia didn’t need a kiss goodnight. She didn’t need someone to constantly tell her things were going to be alright, She didn’t need anyone.

When I was scared, I would imagine myself building a wall around me. So big, so tall, and so incredibly strong. You do that too, Theo? It’s okay, it’s okay, I understand. Sometimes you need a wall to feel safe and you should not feel ashamed of that. It makes you tougher than other kids. A builder. And when you find people that have shown you they’re not going to hurt you, then that’s when you can bring them in, but until then, it’s okay to add more bricks. It’s okay to keep building because that makes you safe and so, so very strong. It makes you who you are and I think who you are is pretty cool.

Bringing her mind back to present, Lydia exited her car and dialed Sofia’s number. She looked toward the house and listened to the phone ring. “Okay, little shit, you better pick up.” Glancing up at the sky, she felt a little droplet on her cheek. When the insufferable teen that was a mini version of her best friend didn’t pick up, Lydia muttered to herself, “Fuck me.”

Meanwhile after putting a Power Ranger bandaid on her little Aurora’s right knee, she tripped playing tag with her brother and had just recovered from a meltdown, Clarissa smothered her daughter with kisses before releasing her. Aurora was quick to grab a small foam sword and hunt for Christian, like a knight ready to slay a dragon. Her dragon being her twin. Picking herself up from kneeling by the couch, Clari noticed a familiar white car outside. Peering through the curtains, Clarissa could see her friend trying to call someone. “Bobby, Lyds is here! I hope she’s okay. I’ll go see… oh nevermind, she’s coming to the door.”

Bobby was punching a hole through his training bag when Clari called his name. Lydia was at the door. Lydia was the first person Robert Osso met when he and his family arrived in Edenridge twenty years ago. The first time they encountered one another, the Osso family had just finished moving into their big house, Clari was baking cookies for the new neighbours with their mom and Sienna. Anthony, was only a baby at the time and was dozing to the dulcet sounds of their father asleep and snoring on the couch. The family was preoccupied which meant Bobby could go for a cigarette. He wondered at the time if Massachusetts convenience stores sold to minors like the ones back in New Jersey. He fled the house to explore the new neighbourhood, cancer-stick in hand when he bumped into a dark haired girl on the street, Lydia. She had been forever in his life from that moment forward.

In high school, Bobby's silence and new boy status initially made him a target for the strange elitists of Edenridge High. With clenched fists and a bitten tongue he stayed quiet. There was no reason to rock the boat. Then someone mocked Lydia and the loss of her friend. Emma Reed. That was enough for Robert to pick up the baseball bat that would soon become synonymous with his name and crack it over the head of Grayson Elliott. Some said it caused the young boy some brain damage, he was a stripper now going by the name Cinnamon and Robert earned the name Bobby Batters. Nobody messed with him or Lydia after that. She was his world.

When the war called his name, he made the decision to leave her behind, not one that he took lightly but definitely one he regretted making every single day of his life since. He wiped the sweat off of his arms and chest with a towel and pulled on a plain white tank. Why would Lyd’s be here? Maybe she picked Ricky up off the road, she would do stuff like that and he definitely owed that curly haired little fuck a kick in the ass for all that Sofia business. Making his way and joining his sister at the door, Bobby opened it swiftly to greet his old flame. “Hi.”

Lydia’s goal was to make this quick so she could return to Cat and keep her company. Lord knows the rest of their friends were driving her crazy. Lydia could only imagine how the sleepover was going, likely with Cat wanting some peace of mind and the rest of them wanting to party. That’s something she and Cat bonded over. Sure, they had their moments but compared to their friends, they seemed more put together. They were the sane ones, and that says a lot since Lydia and Cat found themselves drowning in booze every other day.

Harper always had some new stressful story about her family — the Quinns were infamous on Grove Street. Somehow they never failed to find new ways to fuck things up. Vanessa painted herself out to have the most perfect life with a loving husband, behaved children, and a flourishing business, but really she was a freak on a leash, settled too early and absolutely miserable for it. Then there was Brooke. Brooke would do anything to get ahead, even if it meant sleeping with a man she could care less about because he’s the one that puts money in her pockets. Compared to their friends, Cat and Lydia were goddamn saints, really just struggling with their self worth and trauma.

When Bobby answered the door, Lydia was taken aback by his stature and the sweat glistening on his skin. It’s been awhile since she gave herself an opportunity to look at him up close and personal and phew, he still looked hot as ever. That was not what she was here for. As much as she did appreciate his body, and his package, and everything else really, she was here with the sole purpose of getting Sofia out of deep shit. Well, more like lessening the blow because the moment Cat finds out, things might go nuclear. “Hi.”

Clarissa was quick to poke her head from behind her large and in charge big brother. “Lydia!!! It’s so good to see you.”

“It’s good to see you too, Clari, and…” Lydia’s eyes — bright, bold, and beautiful — and the sweet hue of spring clover scanned up Robert’s body to meet his gaze, “Bobby.” Wrapping her arms around her, in a way where it looked like she was cold, but really she was hugging herself to keep it together (a coping mechanism Bobby knew well), Lydia gave her oh-so-professional smile and asked, not beating around the bush, “Is Sofia here? She texted me that she was.” There was a sinking feeling inside her that told her the little devil had tricked her, probably to save face.

Bobby knew every tell that Lydia had. The curse of twenty years of knowledge. He knew that she was uncomfortable around him in such ways, why did he answer the door like this? He knew what reaction he would get; Idiot. He had to salvage this meeting, the last thing Bobby wanted was for Lyds to be uncomfortable. The problem though was her last words about Sofia. What kind of shit had Ricky gotten into this time? He had a hard enough time over the years reigning Oz in from his wild tendencies, he didn’t need another weight on his shoulders in Ricky.

“She was,” The former Marine responded in his usual blunt tone. Luckily for him, in the same way he knew what Lydia’s body language meant, she knew exactly what his voice carried in it. “Apparently for a few days actually. We sent her home a little while ago, with Ricky and my mothers dog.” Bobby turned to look at his younger sibling who as usual had her head in the clouds. “Clari, go put the kettle on, grab me a shirt and call Andy, make sure he’s out of the way of this storm. Please?” Taking a step to one side, he let his pale blue eyes linger on Lydia for a moment before waving her inside. “Come in, we’ll figure this out.”

One didn’t refuse an invite from Bobby Batters. He had a commanding presence so when he said jump, you asked how high. Clari beamed brightly, excited for the company, “Will do! Oh and Lyds, I’m making cherry cobbler. You absolutely have to stay for dinner. Wouldn’t want you out in the storm anyways.” With that, Clarissa was quick to take her phone out to call her husband, and proceeded into the kitchen.

“No, no it’s fine. I think I know where she is,” Lydia quickly responded, glancing over her shoulder and seeing it hadn’t rain yet. This wouldn’t be the first time Sofi has done something like this and it always ended at the same place: at her grandparents. From the information that Bobby divulged, it was clear to Lydia that Sofia wasn’t handling the divorce well. Not because she didn’t want it to happen but with how much it’s been dragged out. If anyone witnessed Tommaso being abusive to Cat, it would be her, and as such Sofia did what Cat would do when she was a teen. Run away. Run from her problems and drown herself in whatever vice she had. Taking a step back, Lydia dismissed herself (the one person who wasn’t so obedient to Bobby’s demands), “My parents live a couple blocks away, I can get to them easy. I’m sure I can beat the storm.”

“Lydia,” Bobby tensed slightly. “Don’t be a fool. Come in the house before…” As if the Gods themselves were listening, the heavens opened above the pair of former lovers and they wept upon them. The downpour was heavy and sudden, like an overpowered faucet onto a marble sink. “You were saying? Come on, get in here.” Bobby took a hold of her arm firmly but not tightly. He would never hurt her. Never. He guided her into the Osso house and closed the door behind them. “Clari! We’re gonna need a towel and maybe some of your clothes!” Turning to face Lydia once more, he offered a smile, a rarity when it came to Robert Osso. “Go get dried off. I’ll be in the den.”

It was a good thing she didn’t believe in God because she’d be cursing him right then and now. She stopped believing after her mother died. As Bobby walked away, coming from the kitchen was not Clarissa, but Sissy with a towel. With a blank expression, she placed it on the other woman’s head. Lydia looked at the young woman in silence, before drying her hair and holding onto the towel.

When Bobby was gone, Lydia sighed in relief. The other Osso sister was quick to notice the slight motion and tilted her head, “Do you want a drink? And I don’t mean what Clari is making.”

“Yes, please,” Lydia whispered, not knowing how long she was going to last being under the same roof as her ex.

“He misses you,” Sienna assured. Her flat voice made her seem unamused but Lydia knew better. Lydia knew after the accident, Sissy would never feel the same or act the same, but she also knew that Sissy tried her hardest, everyday, to go about her life as if she understood what everyone was going through. She chose to handle the people she loved in a social pattern, closing in on any signs of emotion, whether through facial expression or action but that was because she had no choice. She couldn’t feel or at least, it took her a very long time to feel, so understanding what Bobby was going through right now and what Lydia was going through right now was beyond her. Still, she wanted to help.

Sissy was quick to notice the tension between her older brother and his ex lover. Any Osso could if they chose to watch. They’d been like this for years, not sitting down and talking things out. She wondered if her brother even wanted to. He still clearly cared for the woman and yet, they chose to stay apart. The accident gave her a new perspective in things, thinking back when Astrid was uncertain if Sissy even cared about her. When there is a complete void of emotion, it makes you appreciate what you once had and try to make sure that person knows you’d choose them again and again and again, even if you couldn’t show it. She missed the days when she was angry, sad, happy, and all other emotions in between. It’s easier to hurt someone’s feelings when you aren’t aware of how you even feel, so she chose to focus on how everyone else felt and act accordingly.

The thing about her brother and his old flame was, they felt too deeply. Overwhelmed by their own grief, anger, and pain, they chose to look inward instead of what was right in front of them. Sissy hoped one day they could try again and this time, stick it out. They both were strong people who deserved someone to hold them when they couldn’t hold themselves. Them together always made sense. Sadly, sometimes things that were meant to be, never be.

Lydia didn’t know what Sissy wanted her to say to that. To the fact that Robert missed her. Instead of saying anything, Lydia gave a quiet smile. It didn’t take Sissy too long to get the message. Lydia wasn’t someone who easily admitted her feelings. There were only two people capable of getting her to talk and that was the man waiting for her in the den and Caterina Belmonte.

Nodding to Lydia, Sissy took a step back to give her space, “You know where Clari’s room is. I’ll make sure you have a drink waiting for you with my brother.” When Sissy walked away, in the same direction of the den, Lydia stared up at the ceiling. Her day was about to take a turn for the worse. She could feel it.

In time, she was changed into Clari’s white tank, pink plaid pajama pants, and brown knitted cardigan sweater. Taking a deep breath in, mentally preparing herself, Lydia knocked on the door and cracked it open, exhaling while doing so. “Good to come in?” Why was she asking? Of course she was good to come in. He had told her so. Her anxiety was sitting in her throat and every step she took she became more and more cautious. More and more aware of her situation. This was so unbecoming of her.

“Yeah come on in,” Bobby sat in the red velvet chair by the fireplace, his lips pressed against his knuckles as he stared deep into the flame. He had covered himself with a simple black-T-shirt with the logo for his company, Iron Resolve on the left breast. His arms were still bulging out of the top but he couldn’t do anything about that. Bobby had learned a lot about himself whilst he was in the serve and one of those was that training and fitness were perfect tools for keeping the voices in his head at bay.

He watched as Lydia gingerly entered the room and took a seat opposite him. The world had changed. Years ago, this very room looked no different but the kids inside it, Bobby and Lydia, they were different. When they were young, they would fool around on the couch, drink Vincent’s classic scotch and eat Capri’s famed lasagne. Now they were adults, with demanding jobs and trauma by tank load.

Before Robert could say another word, the door of the den swung open a second time and instepped a dark haired beauty clad in nothing but her black panties and blue tank. She carried a tray with several glasses on it and smiled at the pair. “Une sélection de boissons savoureuses pour vous deux,” She spoke in romantic French with a flawless accent before placing the tray down between them. Her moss coloured eyes fell upon Lydia for a moment, surveying her up and down before turning to Bobby with a grin.

“I have no idea what you just said, Astrid.”

“I said,” All of a sudden, the woman’s voice shifted into that of a born and bred American. “A selection of tasty beverages for you both. Broaden your horizons Bobby, God!” Astrid leaned up and placed her hands on her hips. “By the way, Sienna just got in touch with your Dad. He and Oz are at the office. Andy is at his store. The only Osso’s not accounted for are Ricky and the mutt. Ok, you two have fun. Au revoir!” She exclaimed before turning on her heel and sashaying away, slamming the door behind her.

