Avatar of NeoAJ


Recent Statuses

1 yr ago
Current Happy new year. Yes I am still alive. Bleep you 2022.
2 yrs ago
You need to chill, girl. ;P
4 yrs ago
I still don't know why I'm awake.
4 yrs ago
I have no idea why the hell I am still awake right now. I blame my brother.
4 yrs ago
Today, I have added "people who don't wear masks" onto my shitlist. Oh wait, I did that months ago...


I'm a 32 year old woman just looking to keep those writing muscles in whatever shape I can. I'm also Canadian, so fill the rest of this bio with every stereotype you can think of. I've also been single for over a year now, so clearly I'm a catch.

"She's horrible and stuff" - @BangoSkank

Most Recent Posts

TIMESTAMP: 8:30AM / 4:30PM
LOCATION: Hallway/Mr. Phoenix's Room/BHHS Field

The few students that roamed the hallways of the cacophonous building might have been surprised by the blonde slowly making her way toward Mr. Phoenix’s homeroom class alone. The blonde could probably tell whoever was asking the names of 80% of them. After all, Emilia Seger knew so many people in Beverly Hills High that surely someone would be talking to her about their latest club that they wanted to set up, or a project that needed an extra little bit of a push. It was something she was happy to do, sampling all of the various pleasures that life in her later teenage years had to offer. It did mean that she had very little free time for herself, but she could rest when she was dead! Ariana wouldn’t stop for a second and neither would Emilia! Right now, however, it was all taken care of.

That meant, for once, all that floated around the young woman’s head at the moment was the cold sensations hitting her brain and the sweet fixation hitting her tongue. All the jumbled things that bounced her brain, trying to figure out how to help who and what club needed what, were quiet. They were held down for the moment by the rush of cold sugar, cream and caffeine that went some way to explaining how the blonde managed all that energy she seemed to have for her many endeavors.

The iced white chocolate mocha and croissant breakfast sandwich would serve as her fuel today, against her Gramma's best wishes. Too many preservatives, she would exclaim. A growing girl needed a strong start in the morning, and that meant oats, berries and a black cup of coffee. It was a meal that sustained generations through the winters in Sweden and Minnesota. But there was usually no time for Emilia to make her own breakfast, not only because of her many duties around the school, but because she was often at the whims at whichever member of her primary friend group was giving her a ride to school. Emilia could drive herself, but she made a commitment to the Green Group to cut down on the amount of times she drove her Mazda. For some reason, today’s ride needed to be at school early today. And he craved Starbucks, so deciding to take advantage of that stop and grab a quick meal was an easy call to make. People might think the weirder decision was who she accepted the ride from today.

Some people would never understand why Emilia would still be friends with her ex-boyfriend even after he moved on from her for some guy, but AJ Tyler had qualities that weren’t quantified by mere relationship details. Emi had been through a lot with the boy who dare not be called by his first name. He was one of the first people to be kind to her when she moved to California at the age of 8, without the knowledge of why she had just arrived in the Golden State, and that friendship continued throughout the rise in grades. While AJ’s interest in cars was growing, Emilia did her best to go full speed with him, even as her interests drifted like a dandelion seed on the wind. Emilia is nothing if not loyal. To a fault, people would argue at times.

The second AJ arrived at the school, he said he had to run off to do something else. Emilia asked what it was, but she was given the usual “Don’t worry about it” in response. Then AJ was gone, speeding off to somewhere else. There was no chance of Emilia keeping up with him, so she took him at face value. If he said it was fine, it was probably fine. The value of that earned loyalty AJ received left her walking the hallway by herself, mocha in hand, but it would be fine. Surely he would be fine.

However, when she finally arrived in the homeroom to make sure her perfect attendance mark was still intact, she did not spot AJ. Clearly even after making her rounds, it wasn’t enough time to deal with whatever it was he needed to deal with. That was fine. Although the absence of another boy did leave her with something to worry about.

She hoped nothing was wrong with Ethan. Despite what a lot of people said when Emilia told them the Green boy had started making moves towards her a couple months after her and AJ broke up, she was glad she eventually relented and gave him a chance to show her he wasn’t the person all those rumors said he was. The people who still whispered in the hall about what Ethan and his buddies got up to weren’t getting to her. She was used to others doubting her taste in boyfriends. After all, AJ didn’t have the best reputation either.

They didn’t know the Ethan that she got to know. The guy who hid such a sensitive soul underneath all that money-family bravado. All those sweet texts he would send while she was doing homework at night. Sure they didn’t go on dates EVERY weekend, but a guy does need his space from time to time.

Emilia wondered if that was why AJ eventually pulled away from her in that regard. Maybe it was too much time together, familiarity breeding boredom. Was that why he wanted Jamie instead? No. People can’t help the way they are. She knew that. They had a talk about that after AJ confirmed his feelings. It wasn’t what Emilia wanted, but she couldn’t argue it.

This is what happens when my mind is left to wander. I’ve got too many things in here.

A final sip of her drink before it hit the trash can steadied her mind for the moment. Emilia did pick up a new thought though. The work she had did for the Earth by hitching a ride with AJ today was probably undone by the non-reusable cup that she used. “Shoot,” she cursed under her breath as she moved to take her seat. At least she was somewhat prepared for the chaos of the day.


Emilia managed the day pretty well. At least she believed it enough to be true. She did get an answer to where Ethan was at the very least, the text still present on her screen:

Hey sweetheart, I’m shopping for my party. Let me know if you want anything. I hope you have someone to keep you company during the game. Kisses. See you tomorrow.”

Nothing new had popped up since, not that Emi noticed. She was too busy helping with the setup for the game. As a senior, she didn’t have to man concession booths anymore, but she still liked to check in before the game to make sure the juniors were up to the task. The Cooking Club could use a new Dutch Oven, and the sales from homecoming would give them that and then some. Countless groups benefited from the sales of merch to the alumni coming back to BHHS for a refresh of their wardrobe, a size up or down depending how the respective binge-eating or surgeries went. Everything appeared to be in order.

So all that was left was for Emilia to find someone to sit down with and actually watch the game...

Easier said than done.
TIMESTAMP: A little before & during Homeroom/Morning Show

@NeoAJ & @LovelyComplex

A huge sigh left Indy Adams’ lips as the trudge through the parking lot concluded. The small skirt was riding up a little higher than she was used to, and the wind off the Pacific was coming in just enough to make her worried about flashing the degens in the skate park. It was a small price to pay for her blushes being spared. The shorts that offended the sensibilities of the Queen Bee now rested in her backpack, only for a moment before they would be quickly dispatched to her locker for the crime of not matching the theme of the day.

After a briefing in Naomi’s sedan, the Hive eventually spread out to take care of their various dealings. Naomi and Lottie were in one homeroom, while the other three members shared the pleasure of having Miss Belmonte start their day with attendance. Levi had his own priorities and had left to take care of them. This left the two newest members of the Hive, and arguably the two with the least say on the proceedings of the clique, to walk towards Room 105 together.

It was a long trek for Indy. She was still thinking about what actually happened in the backseat of that Benz. She saw more of Evangely Vazquez’s leg than she ever dared to think she would today. Even the times when the Hive hit the pool, Angel was sporting a far more modest swimsuit that didn’t offer that much of a view. Indy’s coverup showed more skin, at least in her thoughts. That image was going to sustain the blonde for a while. The incident was far less explicit than the tales told by rappers of their various conquests in assorted Mercedes’ backseats, but it was still something that weighed on her mind.

“Thank you, again,” she finally offered to Angel as the two inched closer toward homeroom. “I should have just grabbed one of the skirts I had instead of trying to make the denim work. I’ll get this back to you at the end of the day.”

Evangely bit the inside of her cheek as they walked together, side by side. Their differences were laughable really. Indy could touch the top of a doorway frame and Angel could hide in a locker. Indy was fair and kind, Angel was dark and broody. Indy was approachable and optimistic, Angel was neither. Nothing about them was similar and yet out of the group, Indy was the one Angel felt the most herself around (well, if we’re not including her discord friends she games with). Indy was authentic, natural, and completely herself. Sure, Naomi, Levi and Lottie did their best to dress them but that never changed how Indy thought or behaved. That never changed who Nicola Adams was as a person, and that to Angel was admirable. The school hadn’t consumed her yet. She wasn’t an actor. She was simply a girl trying to survive her last year of high school.

