Okay, so I fail. At the end of the last chapter I probably should have written "the next words" because, seriously, the words he says are nothing special. Oops?
So here's the thing. Things are pretty shitty at the moment. I'm not doing so well and my life is all sorts of sucking at the moment. Hard. Africa is sucking out what's left of my soul, Tuesday is a dick (so get your fucking ass back here, you jerk. I miss you.) and childen. Are. The. Devil. And I'm stressing out to the max about a whole heap of other stressful shit, so, as you can imagine writing isn't going too well. So a thousand apologies for this chapter. Nowhere near the best. Or even acceptable, but meh.
So, anyway, there is only one chapter left after this, and possibly an epilogue, but chances are the next one will be split in two. So two chapters, mebbe. Murr.
sesshi-butt: Ah, nothing like a good love/hate relationship. I don't advise you to kill people. Makes you look mean. Sorry about your relationship with Nadia, or lack of. Love's a bitch sometimes. I can pretty much guarantee there will be no fucking in this story. Sorry.
Fortemis: And we believed you too D: (Fountains are pretty comfortable though)
blue spaghetti socks: For the first three times I typed your name I kept typing "rocks" instead of socks. I fail! But thanks – that was pretty much what I was aiming for. Hopefully your day will be extra sparkly now? And you're most welcome :) Thank you for taking the time to tell me all of that, and of course for reading it in the first place. Tuesday and I always alright, thanks for asking.
Gold-Saiyaness: Aw, thanks! And thanks for reviewing.
The Crazy Freak: Too long, unfortunately. Ez is right – you kids and your wacky reading schedules! Gotta say, you're probably the first person to be dreaming about it :P And I'll always read reviews, regardless of how long they are. Hell, I thrive on them. So thanks! But no need to bow ;)
Ebony Waters: If only it was that easy! But then there wouldn't be a story.
bobthebuilder6: Aw, well thanks for reviewing then. Eh, to everyone that raids my account. I can't even imagine what it would have been like if it had been Jon/Seth. Craziness, most likely!
womo: Never heard of that anime, but then again I don't watch a lot of it. Or any of it, really. But can see the similarities. Relationship with ex is on very good grounds, considering he's not really my ex. Thanks – I'll need it.
LittleMissAiLy: To answer your question about Africa – I have this idiot, idiot boyfriend who's devoted himself to saving it. It won't impair the progress at all, really, because fuck knows I take the same ridiculous amount of time to update no matter where I am living.
Freya: Well I'm glad they told you to then!
Initially Loaded: Exactly the reaction I aim for ;) It's actually a pretty popular phrase; I hear/read it everywhere. It is based on real life, in a way. It's based very loosely on a friend's life, and Tuesday is based on a real person as well :) Hope the Art exam went well.
this requires pants: I think he says it about eighty-two times in this chapter, if I counted right. I can't even imagine Seth having sex. That's just scarring. Let's trade cats! Yours seems way nicer than Tuesday's evil thing.
Every Dog Has Its Day: Whoa, twelve hours straight? Not healthy. But glad you love it so much. And yeah, Seth is ridiculously easy to hate. Lord knows I do. Heh, hard time is an understatement. But thanks.
Valued Opinion: One chapter left. Thanks for the review :)
General Disarray: Because it makes everything so much more fun ;) In my defense that was my first cliffhanger. I think. Then again there are people who would claim every chapter is a cliffhanger, so eh! Glad you reviewed. I've met so many awesome people through it, so yep, you're right.
Kitty-Cat-Kauri: I think it's lessened too, now that I think about it. I think there's definitely less stuttering in this chapter. Or probably more D: Tuesday was called that because he was apparently concieved on a Tuesday. That, and his mother has a cruel sense of humour.
art monkey: I'm the complete opposite – I hate how it's formatted. It just looks way too spread out for me. There's like a break after every damn line. You're probably confusing me with Ez, because I'm not quirky at all xD Oh, dial-up. Those were the days. Good luck with your graphic designer dreams!
Liviana: Tell. Me. About. It. D:.