“What a weird creature she is. Sorry about her. That woman is supposed to be a lawyer.”

Lydia was stunned for a moment, not because she didn’t know Astrid. No, but more so seeing Astrid outside of her professional mask. Three months ago, Sissy had come by Edenridge Family Studies & Clinic to introduce Astrid to her. Since she only had ten minutes to spare before her next client came in, they kept things short and simple. It warmed Lydia’s heart to think Sissy wanted to show off her girlfriend to her, like she was a little kid with a new toy and that toy was all hers. A smile rose on Lydia’s face when the beautiful french woman sauntered off, confident as can be.

Relaxing, Lydia reached for a glass and got comfortable by the fire, curling her legs on the couch as she leaned on the arm rest. “I think she’s kind of refreshing,” Lydia took a sip of her drink, resting her gaze on her ex. Since she was going to be stuck here for however long, she might as well make the most of it.

Come what may.

Her eyebrow rose when she felt her phone vibrate. Keeping her glass in one hand, she pulled it out to see a text from Sofia. She rolled her eyes and made a tsk sound of disapproval, “Ricky and Nduja are at the cafe, and Sofi is with Danny at Taz’s,” Once she tossed her phone to the side, she clasped her hand back on the glass, now holding the scotch with both hands, and shook her head, “Knowing her, she probably wanted me to distract you,” Lydia gently chuckled. God, Sofia was so much like Cat, it was scary sometimes. “Is it working? Are you distracted?” She lightheartedly teased.

“You always distract me,” Bobby spoke through his knuckles before lowering his arm to reach for a drink himself. “So we’re assuming then that Sofi sent you to stop me from kicking Ricky’s ass for hiding her in our basement for three days. Clever girl, reminds me a lot of Cat when we were in high school.” He picked up the crystal glass and brought the sweet Scottish malt to his lips. Nectar from the Gods. Bobby didn’t drink much now. He was trying to cut out potential triggers as agreed with his therapist. Although alcohol was something he could enjoy, too much made him sensitive to outside stimuli and all it could take was one sound that was but a touch too loud and that would be it. “How is Lolly?”

“She’s… coping the best she can,” Lydia glanced away from her friend, staring into the fire. “I’ll ask her tomorrow how therapy went.” The fireplace brought a dancing glow to the room, as she deeply stared into it, getting lost in the crackling flame. “I think she’ll be okay. She doesn’t ever want to talk about that day, but I can see her. She’s restless. I’m sure Shannon will have a breakthrough soon. I just know it.”

Every morning Lydia visited her family home, and every morning she surveyed the changes, no matter how small. While Lolly couldn’t tell herself, constantly drowning in video games, the fact that she actually came out of her room this morning to say hello was a big improvement. Like she wanted to move and see someone, even if that someone was just her sister. “How about you?” Lydia sipped onto her drink and then leaned forward to place her glass down on the table, “The family? Is everything running smoothly in Ossoland?”

“Same as it ever was. Dad and Oz running the world. Sienna fixing their paperwork. Clari has been working hard on lesson plans…” Bobby trailed off for a second as he thought about his own life and what he was up to. “Hunter and I just landed a new contract for this new hotel they’re building. They want us to prepare the security for it. We’ll make some good money out of that.” Small talk. God he hated small talk. Well, in reality Bobby hated all talk. Speaking was not his thing. “I would ask you about work but I know, doctor patient confidentiality,” Bobby placed his glass back down onto the counter and looked towards his ex, fighting every fiber of his being and trying to keep their time together courteous and civil. “Twenty years last week I landed here. Time hasn’t flown like they say it does.”

“You think so?” Lydia crossed her arms once more, locking her green eyes with his blue. “I think time went by too fast, seeing how the best years of my life are already gone.” She didn’t expect a reply, if anything, she would rather sit in silence. Something they both were good at doing. Keeping her wall up, not showing any signs of her thoughts beyond this point, she sighed to herself. Deciding it was time to change gears before someone gets hurt, she asked, “Want to watch a movie? I’m going to be here for a while.”

“Sure,” Bobby grabbed the tv remote from the table and tossed it over to his guest before leaning back into his chair. Watching a movie would be a good way to distract themselves from all the unspoken words that they couldn’t say but wished they could. That was their relationship now. Civil. Mature. Unspoken. “Whatever you’d like. Except the Sandlot. We watched that so many times when we were dating that I legitimately have it ingrained into my brain…” As he said the words, he could see the big puppy dog eyes that she was giving him. She hadn’t changed really and maybe he hadn’t either..

“Fine, we can watch Sandlot.”

In Edenridge 21 days ago Forum: Casual Roleplay
TIMESTAMP: After A Little Bit of Rain
FT: Rocky & Freckles



Shannon had picked a terrible day not to use her car for work.

Hurrying through the torrential downpour, the doctor knew that she wasn’t going to make it back to Westwood before the Police cordoned off the roads. This sort of weather rolled in every so often, so lifetime inmates of Edenridge had experienced this sort of thing at least a few times in their lives. She was going to need to find a place to hang tight until the all clear was bestowed upon them. Luckily for Shannon, a shining beacon of light sat at the end of the street, illuminated in the dark.

The Hole in the Wall.

Making her way inside, she had a quick look around to see that the bar itself was empty save the lone bartender, Gary. Shannon was soaking wet; her pristine business suit was heavy on her shoulder from absorbing all the rain and her short pencil skirt was feeling terribly uncomfortable at that moment. The bar counter was shining from a recent wipe down and the cinema board that hung above it displaying the latest in craft beer goodness. Gary had outdone himself with this latest batch. He had a way about him to make breweries trust him in getting their brand out there even though Eden was a small market,

“Hey Gar, you stuck too? Least you’re not alone now,” Shannon smiled as she sat down in a booth nearby. She could see her daughter’s name scratched into the wooden table and a little smile crossed her face. The Hole was one of Mei’s haunts; one of her safe places. She knew her youngest put up a brave front and had this aura about her that relayed strength but the truth of the matter was Mei had struggled for a very long time and still struggled to this day. It was sad that nobody else really knew that. “I’ll get a Hazy Jane, pint please? And I guess I’ll start a tab, looks like I’ll be here a while.”

After peeling off her wet jacket to reveal a nice white shirt, the therapist swung her long toned legs to the outside of the booth and took out her cell. She hit up her speed dial and called her husband, Will. “Hey bubba, where are you?….You’re stuck at the Dojo? I figured you would be. Me? I managed to get to the Hole. Have you spoken to the girls? Are they safe?…Reagan’s at the clinic and Mei is out partying. Figures. Ok baby, stay safe and I’ll see you soon ok? Love you,” Hanging up just in time for her beer to arrive, she sighed in relief to know her family was safe. Taking a nice long sip of the tasty beverage, the raven haired woman let out a content moan.

Her earlier session with Lolly had gotten her feeling a bit nostalgic. Shannon thought back to when she was younger and her life was oh so very different. She was a smart woman, she knew how people saw her. Strong, independent, successful. She wondered what the Shannon of the past, the one that grew up on the Southside, would think of who she turned into?

Entering the Hole, after dropping Clay off, soaked in his officer attire, Sly calmly soothed the person on the other line, waving at Gary and immediately noticing the woman by her lonesome self in a booth, “The Reservation? Well, at least she’s not going to be in the storm. You know how Pops gets. This is likely part of her trying to find herself again. I’m sure she’s not alone. She isn't? See. She has Mordechai and Jade. Anyways, I’ll be at the Hole until things lighten up. Just wanted to make sure you were good.”

Before taking a seat beside the woman, he mouthed to the bartender at a distance, “Water, please.” Finishing his phone call, he lovingly said in hushed tones, “Please, take your meds. I’ll be home as soon as I can.” There was a brief pause, as he unbuttoned his collar, water dripping from his hair, and then he assertively reminded his wife: “Love you, Victoria. Rest well.” When the line went dead, Sly heavily exhaled out and pocketed his phone. Turning to the woman next to him, he gave a warm smile, “Looks like I’m not the only one stuck. It’s good to see you, Shannon.”

She could count every time that she had seen Sylvester James soaking wet. It was a skill. The way his uniform clung to his hulking frame reminded her of days she recalled being wonderful. Those days were long gone though. “Hey Rock,” Shannon greeted with her typical wry smile as she offered up her drink in salute before taking a sip. “Glad to see you’re still on the water. Proud of you.” In a past life, if one looked in that very same booth twenty some years ago they would see the same two people that sat there now, except they weren’t upstanding citizens and pillars of their community. Shannon and Rocky were trailer trash. “You finishing up for the night?”

“Yeah, Chief’s orders,” Sly admitted, knowing if his boss didn’t tell him to go home, he’d likely still be working and he knew well enough Clay was going to work off the clock, as much as Sly advised him not to. There was a lot of him he saw in his partner, especially when a case hit this deep. It was then Sly noticed he chose to sit next to her instead of across from her. He could apologize for overstepping, they weren’t kids anymore, or he could go with it and act like it wasn’t a big deal.

It was just her, him, and a bartender.

He had a long day and being next to someone he still considered a great friend put his body at ease. Shannon was good at that. Easing his worries simply by being. “How ‘bout yourself?” He knew the answer already. This was Shannon Ling. The girl who put her pursuits before anything else. Her family was everything to her, but her career? Her mission to save souls in Edenridge, that surpassed her desire to be a rock for her family. She chose to be a rock for everyone else, just like him. They truly were two peas in a pod. And Sly was happy for her and how much she flourished, without his support. Sly couldn’t be any prouder.

“Yeah,” Shannon nodded. “For some reason I decided to do house calls today and absolutely forgot to check the weather forecast. Left the car at home didn’t I?” The therapist glanced over at the bartender idly on their phone. “Can we get some wings?” Gary nodded and headed to the back whilst the Ramsey matriarch returned her dark gaze to her former childhood boyfriend. “If we’re gonna be stuck here we might as well eat,” She mused. “What’s your day been like?”

“Just been investigating the new letter,” Sly shrugged and reached for his glass of water, leisurely taking a sip. “I already know who’s behind it, but this isn’t my case to solve. It’s my partner’s.” Placing the water down, Sly leaned back in his chair and returned his gaze to the beautiful woman next to him, “Maybe he’ll get the closure he needs about David. Something I wasn’t able to give to the band. With Ronan, I mean.” Sly plays back that night with his brothers quite often and how Rusty went to the ends of the Earth to avenge his caretaker, the Witch at Hanging Hill, or to them, Ms. Tallulah. The sweetest lady that ever existed. How she went was horrible but how he went afterwards was worse.

As much as he and Teddy didn’t talk anymore, it was Teddy that finished the serial killer off while Sly watched Rusty lose all light in his eyes, giving his last breath in his arms. If they knew what he and his brothers knew, their demons would be a lot harder to take down. Joni and Sean were prime examples of people that ran away from their demons. James committed suicide, but there were so many things that led to that point, like the fire at the church. If there was anyone that kept his head above water the best, it was Will and that was likely thanks to this woman right here. An anchor. “You know, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him.”

“He’s been on my mind lately, a lot of stuff has,” Shannon leaned back in her seat and realised a sign from deep within her chest. “Since Charlie, I’ve seen more and more kids struggle to walk that line that all of us born here do. I’ve seen them fall and hurt. I’ve seen them bleed, God Rock. Ronan was the catalyst. Him going like he did, it pushed a lot of pain to the surface. Without that night, James doesn’t go the way he did and maybe Charlie would’ve had a fair shot.”

She reached out and placed her hand on top of his. Sylvester always kept his pain close, except for Shannon. She always knew how to scale that particular wall. “You know, I see Teddy on the tv and at his rallies and I think to myself, I remember the real boy. The boy with the stutter and those piece of shit parents that used to lock him in the basement for weeks with no food. The boy that did all those things we can never say. He worshipped Rusty. That boy still lives in his eyes.”

“As I’m sure he lives in all those he’s impacted. A ghost is what we want it to be, Freckles,” Sly turned his hand over to hold onto her’s, a moment between him and her, and no one else, “A wish, a want, a desire, or just a reason to keep living. For me, Rusty is a reminder that I still got a lot of work ahead of me.” Come rain or shine, Sly had to keep fighting in Rusty’s honour but also for himself and the town. He was living proof that you could be more than the circumstances that surround you. He was living proof that no matter the hardship, there’s always a way out of the dark tunnel. He was living proof that the dark doesn’t always steal the light, you just have to be willing to fight.

Freckles. Shannon hadn’t heard that in so long, at least not in the way she always remembered. She and Rocky, on warm summer nights sitting atop his trailer. Reaper and Rooster were probably arguing about who could win some kind of fight. Rusty would be surveying it all like the king from the couch that sat in front of the Henley’s trailer. James and Sean were out scoping tail. Ronnie and Joni were likely just vibing to whatever record she had gotten her hands on that week. A paradise. A vision in gold. The life and times of the Southside.