Looking around them, Angel observed their surroundings, with no emotion written on her face. She locked eyes with a freshman girl, a brunette, whose hair was in a French braid. She watched them in awe. When she went to wave at them, her outfit screaming pink and Sanrio, her shy, mousey friend grabbed her hand and brought it down, avoiding eye contact with the two popular girls. She whispered something in her friend’s ear and the girls scurried off. Out of sight, out of mind. Being part of the Hive wasn’t a good thing. Those that admire you just did and said what they thought you wanted. In this incident, one freshman didn’t want to be in the Hive’s orbit and the other freshman didn’t know better. The reality of the situation was all the bees under Naomi Davis were feared because she was feared.

No one really knew any of them and prior to Angel joining the circle, people just thought she was a walking crucifix. People never wanted to know her. The only friends she had were those she met online. Then the day came when she caught Levi in a sweet, wholesome scenario. He got embarrassed when he got caught working at the local children’s home. He didn’t like that someone from his class was now working side-by-side with him as a youth mentor. It was weird that he didn’t want people to know he did charitable work and that he cared about children but she wasn’t going to make a fuss out of it. He wasn’t the only one with secrets. And she wasn’t going to lie and say she didn’t hate the fact that her club had more than just her and a couple of quiet kids.

With Levi, Indy, and Tate in Faith Forward, maybe she would gain enough traction to shift its purpose to something more meaningful to her. She didn’t give up on it because there were students that actually looked up to her and ate up every word she said. If she wanted to, she could have her own little cult of lonely, desperate and lost students who just wanted to sit in a circle and talk about their struggles, hoping Jesus could absolve their sins or at least make life easier. She didn’t hate the empowering part of religion but whether her club was aware of it or not Angel was providing them resources and tools of the secular and the sacred, giving them philosophy and food for thought, so they could come to their own decision of what they wanted to believe or not. She didn’t hate religion, it gave most people a reason to live. She hated how people used it as a weapon. Originally, creating Faith Forward was for her parents’ sake, to show she is actively making an impression on her school and spreading the word to her peers, but it's turned into a fellowship that meets weekly to provide comfort and guidance to those that need it. In a way, Angel designed the club to feel like an AA meeting but for teenage struggles and family trauma. No one would know that though unless they attended a meeting. Whatever is said in Faith Forward, stays in Faith Forward.

“No need to thank me, I was an asshole,” Angel brusquely spoke, turning her head to look up at the girl beside her, fixing her gaze with the blonde’s serene stare. Something about the way Indy looked at her, the soul and color residing in her eyes, reminded Angel of the radiating brown sun, circled by rings of gold, in a clear autumn sky. “I liked what you were wearing,” She admitted. “It looked good.” That same dark, mysterious gaze that pierced the veil with a simple look trailed down Indy’s lithe form and stopped at her skirt. “But yeah, my skirt does look good on you,” she complimented, her usual sarcastic, cold and monotone voice now had a hint of playfulness, even if it was not easy to discern. “You’re welcome.” A tiny smile appeared on her face before she turned her attention to their walk, covered her mouth and yawned.

Was that… was that joy? Happiness? Something indicating a positive emotion present on the face of her friend? It appeared for only a second but it could have lived in Indy’s head for 1,000 years. Those rare moments when a pleasant visage was allowed to emerge, something that no one really got to see. For some reason, Indy was able to.

Maybe that was what attracted Indy to Angel in the first place? It didn’t make a lot of sense. For someone who had just been tuned into this burgeoning side of her sexuality a couple of months earlier in Sydney, identifying the head of the religious group inside the school as her potential target of affection seemed like a surefire way to not only undo the work that Kai had done on Bondi Beach, but also quash any chance she had of exploring those feelings any further.

That glimpse into those eyes though, dark brown windows into a soul that was set on one solemn path but dared to toe the line towards the woods. A face that glowed with the warmth of the sand on a picture-perfect summer day. And that smile, that perfect little smile, caught only for that brief second. Managing to burn through whatever walls were put in front of it for a cameo appearance. It had to be swiftly contained, its power was too great. When it escaped though, it was amazing.

It’s why Indy put herself in such positions to try and coax that smile out as much as possible. She was never a religious person. Her travels around the world left her convinced that no one religion had all the answers to the mysteries of the universe, and those that claimed they did were lying to make a quick buck for some corrupt asshole at the front of it. She had some ideas, but no pure belief. Joining Angel’s Faith Forward group was a massive leap of faith in that regard, putting herself at the mercy of Catholic dogma just for a shot at potential mental debauchery. She joined shortly after she arrived at BHHS, but when she attended, it didn’t have the feel of one of those sidewalk sermons where some wannabe preacher tries to convince you his path was the way of righteousness. It was more like a chance to vent, to discuss problems other people were having. In a way, it did make Indy feel blessed that her major problem was that she didn’t really know anybody. Well, aside from the other problem of not knowing if she was going to explore her other dating options or not. Angel answered a lot of the questions regarding that without even saying a word.

Apparently, her performance in Faith Forward along with her status as a varsity athlete was enough to put her on the radar of Naomi Davis. She didn’t know if it was Levi or Angel herself that fed the word to the Queen Bee, but to be a part of Angel’s circle outside of school in addition to inside? It was an offer that the surfer girl couldn’t refuse. Even if it meant enduring the verbal lashings like the one she took in the car today. Even if it meant she was, dare she say, a feared presence in the student body. While she could see the stares gaze downward and hear the hushed whispers on the side, it didn’t matter to Indy. It was worth it to have Angel stand by her, much like she did today. A true moment of practicing what you preach, sharing your possessions for the betterment of your fellow humans.

Plus for all the warning signs that told her there was no way a pious child like Angel Vazquez could ever be convinced to give in to the temptation of the fairer sex, stripping down in the back seat the way she did told Indy that there were always openings into that reality.

The fact that Angel called herself an asshole was another. That was not the language you heard in the mosques of Istanbul, the shrines of Kobe, or the chapels of Clearwater. Certainly outside the chapels of Clearwater.

The blush on Indy’s face was starting to spread a little bit as Angel spoke. She had a blunt way of talking that led to a little bit of difficulty telling when she was being sarcastic or not. That admission had no scent of sarcasm in it though. It was truth. Angel felt bad, and she actually liked the outfit. Indy demurred a little bit and brushed the side of her bangs behind her ear, showing off the faux-ruby stud that sat in the lobe. “Thank you,” she finally answered. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I moved here, it’s that I need to work with what I got, and my legs are my best feature. At least, according to Levi and Naomi. And your skirt is definitely helping with that.”

She paused for a second before sighing. “I still don’t know what I’m going to do for Homecoming though. I know it’s a big deal, but… I’ve never been big on the whole… dressing up kind of thing. I’m not a gown girl. Shoot, I’d rather just show up like this. I know Naomi would crucify me if I did that though.” She thought for a second about that imagery. “I mean, not literally, of course! But… still. A new dress is definitely going to eat into that car fund.” What little free time Indy had she did make available as a tutor, for a price of course, and she was hoping to get a car at some point before the “winter” came, but she didn’t feel like she was getting any closer to her own set of capable wheels and the ability to sit in the front seat on the ride to school for a change. Passing the license test already ate into those funds. The university money was coming into the family now, and her parents were coy on the subject of giving her some money for a car, but Indy wanted to earn her ride on her own terms. It was a joke that her nickname was short for Independent, or that she could send volleyballs flying at you that looked as imposing as the boulder that chased down Dr. Jones, rather than the South African slant on her initials. She never really felt it though until Bondi Beach. She wanted to spread her wings and figure things out in California. Who better to help with that than an Angel?

“I just want to be able to go to the beach again under my own power, and a fancy dress does not survive contact with the sands and the surf very often.”

“Who said it has to be a dress?” Angel countered, already pulling out her phone from the front pouch of her backpack and entering The Mermaid’s Closet in her search engine. Strolling onward, she explained, “Tomorrow they want us to dress like we’re invited to the red carpet but there isn’t anywhere that says it has to be a dress, nor will these drunk, rich kids know if it is out of season unless you’re the Triple Crown girls and who cares what they think.” The pretentious, privileged and pompous princesses that thought they were better than everyone else because their parents’ had a black card might have the looks and the name brands on the outside but they were completely shallow and empty on the inside. “One thing I’ve learned quickly with the crew is you wear the outfit, not the other way around.”

Deciding homeroom wasn’t worth rushing to, Angel gestured for Indy to follow her to the side, so that she didn’t have to walk and look at her phone, risking crashing into someone. Once she led them to a wall, she leaned up against it, and followed the pathway to the ‘sales’ section. She filtered colors and articles of clothing until she found something she thought would look phenomenal on her friend. Blue was definitely her color. “The Mermaid’s Closet closes at nine so we have time, sorta.” She paused, grumbling at her curfew which her friends knew was 8PM. “If I’m totally honest with you I could care less about the game so let’s skip it and go shopping.” She paused again and looked around, making sure no one was in ear shot, “I know Naomi said we SHOULD attend the pep rally and game but let’s be real, if you show up in a Macy’s dress she might disown you. What you wear is far more important than us watching boys in their peak, thinking a game will define who they are.”