Clarisse: Eh, forgiven. Love to you too?
animebuddy: But... how is it rusty if it's plastic?
hairy-mushroom-nose: It wasn't that many months! Sorta. Don't blow off your lessons! I promise you they do exist; I just don't want to post them until the story's finished.
Electric Colours: Smile away ;)
Sumrie Cherise: You want African coffee? Why? Sorry for keeping you up so long :P
Dinasaur: Well I'm glad that it is something to look forward to :) Thanks
mr anchovie: Eh, ties in with his whole "oh god" theme I guess.
Codename Tuffy: Hard? ;) And hey! Not years. Just... months. Lots of months. D:.
Night Innocence: I don't think I could stand a real-life Seth. He would actually drive me crazy. Hell, he drives me crazy just having to write him! Can't say much about Tuesday. He might hit me. But glad you like it :)
Kilian: I think she was thinking of that Krillin dude. Was it Krillin? Something like that, anyway.
Ai Baka-san Austra: Sadist? Me? Never :) Tell me about it! I almost wanted to write in a doctor's appointment somehow. Glad you finally got around to reviewing then!
HurtMe: Thanks :)
mee: No, I'm not looking into publishing it. Sorry. And sorry for making you late!
ethereal rain: I have no idea what hint you're talking about, but my nickname is Princess and I'm kind of in Africa? If that helps at all.
MilkwithHoney: I heart milk with honey. I heart milk in general, I think. You can add pretty much anything to it and I'll still drink it. Pfft, bait shrimp are the best. I just can't use it without my partner growling at me for the next week.
Nonna: One word. Tuesday.
Mademoiselle Rouge: I hate my cliffhangers too!
Cedric Kale: That's less than it takes most people to read it, if that's any consolation? You pronounce Sade exactly how it's spelt. Uh, no, no touching Australia, thanks. Feel free to blow up New Zealand though! We move around a lot. So, basically, the whole damn continent.
Catseye*Rose: Tell me about it! Sam is obviously his weakness – I think you're on to something there. Then again, he'd eat them all and only end up throwing them up hours later. Isn't it E for Effort? XD Take care.
xXHaunted CookieXx: Or, or, I could have both cookies? :3 Ez eats way too much sugar as it is anyway. Pfft, you should know by now that I'll always pick the worst possible option :P Merry (late) Christmas to you too! Your ramblings are never ramblings – they're just nice :D
Qryous: You'd be surprised how many people dislike Seth as a character. A bit of a late New Years gift, but sure. Oh, wouldn't you like to know what I'm doing ;)
BBM: Well, hope your month improved, and this month is even better.
Kyle's Precious Little Girl: I thought we had something special! :( You might have mentioned it a few times :P Take care, and thanks as always :D
StarAndStickerTape: It wasn't quite three months? That's something positive.
Kidiu Anaji: Trust me, I got my ass kicked for it. I promise I'm less Jackass-y this chapter. I think.
Nada: Stop filling up my screen with your revolting lesbian love. Email me when you can. Email me something insanely supportive and corny and convince me why I shouldn't do a murder-suicide. Please. And then email Tuesday and ask what the fuck he thinks he's doing.
justanotherlurker: I'm not that mean.
Chibko: You and the rest of us D:
exactly.: It took me three years to say it. It's not as easy as you think ;)
Ze Shoopuf: It was kind of soon? I'm pretty sure it was quicker than I normally update, at least. Oh, you think he's going to admit it. Ha. Hahaha. Yeah. Sure. xD.
Words Resting Upon Sinful Lips: What is keylime pie? Is it a lime pie... in the shape of a key? Thanks for the review :) And get some proper sleep!
Love Eternally: Pfft, chances are you could write it better. But thanks.
Evilgenius Koji: That is so true. But nah, Tuesday didn't see it as a payback kiss.
AnimeObsessedFan: Whoa. Thanks :P
Squirrel Activist: Pfft, where's the fun in letting them sort it out? ;) But heh, thanks.
lhbui2001: Well it's not like he's ever kissed anyone before. He's hardly going to be the best at it. I'm sorry it bothered you, but it's just the way his character is, I guess. It was one of the earlier chapters, I think just after Seth found out he was gay. OMG how bad is that? I'm the author and even I don't remember.