“James' mental health was already shit. He turned to God afterwards, but the fire? Can’t really say Rusty’s murder led to that. As much as we want to thread all these fucked up things together, sometimes the best way to move forward is to accept you had no control. Nothing we could’ve said or done would’ve stopped him, just how nothing Poppy could’ve said or done could’ve saved Charlie. I’ve mulled it over a bit, and it really fucks you up when you think you’re the reason someone you loved is dead. Charlie is dead because of me. I get that.”

He let the heaviness of his words linger in the air as he gave Shannon his undivided attention. Thankfully not many people were here to eavesdrop. “I shot that boy dead, I wasn’t thinking, but at that point he had already killed so many people and in the heat of the moment, I was driven by instinct. Nothing else. Rusty? He was a dead man walking. He knew he was going to die. That trip to Maine just made it a lot sooner than we all expected.”

“96 sucked as a year overall.” Shannon intertwined her fingers with his. “Except the summer, that summer was the best.” Nostalgia filled her eyes and a smile crept upon her face. She brushed a strand of her black hair behind her ear as she fell into remembrance. “Do you remember that summer Rock? Teddy dragged us to that party on Scott Street at…God whose house? Tell me if you remember, and when we arrived we watched in sheer horror as April McMahon, butt naked, sang Madonna to…that guy, what was his name? Help me out here!” She giggled.

Jeez she was bringing him back. The summer of ‘96. The calm before the storm. Before Rusty died, before the Gallows broke up, before Reaper and Rooster accepted their demons, full heartedly, and before Sly became an alcoholic. The summer that at the time felt like it could last forever, or maybe it was just him, maybe he wanted things to last forever. Some moments made them all feel infinite, that summer was the last time they experienced such carefree freedom. How limitless they all felt.

“Dick. His name was Dick,” Sly said rather openly and bluntly. Now that his mind was in the vaults of the past, he couldn’t help but smile at the absurdity of it all. “Leave it to April McMahon to find a guy named Dick Bonner. Fuck, why do I even remember that?”

“To be fair to April, none of us knew she was manic depressive with borderline personality disorder at the time. We just thought she was a slut,” Shannon’s eyes widened as she let go of Sly’s hand only to put it in his shoulder. “No, wait, don't you remember? Dick Bonner was his party name! It was Ritchie Davies! We were at the Davies house!” The Asian beauty leaned into her old flame with a huge grin as Gary brought them wings but both were too lost in their conversation to notice. “Alistair was trying to hook up with April but Ritchie got their first.” Shannon’s eyes narrowed as she looked at the large man she was with and tilted her head. “I also seem to remember someone going all alpha because someone called me that little yellow bitch?”

She was getting all cute and teasing him. Looking down at Shannon who grinned up at him, Sly chuckled, “It didn’t help that was the same night you were giving Will eyes, while he was singing Bushido.” And to think, Will got the girl in the end because Sly was a mess and had too much dirty laundry. He really did miss this. How easy it all felt when he was around her but they both had their own families and their own responsibilities. Perhaps in another life, they’d be together but it certainly wasn’t this one. Quickly diverting the route of the story, while saving face, Sly reached for his water and before he took a sip, he complimented, “You haven’t aged at all, you still look just as good as you did that summer.”

“It’s my little yellow bitch skin. My Mom was the same. We have flawless skin until we hit fifty then I’ll end up looking like a bulldog's ass,” She shuffled away slightly, allowing him space to drink. “But thank you, Rock. You’re not too bad yourself, especially in uniform.” Before the trouble that tore them and their friends apart, playfulness was always a part of Shannon and Sylvester’s relationship. It was strange how easy one could slip back into former roles in the presence of old friends. “Are you doing good though?“ Her tone shifted a bit more seriously. “You know, do you need anything? Does she?”

“Who? Poppy? My wife?” Sly placed the glass down once more and shifted his body toward her. He’d like to think Poppy was doing good, thanks to Shannon, or at least as good as she’ll be until she’s able to let Charlie go. As for Victoria? Was she ever good? There was always something and he’d hate to admit to his ex that there was trouble in paradise, ever since Charlie’s journal got stolen.

Victoria was a bit more unhinged, like Charlie knew something about her that not even Sly knew. Sly didn’t want to think like that though, not with a woman he promised to take care of for the rest of his life. Still, he knew she had her secrets, he had his too. He just didn’t want to open that Pandora's box and hurt Poppy in the process, so it was best he kept things the same. At least until Poppy saw a future again.

Sometimes it was incredibly difficult for Shannon to switch off her therapist head. It was always that way. Even when they were kids. She had a habit of meddling because she thought she knew best. It made a lot of people hate her. “I mean all of the above,” She used a tone that Sylvester James knew all too well. He had heard this voice way too many times over the course of thirty years. “Will and I are always here to help out. In anything and you know that but don’t play the fool; it doesn’t suit you. Does SHE need anything?”

Shannon was too smart for him. No matter how much he’d like to dodge talking about certain topics, Shannon slammed her fist on the door over and over until he opened it. “No, she’s good. Just restless. But can you blame her? We’ve put her in a box all because our dead friend told us to protect her. Y’know your daughter sees her practically everyday, since Sybil has been teaching her how to handle the register. Thank Christ I had you girls. I was afraid she’d grow up with no education, but she’s so smart. It’s a shame no one knows she exists but us. She’s also a spitting image of him, it’s unreal…” Sly was back to reminiscing about his best friend. That strikingly red hair that made him, him. “You should visit her sometime. I’m sure she’d love to see you,” Sly lightly suggested.

“Maybe I will. When next my schedule lightens I’ll make it a point,” Shannon hated her role in this secret. As a psychologist, an intelligent and logical human being, what they were doing was absolutely insane but they made that mistake when they were kids and they had to commit to it, no matter how much the world around them changed. Shannon was a happily married mother of two, with kids she adored and a husband she worshipped and it killed her dead to hide anything from them.

As if written by the fates, Witch Shit by Gallows began to play in the Hole and Shannon burst into a fit of laughter. She covered her mouth to try and stifle it. “I mean that’s just ridiculous,” The befreckled beauty chuckled. “We’re talking about that and this song comes on. I mean, Mei preaches the ways of Hecate but this is just silly. Gary is fucking with us. He always was a little turd.”

It wasn’t the coincidence of Witch Shit playing that made Sly smile widen. It was seeing Shannon laughing and being carefree. He knew her well and moments like these were so rare. He hadn’t laughed like that in a long while, not since that one dinner with him, Vicky, Max, Pops, Charlie, and Rhonda. A moment that was now a story but when it was happening, in that moment, they all felt limitless. Infinite. Happy. With the mention of his secret, Sly asked out loud, as if Rusty himself would give him permission to move on, “Do you think we should… tell them? All of them? If she is very much like…” He sighed to himself, not used to the amount of grief he was experiencing every time he mentioned Rusty, “I don’t know how much longer she’ll wait for us to give her permission. She’s a witch, after all. They do their own thing. They do Witch Shit.”

“Oh booooo,” She stuck her tongue out. She glanced out at the bow raging storm. Flashes of lighting illuminating in the rain and bouncing off the old limestone buildings of old Edenridge. Witches. Magic. A tradition and an institution in the old Massachusetts town. A favoured topic of Ronan for whatever reason. A passion her baby girl MeiMei shared with who probably would’ve been her godfather. Shannon was a woman of science and logic. She didn’t believe in spells but on some occasions, she did have to wonder. “I don’t know, maybe,” She responded. “If we do, we gotta be smart about it. If it comes out the wrong way, hell will come to town and you and your badge won’t be able to stop it.”

Polishing off her beer, Mrs. Ramsey flagged Gary down for another. She stared into the empty pint glass, looking at her reflection. She returned to her earlier self imposed question; what would her younger self think of her now? Sitting in a bar, with her ex, dredging up secrets best left in days gone by. Would she be proud?

“You owe me five dollars by the way. I loaned you it for the fair in 95 and I haven’t seen it since. Typical trailer trash.”

“And where is my lucky coin? I let you use it for that mathlete shit and you never gave it back. Probably threw it in the goddamn lake after we broke up, which I’d like to think was on amicable terms.” They were children. When they were around each other it was like they were kids again, always finding a reason to have playful banter.

Speaking of playful things, Sly snapped his finger and was quick to slide the wings in front of him, “Joni’s coming to town. Uncle Eddie had a scare, so if we’re doing this, we need to do this when she’s here. Who knows how long she’ll be here. Do you know when Sean is coming back?”

“You’d know better than me Rock, you literally work with his kid,” Shannon took a drink from her pint and rested her head on Sly’s broad shoulder. “As for your coin, pretty sure Reagan ate it as a baby. Will has a tremendous talent for leaving crap all over the house. Mei sadly inherited that trait. I have so many tea bags filled with her witch shit all over my nice house and she doesn’t even live with us!” She closed her eyes and listened to the mixed sounds of the storm, Gallows on the radio and Rocky demolishing the legendary Hole in the Wall hot wings with the secret sauce passed from Cleary to Cleary. Her mind drifted to those summer days that they had talked about and the secrets locked away in them. Time enough to last.

“You’re still a fucking pig, Rock.”

“And you’re still a goody good. What? Afraid to get a little dirty? Sly teasingly brought his saucy hand to her face.

Shannon’s dark eyes widened and her gorgeous face transformed into a grimaced horror show. “Sylvester James, you come anywhere near me with that hand I am going to release our prom pictures to the public and get my husband to kick your ass.” Pointing her finger directly between his eyes, she tilted her head with authority. “I mean it, Will will brave this storm and spin kick your sidearm straight up your nose.” Mei had to get it from somewhere right?

Her response was rewarded with an eyeroll, as he pulled his hand back and grabbed another wing. “Look at me, I’m fancypants Shannon married to badass karate king Will. The Shannon I knew would’ve roundhouse kicked me herself,” Sly mocked his beloved ex, before winking at her. Bringing his attention to his almost gone plate of wings, he grumbled, “Fuck, you’re right. I am a pig.”


| Introducing | Professor Eliana "Timekeeper" Crowne & Illuria Lovelace
| Time | 12:05 PM
| Location | John Carrington Science Building


"Mommmmmmm," Illuria Lovelace grimaced as her mother, the Professor for all things Physics (Gifted and not), cleaned a smudge off her cheeks, like she was a child. "We gotta' stop this or people are going to make fun of me!" Ria protested, looking around the Science building lobby. One day, this was going to catch up to her and she'd get bullied, just like she was in highschool, and middle school, and grade school.

Eliana pulled back when her daughter scrunched her nose in objection. The doting mother hooked her thumbs in her pants pockets in hopes that would prevent her from coddling her youngest, "I know, I know. Sorry." Clearing her throat, she glanced out the glass entrance to see the club fair at a distance. "So you're going right?"

"Uh," Ria went to the door and rested her forehead on the cold glass. She saw the long trek ahead and all the people already gathering. She didn't want to go. She didn't want to have to smile and pretend to have a good time. Why was it so important to build her resume or network with her classmates? Why couldn't she just go to the Clocktower, her own sanctuary, and hideout, away from it all? "Yeah... I thought if I didn't, you'd be upset. I would rather not but grandma wouldn't like me wasting this opportunity. You know how she is: Opportunities are usually dressed in—"

"—everyday clothes and if it feels like work, then it's something worth pursuing. Yepp, I know baby."

Ria deeply sighed, hoping she was dressed to her peers standards, which she probably wasn't. She was wearing an overall skirt with a black choker necklace and smoky eyeshadow. Her hair was unruly and untamed as per usual and she wore ankle socks with black low top converse sneakers. Her style, when she wasn't going to fancy events with her family, was still relatively childish. "I hope there's like no fashion police here, I'm comfortable and I'd hate being judged because of that."

Unable to keep her hands away from comforting her daughter, Eliana reached for Ria's shoulders and shifted the young girl to look at her. Her little Dream Catcher. "I know this can be scary but I promise you the sooner you make friends, the better off you'll be. When you surround yourself with good people. Positive people. Nothing else matters. I don't want you to be afraid to get yourself out there, okay? You're young, Ria, go have fun. I'm sure you're going to find your people. The ones that center you. And like time, nothing can stop you from moving forward, right baby? You, Illuria Crowne Lovelace, were born to be a hero."

"You totally stole that from Uncle's email," Ria said matter-of-factly.

"Oh hush," Ellie chuckled, giving Ria a quick kiss on the forehead. "Okay get going before it gets too crowded and you feel claustrophobic. My suggestion is, start with the music club! I hear the people in charge are throwing a party later."

Playfully rolling her eyes, Ria pulled away from her mother, "I would hope so, ma. It's all over the Gram." With that, the young Crowne pushed the glass doors and took her exit.

As she walked away, she shuttered in cringe when her mother called out: "Go get 'em baby!"