Was she wrong?

“As Nomes said in the car, this place has a homecoming sale. All we’ll need is our school ID. Now if we focus on what is already on sale, prior to the extra 20 percent discount we get for being students, you can get this,” Angel suggested, handing her phone over to her friend and showing her what she discovered, before continuing her pitch, “It’s off the rack. It has been sitting there for over a year and is definitely not in season, but.” She dragged the screen down to show the price, “It’s dirt cheap and you’ll spend 30 bucks on a suit top and matching bottom. The only risk we have is it might not be your size but we will never know until we check it out. Now if you have a bustier or a lace bra, rock some heels, and add some silver jewelry, you’ll blow everyone away.”

Angel eased her hand over Indy’s, to grab her phone, her thumb brushing her palm. Her big, brown eyes glanced up as she did so, making sure they found Indy’s pretty blues. She pulled away. “I have a better suggestion though, if you want to hear it.” Once again Indy got a side of Angel that not many people did. There were three instances where Angel felt safe enough to talk freely and that was with her, in her Faith Forward meetings, and when she gamed. Indy didn’t know the last one but maybe in time she would. She was Angel’s best friend, after all.

There were so many thoughts running through Indy’s mind at the moment, and none of them were the ones that she thought were going to be in there not minutes ago.

First, there was the sale. Angel was right that she didn’t exactly have to wear a dress if she didn’t want to. Indy could never be accused of being the girliest girl in the world, but not wearing a dress to a big school event didn’t feel like an option. It clearly was though if Angel was giving it to her. And it looked sharp. While it didn’t show off her legs, it definitely emphasized other parts of her body that didn’t get enough attention when she was picking her wardrobe out. It was a bold statement of intent, that she not only wasn’t going to conform to the ideals of the old Homecoming, she was going to flaunt her choices. Her friend already knew how to accentuate it with just a glance as well. Indy shouldn’t have been surprised given how quickly Angel was able to make the skirt swap this morning, but it was still impressive.

This led to the second thought, Angel was clearly not as invested in anything she said she was before they became friends. Indy knew this. She made a big show in front of Mrs. Vazquez while praying that she didn’t watch The Handmaid’s Tale, but the more that she got to know Angel, the more she felt like there was something there that she actually had a chance at finding. Everyone knew the studious Christian girl who helmed the faith group, went home by 8 pm, and was in league with the Hive. No one knew about this sudden rebel who was suggesting ditching school events and the game to go shopping for high fashion at low prices, who dismissed the privileged of Beverly Hills both on and off the field, and who spoke with such a passion for the plan she was formulating in her head.

Except Indy. Somehow Indy knew. She was trusted enough in the eyes of this vision from Heaven to see inside, past that mask. It wasn’t quite an open book, but the vagabond was a few chapters into this page-turner, and she wanted to keep pressing on. The two were able to smile and laugh in close quarters. Not in front of Naomi or Levi or Lottie, who would tell everyone. It was their own little pact. Indy got the insight that Angel didn’t give others, the joy that she couldn’t give others.

…And the touch. Thought number three.

Indy had not been physical with anyone since arriving back in California. It was hard after Kai had opened up that world to her, but she persevered because she didn’t want to put her position with Angel, Naomi and the others in jeopardy. But the touch of that thumb on her palm gave her the same euphoria as hitting the Daily Double. As it brushed along her skin, she thought for a second this was the clasp of the hands that signified something more, but as Angel’s phone returned to its owner, Indy did her best to hide what that thought did to her. She was already blushing a little, and hopefully, Angel would think it was merely a reaction to the pretty outfit. But their eyes met again, and Indy wasn’t so sure she could hide it.

“Oh yeah?” she finally eked out. “I mean, you have been pretty much en fuego with your suggestions today, Angel. What do you have for me?”

“You’re in the Hive now,” Angel asserted, returning her phone to its designated place within her backpack. The smaller of the two zipped up the front pocket of her bag, always one to be careful and protective over her belongings, and adjusted the strap on her right shoulder. Shifting to face her friend, full body turn, she fixedly looked up at the girl with sunlit waves for hair. “I think it’s time for you to do a power move and wow our friends. Don’t you think?”

That was rhetorical.

The Latina took a step closer, to get a better look at her friend and size her up, just how she did in the car. The smell of Angel — sandalwood shampoo, perfume that was like an evergreen walk in the woods, and cocoa butter — breached Indy’s bubble, ever-present in the air. It mixed with the ocean fragrance of wood sage and sea salt that belonged to the easy on the eye, tall and lean beauty. Earth and water. That’s what described these two girls in a nutshell.

“Don’t wear anything under the blazer,” Evangely stated with complete certainty. “I’m just saying,” she insisted. “You’ll look hot as fuck with a gender-fluid aesthetic and if you really want to earn Naomi and Levi’s respect, I think that’s what you should do.” Lottie didn’t count. Indy knew, she knew. There wasn’t a lot going on in her head and Angel meant that with the utmost kindness. Their friend, as sweet as dulce de leche as she was, was a girl who thinks her nipples getting hard means it’s going to rain. She was a hype girl but her opinions were that of the Hive.

Naomi and Levi were so far away from Indy’s mind at the moment. With that idea espoused by Angel, the chances of hiding the blush on the blonde’s cheeks went from 10% to 0.10%. Just like that.

That was the lingering thought with the suit idea that crossed the blonde’s mind. Was it too much of a statement of intent? The outfit on its own certainly would put the queer thoughts that were occupied within her mind firmly into everyone else’s brains. Indy already had her come to Jesus moment when it came to being, if not a lesbian, definitely bisexual. It felt like the arrow was firmly on lesbian. She had hidden so much of it for fear of losing her chances of keeping Angel in her life.

Now her crush was boldface telling her to go bra and blazer to Homecoming.

Was this really happening? Were her dreams more of a reality than she thought? The comment from earlier came back to Indy. Angel had no interest in staring at a bunch of sweaty boys running around a field hugging each other if the other option was getting her friend a proper outfit. Was there more to that, or was it just an indictment of the possible entertainment? Indy understood the lack of passion. From what she saw, Aussie Rules was a much more exciting game than American football. Maybe it was just another thing her and Angel had in common. More than she thought.

Everything about the moment was telling her this was right. The smells coming from their combined presence were hammering in the sight before her. This dynamo in front of her, looking up to her and telling Indy to be… maybe what she couldn’t? To live the life, strut the stuff that her home life wouldn’t allow her to? Was Indy still at her parents’ place, dreaming this was really happening? She almost wanted Angel to step on her foot to confirm it was real.

“You know… I have this really nice silver bikini that I got in Sydney. If I wear the top to that, you think that would work with the blazer? Keep the teachers off my back and still be fire? The middle string will disappear in the right light.” She was not hiding anything at the moment. The filter was down. If she had her way, she wouldn’t even wear the blazer for Angel, but decorum demanded some level of modesty. Even if she thought she was reading into everything those YA novels told her this could be, there was still something in her mind telling her not to fall fully into this daydream.

“You girls know homeroom is almost over, yeah?” Their intimate moment was interrupted by a sultry, stripper-like, British voice. Mrs. Sydney Royce, cheer captain and health education teacher, nearly as tiny as Angel, appeared between the girls. Not too close to make them uncomfortable, but close enough so they knew they weren’t alone in the hallway. Her blonde curls were vibrant and untamed, her petite body was adorned with a cute, red bow dress, and even when she tried to hold herself with some kind of authority, she was easy going, harmonious, and playfully upbeat; a bright smile beaming from her face. It was hard to see this woman as a leading figure at this school. If anything, most students saw her as one of them (to her frustration). “I’m not gonna’ write you a slip but you should definitely get goin’ before one of the big dogs comes and sees you. Oh and maybe, I overheard a little, Nicola, you should do that. It would be like really amazeballs and I bet that look would make it to the yearbook.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Royce, I agree. She’d look great and, yeah, sorry, we lost track of time.” Angel admitted and apologized, not really thinking it was worth lying to their health teacher who usually let most of her students get away with murder. “We were just leaving actually.”

“Oh sure, sure.” Sydney chuckled, already having her own ideas of their interaction. “Before you skedaddle, Evangely, dear, you should try a black dress. I don’t know why but when I look at you I see you really workin’ in black. Absolute killer vibes. But oopsie! I’m getting distracted, you two better head on off before I’ll have no choice but to give you a ticket to detention.” She paused and grimaced when she said those last words. “Ew, I hate saying that,” the youthful teacher admitted, before shooing them away, “Now get goin’ please.”