Annwyl: I'm sorry! Obviously your internet is against me :P Hi, and hugs back to you. I haven't even seen a rhino (thank god) let alone fought with one. I'm in very boring parts of Africa, unfortunately. No wacky wildlife for me. There will be an epilogue, I think. I'm working it out as I go. Take care.
AlwaysForTheGay: I would let you kick him :3
Yellowskittles: Random note – yellow skittles are my favourites.
spike_854: Well thanks for finally reviewing then :) It's set in Australia, but in no particular city.
ddz008: Pfft, you think things happened in that chapter, 'wait til you see the next one xD Thanks for being such a good reviewer! Take care.
Ty Taco: Congrats on your engagement and stuff.
Drips of Blue-Green Turpentine: If I gave out my location I'd have everyone trying to kill me! So, no, you can't kill me. Not 'til I finish the story, at least.
Amindaya: Long time no see :P Ah, the words aren't that exciting anyway. He gets even more guts this chapter! Sort of. As much as he ever gets, at least. Which admittedly isn't saying much. Africa? Exciting? I. Wish. Hope you're alright, and take care.
vimaro22: Well, thanks? I'm glad it has such an effect on you, in any case :) Take care of yourself.
Closeted: Wait no more? Thanks for the review.
Flawless-Beauti: Well, thank you very much :D
So many of my favourite people were missing this time! So, to Esquirella, Jayn, kawaii-kitsune-thief, The Aquatic Chewbacca, CaFFy (you! Review more!), Freak-of-Spade and wandless I hope you're all okay and taking care of yourselves, wherever you are.
To everyone else, thanks for reviewing, of course. Means the world.
I'm sorry, again.
"I, I just." I choke, and oh god why won't he just stop watching me? I can't focus, can't get the stupid words out in the right order. I don't even know what words to say. I tilt my head back, as if I'm trying to put some distance between us, and I guess in a way I am. Any distance, as long as, as long as I can get this out.
My hands fumble and shake, clutch at the straws of grass like my life depends on them, like they're the only things keeping me grounded. I pull them out entirely, the loose dirt spilling through my open fingers and I can't look at anything but the dark sky, the spot right above his head. Not his face, god no, not his eyes. Not whatever might be shining in them.
My forehead, my skin, is damp with sweat already and I throw the grass aside jerkily, trapping my hands under my knees just to stop them from wriggling. From trying to escape, because I can't. I have to finish this. Us. I, I have to… I'll lose him if I don't.
"The ball." My teeth fumble over my lip, cut and gnaw at it and I look down at the smooth curve of my knee. My fingers run over it endlessly, and my nails scrape the skin. "A-At the ball."
Because that was it, wasn't it? That's what started it all. Well m-maybe it had already started, must have, without me even knowing, b-but that's when it really started. When I really found out that I… that yeah. Something was going on.
I liked him. Present tense, god. Like.
I bring my knees up again, sharply, and grip my wrists. Too tight to be comfortable, but at the moment I barely notice, barely care. The only thing I care about is getting this all out, off my chest, getting it out and away. So that he knows and so he doesn't leave me, and, and so…
And so whatever happens next can happen. Whatever that may be. I, I just, I hope… oh gods.
Faintly aware that my head is spinning, I swallow and it hurts. It's like all the moisture that should be in my mouth has migrated to my skin or something, to the palms of my hands clutching each other so tight. "Th-That's… Shannon, she, she said something, and. It was like." My head tilts of its own free will, and I find myself peering at the grass, as though it can somehow help me with this. Guide me, because I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know what I'm saying.
I feel so sick.
He doesn't talk, doesn't make a single sound. Doesn't try to hurry me along, or repeat anything, or ask any questions. Is completely silent as he's sitting across from me, like he has all the time in the world, and I'm grateful for that. Because if he did speak, did interrupt, I don't think I could keep going.
"She said that I have a, a c-c-crush on you." It's all in a rush, and my eyes squint at the green. Like I'm begging the lawn for answers, for something. For some reassurance that this is not going to end in tears or broken hearts, that it's going to work out and be okay, and maybe, maybe even… m-maybe…
And god, I can still remember the exact expression on her face, the exact feeling in my gut, like someone had punched me, and the beat my heart skipped. I don't think I'm ever going to forget that moment. It changed everything. It was like I suddenly had to go back and re-analyse every conversation I'd ever had with him and every moment I'd spent with him. Put everything in a new, terrifying light.