Ria swiftly looked around her, hyper-focusing in all the students walking by her. Hiding her blushing face with her long curly hair, Ria sped walked to the Fair.

Please be quick... please be quick... please be quick...

| Introducing | Lead Instructor Marjorie "Quickshift" Crowne & Professor Meagan "Gaia" Browning
| Time | 11:50 AM
| Location | Devilwood

Marjorie Crowne was knelt down in a small clearing within the wood by Cypress Grove. She examined a herbaceous plant that did not belong in this area of the world. The white asphodel was native to the Mediterranean area, commonly found in meadows and heathlands. It wasn't like this plant couldn't grow here, so long as there was moderately fertile, well-drained soil in full sun. She enjoyed the history of the aphodelus albus, especially in Greek mythology, but to have it appear in a place where no flowers had been before. A place strictly off-limits without supervision. To have it appear out of nowhere, randomly, without cause or justification. That only made the happenings as of late even more unsettling.

Did this connect to the fire or was she looking too deep in a simple plant?

Damon had approached her a couple of hours ago saying he caught a new scent and he was the one to lead her here. He expressed that this wasn't here yesterday which only meant overnight, the flower of the world appeared from nothing or there was a villain hiding in plain sight, warning the school that in Crystal Peak there was no god and something was coming. Millions wandering aimlessly, all the lost souls wondering who they are, the ghosts of this world already halfway to their destination and that was Asphodel. It could've been any plant. Any plant could've appeared but what was growing in Devilwood was something Ancient Greece used for mourning and death.

The white asphodel aided in the transition for the dead to the afterlife. If she wasn't raised to protect perhaps this wouldn't come off as threatening, but the Academy was her responsibility. The Academy was the place she and her family made to be a refuge for those like her, a port in a storm so the youth, the world's future, could grow into their own and take her place. She knew well enough the sands of time could not be stopped. Years pass, whether she wanted them to or not, and though her brother, Ambrose, was a phenomenon of a man, who could be a teenager one day and an old man the next, she knew like their grandfather, and their grandfather's grandmother, his life too was only that of specks of dust.

Marjorie delve her fingers into the soil and separated the earth from the ground so that a small portion was now in her grasp. She let it fall through her fingers, like sands of an hourglass seeping down. Contemplatively, she watched in silence. Eventually, everything hits the bottom, as does one's life. Glancing up from her hand, she peered through the trees to see her invited company. The shrewd woman picked herself up. Not bothering to wipe her hands clean, Marjorie crossed her arms and gestured with her head toward the plant. "I hope you brought your supplies from the lab. I want you to conserve this plant. Study it and the soil surrounding it."

"This is..." The botany professor emerged from the dark of Devilwood and into the light. "... I swear I didn't give anyone permission to plant anything, Mrs. Crowne." Anxiously, Meagan quickly went to the plant and placed her spade down. She only had enough supplies to gather a soil sample. She would need to study the conditions to make sure this white asphodel was ready to be transplanted. The plant with a hundred leaves had one of the earliest recorded histories, with a detailed description by Hesiod in the 8th century BC. It wasn't only a plant for mourning. It was a plant of regret and back in the day, people would plant them near tombs.

Examining her surroundings, hoping she wasn't disturbing something doormat, Meagan placed her hand near the plant on the soil, her hand glowing gold. She gathered a quick reading of the environment and sighed in relief when she couldn't feel any sadness or complete nothingness. She couldn't feel a grave. "I'll see what I can do, it wouldn't hurt to get Genevieve here. She can pick up the history of this plant to see if this was a natural or unnatural cause. All I can do is study the properties and—"

"I'm aware of your capabilities, Professor. That's why you're here. As for my youngest daughter," Marjorie's expression strained in annoyance. "We both know how difficult it is to get her to come home when she's on one of her expeditions." Grabbing her antique pocket watch necklace hanging from her neck, dangling on the long side, she checked the time. "Thank you, I know things have been busy for us. I hope your table is handled?"

"Oh yeah! I made sure Holly was situated before heading over here. Maybe this year the gardening club will have more than just like three people!" Meagan excitably exclaimed. Her passions were clear as day and thanks to her, the Academy was able to maintain its charm, with the gardens that bedazzled all those that walked campus by beauty and craftsmanship. The Academy looked like it was meant for a story book, a lost heaven to give the students inner peace and harmony. The town itself looked particularly gorgeous at night by the lake, where the grass gently move with the wind, dancing to its own rhythm, and the moonlight kisses the lake, making it glisten and glow, like newly lovers becoming one for the first time.

Marjorie was no longer present in the conversation, which cued Meagan to start her task. Her superior was a strange woman whose cogs were constantly turning. There wasn't a day that Marjorie Crowne rested, always looking ahead and thinking of the smallest of moments. Marjorie was a woman who knew better than most that each life was a pebble and once dropped into water, there ripples spread. Don't ever underestimate the ripple effect, for actions of individuals have effects that not even the Crownes could prevent. "I need to check on my granddaughter, see if she's okay."

"I'm sure Eliana has it covered!" Meagan called out, as the older woman was already walking prominently back into Devilwood, "You raised her well."

Mail Delivery Subsystem
to all
Fall 2022: We Welcome All To Campus
September 02, 2022

To everyone in our Academy, welcome to the start of a new and exciting academic year.

This year, perhaps more than ever before, we are immensely grateful for the opportunity to return to Crystal Peak. At our Academy we provide the highest standard of Gifted learning and a unique social environment that comes with in-person, residential education. This summer we have gone through many changes to make sure our fellow Ravens feel at home with our Academy Hawks. As a collective administrative decision we decided to adopt Crestview College's mascot while keeping our royal blue and white. From this point on, our Academy will be considered a Raven's nest. We are counting on all of our students, faculty, and staff to continue doing their part to help keep our campus inclusive to all walks of life.

Our vision is that through dedication, innovation, and collaboration, we will transform lives and improve our world. To achieve this vision, we must deepen our understanding of the world we live in and all of its rich and complex diversity. Student academic and career success is at the heart of our Academy's strategic plan. This year there will no longer be a National Hero Assistance program. Instead we are integrating all those assigned to the NHA program in our Academy's curriculum.

We will not let tragedy define us. Our society needs heroes who appreciate, champion, and perpetuate the live-saving importance of deep and thorough learning, critical and imaginative thinking in pursuit of truth, and absolute conviction to a calling bigger than oneself. We are grateful to Joshua and Elise Vargas for their contribution to the school. In place of Crestview College, we will be building a memorial dedicated to the Vargas family for their charitable donation.

To faculty and staff of the college who continue to advance our educational, research, and outreach missions under personally and professionally trying circumstances: thank you! Thank you for being soldiers and setting a powerful example of dedicated, talented, and caring professionals. Together we will commit to extending the reach and impact of the transformative power of higher education. Together we will push our students, as well as ourselves, beyond what is expected. Together we will watch our Ravens soar for we are limitless.

“Limitless is your potential. Magnificent is your future.”
— Gordon B. Hinckle

Persevere because you students were born for this. You were born to make a difference and be the positive change this world needs. You were born extraordinary. A hero.


Ambrose G. Crowne, Ph.D.
Dean of the College

TIMESTAMP: Monday Afternoon around 4 PM
FT: Mikhail Zima & Anya Kamensky



What an eventful day Mikhail ZIma had. Between the highly informative morning of getting his head back in the game with Coach, his not-so-informative conversation with the artist formerly known as old bastard, and then reading that letter that led to him the Cleary house and being trapped in her closet, it was a lot. Sure as hell didn’t help that Danilo Belmonte wasn’t too happy to not only find him there, but him being near Caitlin. He still had a couple bruises around his cheeks and even a partially-busted lip. Say what you want about Danny, but there was a reason he was the captain of the basketball team back in the day.

He could shoot and had a hell of a left straight, too.

But when things settled and they came to an understanding, against everything in him that wanted to stay, Mika didn’t. Instead, he opted to leave. He made peace with it because Cece had Danny with her and at least she wouldn’t be alone. He had no right of being there, especially not when she had a literal boyfriend.

So when he left, he went back home and slept most of what remained of the morning away. He woke up sometime in the afternoon, dozed off again, but eventually Mika finally woke up around 3pm. When he did, he went straight for his fridge. Everything ached because, surprise surprise, Mika fell asleep on the couch again. It was a really bad habit of his. Well, at least he still had some leftovers in his fridge.

“What do we have?” He murmured to himself, looking through and grabbed some leftover chinese food from the other night. It was shrimp fried rice, which was fine by him. Grabbing a soy sauce packet, he mixed and mixed it well and ate some. About halfway into it, he heard his phone go off and grabbed it when he made it back to the couch. It was a text message from what appeared to be an unknown number. His go-to response would be some kind of trolling tactic. Usually he got these texts from scammers, so it was fun to toy with them, but then he read the message.

Liberty 4
Unknown Sender

He paid attention. He knew exactly who this was. He knew what this message meant.

With a smile, Mika left his apartment. He was wearing the same thing he had worn to Cece’s in the morning. His jacket and all. When he got outside, Mika expected to see sunshine. He expected mother nature to punish him with unforgivable heat and while still relatively hot and muggy, what Mika didn’t expect to see was a gathering of clouds. “The fuck? Isn’t it supposed to be summer? The fuck is this shit?”

Shaking his head, Mika climbed into his truck and drove across the tracks, through main street and stopped about a half a block away from where the entrance of Eastbrook. Mika knew the general layout and he knew what the text meant. Milligan’s Bridge was just down the road. He couldn’t say whether or not it was clever code to just say liberty or if it was simply the lack of translation skills a certain person had, but he could decipher it.

He walked towards the bridge but took a detour to the underpass, waiting for her to show up. Looking at his phone, it was just five minutes till four, so not long according to the message he received earlier.

Once the clock struck 4 there was a light touch on Mika’s back, a silent and soundless hello in the form of Anya resting her right hand on him. When her brother turned around and smiled at her, Anya’s eyes locked with his in a way that conveyed this meeting wasn’t for fun. She wasn’t here to have a happy brother and sister catch up session. No. She was here to warn him.

If there was a person who knew Anya did not waste time, it would be Mika. She was a busy girl from her job with the Angels to her library duties (how she got that job he will never understand) to her work with her mysterious employer. Unbeknownst to him, she’s been on the go for the past thirty six hours from job to job to lunch with Legs to another job to now. His sister was a warrior, constantly pushing through all the shit life threw at her, just to survive.

Stepping back to give him space, Anya observed her brother in silence a little more, before easing her body, feeling that the area was safe. That it was just her and him. “Hyde sees you,” She started off, not holding back any truths and bluntness. “I know this life,” She gestured to herself and what she was, and what she always would be, a monster, “Is not you. Hyde sees and he does not like.”

We need to bring Mika back to his real family.

Hyde’s words replayed in her head, and maybe he was right. Maybe she was losing her touch, but Mika? Mika was never hard to begin with. He might’ve had his Honey Badger persona but Anya knew it was a way to protect himself. He was and always will be a soft, kind, and loving person at heart. Mika’s desire to connect with a family that was always part of him meant he would step into the light and leave the creatures of the underworld behind. That included her, that included Hyde. He had a chance at love, while she and Hyde? They couldn’t afford it. That’s what it meant to be born in the Underworld. In the dark. Born a monster or forced to become one. Love, happiness, white picket fences. They never stood a chance but her baby brother. Mikhail O’Hara. He had his whole life ahead of her.

Right now, Hyde’s ideal of a family was so very real. It’s all he thought about while he was doing time. Anything that jeopardized that? He would burn anyone that gets in his way. Anyone. Anya, not Basilisk, wanted to help. She didn’t know how and she didn’t know if this was the right thing to do, but if she could save her brother from the Devil, even if it gets her killed, she would die happy. “Mother. Sisters. Gonzalez. Coach.” She paused, letting her sharp gaze pierce Mika’s soul, Caitlin. Big brother is not right and he smells change. Not change he wants. If I know, he will too. He sees you. OK?” She hoped he understood the dire importance of him to come up with solutions to protect his turf. If not his family, then certainly the girl he had eyes for.

Had it not been for the fact that Mika understood when his sister wasn’t kidding around, this would be the part where he would laugh and shrug what she was saying - but it was in her eyes? Anya’s eyes had always been cold, but never with him. Her eyes were like Hyde’s, but when it came to him, she never stared so deep into his soul he felt an uncomfortable tension settle in. It was uneasy and, if he was being completely truthful with himself, a bit terrifying. Not in the same way Hyde made him feel - no, not of the same type of terror. It was more like a reality check that hit so hard that Mika understood the severity of everything she was saying just by Anya’s eyes.