“No worries, Mrs. Royce. We’ll check in with Belmonte immediately,” Indy confirmed. She very nearly called her Sydney, given how much she looks like one of Lottie’s co-captains instead of her coach. She held off though. “And thank you. If you’re chaperoning, I’ll try and make sure I strike the right pose for the Pirates’ Log.” She winked and started hustling herself and Angel towards Room 105.

As they departed, she kept her voice down while whispering. “Sydney’s right, you know.” That time she couldn’t help it. “You absolutely rock black like nobody’s business. If you see something at the Closet that you want to get and you know your mom won’t approve of it, I can hold onto your outfit for you and bring it so you can change into it at the dance. It’s the least I can do for all your help.”

“Okay,” Angel agreed while walking beside her friend, finally reaching their homeroom. She wasn’t afraid of trying a new outfit. If she could, she would have a whole new wardrobe that suited her and wasn’t what her mom wanted her to wear. It was just more effort than not to hide what she likes from her parents, especially right from under their nose. “You should pick my outfit out. I’d like to see what you think looks good on me.”

If she was dressing Indy, might as well let Indy dress her. It was only fair. Plus she trusted Indy, more than she’d ever know, and earning Angel’s trust wasn’t an easy feat. For the most part, Angel hated people. Indy wasn’t one of them.

Indy still thought she was dreaming, but if she was, she didn’t care to wake up. This was a world she could live in until zombie Jesus came back to Earth. Nothing else mattered. “Bet.”

Timestamp: 7:30am
Location: BHHS parking lot, near the skate park
Savannah "Payout" Payton, Everly Rigby & Nevaeh Morgan
Cameo: Mei Midnight & Jillian "Ashes" O'Brien
@NeoAJ, @Fabricant451 & Cameo work by @BrutalBx

There weren’t many things to be thankful for with a move halfway across the country, but one of the advantages was that the biological clock often took a while to adjust itself, and led to earlier wake-up times being easier to handle. It’s why ever since Savannah Payton arrived in her new stomping grounds of Beverly Hills she was able to get up for school at a time she could easily manage. It was still 8:30 am in Austin. Not that she didn’t loathe having to be productive so early, but when one doesn’t have the choice of determining when they wake up, among other things, it becomes tolerable.

By now her routine was pretty simple. With her mom preferring to sleep in, and Chris going off to the office bright and early to try and deal with the traffic, Savannah was left to her own devices to prepare for the day as she saw fit. Right now, that was harder to do than when she first arrived from Texas. Word had gotten out that when you wanted the good shit, be it marijuana, pills or alcohol, Savannah and the PLC always had the hookup. People put money into her pockets and got what they needed. She earned her Payout moniker in Texas, but it spread even quicker here. That meant the money was already coming in at a speedier rate than it did when she was working with Chapolita, and that suited her just fine.

She even had a vehicle to work with in California. While she wasn’t all that thrilled with the Sorrento her step-father decided to bestow upon her, it did have a lot of space. Both obvious and not so obvious. Anything she didn’t want to be seen easily got hidden in some of the hollow spaces of the Korean SUV. No one searching her car without a warrant was going to find anything. Savannah was certain of that.

It was a much quieter ride to school than usual. Of her assembled PLC regulars, only one wanted a lift today. Everly usually went to the school even earlier than Savvy did, intent on grinding the jumps at the park that served as their primary office. The skater girl was determined to nail tricks at a 100% rate, the kind of dedication Savannah respected in her right-hand woman. Ever since Miss Rigby joined the Crew, it was clear she was inspired to better herself in more ways just on the board. Whether that was her own self-realized action plan or Payout actually managed to have a positive influence on someone was not of her concern. The girl worked her butt off and it was appreciated.

The usual source of the noise in the back seat came from one of the most crucial members of the PLC, but Addie wasn’t on board either. The supplier of the best-selling product that Payout had to offer, the hypersonic Addie was always bursting with enough energy to power the Sorrento on a jaunt to Vegas and back. However, she was also absent from proceedings, with the only message sent to the PLC WhatsApp chat being “PANCAKES!!!” before she was unreachable. Every crew needed a livewire after all. Tesla was that member in Austin. Seemed like every time that girl wanted to do something, she’d put her foot down on the accelerator pedal and it would get stuck there. That was Addie here.

Which left the lone occupant of the backseat, the black sheep of Beverly Hills High. At least that’s what she’ll tell you. Nevaeh Morgan was well known for a fall from grace so spectacular the Russian judge had no choice but to give it a 10. The former cheerleader was a pariah following her brief stint in a juvenile correction facility. She was abandoned by her former plastic friends, excommunicated from her fellow drug runners, and left to drift along her remaining year and a half of high school. Right into Savannah’s arms.

Neveah was slow to open up to the Texan after Savannah spotted her skulking about the parking lot that June afternoon. Tough to miss a girl wandering around the California sunshine dressed in all black. However, once the shadow started to reveal bits of herself to the pink-blonde who didn’t shoo her away, what happened to her that left her such an outcast, Savvy couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. Another survivor of the “justice” system, only she had so much more to lose when it happened. It allowed for an empathy that was foreign to Savannah at the time, but now proved very useful. Just as Nevaeh would.

It was the Morgan girl who linked Savannah up with Addie, Nevaeh being well acquainted with ADD on the outskirts of the popular cliques. That gave Savannah an opening with the specialty strains the botanical genius was cooking up. It was that success that got the attention of the rival Stratton cartel to the point where she convinced Everly that there was a better path than tailing the twins, who already proved they couldn’t be trusted to watch your back. Nevaeh backed up Savannah with words rarely heard at the time, and rarely heard since. In essence, there is no PLC without the Strattons casting out this… surprisingly well-built goth girl. Maybe that's why they were so pissed off.

But Nevaeh still kept to herself for the most part, the gigantic black headphones latched onto her head like a protective vice to keep her placated with the latest episode of whatever podcast she was listening to, getting her through school, lifting sessions, 10-minute breaks at the Cheesecake Factory, whatever she needed. Her obsession for the past couple of months was Midnight Frequency, a serial podcast blending music and mystery out of Boston that adorned the tank top she wore underneath her jet-black cardigan, the same one that was wrapping up another episode as Savannah arrived at BHHS.

"And that was Pool Kids with That's Physics, Baby. I don't know about you Mei but I definitely vibe with that song more now than I did when I was actually taking Physics!

“Honestly I don’t even remember taking physics, pretty sure I was wasted most of senior year?”

“Completely understand given a lot of the shit that happened! But back to the matter at hand, I know we were talking about what exactly happened to Erika Miyashima all those years ago, but we still don't really know why she had that plastic wrapped around her fingers!"

“The mystery of Erika Miyashima has endured for a long ass time and will continue to do so until a pair of intrepid explorers with fat asses and bad attitudes solves the damn thing.”

"So we will be back to the cursed shores of Lake Eden at some point to see if we can't wash anything up from the depths, and if we don't, well the bad attitudes will be on display. That won't stop us though! You MFers know it won't!"

“Don’t forget to submit your own hometown mysteries to us! If we find them interesting enough, we might just come to your town, empty your best bar of its alcohol, fuck your wives, steal your daughters and look fine as all fuck doing it!”

"Send us something really tempting and we will shout you out on the podcast, just like Caitlin Dubinsky of Noblesville, Indiana, who got us to come to the Hoosier State to investigate the horrific story of the Tenth Street Bank fire! That got Caitlin a free 'Fine as Fuck' t-shirt, a 1 on 2 meet and greet at Syd’s Fine Food and Spirits, and something that only she knows! So if you want the same experience, find your best mysteries and get in touch with us! Ooh, especially if you're in the Los Angeles area and can get us there around late November! I heard Violet Orlandi is playing a secret show, and I want to get a certain someone VIP tix for our anniversary! I mean, that someone is definitely not Miss Midnight! Nope!"

“She is talking about me because I not only want to hear Violet sing but I also want to bring her to our bedroom to do unspeakable things but I digress. But seriously, submit your stories and we may just wind up at your door. Until then, my ghouls and gals, here’s some slow tracks to bring your mood to where it needs to be. I’m Mei Midnight, this is the burning girl herself Jill O’Brien, you’re listening to the Midnight Frequency and this is Sex & Violence by Pensacola Mist.”

It was easy for the goth girl to adhere to the dress code of the day, black being all she seemed to wear, but Savannah, rebel that she was, refused, sporting a blue crop under that bulky leather jacket that she was so reluctant to give up no matter the weather. Besides, it was October, it was technically getting colder. The ripped black leggings and dark combat boots were the only things that might have counted as showing some Pirates pride, but in reality, Savannah didn’t care. This was just a place she had to be in for another year. Then? Who knows?

The Sorrento pulled into the parking lot of BHHS and Savannah quickly spotted Everly’s board rolling up an incline, although Everly wasn’t on it at the moment. Was it another wipeout? She couldn’t tell. “Shit, let’s go see how busted up Ev is this time,” she commented, unsure if Nevaeh heard her over the synth-pop in her ears, but Payout hopped out of the vehicle, bag in tow, and the dark-haired Morgan girl followed.

As the Sorrento beeped closed and Payout approached the park, she finally shouted down, “Ev, you nail any of those tricks yet or are they just nailin’ your back?”

There was probably no other student at Beverly Hills High School who spent more time on her back than Everly Rigby. Even before the staff begrudgingly allowed for the construction of a mini skate-park rather than adding another extension for more parking spaces on school grounds, Everly was hitting her ass on the sidewalk, the asphalt, grass, even into a filled pool a few times. It came with the territory of being more comfortable on a board with four wheels than her own two feet. She could do simple tricks with the best of them, kickflips, ollies, board slides, but no one was ever truly interested in someone who could only do the basics and if Everly wanted to do anything with a skateboard…then she would have to deal with falling on her ass and getting back up. No one ever accomplished anything without working hard for it. Well, other than the elite kids of gajillionaires that went to school here. But the good thing about rich kids? They always needed what the PLC provided.

If Everly’s fiercely political parents knew that their daughter was, effectively, part of a drug empire, they would likely ship her off to the military to learn discipline or secretly hope she got killed or incarcerated for going AWOL, but Everly never sought out to get involved in the wild world of supplying and dealing illicit substances for students and the teachers who the PLC totally promised to keep secret - it just sorta happened. The Strattons just kind of adopted her when they saw her trying to break her own record for manualing. At the time, Everly needed three things: friends, a support system, and someone to help her step out of the closet publicly. The Strattons provided enough of the three to make Everly shrug and go along with them. It wasn’t until Savannah came around that Everly realized that the only one who thought she and the Strattons were friends was Everly. The PLC provided Everly with what she needed, and not just the pocket change from their little empire.

Everly was often one of the first ones at school in the mornings, not because she had morning sports practice or morning tutoring, she just didn’t want to hang out at home. She often didn’t sleep at home if she could avoid it and when she did, she entered her bedroom by climbing in through the window rather than risk the verbal berating that would happen if her parents saw her walking through the front door. But every morning, at least every weekday morning, Everly was at the parking lot skate park, wheels down, hair blowing in the wind, helmet only sometimes on her head. It didn’t matter if all she did before school hours was fail the same trick a hundred times, if she nailed it once then she was golden. For someone who was dangerously close to flunking out of high school, it was almost shocking how diligent and focused Everly could be with skating.

Today was, of course, no exception. Progress was slow but she was wiping out much less on the backward rotation this time. She was feeling good as she dropped in but the confidence faltered as she came down in an awkward landing on the first take off the ramp. Everly was on her back again, and it was only now that she was looking up at the sky that she noticed it was lighter now than it had been since the last time she bothered taking a break. How long had she been going? Had to at least be an hour and a half, maybe more. School would be starting soon but Everly would still be here. She wasn’t even following the theme of the day other than her jeans being black. Her shirt was a white t-shirt with a pink logo and her baseball cap was purple with the CR logo of the Colorado Rockies. School spirit was for people who would look back on high school as their peak and if Everly ever thought high school was the best part of her life then she’d probably hate herself more than she hated her parents.

The familiar voice of Savannah caused Everly to raise her left hand in a thumbs-up before she rose to a seated position. “You just missed it, dude. I got it twice this morning already. And I didn’t get it like forty times, but hey, I’m not bein’ graded on this so I only fail if I give up.” For the moment, Everly remained sitting but her attention was on her partners in crime. Her friends. And then she stood, brushing her pants with her hands and leaving the comfort of the skate park for the asphalt of the parking lot if only because it was uncool to make friends shout at each other so early in the morning.

“Shit, I’m not missin’ a business meeting or anything am I?” It wouldn’t have been the first time Everly was late for one of those. “Shit, Nev’s wired in again, huh? We gotta get her some AirPods or something. Anyway, what’sup, Sav? Adds didn’t come in with you?”

A laugh was the first thing out of Savannah’s lips as she heard Everly go off. Everly Rigby was never one to be concerned with marks or anything that wasn’t related to her own goals and ambitions. Once she was set free of the Strattons’ influence, it was clear she was more than happy to focus on what gave her fulfillment, and that was one of the things Savannah liked about her. Sure, when they initially met it may have only been on Nevaeh’s tip that Everly could offer a clearer picture of what the Toxic Twins were doing, but once she got to know the skateboarder, she saw more there. It was a refreshing change of pace after a month of watching Nev’s thoughts on the student body at large hold true.

“Nah, no meetin’,” Payout assured Ev. “Not ‘til after class. That’s when everyone’s gonna be lookin’ for that extra bit of school spirit ahead of the game. That’s what we gotta be ready for. Glad you’re hittin’ that five percent land rate on the trick though. You’ll get double that by the end of the week for sure.”

Savannah was also happy to see that Ev was embracing her own style and not dressed in red. That was one of the biggest things that annoyed her about this school. Everything was so cliquey, everyone had to be their own special specific thing, together as one. It sickened her. At least in the TCJCF, it was done out of survival. Maybe it was here, but the stakes were so far under what the other students here made it to be. That’s one of the things that she liked about her current crew. They crossed the various thresholds of the school. An outlaw, a skater, a goth and a brain. So close to a Lesbian Breakfast Club. Her mom loves that movie.

“I tried to get holda Addie, but ya know how that girl is. She is fuckin’ free-wheelin’ at all times. I think she got some breakfast? All she texted me was pancakes, so I dunno what that girl’s on. ‘N ya know I ain’t gettin’ Nev to ditch the cans. I told her before that she don’t need them giant things, but she wants the immersion.” Savannah turned around and pulled one of the cups off the black-haired girl’s head. “Hey Nev!”

The goth girl snapped out of her podcast-induced trance. “Hmmm?”

“Ya got anythin’ ta say to Ev before we check-in to class?”

Nevaeh thought for a second before finally uttering. “Not really. Hi Ev. Skateboarding looks good. Maybe we can have another lesson.”

Savannah shook her head and put the headphone back down. The Texan had no idea what Nevaeh was really like before Savannah arrived, but if reports were any indication, she would have been far more excited for today’s game. Also, she would be saying more than 12 words in a conversation. The Twitter handle and the few pictures that escaped deletion bore out that she once was a cheerleader, but now? Cheerbleeder was more accurate. She still wanted to be in class though, worried that any marks against her that were blatantly obvious would result in another lock-up. It made sense to Sav. Couldn’t make any money if you weren’t there to let the people know what they had. Still, it would be nice if she could get some talking out of Nevaeh that didn’t make her feel like Miss Morgan was operating on a character count.

“Anyway, just checkin’ in witcha. You know I like to keep you up to date on everythin’, so we’ll just meet back here after class ‘n start gettin’ the word out to our usual sources that we are open. I’d like to sell everythin’ before this big shindig I hear is in the works on the weekend.”

There was a big party over the weekend? Of course there was. There were parties all the time, it was exhausting how often rich kids liked to get together and party, though fortunately the big ones were often focused on big events: holidays, school events, the birthday parties of the crusted gunk in the grooves of a shoe that were the Hive Five and the Elite. Typical enough. As far as Everly knew, the only thing happening this weekend was the Homecoming dance. "Shit.” The Homecoming dance. Everly didn’t have a ticket but she also didn’t have a date and there was absolutely no way that she could ask Her to go; Everly was pretty sure that She already had a date, probably had one before tickets were even on sale. Was this the kind of shit Everly missed out on by ditching class?

"Wait, what party?” Though her thoughts were still on the fact that she once again missed out on a chance to tell Her how she felt, Everly was chill enough to focus on the important thing. A party. She didn’t know if she was invited but that hadn’t stopped her before. "We’re gonna wanna hold a sale or something. Fancy parties means some of these dudes are gonna want more than just dimes and nickels. I’m seein’ green in our future. Not, like, you know, weed but, like, cash. Cash green. You get it.” Business was potentially good on a day like this. Sure, people could go to a store but the PLC prided themselves on quality as well as quantity, not to mention convenience which could not be understated.