“Anya…I swear I was careful. Mom is protected. She is not accessible by just anyone. Our sisters are a town away. Nobody knows they exist other than a handful of people and most of them I lived with.” It was showing in his voice, the sudden realization of his errors of his ways. He knew that Uncle Gus would protect Stacy and Katie. He knew that the Angels and serpents, when asked, would protect mother, but Caitlin? That was on him. He had to protect her.

Mika began to pace a little, back and forth, hands on hips, clear distress in inaudible noises he made. “What should I do? What can I do? Should I cut contact off from them?” The idea in itself was ridiculous. He couldn’t do that. He wouldn’t do that. “I can’t do that. They’re my family.”

“I know,” Anya firmly answered. Rubbing the sleep off her face, thinking, not having an immediate solution for this one because she did not understand what it was to have the option of a better life, to be able to step in the light, Anya stood there. Silent. There was only one thing he could do, really, but was Mika capable of standing up against the Evil that all men do. Not Cameron. But Hyde. The Devil.

Rolling her neck around, like she did earlier at the diner, the ache from this morning’s job really catching up with her, from her stomach to her wrists to this stupid pain in her neck, Anya dropped the harsh venom and comforted her brother instead of give him a solution immediately, “It’s OK. We will think.”

Closing her eyes, Anya wondered in her thoughts and tightly spoke, “A friend told me today, some…time…” Her words started to slow down as her broken English tried to reiterate what Allegra had said at Dolly’s. “we need… em in dark, with us.” Fuck why was it so hard to speak in good English? “Be…cuz we not able to go in light.” Her last words weren’t necessarily how Legs said it but she struggled enough and just wanted to move on. “I do not agree. Though, what I do see, to keep her safe you need to go. Be with her. No more dark. No more light. Choose one and fight.”

Sometimes his sister’s broken English was hard to understand and even he had nodded through most of it, but he understood what she was saying. Not only that, but he knew what he had to do. Fight for what was most important to him: his family. It wasn’t just his southside family - not just Poppy or Boa or Legs. It was his Northside family. Coach and the O’Haras (even the ones who didn’t know about him yet). It was about all the friends he has made that gave him a purpose. The team he had in high school, Natalia, and, of course, Cece. The one person that he wanted to protect the most. He knew the Angels and Serpents would protect everyone in the Fallen Souls apartment complex, but Cece didn’t have that. She was innocent in all of this.

“I agree about what I have to do and I will go to her, but what about our brother? If what you say is true and he sees me, wouldn’t going to her put her in even more danger?” It wasn’t that he wanted to think that Hyde would threaten her while he was there, but the truth was that Mika wouldn’t put it past The Devil of Eden to do something so brazen. Mika learned a long time ago to never underestimate what his brother was capable of.

“You will hide her forever?” The Basilisk questioned. There were some answers that only he could decide on. If it were her, she’d make sure that she was a constant wall between the Devil and his desired target. Presently, Mika did not believe he could take down his brother. The fear emitted from him like the sun releases light. But if he didn’t try, then this life he wanted would never be. If he wanted to shine, he needed to do just that, shine. The Devil only goes to those that listen. “I not saying have plan. This will take time. I do think you, Mikhail, needs to make choice. That is first step. The rest will come. Not today, not tomorrow, but it will come.”

It wasn’t that he didn’t understand what she was telling him to do. He knew that, eventually, he couldn’t just stay on the sidelines. As it turned out, every day his brother became worse and worse. Or Mika being careless has made him become worse. He didn’t know which one it was nor did he really care. He knew despite everything, he was putting Cece in harm’s way and he was the reason that now they were in this pickle. What was happening was exactly what he tried to prevent two years ago when he broke up with her: to keep her out of harm's way, but despite knowing it was dangerous, he re-entered her life.

What was that quote that Katie always like to repeat to him from that fantasy show? Love is the death of duty? God, why was he remembering something his nerdy ass sister said to him?

But it was the truth. And his duty was to protect Cece and prevent Hyde from finding out about her existence, or at least her connection to Mika.

“I’ll hide Cece for as long as I need to. Until I know she’s safe.” Yeah, try explaining that to Cece. Doubt she would be as open to the idea unless Mika explained everything about it to her. “I don’t know what choice I should make, but one I know that makes sense to me right now is Cece and making sure he doesn’t harm her.” Under his breath, Mika cursed himself because that would leave the difficult task of convincing his ex to all of this and explaining just what the fuck kind of mess he dragged her into. Simple, right?

While he was stewing in thought, trying to come to his own conclusions, Anya gilded closer and slipped her hand into his. Allegra had held her hand earlier today bringing her comfort, maybe it would do the same for her little brother. Squeezing it and looking at the water under the bridge, Anya reassured Mika, her sweet, baby brother, “At all cost, you protect her. I do what I can on my end.” Her sharp gaze softened at the sight of the everflowing stream of water. Her eyes went from the water to the boy beside her, all the while holding his hand, “Hey, brother?” She hesitantly asked, wondering if the follow up question was worth asking or not. She waited for his reaction before saying anything more.

When she reached for his hand and grabbed it, anything that Mika had been thinking about seemed to fade away. It was so unexpected, especially for Anya. He watched as she looked to the river and made a sort of vow (or was it more of a pledge?) Whichever it was, he smiled at and then she looked back at him, no longer having that cold gaze that reminded him of Hyde but the Anya he knew and felt like he could trust with just about anything. Literally anything. “What’s up, Anya? Something on your mind?”

“Do you think…” She struggled talking not because of phrasing, or wording, or even the English, but more because of the value of the question, as if it was a foreign concept to her. Foreign but something intriguing, especially lately. “Do you think I can love? Like you with your Cece?” Today was a strange day for the Basilisk. First she gave Allegra her real name. Now she was asking her brother if she was deserving of love or even capable of it. “It’s stupid, I know.” She started paddling back, looking away from Mika and bringing her gaze to the water. People like her, they couldn’t afford love.

“What?” Was Mika’s immediate reaction, exactly like he was caught off guard by his sister’s question. Because he was. In what has been a whirlwind of a meet-up with Anya, he’s gone from dread to being the protective man he is to unexplainably confused, but at the same time, he saw how Anya looked. In her eyes, he could see it. He didn’t know exactly what it might be, but the minute she mentioned how it’s stupid, he shook his head. “No, it’s not stupid at all!” He squeezed his sister’s hand tighter to enforce what he just said. “Everyone is deserving of love, Anya! Doesn’t matter what they’ve done or what, everyone is entitled to a love that makes them smile and maybe do things they normally wouldn’t.” He sure as hell has done his fair share of stupid things in the name of love.

She hoped he was right. Love didn’t work out for her grandmother, her mother, or any of her Sisters for that matter. When her Sisters strayed from the path, it all ended the same. Six feet under. She opened up her mouth to thank him and that she would try her best to believe in this thing called love but they were interrupted by thunder and the sudden appearance of rain. Releasing her brother’s hand, checking her watch, she realized how much time came and went. It was already half past 4. “You need to go. This is bad brother. This storm.” Anya needed Mika safe and in that same worry, she wondered if Jade was okay. Was she safe? Did she need her to be safe too?

Of course she did. Jade was the reason she wasn’t herself lately. She was the reason she was asking so many questions and wondering about things she wouldn’t have thought about a month ago. Jade was the reason that Anya was ‘losing her touch’ because ever since their first day together at Dolly’s with pancakes and french toast, Anya couldn’t stop thinking about her smile. The Basilisk had seen the Angel Princess before, while in the background at the MC, but only recently had she ever gotten a one on one session with her. Multiple now if you count the past couple Sundays. And in each sitting, she found herself looking forward to the next. She didn’t need to hear much. She could sit in silence with Jade and feel content. It was knowing she was okay and safe, knowing that she enjoyed being with her, just like Anya did but for her, that made the next Sunday something always to look forward to. Jade was her something, her someone, she looked forward to and she needed to know she was safe so that their Sundays would never change. “Go be safe, Mikhail.”

Timestamp: After The Mad Ones
FT: The Lost Trio
Carrie Sinclair, Autie Sinclair,
Niles Sinclair, Rye Phillips-Shomer



@metanoia @Aces Away @LovelyComplex

There they were. Penelope, Mordechai, and Jade at the entrance of Scott Street, staring into the world of the beautiful, the dirty, and the rich. A gate separated them from the nests of the most prominent families of Edenridge. The foundlings and the ones that floated above everything else in this godforsaken town. People the southsiders would never understand.

Unamusingly, Poppy didn’t think this far ahead. She didn’t think about getting in contact with a Northie in order to get into Scott Street. Then again, they were southsiders. They didn’t need to ask permission, they just did. The Street Angel opened her mouth to make a suggestion but then they heard the purring engine of a motorcycle swiftly approaching.

Think fast!

Quickly, Poppy hid behind the brick wall that held one side of the large door gate. Incoming was Niles Sinclair, with someone on the back of his seat, holding onto him. She couldn’t see who the other person was and by the time they reached the gate, allowing it to open, she was in hiding, waiting to roll in once the doctor’s son sped out.

“You sure you don’t want to stop at Main Street?” Niles called out, as he rested his foot on the cement, waiting for the slow gate to open. “Maybe the crowd chilled out a bit?” For a Monday, Main Street Music sounded busy. While that was never a bad thing, it was currently, because it gave Rye limited time with JP.

Niles wanted to tell Rye to not worry about it but he knew his friend and all his friend did was worry. Worry about everyone else but himself. Regardless, Sinclair didn’t mind taking stops if that meant Rye could talk to JP to get whatever misunderstanding they had going on, resolved. What were friends for?

In addition to the news of JP’s distress (or Rye overthinking his brother was distressed), the two boys only napped for a couple hours before their sleep was interrupted by a phone call. Niles had to get his dad lunch. So, he rose, which forced Rye to wake up. He showered, leaving Rye to Autumn and Carrie for entertainment, and then the sons of doctors were off. Niles was planning on having dinner at Gavriel’s so he could catch up with the family but they still had plenty of daylight left. “Really, I don’t mind.”

“I appreciate it, really, but we should get home,” Gavriel replied regretfully over the engine, trying not to think about how much he wanted to see JP. The other man was probably fine, and Gavriel knew he had a tendency to make things worse in his head. The sound of his voice carried over to the southie crew, however, and Mordechai had to restrain himself from jumping out of his hiding position to see the curly haired man he’d once called friend. Not yet, they both seemed to be on errands. Later. “I’ll see him at dinner…he’s probably still busy, and this coming storm has my shoulder all fucked up so I need to just relax so I don’t make it worse,” He rolled his shoulder and winced as the throbbing pain grew. The gate lay completely open before them. “Besides, everyone’ll want to see you.”

“K. Whatever you say, what’s your mom cooking anyways?” Niles revved up his engine a couple of times before they were off again, just two best friends hanging. And that moment cued Poppy to lead the charge straight into the ritzy suburbia.

“It’s that easy, folks!” Pops rested her hands behind her head and began strolling into a place she never visited before. “So uh, from what I gathered… we’re looking for the second biggest house. The biggest being the creepy Grimm manor,” when she didn’t hear footsteps she turned around to look at her friends, “Well come on now, we don’t got all day!”

Mordechai stared after Niles and Rye’s retreating backs for a few more moments before turning to Jade and Poppy, shrugging off the shock of hearing Rye again after that day in the cafeteria in favor of following his best friends into the unknown of Scott Street. “All these houses are huge as shit, how fuckin’ big is second biggest?”

“Uhhhhhhhhhh….” Penelope scanned the houses and shrugged. “Heck if I know. I have no idea where we’re going.”

“There we go again,” Mordechai replied with a dry laugh, noticing a trend they’d followed together since childhood. “As always, head first with no plan.”

Jade, for the most part, was in her own head. She had the self-awareness to keep part of her mind tuned into what was being said, but for the most part, she was being consumed with feelings that she didn’t think she’d really feel ever again, but coming to the sacred suburbia of Edenridge, she had a flashback to when she was involved with Roddy Callahan. It wasn’t that she always came to Scott Street, but in those days, she’d occasionally sneak to his house. It wasn’t anything major that kept her up at night, but during those days, Jade took risks she normally wouldn’t. So maybe part of that was remembering how different she was compared to…well, now.

“Where’s your sense of adventure, Key?” She managed to say, nudging into him as lightly as she could as she didn’t want to disrupt his balance. The man rolled his eyes and smirked lightly at her in response. “Besides, it’s not hard to find the second largest house, right? I mean, it’s not like these houses are uniform.” Jade looked around, blue-green eyes noting that every house had their own identity. They were far larger than anything she had ever seen in a few years (again dating back to her time spent with Roddy way back when), but she could at least notice they weren’t all the same. Sure as hell not like that Squidward community where every house had the big ass nose house. “Pops, any other info? Maybe what the house looks like?” She tried to ask in a genuine way but part of her felt like it came off a little bitchy.

“Beats me,” Poppy admitted, not one to venture this far like her sister did. Taking a moment to rub her temples, Penelope tried to think of a plan. They could go in blindly and search for Italian memorabilia or they could see if someone they knew could advise them where to go, like maybe one of Decky’s Southie friends. “I mean I guess we could try to find her car? I feel like we have a better chance finding that than a house we’ve all never seen.”

“And how should we acquire a car? Lot of the ones I see--” Jade casually gestured around, seeing a lot of nice cars parked in the driveways of the houses of Scott Street, “--they aren’t exactly ones you can hotwire. I mean, I can hotwire, but older models are preferable.” Was it a grim thing to joke about? Probably. Was it logical? Nope, but Jade couldn’t help but laugh.

Not too far off ahead, an ice cream truck was stationed waiting for the neighboring children to get their fix before the ice guy went to his next destination. Have the fates decided to help boost their morale and that was through ice cream? No, it wasn’t just ice cream there… Not by a long shot.

To their fortune, or misfortune, they walked right into a sea of Edenridge High Clovers. A bunch of upcoming senior girls who believed they were destined for greatness, or at least, next year’s Shining Star trophy. Autumn Sinclair licked her vanilla ice cream cone (with rainbow sprinkles, of course) as she waited for the rest of her crew to catch up. It didn’t take too long for Caroline Sinclair to come skipping from the truck to her sister (they were standing in front of the Brady house) with an orange creamsicle.

Soon after, they were surrounded by three other Northie girls. Parker Thompson, Liana Khoury, and Ophelia Iordanou. It was a Clover fest. Somebody kill us, please. Had they been caught before their mission even started? What were the chances they would stroll into Scott Street right when the ice guy was in? Should they leave while they still had a chance?

Autumn was quick to notice the lost souls. Tilting her head, she licked her ice cream again. They didn’t look like Natalia’s usual friends, then again, she hadn’t talked to her idol in a good two weeks. Maybe she made more Southie friends over time. Autie could get behind that, seeing how she was making her own southie friends too. In the form of three boys, Ransom, Molotov, and TNT. “Are you lost?” The brazen Clover curtly asked. She wasn’t intentionally trying to come off as bitchy. In all honesty, Autumn was curious and wanted to help but she had little to no control over her tone and bitchface. She licked her ice cream again.

Mordechai looked between his friends and the Clovers for a moment as the first one approached, unsure of just how much they were supposed to be saying or giving out. The girl in front didn’t seem all too surprised to have a trio of Southies in their nice suburban neighborhood, in fact she seemed interested instead of wary. Something about her was scratching at a patch of Mordechai’s memory that had already been partially opened with the two that had left on the motorcycle minutes before, something to do with Rye and his friend Niles…

Memories of Rye going through almost every picture in his phone with Mordechai when they were younger suddenly flooded his mind. It was something that the other boy had often done in their down time, swiping to picture after picture and either explaining what had happened that day, or giving random anecdotes about the people in the pictures with him. He knew Mordechai might not meet them, but he liked the other boy to know about the people that were important to him. Some of the people he had taken pictures with the most were Mordechai and Danny, JP, Danny Belmonte, Niles, and…

“You’re…Autumn,” He said slowly as he finally placed her. He looked from her to the blonde just behind her, a tired smile on his face as he thought of the stories Rye had shared with him about the two. “And Carrie, right? Niles’ sisters? I’m Mordechai, uh,” he struggled with his words, trying to explain how he knew them without them having ever met him. Realizing it might come off wrong, he added, “I used ta hang out with Rye and he had a bunch’a pictures with y’all. Uh, anyway we…well we’re lookin’ for Natalia? We didn’t really think about…needin’ an address when we headed out.”

Christ, his social skills needed some fucking work.

There was something almost gratifying about being known on the Southside, even by those she hadn’t ever met. This Mordechai knew her name, knew her brother’s only friend, and knew the woman she considered ‘the best Niles would ever have’. “So you're new friends of hers or…? If your connection is through Gavriel and Niles then I’m not really adding up why you’d want to see her?” Protectively, Autumn breached closer to the southie with ice cream in hand. Carrie was quick to scurry to her side, to be a buffer if needed, “If you’re here to tell her to leave your friends alone, it’s you who needs to tell your friends to leave her alone! She doesn’t need you, or any of you for that matter, to toy with her emotions,” Niles’ sister growled before taking another lick of her ice cream.

“What my sister means to say, in a less mean way, that was very mean of you, by the way, Autie,” Caroline gave her sister a look of disappointment before bringing her serene eyes back to Decky, “Natalia and Niles, and Rye, have not been on good terms for a very long time. So, if this is because they don’t want to talk to her themselves, I don’t think we can help you.”

Damn. These girls were hardcore. Penelope looked at the standoff that was happening between her friend and the northie girls. Her eyes went past them and to the ice cream truck. How much money did she have on her? Side-stepping out of the heat of the confrontation, tapping Decky’s back which was her way of saying ‘this is all you’, Penelope slowly, very slowly made her way to the small line. She had five dollars. She could totally get a sundae if she wanted to.

The lone man shot his small friend an alarmed look, his hands having already flown up defensively from Autumn's approaching ire. This was not what he'd wanted, but once again his luck- and his mouth- struck again. He didn't remember too much about these girls except that they were twins, and that Autumn was extremely outspoken and protective while Carrie was soft-spoken and bubbly. He’d obviously triggered the brunette’s protective instincts, and her reasonings were totally fair, but he’d only been trying to explain how he knew her and her sister’s names since he’d just blurted them out as a stranger. He definitely hadn’t been thinking about how those names would affect their search for Natalia.

“I don’t-what? No. No I just knew your names because of Rye, him and Niles have nothin’ ta do with this, I haven’t even talked ta him in yea- ya know what?” He paused for a moment to gather his thoughts, trying to fix his fuck up. He ran his hand through his hair and gripped the back of his own neck tightly to try and release all the sudden tension. They just wanted the point, get to the point. He dropped his hand back to his side and flexed his fingers a few times before restarting. “We’ve got a trip planned and someone told us Puff might wanna be a part of it, we’re just tryin’a find her and ask if she’d wanna join or not…and I mean probably drive since we ain’t got any wheels ourselves.”

“An honorable pursuit,” Carrie beamed, raising her hand in front of her sister, who was one to speak before she thought. All the time. A gesture to shut her up before she spoke. “And Autumn knows better than all of us how cool you southies are, seeing how after she confronted her boyfriend about, well, him sleeping with a lot of other girls, he left her stranded at a gas station! Last night! But she was saved, and now it is our turn to return the favor.” Caroline gave her sister her ice cream, seeing how she needed both hands now.

Autumn was quiet, with a grumpy pout on. Oddly enough, the sweet one had more dominance than she gave off. And ever the wise one too, even if she dramatically laced her words with fantastical flair.

“I, Caroline Sinclair, your fairy godsister will take you to her. And that over there,” she pointed to the yellow buggie in the driveway to her left, their right, “Is your carriage!”

As the Disney princess eased the tension, Autumn tossed her and her sister’s leftover ice cream in the community trash can and sighed, “Sorry.”

Jade watched the bitchy brunette, eyes almost squinting in a glare. She didn’t like her attitude but Jade didn’t say anything. Could she have? Of course. The Angel Princess was a lot of things but a pushover and letting someone jump down her best friend’s throat like that wasn’t one of them. But then she put her feet in their shoes. If she found some northsiders wandering around the southside, especially looking all suspicious like she, Key, and Pops were probably looking from the outside perspective, then she would be just as hostile. So that’s why she kept her mouth shut.

But when the blonde offered to help them, there was a wave of relief, yet when Jade saw their ’carriage’, she could literally feel her eyes twitching and a heavy dose of her own patience leaving her body. “That’s uh…” She struggled to find the right words. “That’s certainly something, isn’t it?” She looked around, blue-green gaze on Key.

Shoulders slumped in relief at avoiding an unnecessary confrontation, Mordechai gave passing thought to what Southies the Sinclairs may have met before he turned to follow Carrie's gesture and almost cried when he saw their mode of transportation. If both sisters were escorting them, them he just knew that he and Jade would barely fit in the back themselves, meaning Poppy would likely be sitting on a half of each of their laps while the two bigger Southies did their best to smush against the back windows. Jade's lackluster commentary on the vehicle fit his own level of enthusiasm quite well, and he stepped up beside her to knock their shoulders together in commiseration. He stared blankly at the small buggy and- in an unintentional mimic of TNT from early that morning- he let out a small, judgement-free laugh and said, "...Cute."

He could feel another laugh trying to escape at the absurdity of the situation, but outwardly he just nodded in thanks to Carrie and started following her to her car, Autumn staying back with their other friends. Well, at least all three of them wouldn't be crammed in the back like he thought. "Just go with it, Harley Head, anythin' that gets us there faster."

The blonde gave a shrug, losing her glare at the bitchy brunette. It sure as hell wasn’t her first choice of cars but she had to internally remind herself that this was a means to an end. At the very least, the blonde, who had a friendly smile, seemed to be willing to help them out. “Yeah okay.” She shrugged again, giving Key a reluctant smile.

The dark haired man smiled back at his friend before stopping and turning back around to their third adventurer at the ice cream truck. "Pops! Ya comin'?"

“Yeah! I just got my shit,” Passing Autumn who went up to her Northie girlfriends, Pops saluted, “Thanks, mate,” and marched to the buggy. Wow, this was one hell of a sight. This car was god awful and it was written all over Poppy’s face. “I call dibs on shotgun since Autumn ain’t coming.”

Intentionally, Poppy decided to make the selfish move due to her holding a mild grudge with her friends. More so Decky than Jade. Maybe she wanted to be petty. They could take the back and she could eat her sundae in the front. Decky had his secrets, and Jade ghosted her for a good month. She deserved the front seat.

“Hey!” Autumn called out as first Jade and Decky piled into the back, and Poppy trapped them inside with the passenger’s chair. “I hope you like Disney!” After a few more exchanges, the yellow chariot was off. Meaning they were in a race with a snail because if there was a snail, it would be going faster than them. Poppy scooped some hot fudge sundae in her mouth and glanced at her friends through her sun visor mirror.

Apologetic, Carrie gently pressed on the pedal, “Sorryyyy, I don’t drive often but this shouldn’t take too long! One sec,” They were inches away from the driveway when Carrie was back in park going to her playlist. After a minute or so, the car started playing Under the Sea from the Little Mermaid Disney soundtrack. “Okay, that’s better.” And they were off! Again!

Steadily Carrie went onward, heading down Scott Street to what the southies would hope eventually led to Natalia’s. By this rate, though, they should’ve walked. As Carrie drove, Poppy swayed to the music and ate her sundae. This was ridiculous and she couldn’t help but find it all amusing. When Carrie started singing, she decided to quietly join the other girl, just so her friends could suffer. Oh how fun this all was.

Mordechai watched Poppy's petty side come out from his folded position in the back, still practically shoulder to shoulder with Jade despite leaning towards the window. He hadn't seen this version of his friend in a while, and while he knew it was mostly his fault fucking up with this whole Natalia thing, the man couldn't help the small smile that slipped onto his face as she sang along with whatever song was playing. He didn't technically have a feeling toward Disney songs either way, given his extremely limited interaction with their movies and the like, and while what he was hearing wasn't really his schtick he could get behind them if it meant continuing to hear his smallest friend's voice without any heartbreak or feelings of betrayal undercutting her tone. Like he'd said: knew he'd fucked up, that was clear, he just didn't know how to fix it immediately, so he just had to deal with Poppy being upset with him.

The practical crawl of the car down the road and the upbeat music contrasted themselves as much as the blonde in the driver seat contrasted her passengers, and Mordechai was left wondering how he and his friends always fell into such odd situations, ever since they were kids. Was it their curious personalities, their bad luck, the people they surround themselves with? All, or maybe none, of those options? They interacted with the Northside more than most Southies just on account that they continued their schooling and the only highschool was Northside, but they were still worlds apart from most of these people. He does remember Danny being returned to him one day by Poppy and Max and his little brother going on an excited rant about a Disney Marathon, Decky! They sing in like every movie! They're so fun- because apparently Max had taken over most of his watching for the day and demanded that he know some childhood wonder. Mordechai, already a Serpent at the time, had been more focused on his brother's excitement and smile than the actual content of his words.

Looking at the back of Poppy's head, Mordechai wondered if she also struggled still with the voice of her lost sibling in her ear, or the thoughts of what would happen if they hadn't been lost, but he was pretty sure he knew the answer. Trying to keep a positive air about him, he turned his eyes to Carrie and asked, "So, is this somethin' ya need ta show your kids? Just 'cause it's all happy and musical?"