"On an unrelated note, and feel free to answer too if you want, Nev, but you thinkin’ of going to Homecoming? I know it’s kinda lame, it’s a school dance and all, but I mean..” Everly shrugged. She had no idea where her train of thought was going when she started and the destination remained cloudy even as she spoke. "So…anyway…big day for us today, then.”

Savannah looked at Everly for a second. The Homecoming dance was the furthest thing from her mind at the moment. Too many teachers there who didn’t know what was happening on the side. Too many snobs among the revelers who liked to stick their noses in where they didn’t belong. There wasn’t a lot attracting her to that sort of thing. There was no money to be made.

But if it meant something to Everly… it had to, otherwise she wouldn’t be asking. Savannah tried to think about what it really could be. If she thought about anything other than the business for one second… It was tough to do that. The business succeeding meant survival, and survival was the name of the game back in Texas. Here, there wasn’t a dogfight just to get through every day. Could it mean she could take the time to just try and do something for the sake of doing it?

That still sounded kinda sappy in her mind.

“I dunno, Ev. I mean, I’ve never been one for all the fancy dos and such. I always end up stickin’ out like a sore thumb. Between the height ‘n the hair and all? It’s why I didn’t end up goin’ to prom last year either. Not much point in me showin’ up for only two months of bein’ here.” She looked over at the still-silent partner and lifted up the cup again. “What’cha reckon, Nev? You want to go to the Homecomin’ dance?”

Nevaeh thought for a second before sliding the rest of the headphones off her head. “If you had asked me six months ago, I would have said no. I didn’t go to prom either.”

“I remember. Think I found ya skulkin’ around the setup for that blowfest. That’s when we got ta talkin’ about things.”

“Right, so I wouldn’t have gone then. But now? Things are going well. We should have a night to enjoy ourselves. I still have some sleeveless dresses I would fit into. I would go.”

Savannah was a bit stunned by this admission from the excommunicated cheerleader. “Really? Shit, I thought at least you would be a dissentin’ vote. ‘N I know Addie by now, if she were here, she’d be sayin’ something like ‘Addie goes where she pleases, and everywhere needs Addie, so that means Addie is goin’ to Homecomin’!’ Or somethin’ like that.” She looks down and shakes her head before turning back to Everly. “I guess I can’t leave y’all to go without me. Fine, I’d do it if all the PLC is goin’.”

“Hey, look at the bright side. If it sucks we can just bail and go do something fun.” Everly wasn’t showing excitement, but internally she was happy; sure it meant having to raid her mom’s closet for something and yeah the music would probably be lame and the majority of the people even lamer…but the PLC would take a hell of a Homecoming photo…and maybe, just maybe, there was a chance that Everly could score a slow dance with Her. The window of opportunity to do something about the unbearable weight of having a crush so out of reach that She might as well have been on fucking Jupiter was closing by the day and the only thing worse to Everly than getting rejected was not doing anything about it at all. Why could Everly wipe out on a skateboard and get back up a thousand times but the idea of asking a certain girl to dance seemed like the most impossible task in the world?

“I’ll text Adds and tell her we’re goin’. And to have her tell Belmonte that I attended.” Everly was, of course, not going to go to homeroom. It was senior year, who wanted to be bogged down in going to class? “You two headin’ to class? Nerds.” Sometimes, Everly’s comments made her giggle. This was one of those times. “Save me a seat at lunch, though, yeah?”

“Yeah, but you know my idea of fun don’t involve bein’ in a dress, Ev,” Payout confirmed. “But fine. And yeah, Nev don’t need the absences, and honestly, neither do I. When you ain’t showin’, that’s when questions get asked. Least people here know where you are. But yeah, see ya out here for lunch, amiga.” She snapped her fingers at her homeroom classmate. “All right, Nev, let’s go make appearances. And thanks again for havin’ my back on that topic.”

Nevaeh smiled, those black lips standing out on her face even with the tanned skin around it. “You’re welcome, Sav.” Her headphones slid back on over her ears and she followed Payout as the two made their way to class, leaving Everly alone with her dreams of a 15% hit rate on that new trick.

TIMESTAMP: Early Morning
Driving to school



@NeoAJ @Fabricant451 @smarty0114 @Aewin @LovelyComplex

Homecoming is a funny word to those who never lived long enough in a place to truly call somewhere home. There’s not a chance to build any meaningful connection to the location beforehand, so there’s not a tearful goodbye to all the memories that were made. They are just another blip in the winding road that continues to unfold before someone on the cusp of adulthood.

And yet here Indy Adams was, forgoing her usual preferred colors of blue, green, and white, and donning the red and black that was asked of all the BHHS students ahead of their homecoming game and dance.

Naomi Davis was insistent that Indy had to comply with the color scheme, even if her options were limited. The dyed blonde managed to find a couple of things that worked together. A red tank top and light black bomber jacket gave her both school spirit options on the top half of her body. However, they had to cover the blushes of the denim shorts below, her tanned legs sculpted by the last year of running on the beach, surfing the waves and jumping for spikes also showing a little bit of red on the exposed skin. Indy didn’t have any black pairs of shorts, something that certainly would draw another trip to the Mermaid’s Closet on the Queen's orders to rectify that fact. The black onyx necklace swayed slightly with the turns, breaking up the solid crimson on her torso. It wasn’t one of her best outfits, but it was good enough to get her into Naomi’s car that morning and make sure that she didn’t have to take an Uber to school.

Indy was behind the passenger seat, the front seat in the clique’s ride already occupied as it usually was by the Hive’s second-in-command Levi Green-Locke. Lottie Quinn was in the back with her, offering a potential buffer to the last member of the crew to be given a lift this morning. Indy was still a bit unfamiliar with some of the sights along the route taken to school. In the ten months since she arrived back in California from Australia, she had plenty of time to memorize the vegan donut shops and hypodermic spas along the way, and yet they kept changing names and types as fast as she could get them down in her head. Nothing was permanent here. Even the Hive, as ironclad as it seemed, had an expiration date. Somehow she was along for the ride, literally in this case, but she knew something was going to break it apart.

That was a thought for another day. Indy shook her head a little bit. Her grey eyes scanned around the neighborhood, trying not to focus on those terminal feelings. Clearly, she needed some more time on the beach than she had been getting.

“So, since this is my first actual homecoming event, what is it all about?” Indy asked, trying to get some clarity on what exactly her role was going to be. “Is it all just an excuse to get people riled up in the autumn? Or is there some sort of deeper significance that I’m not aware of yet?”

Levi turned to face Indy, smiling like he’d just heard the funniest joke in the world. His outfit was on theme as well (duh du jour); dark red shirt, top two buttons undone, and black, tailored pants, cuffed at the ankle. “You’re cute. The deeper significance is remembering the Pirates who came before us. That, and getting everybody riled up in the middle of autumn.” He turned back to face the winding roads of Angel’s suburbs. “Everybody else gets to watch Naomi and I win homecoming court, and then we all get to watch the serfs get sloppy drunk. I wish I could take credit for it, honestly. Pure American genius, that one.”

Indy dropped a chuckle at Levi’s summation but there was a hint of nervousness behind it. Between Naomi’s desire for a spotless crew and the currently absent Angel’s pious nature, the alcohol culture she had embraced during her time Down Under had no chance to flourish on the Puritan American shores. It had been nine months since she had really cut loose and joined the masses in drunken reveling, but the pleasure of the punch had to be sacrificed to maintain her current position. This was the last chance for her to have anything resembling a high-school social life. Even if she was surprised Naomi had summoned her to be part of one of the most popular cliques in the school, she didn’t want to throw it away to be left hanging with the stoners and washouts in the parking lot. She nodded at Levi’s assessment. “Yup, that tracks with what I know.”

Lottie shifted in the backseat, smoothing down the red and black plaid skirt that she had chosen for the day. Despite Naomi's insistence on following the school colors, she had managed to bend the school rules ever so slightly by pairing the skirt with a tight, semi-sheer black turtleneck that clung to her figure. Over it was a cropped red blazer that narrowly avoided getting her dress-coded for said semi-sheer turtleneck. Her black knee-high boots with a stiletto heel completed the look, giving her a few extra inches of height.

Tossing her brown curls over one shoulder, she let out a soft giggle at Levi's response to Indy. "Hehe, he's not wrong! Homecoming is like, THE biggest event of the year at Beverly Hills High." Her grey-blue eyes sparkled with excitement and she leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. "There's the big game of course, where we get to watch the boys kick some *serious* butt on the field."

She paused, pursing her glossy lips as she thought. "But the best part is definitely the dance afterwards. Everyone gets soo dressed up and we get to party all night long!" Lottie clasped her hands together, practically bouncing in her seat from the excitement of it all. It was likely thanks to the two caramel macchiatos she'd had since waking up. "Oh, and they always go all out decorating the gym too. Last year's theme was like, 'A Night in Paris' or something. They had this gorgeous Eiffel Tower set up and everything."