“I’ll show my kids, but no,” Carrie turned down Meadow Street, to their left was the large, creepy, definitely evil Grimm estate and grounds, and to their right was the Davies, then the Josephs. “Parents can do whatever they see fit. And to correct you, sir, Disney isn’t all rainbows and butterflies.” She glanced at the boy through her rearview mirror, even going the extra mile to turn down the song. “They have universal messages. You know Lion King is basically Hamlet by William Shakespeare, right? But that isn’t the point. It’s not just Disney. Cartoons help develop a child's cognitive skills. If you don’t like Disney, there’s always Looney Tunes or all the 90s shows on Cartoon Network like Courage the Cowardly dog. But kids don’t need that. We have good books too and we have the great outdoors.”

Penelope glanced over at the girl who was actually quite intellectual for being so childlike at times. The young girl brought her attention back to the road, as she continued to give her stance on Disney, cartoons, and parenting. Taking another spoonful of sundae, Poppy placed it in her mouth and continued to listen. Now in silence, no longer singing — just her, her sundae and Carrie’s TedTalk. She liked how energetic this girl was. How strong, firm, and sure of herself she came across. Something Poppy felt like she lacked a lot of times. It was nice to see. Through all the dark, there were still those that carried light in them. There were still those hopeful and positive.

“I will say early Disney, like Princesses waiting for their Prince to come save them, does not translate well in our day and age but they’re still good movies. The reason why I like Disney is because it reminds me that I can still be young at heart. Through all the crap this town goes through, having something that makes you laugh, makes you cry, makes you sing, and just makes you… feel, isn’t such a bad thing, right? I don’t know, Disney just keeps me centered. Like the Goofy Movie, Goofy has to come to terms with his son growing up but watching your baby grow is hard, you know? And Max, his son, learns that even if he wants to do his own thing, like most teenagers do, he still has a loving father in his corner who's just doing his best. So, cartoons, no cartoons, sweets, no sweets, there is no map to parenting.”

Mordechai didn't follow any of the references Carrie gave aside from Shakespeare's Hamlet, but her point got across clearly enough, and the man felt a level of respect grow for this girl who was obviously more than the face she wore for others. He wondered if whatever movies Max had shown Danny had helped his little brother in any way, or about how books and comics was probably their biggest developers in that stage of their lives. Books he could do, those he knew pretty well but, maybe…

"I don't know much about that stuff, you got like a few good ones ta start with?" He asked sincerely, thinking of his own children singing songs just because they could and fighting the smile that the thought tried to bring to his face. The things he didn't understand- the things he never had - were exactly what he wanted to give his children. "I've got a couple kids that I wanna have a better childhood than me."

“Hm, I’d suggest Hercules. That soundtrack you’ll handle. It’s more gospel and soul. Easy on the ears but still catchy. Also Danny DeVito voices Phil. We love Danny DeVito.” Tapping her fingers on the wheel, her attention went from the road to a black truck parked conspicuously by the Grimms Queen-of-the-Night tulips, stone half wall (that had an iron gate door leading to the gardens), and their massive English Oak tree. Very gothic, spooky, and aesthetic, especially during Halloween. While she never saw that truck before, she wasn’t one to question the Grimms. That was one family you left alone. Yes siree. Only bad juju came from this house which meant those that lived there were cursed or doomed for life. “There’s non-musical films too. You might like Brother Bear and The Emperor’s New Groove. Start with those three and we can go from there. Rye has my number if you want more suggestions. I also have like… all the Disney movies ever if you want to borrow too. On both DVD and VHS!”

The same truck that Carrie saw had Mordechai doing a double take so quickly that his neck cracked as he recognized it as Mika's. He made a mental note to text his other constant later and nose into his life a bit: a little bit of payback for the last month plus that he'd helped Allegra play Warden with him. Just because it was for his own good doesn't mean it didn't get frustrating at times being an adult getting babysat right alongside your own children.

Hey, maybe they should've been watching Disney movies that whole time.

"I don't talk ta Rye anymore," Mordechai reiterated his comment from earlier, coming back to the conversation. He wasn't ready to get into that yet, talking to Rye was going to be a whole other trauma. "I haven't since I left. Uh, I'll figure it out though, thanks. Are we almost there?"

“Oh, that’s sad,” Carrie softly muttered.

Looking back into the visor mirror, Penelope looked at Mordechai who was gazing out the window. In thought, she stood there silent, wondering if Mordechai held it against Gavriel for not being able to protect little Danny. Did he hold a grudge against him even though Rye had no control over the situation? Or was Decky ashamed that he put Rye in that position, and blamed himself, just like he blamed himself for how Charlie became?

“Oh yeah! There she blows. Italiaaaaaa!” Caroline pointed to the large house with the Italian flag hanging from a staff of the front wall. The furthest house from the gate but not too hard to get to. Instead of pulling the car up immediately, Carrie turned into the driveway, right behind Taz’s party van (it could seat like ten people) and reversed out. Turning her car to face the opposite direction, so that when they exited Poppy’s door they could go straight to the front door, the happy-go-lucky blonde put her car in park, “Voilá! The Belmontes.”

Holding her sundae cup, she’d need to find a garbage bin for it later, Pops stepped out and when she did so, Carrie helped put the passenger seat forward so the other two could leave. Standing there, in front of the massive estate, Penelope James surveyed the area. The creeping doubt and lingering sadness found its way back to the surface.

Making sure it was hidden behind a mask, Poppy grabbed onto her teardrop necklace with her freehand staring ahead, realizing maybe this lax attitude was simply her faking she was okay. It made the journey to this point easier to handle. She wore Charlie’s jacket as a reminder of the man that had her heart, a reminder of her old Charlie, but now? In front of Natalia Belmonte’s residence, waiting for her friends, she could only feel the jacket as something that belonged to a stranger. Did she really know Charlie? Like truly? Deeply?

Who was Natalia to him?

Jade had tuned out the entirety of the conversation that went on about Disney. It was never her scene. Their peppy chauffeur mentioned something about how there were alternatives to Disney? Yeah, she tuned into that briefly and she agreed. Did she care to voice her opinion about it? Fuck no, she didn’t. Jade didn’t care one way or another. She grew up on horror flicks, Sylvester Stallone, and lots of anime and shows that probably weren’t not suitable for a girl her age (at the time) to watch (looking at you Happy Tree Friends). So what could she bring to the conversation? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

And maybe part of her silence had to do with the fact that she was lost in her own head. When they had been in the car for a while, she let her thoughts consume her. Some of them about Anya and what she might be doing right now, but most of them were about Natalia Belmonte and her connection to Charlie. Pretty sure her soul sister was thinking about that too. She wondered if, after all of this, they’d be okay? All Jade did was call her because she felt bad about how quiet she went, but here they were: in the same call, on some grand ole' adventure to find Natalia and get to Blue Hill as soon as they possibly could.

But Jade could feel it. There was an uneasiness in the air. She’s been feeling it for a while now - not just since she picked up the phone and decided to call Poppy, but for a few days. Hell, probably since the Devil became her protector.

Don’t think like that. Think positive. She told herself as she looked out the window and her eyes nearly came out of the socket and she almost dislocated her jaw as she wide-eyed, jaw-down gasped at what she could only assume was the second biggest house on Scott Street. “You have to be kidding me…” Jade muttered just loud enough that at least Key next to her could hear, but then her voice got louder. “We spent all that time getting lost and they had…that in front of the damn house!?” Jade was referring to the ginormous Italian Flag that was outside for the entire neighborhood to see.

“Jesus fucking Christ…” She again muttered, shoving her way into Key’s shoulder, rushing him out. She didn’t care about manners right now, but when they were, all Jade could do, honestly, was stare at the flag.

How could they have missed that?

TIMESTAMP: After-- Keeping Up With The Ossos
FT: Sofia Belmonte, Ricky Osso, and Jamie O'Hara (Lord)



What even had been today?

The last twenty four hours had been nothing short of a mess and it had all started with that row.

Russell would do anything for Jamie. That much had always been true. Yet previous evening, actions were very much the hot topic of what one could call discussion but in actuality it was a blazing argument that thankfully they had in their car otherwise the entirety of her nosy Scott Street neighbours would’ve heard it. Jamie hated arguing with him. No matter what he said, Russ just never understood her. Nobody did. It was only ever David. Their bond was one of magic and despite her fathers often loud protests that there was no such thing as a sacred bond between twins, she wouldn’t believe otherwise. The time was coming soon that if things didn’t change, Russell would not be long for her life.

Maybe things had changed already and she was just denying that? A major part of their argument was that Russ had been in hiding his entire life. Jamie was aware of what she was to him, a beard. Someone for him to hide behind as he struggled with his sexuality. She knew this but didn’t mind because Russell was a good man and a good friend to her when she needed it so desperately. David’s death happened at the worst possible time. All of her friends had gone off to college or started their new lives, meaning she suffered alone and in the dark. Russ, for all intents and purposes, was a light that would protect her. She just didn’t want to be protected anymore.

After mulling things over at her and David’s secret place, Jamie returned home with a new vigor and zeal. It was time for things to change. Then that morning, it all happened. It seemed almost prophetic really that Clayton was the first person she would see when the letters arrived. He was David’s best friend. He had always been the best of them. The cool guy. The Samaritan. The hero. Could he save her?

Reagan called a meeting of course. Not to add the pressure already on Jamie, she now had to deal with the ice bitch herself as the Supreme decides to hold court with her gang. Even now, the young O’Hara girl struggled to say no. The day drinking helped but she wished she was doing it with someone like Lamb. She loved Riri and Yana, hell, she even loved Reagan to a point but their motives were never always clear. It was hard to tell what they really wanted down her. Lamb was easy. Lamb wouldn’t even ask her about David. They would just sit, drink and talk about Netflix or nonsense. Yet she couldn’t get ahold of her. Not surprising really since she was always busy. Lamby lived a busy life.

The booze had carried Jamie to Swerve Arcana but she stayed for the girl behind the counter. Avery. Clay had sung to high heaven the praises of the comic book store and the people there. Jamie had to see it for herself. The moment her eyes connected with the piercing blues of the befreckled Avery, something just hit her; she wasn’t really sure what. Of course Jamie had been with girls in the past. She had experimented. Yet she had been with Russell for nearly five years and on today, of all days, he was nowhere to be found and all she could think about was Avery, when she wasn’t thinking about David that is.

Now there she sat on a bench on Central Ave, in between Maple Street and Main, little Jamie O’Hara alone as always. Her buzz had gone and been replaced by that crippling feeling that had held her hostage all of her life. The medication did nothing for her, so she had stopped taking it. That big black cloud was hanging over her head metaphorically and literally. Jamie’s blue eyes were staring into the abyss that was creeping closer and closer to town. The wind had picked up dramatically but she didn’t care. In that moment she wouldn’t have hated being swept up in a gale and taken far away.

Sofia was determined to keep most of her family out of the loop, if possible. She didn’t want the news of her great escape to spread like wildfire, like it did, especially in her family. The Ossos lived on Rosebury Loop across the street from her aunt, Nina. Nina was likely at Palermo, doing her business woman thing, but her house husband and kids? They would be home and likely enjoying the great outdoors before the storm hit. That meant her and Ricky would not be taking to the streets. No, they’d go through the yards of people, picking up Nduja so that they could gently get her over the neighbouring gates until they were on Silver Oak Way. The street that connected Hanging Hill and Liberty Road, ultimately leading to Milligan Bridge.

When she reached her house it was for nought because all the lights were out. Shit. It was worth a shot. She really did not want to go to the Godmother… interrupting her mom at work was a recipe for disaster. While Nduja played in the sprinkles, Sofia spent the next five minutes trying to remember where the spare key was. When her search failed, she huffed, annoyed. Hiding her snacks in an empty flower pot, flipping it over, hoping nothing happened to them while she was gone, Sofia shuffled back to her friend and they were off once more.

The long exodus brought them to Hanging Hill where they passed the Witch’s cursed house and her other aunt’s Victorian, Elisa. Thankfully, Elisa and her husband were homebodies and weren’t enjoying the weather. Knowing Elisa, she was likely catching a quick nap before she had to feed the littles again. As for her uncle, was he even in town? She couldn’t remember. Hanging Hill was a spooky street but people got a lot of bang for their buck. Her aunt lived in a gothic girl dream house which was cool. Honestly, the coolest house on this street. The rest were cool too, even the haunted one, but they weren’t purple.

Eventually, their feet brought them to the end of the street and onto Central Ave. For someone that wasn’t as athletic as Sofia, this would make them sweat. This was a lot of walking, solely because Sofia was procrastinating her inevitable doom. She was good at that, procrastinating.

“Can…we…pause….for a second?” Ricky and Nduja were both exhausted. This was too much walking for him and the poor dog, she was a fat shit! She went around the block a few times and that was it! Not up and down Hanging Hill Lane and around the entirety of the East side. The youngest Osso put his hands on his knees and panted to the ground as Nduja collapsed next to him. “How are you even still going?”