It wasn’t always the responsibility of Naomi Davis to drive herself and her most loyal subjects - dubbed the Hive Five, a name Naomi didn’t outright dislike but would be hard-pressed to say she loved - in fact, they often took turns so the ones with a car didn’t always have to act as chauffeur. Except, of course, when Lottie’s turn came up. Whenever Lottie was scheduled to be the driver, they always managed to convince her that, no, actually she didn’t have to be the one behind the wheel. A little white lie between friends never hurt when the alternative was having to endure a road trip where Lottie winds up on I-10 heading east and having to quickly turn back around before they wound up in Los Angeles for a day. The only constant with the carpool situation was that if Naomi wasn’t driving, then she was in the passenger seat. This was the rule, as consistent as gravity.

Even when Naomi wasn’t the one driving, she always had control of the music in the car and while she…entertained requests, it was never any surprise what was frequently playing from the speakers. Today was no different, though Naomi was kind enough to turn the current song to a reasonable volume so conversations could be heard, but from the way she was slowly grooving her head back, forth, side to side, it was clear that she was hardly interested in engaging in conversation while the song was playing.

Homecoming Week was vital for the Hive Five; it was important for Naomi that the five of them set a strong example when it came to school spirit for the week. That, of course, meant following the theme of each day to the letter. If that meant having to look like Annie fucking Oakley for a day, then that’s what they did. Yesterday had been Hippie Day and Naomi managed to make an outfit that looked as if Sharon Tate (or Margot Robbie’s take on her) had a fashion child with Foxxy Cleopatra, afro and all. Today was a bit more subdued in theme, school colors, and Naomi looked as if she was going to a Riot Grrl concert after school. Black leather jacket under which was a black halter neck crop top to offer the rubes just the barest hint of her navel, a plaid black and red miniskirt like she was a Catholic school girl gone bad, and sheer leggings because Naomi knew that her legs were money makers and deserved as much focus as possible. Her father had said the jacket made her look like, quote, “someone who listens to Melissa Etheridge” and when Naomi didn’t know who that was, the clarification was a four-letter word and Naomi got the message loud and clear.

She put it on when she got to the car, out of sight of her father.

The song came to an end as Naomi continued along the suburban route towards the fifth member of the Hive’s home. She checked the rearview mirror, ostensibly because it was safe driving to regularly check, but also to subtly click her mouth at Indy’s denim shorts. Sure, the upper half was fine and she didn’t forbid Indy from getting in the car, but such a faux pas during Homecoming Week was going to be remembered, by Naomi if no one else. "You’re probably wondering what makes Homecoming more important than prom.” Naomi, of course, had no way of knowing what Indy was thinking - probably something about kangaroos or koalas - but what mattered is she had asked a question and was getting a proper education on Beverly Hills High School. "Prom is a big event, sure, but it’s only for juniors, seniors, and the odd underclassmen the weird students invite. But Homecoming is for the entire school and even alumni. The football game, the dance, the afterparty, it’s all very…vital to the social heartbeat that is our school. If you don’t go to the Homecoming Dance, you’re nobody. Even if you show up dateless, show up.” That wasn’t a suggestion. Not that anyone in the Hive ever had problems getting dates. Getting them to last was another question entirely.

"Which reminds me, Indy,” Though Naomi was speaking directly to Indy, her eyes were on the road as she inched the car ever closer to its destination, "I hope you’ll show up to the dance with a little more…enthusiasm in your wardrobe. Mermaid’s Closet is having a Homecoming sale for a reason. Just in case you were unaware.” As the car rolled to a stop, so too did the next song on Naomi’s playlist start to play as they waited for Angel.

“Shit…” That was going to be a whole other trip and a whole other dent in the bank account. Indy was never going to join the ranks of the car-owning Hive members if she kept handing over all her cash to the Closet. There was no way she was going to be able to wear last year’s prom outfit. Naomi would spot it in a second. There would be time, she supposed, in between the final bell and the game. Even if she didn’t have to be at the game itself, wondering why they kept stopping play all the time. Aussie Rules Football just had so much more action than American football, and they were more supportive of the women’s leagues too. The athlete in her appreciated that. Still, what was she going to find that was on theme for the dance? Shauna knew what the theme was, she had to. She was an alumnus. She’d have something set aside. It was going to be a pain in the ass keeping everything in her locker though.

“Of course, Naomi! I’ll be stunning!” Indy lied. “I mean, it’s one of the biggest dances of the year, like you said. I won’t let the Hive down. I just wanted to keep my options open in case someone proved themselves worthy of being my date! But, no one has, so c’est la vie.”

Turning her attention back to Indy in the backseat, Lottie playfully nudged her friend's shoulder. "Psh, don't worry about finding a date, Inds!" she reassured with a dismissive wave of her perfectly manicured hand. Her nails were painted a deep crimson red to match the school colors. "It's like, way more fun to go stag anyway. Then you can flirt with all the cute guys without being tied down!"

With her words of wisdom imparted on the floundering Floridian (ha, get it?!), Lottie resumed trying to figure out what the hell she was listening to. It was some kind of... jazz? The guy was crooning too much. She didn't know. Just sounded not so vibey for her, Lottie’s choice of tracks being closer to 00’s pop, but she would rather talk to Mo dressed as a disaster than ever telling Naomi Davis that she did not like her music choices.

Meanwhile, in the suburban cookie-cutter house the sedan had parked in front of, finishing her oatmeal, Evangely Vázquez dully stared ahead at the shelf of assortment prayer candles. They say the light of a candle represents the Christ who is the Light of the World. Prayers were requests for help, guidance or peace from God. It gave those who had faith belief that someone was listening but really, more often than not, prayers were never answered. They were achieved by your own work and efforts, and the righteous gave credit to God, because it was all in His plan. They believed and so it must be true, that the job they got, that the house they bought, that the break up they healed from, was all because they surrendered to God. He told them because of Him, the right doors would open at the right time, at the right place, when they needed it the most. All in which was part of His divine plan.

Her mother would say it is a great tower of strength, and when we pray, we grasp a force that can move mountains and save souls. Her mother would pray to their heavenly Father for serenity so she can let go of the things she cannot change, and gain the courage, the conviction, and the constancy to change that which she could. Her mother would say her father, who should be filled with guilt and remorse for committing adultery and washing his sins away with a bottle of top-shelf scotch, has been spared from all of that. They have been spared from all that because they were chosen. They were saved. Hell on Earth is only part of the journey that leads to crucial moments that bring them closer to their Savior. To their Lord. To Jesus Christ. God the Almighty.

You know what Angel would say to all that? That this was all horseshit and that the bible was the biggest con-artist that ever existed. The Bible, and Catholicism in general, tries to guilt you over trivial things, like lying or having sex, and blames you for your failure and that without belief you’re a fool. Without a cloud of judgment, without the fear of her tyrannical mother and narcissistic father, without the fear of being looked at wrongly for disagreeing, it was painfully obvious to see how impressionable religion could be, convincing the masses that if they trusted the Lord they would overcome sin.

Sighing heavily to herself, Angel grabbed her bowl and went straight to wash it and put it up in the dish rack. It was then when she heard a familiar honk. Once she was done wiping her hands with a small towel, she grabbed her brown leather backpack, threw it over her shoulder and shuffled to the door. As she slipped on her black loafers, her mother, still in her bathrobe, came marching downstairs. She turned around knowing exactly what to expect.

Silently, her mother, Maritza, examined her child, crossing her arms and hovering over her. Angel was incredibly short to most people, including her mother, who loved to assert her authority. Stoutly, Mari inquired, “I don’t like those friends of yours… they either dress whorish or homeless but that’s neither here nor there. When will you go back to taking the bus?”

“Right now it’s quicker to get to school with them and you’ve met them all, they are good people,” Angel replied with a monotone cadence, adjusting her straps.

“They are fake people. My friends tell me they don’t go to church, which means they lie to my face,” Mari complained, gritting her teeth in annoyance. She wasn’t dumb and she could tell there was nothing pure about the group of teens waiting outside.

Angel didn’t raise her voice. She didn’t talk back and she didn’t correct. All she did was tell her mother a half-truth to ease her troubled soul. The Hive Five weren’t religious. In that aspect, her mother was right, but as far as her mother was concerned, Angel had spread her ministry and converted even the most sinful souls. That should be enough to shut her up, for now. “Whether that’s true or not, it’s my job to bring the Word to everyone right? I’m doing just that and like I said before, they’re good people and want to embrace… perfection.” She opened the door from behind and gave her mom a small smile, “Trust me, they’re worth saving. Now.” Angel stepped back onto the front porch. “It’s almost time for you to get ready for work, I’ll see you tonight.”

“Not too late. Come home straight after the game,” her mother commanded. In response, Angel nodded and turned away from the woman of the house. She took in the morning, leaving her problems behind, breathing in the breeze and soaking up the sun. While her smile fell, Angel wasn’t one to smile often, her brown eyes glistened and every morning, whenever she stepped out of her house, she felt the one thing she desired the most. Freedom. With a delicate and graceful hand, she waved at her friends. One thing she knew for certain was her outfit was nightmarish and she knew she was going to get grilled.

As Angel stepped out from beyond the door, Indy had a front-row view and laid the first eyes on the outfit the Faith Forward leader had chosen for today. It was, as expected, extremely conservative given the family but it couldn’t hide those eyes, the first thing the world traveler remembered seeing when she first met Miss Vazquez in her homeroom class. Contrasting her silver pools, those deep brown eyes looked like caverns one could get lost in, and Indy was willing to not be found. However, she quickly learned the extracurricular activities that Angel participated in and the prospect of expanding on what she had experienced with Kai on the Bondi Beach sands was indeed as dim as those eyes were right now.

The outfit did give Indy hope that her faux pas with the deep navy denim shorts would be spared, but a new problem emerged. When Levi got hold of the family’s Bentley, seating wasn’t usually an issue. But Naomi’s sedan meant someone had to sit in the middle of the back seat. Being the tallest at 5’7”, Indy wasn’t an option, and Lottie was in her own world at the moment, so Angel, the smallest member of the Hive Five, usually got the role. For some reason, today it seemed more daunting than usual to have the girl Indy may or may not have a crush on, and who may or may not be the main reason she accepted Naomi’s offer to join the Hive, right next to her. But Naomi would suspect something if Lottie was forced into the middle. Anything that could potentially make the Hive tardy, especially on Homecoming Day, would not be acceptable.

“Shit. Well if God isn’t going to help me out of this, Allah, Buddha, Vishnu, one of you better pick up the slack here.”

Without Naomi needing to say a word, Indy returned the wave, unbuckled and hopped out of the back seat, keeping the door open for the arriving Angel. She could spot the mother Vazquez watching from the doorstep and knew that she had to play up the good Christian girl angle at the moment. Luckily given her time in Florida she had some practice. “Good morning, Angel,” the blonde offered. “What a glorious day the Lord has given us. Blessed be the fruit.”

“Good morning, Indy,” Angel locked her gaze with her friend, briefly, as if she was peering into her soul. She rolled her eyes in response. It wasn’t like her mother could hear them, but sure, why not. She could play her part. “God is good,” she asserted. “God is great.” Behind her tone was dry sarcasm and whether her friends knew it or not, most of the things Angel said about God were not said with conviction but as a joke.

For a moment, Angel’s stare did travel downward to the blue denim shorts and Indy’s long, smooth and tanned legs. She did think of a compliment that could make her friend feel good. Not many people could pull off short shorts like Indy did and not many girls could make sporty look hot, but Indy obviously could. That was part of why Naomi adopted her. She had potential. Making someone into your likeness, just how people tried to live life in the likeness of God, all started with potential.

Indy was a lost soul who was given a chance to join the fold and be like Naomi. She was beautiful and had a body the Hive could work with. Most importantly though? She wasn’t too involved with the school, which meant they could groom her properly. Train her to be a proper bee and fly high toward the heavens, with the best of the best. Crème de la crème. This was Indy’s chance to prove she wasn’t a coward and could kick it with the cool kids, dressed in class, never bothered and never harassed. As long as she did what she was told, she’d be able to escape the thunderdome. If it wasn’t for Levi, Angel wouldn’t be here but she wasn’t going to put a target on her back, so she’d play along. Pretending was the one skill she’s become the master at.

“That’s blue,” Angel curtly pointed out and slipped around her friend, nestling herself in the backseat between her and Lottie. “You don’t own any black bottoms?”

“Fuck, even Angel’s going to give me hell for the shorts? She’s dressed like a 50s librarian!”

Indy wanted to say that colors were dumb, that people should just be able to wear what they were most comfortable in, but that was certain to get her sent packing from the Hive. Naomi was very clear that coordination was an important part of what they did for the school. The fact that Indy couldn’t find any black shorts this morning nearly made her blow a gasket, but her mom didn’t have any either and she weighed what was worse in her mind: showing up with the deep blue shorts, or showing up in Walmart shorts. She made her choice, and now even her crush was making her pay for it.

Instead, she blushed and demured as she sat back down behind Levi and buckled back in. “I think my black shorts got lost in the move over from Australia,” she offered as a weak excuse. “I thought for sure I had a pair, but I couldn’t find them, and I didn’t want to wear pants with the bomber jacket, so I thought since I wore the light blue denim for Wild West day, it would be OK if I did this today, and I’m wrong, and I’m the worst, and I’m sorry.”

Levi shot a knowing glance towards Naomi, before glancing back to his reflection in the passenger side mirror. “Don’t be sorry, be better. It’s kind of the entire point of the color coordination.” He moved a stray strand of hair into place, always preoccupied with perfection. “It’s whatever, you’ll just take the picture we post at the end of the day.”

"We’re all aware that Indy’s shorts are unacceptable.” Naomi could have let it continue and part of her wanted to. People that were made an example of always learned how to avoid such a thing in the future; Indy may have been in the Hive but before they were Five, they were two: Naomi and Levi. Just because you were in the Hive didn’t guarantee you’d be there come graduation. Hell, come next week. But Naomi was nothing if not understanding; Indy had a strike on her record. Everyone got one. They rarely got two, let alone three. "But she’s going to make up for it, isn’t she.” It was clear in Naomi’s tone, her calm but cold, calculated tone as sharp as a chef’s knife, that she wasn’t asking a question. "Levi is right. When it comes to the group photo, Indy will just be on the end, from the waist up.”

"Angel, your effort is appreciated. If you need some pins to make yourself look less like someone from the Church of Latter Day Saints, speak up.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Angel voiced. “Don’t know if Indy is going to fit a small but… I have another skirt in my bag.” She paused and shrugged to herself, coming to a decision rather quickly, “I guess we won’t know until she tries it on.” And with that, Angel took her black plaid skirt out of her bag, placed her bag on the oblivious Lottie’s lap and started undressing her skirt, revealing her cheeky, silk white underwear. Unceremoniously, she tossed her skirt at Indy. “Try that on.”

Indy was stunned for a moment. Sharing clothes with Angel? It seemed like something she would do in a dream world where her crush didn't get her fashion tips from Mormon missionary catalogs. Granted her top was better suited to make the skirt work than the drab blouse her Hivemate had, but there wasn’t much time to think about that as Miss Vazquez quickly revealed where the virginal white was hiding in today’s outfit. “Uhhhh, right, yes…”

She unbuckled the shorts and slid them down, the sea green bikini cut now on display for the clique. It took every ounce of restraint she had built up in California to avoid getting more than a peek at Angel’s bare legs, like avoiding staring at an eclipse. She was liable to burn more than her retinas if she kept it up. Unzipping the skirt and sliding it over the flats and up her legs, the small size definitely wasn’t making it easy, but it ended up sitting just below where her shorts were on her thighs. “It’s going to be more like a mini skirt on me, but it will work. I have some Spanx in my locker I can wear underneath, so… are we good? Do I get to be in the picture again?”

Lottie watched with rapt attention as Angel revealed her white silk underwear, trying not to stare too obviously. She couldn't help feeling a twinge of envy at the other girl's lithe figure and the effortless way she carried herself, but that was a can of worms Lottie would not dare open in the vipers’ nest.

As Indy slid the black skirt up her long, tanned legs, Lottie let out an appreciative hum. "Mmm, looking good, Inds!" she purred, giving her friend an exaggerated wink. Her grey-blue eyes lingered a moment too long on the exposed skin above Indy's knees before snapping back up to meet her gaze. "That skirt is so cute on you, babe. It's giving, like, sexy school girl. No spanx. Embrace your inner slutty Britney!"

Lottie pulled out her phone once Indy and Angel were both appropriately dressed again, switching to Instagram to record a short story heralding the arrival of the Hive. "It’s Hive-o-clock bitches!! Let’s blow a kiss and serve some lewks~!" Lottie panned the camera around the car, recording regardless if her Honeys planned on indulging her or not. Not a problem—they were hot, they were (now) coordinating. They were ready to blow some Bevvy Hills minds.

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