A strong gust of wind finally snapped Jamie from her dark thoughts. She acknowledged her surroundings and realised that the weather had fully turned without her even really realising. The storm had been growing around her to the point the sky had turned pure grey. The rain had yet to start but the black clouds weren’t far away. Jamie looked across the street and saw two kids and a very cute dog. They shouldn’t be out! There was supposed to be a weather warning. The teacher in her wanted to order them inside but she knew she had very little to no authority.

Pushing herself to her feet, Jamie straightened out any creases in her clothing and crossed the road towards the kids. She couldn’t do it. She couldn’t ignore them. She had to make sure they were safe. As the gap between them closed, Jamie realised that one of the kids was Sofia Belmonte-Morelli! Her family home was only a few down from her father’s, so she had a decent enough rapport with all members of the clan.

“Hey guys!” The mythical unicorn waved. “You should be heading home, there’s a weather warning. A severe storm’s coming in, gonna last a few hours.”

“No can do, Miss Jamie,” Sofia answered, pulling her bag from the ready to drop boy. When she retrieved her bag, she unplugged her headphones from her phone and put them away. It was definitely going to rain soon. “I ain’t supposed to even be here, in Mass, so I’m about to give my mom the surprise of her life. She isn’t home yet, so next stop Godmothers, I guess. We’re taking a break though,” The adventurous Belmonte brought her attention to Ricky and the fat Sausage doggo, both out of breath, “They’re doing their best.”

Ricky stood up and straightened his back. “No, yeah I’m fine. Nduja is struggling though,” He said as he fought for breath. The small dog’s tongue fell out onto the pavement as if on cue.

Jamie cocked an eyebrow and let her lips part into a wide grin. They were a cute couple. “Well then we’re in a bit of a pickle here then aren’t we?” Being an Elite, the young woman had spent a good chunk of her youth covering for her brother and his idiot friends when they were out causing mischief. She knew Cat well enough from living on the same street that she knew that whatever trouble Sofia was in would blow over but she also knew that in the moment, the poor girl would be torn a new hole. “Well I’m sorry kids but I can’t let you go downtown. It’s too dangerous. How about I take you to your Grandpa’s Sofi? It’s on my way home anyway. Ricky. You and the pooch can get home before the storm sweeps in. Sound good?”

“Uh,” Sofia looked at Jamie then at Ricky, nervous. Not for herself, but for him, her friend. Leaning in, close to him, her lips nearly brushing his ear, Sofi whispered, cupping her mouth with her hand, “Will Bobby be okay with that? Aren’t you supposed to talk to my mom?”

Looking at the beautiful older woman as she smiled at the pair, Ricky was unsure how best to proceed. On the one hand, if he didn’t talk to Cat, Bobby would lose his shit and Robert Osso losing his temper was absolutely terrifying. There was a reason most people left him to his own devices. On the other hand, if he sent Sofia with Jamie now then at least he knew that she would be safe with the Grandparents when the storm hit. He followed Sofi’s lead and whispered into her ear. “I say do it. I’d rather you be home safe. I can deal with Bobby Batters.”

Frowning, Sofi brought her cupped hand down and nodded, begrudgingly agreeing. That being said, she was Sofia Belmonte and Sofia always found a way to meddle so the tides turned. “I’ll fix this, I promise.” She had a plan. Would it work? She didn’t know. But it was a plan nevertheless. “Okay, fine. You can take me to papà.” Once her backpack was hanging off her shoulder, the young teen turned to Ricky and for once, she initiated a hug. It was rare when Sofia initiated intimacy. “Thanks for everything, I’ll text you when I’m with the family.”

Well this was weird. Sofi was hugging him? She never hugged him. He always hugged her. Ricky awkwardly brought his hands up to the girl’s back and held her close. He could feel the heat rising in his face so after a while he broke up the hug and took a step back. “I…err, yeah. Discord me when you’re home? Please?” Ricky looked towards Jamie and offered her a brace filled smile. “Thanks for taking her.” He bent down and picked up Nduja, the dog's skin flaps hanging over his hands as she had a wide open smile. Just as the lazy pooch had planned. “Come on you fat shit, let’s go home.” With the dog in his arms, Ricky turned and began walking back towards his home, taking one last look at the girls before he disappeared round the corner.

Jamie pushed her hair behind her ears. Watching these two was actually really sweet. It did make her jealous though. She wasn’t an idiot, she saw how people looked at her, desire in their eyes or ill intent. No one had ever looked at her the way Ricky looked at Sofi…well maybe one person… “Shall we go?”

“Onward to battle, I guess,” Sofi shuffled forward. Instead of paying attention to where she was going first, she sent a text initiating her plan: Operation Crossfire, Codename: Comfort Cub. The text was short and simple: ‘I might’ve fucked up. Can you pick me up at Ricky’s?’ And off the text went to her mom’s best friend, Lydia Anderson. The woman her mom told her everything. It was a 50/50 chance Lydia would go to her mom and out her instead of going to the Ossos, but it was a risk Sofia was willing to take. If all went according to plan, the Mama Bear (unfortunately no kids yet) could distract the Big Bear notoriously known as Bobby Batters. If Bobby was Superman, Lydia, Sofia believed, would be his kryptonite. Or was that too extreme of a comparison? She’d have to ask Ricky later for a better comparison… She doubted Lydia wanted to kill Bobby. Then again, who knows with adults. Cat wanted to kill her dad all day everyday but then again, her mom had a temper. She claimed bloody murder at every slight her father did.

Who could blame her? Even Sofi saw that her father was a good for nothing piece of shit that loved to gaslight his children and manipulate them into believing Cat wasn’t a good mother. Da fuck? From when she was small to presently, Sofia would always be a mama’s girl. Her dad could drown at the bottom of Milligan bridge for all she cared! Anyways, that’s beside the point. Onto the second matter of business, which also caused her to not pay attention to where she was going. The need for candy. Pulling out of her bag a Hubba Bubba Mega Long Bubblegum roll, Sofia politely offered some to the pretty woman in her Aunty Vivia’s year, “Want some? Also,” She locked eyes with the magical unicorn girl, “It’s been a minute since I’ve last seen you. You doing good, Miss Jamie?”

Jamie declined the offering of gum with a raised hand and a shake of her head. She had watched Sofi grow into such a beautiful young woman, though she hadn’t been around all that much thanks to her prolonged time away, she liked to think that they could call each other more than just neighbours or teacher and student (Jamie started as a teacher at Eden the last semester before the current summer). She hoped that they could call each other friends. You doing good? Such a loaded question and Jamie really didn’t want to lie to the girl. She really didn’t want to lie at all. “I’m getting by,” The woman smiled as they climbed the small hill towards the famous or infamous in some circles, Scott Street.

“Same,” Sofi nonchalantly responded back as she shuffled the roll of gum in her mouth, ripping off a long strip and sucking it into her mouth.

“You don’t have to tell me but, why didn’t you go wherever it was you were supposed to go? You said you aren’t supposed to be in Mass.”

Chewing the large piece of gum, taking in all the flavour, Sofi shrugged, “‘Cause my dad’s a prick and I really didn’t want to spend quality time with him.” Chewing in abundance, the young girl slipped the container of gum back into her bag before noticing the fire hydrant that almost rammed right into her. Quickly, Sofi hopped over it, snapped her gum, and continued, “This is supposed to help with the ‘transition’ but I don’t see it helping if he isn’t ever going to change. Dad and sibs in NYC, btdubs.” Sofia began to blow a big, big bubble.

Jamie had caught some gossip about Cat and Tomasso divorcing. It hasn’t really hit the streets fully yet but the desperate housewives of Scott Street were already starting to whisper. There has also been talk that Cat had found herself a new man. No names, only that they think he’s younger. Scandal. That sort of thing really made the O’Hara girl’s blood boil.

“Parents are difficult,” Jamie lamented to the young girl. “My parents have always been together so I can’t really offer any guidance there. What I can say is that every parent is different. You know? Some parents aren’t meant to be parents. Others are built for it. Like, my Dad. I love my Dad but he’s a very practical, goal oriented man. He’s very good at hyping and inspiring but when I graze my knee? Suck it up kiddo and get back out there. He was always Coach. It killed me.” As they turned at the top of the hill, Jamie began to feel extremely light raindrops on her face. “But I had David and I had Lamb, I had people that helped me and loved me even when I was at my worst. Seems to me you already have that. Ricky?”

Fiddling with her fingers by pressing her hands against one another and forcing her bones to crack, Sofia focused her attention ahead, as they turned on Main, the Scott Street gates nearing. Her bubble popped and in her mouth the gum went. “He’s a good friend,” Sofi smiled to herself, already feeling weird that she wasn’t sleeping over his place tonight. They had plans and it ended the moment his siblings came crashing in. “The best even. But how is he going to help me through this? Like, it’s not just that that’s happening. Aunty Viv got kicked out, I caught my cousin doing… shit in a confession booth… and my grandma. Uh, I just have a hard time looking at her. Add that, the divorce, and me just not really caring if I die or not, had my chance when Decker was around… yepp. I don’t know if Ricky could help with any of that.”

This was concerning. This poor girl was struggling so much and Jamie doubted that many people actually saw that, especially because it seemed that everyone was dealing with their own truly depressing issues in this town. “He can’t help fix them but he can be there for you. Support you.” The bright eyed woman reached out and placed her hand upon Sofi’s shoulders as they came upon the gates of Scott Street. “I’ve had my fair share of issues. Still do, trust me but I want you to know, that if you ever need anything you can come to me ok?”

Stopping in front of the gates, Jamie placed her other hand on Sofi’s free shoulder and stood in front of the young girl, looking her directly in the eye with the most sincere and loving gaze that she could muster. It was the same sort of look that she offered David and Clay and all the handful of people that she had allowed to see beyond her walls and into her heart. Sofia reminded her so much of herself at that age. She was fragile, that much was obvious, a glass ballerina trapped in a music box “I’m not just your neighbour Sofi, I’m not just your teacher. I want to be your friend. What do you say? Friends?”

Like mother, like daughter, Sofia looked at the O’Hara woman and self doubt rushed over and through her. Jamie was being earnest, genuine, and true. That much Sofia could see. The beautiful, strong woman that stood before her, holding her in a tender gaze saw her as someone worth her time, someone worth companionship, someone worth…. life. Did Sofi see herself like that? “You really don’t want a friend like me,” the teenage girl anxiously urged. No she didn’t think she was worth it. Not by a long shot.

Sofia might’ve been the prettiest girl in her year but beauty only got you so far. People adored her especially before she got into grunge and weed. They still do but now they don’t bother talking to her. They just look at her in wonder and awe, like she was an art piece that you could see, but not touch. Right on display for others, talked about but never talked to. Never understood.

When Charlie shot her, she thought maybe she should put on a front and people wouldn’t want to get too close. It worked. People didn’t want to get close but they still looked at her all the same like she was an object of desire, not a person. “I doubt you’d get anything out of this,” she snapped her gum, trying to hide her inner turmoil. This was getting too close for comfort. Why was she being so open with someone she barely knew? She knew Jamie but not like her aunts and uncle did. She knew her at a distance, just as Jamie knew her. At a distance.

“Ah but you see that’s where you’re wrong Sofi, I do get something out of this,” Jamie waves her finger as the gates to Scott Street opened up behind them. “I get a friend and I’ll let you in on a secret. I don’t have many of those.” It was true. She has the Elite but even then, they were essentially kids she was forced to befriend. She loved them all in their own unique ways but they were not her choice. Even the Royal Flush Gang, they were friends by happenstance. There were few in her life that Jamie had herself chosen to make a part of it. She wanted to make Sofi part of it. To help her like she wished someone had done for her. “So what do you think? Wanna be my friend?”

No longer chewing her gum, Sofia observed the older woman, who said she didn't have many friends. It was hard to believe when she talked so well. She held herself in a way… that was hard to look past. Seemingly, kept together. Then again, she wasn’t the only one. Sofia tried to be the strong one for her siblings and played it off like she was dead on the inside. Reality was, she cared deeply about everything and no one seemed to notice. No one seemed to care. No one until now. Looking down at her feet, stuffing her hands in her pockets, Sofia mumbled, “Yeah that’s fine, I don’t have many friends either. She kicked a rock to the side, avoiding eye contact, waiting in the awkwardness of this exchange.

“Alright then,” Jamie smiled as the rain began to get heavier and heavier. “Let’s get ourselves indoors before we drown.” An interesting choice of words she had to admit herself but she had been learning not to be triggered by such things anymore. It was all part of her therapy, if she could really call it that anymore. Now it just felt like an Iron mask suffocating her.

If they were going to be friends, might as well start it with: “Race you?”

“Sure! But I must warn you, I was an all star track and field athlete at my school. Three, two, one, GO!” Jamie grinned from ear to ear as the two girls set off onto Scott Street just in time for the storm to catch up with them.

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