I clamp my mouth shut as my stomach dives, dips, does something awful and for a moment I'm so sure I'm going to vomit, so positive that I'm going to wreck everything again and I will my gut to calm down, all of me to calm down. Please.
I need this. Just this one tiny moment, or I'm never going to get another chance. I'll lose him, and we'll be over, and that'll be it. A-And I can't handle that, because this is meaning too much to me. God, it's funny, isn't it? How things change. It never crossed my mind before, and now it means everything. Everything.
My eyes are squeezed shut, and I take the deepest breath I can, so deep it hurts and my fingers curl into the soft soil beneath me. "A-And then I, it…" My lip is bleeding. Gods, I abuse them so much, don't I? My teeth are very nearly chattering I'm trembling so much. "A-Afterwards it was, it was just. Little things. And then." And I can't explain it, can't even get the stupid fucking words into my head, let alone out of my mouth, and I want to smack myself. Want to shoot myself in the bloody head because I am such a useless idiot. It's not that fucking hard, Seth! Just, just say. Tell him how it all suddenly unfolded before you and became impossible to ignore any longer. Say something, anything.
Just don't let him go.
"Y-You kissed me." It comes from nowhere, takes over from the ball idea completely. "I-In the room. When we, we were fighting."
I remember that moment too. Fuck, how could I forget? If Shannon's remark didn't turn my world upside down, that night certainly did. It turned everything upside down. Upside down and inside out and things were never the same again. I could never look at his mouth the same way again. Look at my mouth the same way. Everything became something else.
"I didn't mean to." He says, and his voice is quiet but disgruntled, as if he's annoyed at himself for it. He probably was, I guess. "Do stupid shit when I'm angry."
"I know." I suck in another breath and I still can't look at him. Don't think I'll be able to look at him for a very long time, or at least until this is over and done with and I know for sure I'm not going to see disappointment or disgust all over his face. Because, I swear, if I look up now I won't have the guts to continue. I won't end this, and he'll leave and we'll be over, and, and I don't know what I'd do if that happened.
I don't know how I'd cope.
I want to be with him.
Oh god, oh god, don't think about that, not, not yet, j-just don't focus on that part at the moment. Get what you need to say out, give him the truth and then, and then we'll worry about that.
Like it's all so simple. Like I'm not starting to feel like my life, my sanity, my heart depends on it. Him.
"I, I panicked." Well, of course I did. "I thought, I thought that m-maybe you did it just to, just to…"
He snorts, and I don't know if he's angry or not. Either way it makes me flinch, cringe, and I want to apologise before he's even spoken. "You thought I did it to, what, trick you? Fuck you over?"
"Something like that." I whisper, barely able to, and my face is burning with shame. As if Tuesday is even capable of hurting someone like that. As if he would ever want to, god. That's just not him. B-But I didn't know him so well then, I'm not even sure I know him so well now, a-and I was scared and everything was so new. All the feelings were so new. And Lord knows I was so, so confused. Fuck that.
"Nice." He says shortly and I swallow, hunching my shoulders, trying to crawl back into them somehow.
"I'm sorry." My voice breaks, shorts out and I gulp down air, will my lungs to work. Now is not the time to stop breathing, dammit. My heart is skittering all over the place, and I guess it has reason to be the most nervous. Its life is depending on this, me, after all. "I, I just. I was so… f-fuck, Tuesday, I was so scared. I, I never thought, I didn't, I, I – "
"I know." He cuts off my hopeless stammering with ease, and he sounds a lot less annoyed than before. His voice is quiet again, remorseful and it hurts somehow. Fuck, everything hurts somehow. My chest is hurting, that's for sure, but I don't know if that's from the stupid lack of consistent oxygen, or my heart beating too fast. Is that possible? C-Can you die from that?
I look down at my legs again, at my fingers buried so deep in the ground. At how desperately I'm holding onto it, instead of the sick churning going on in my stomach. It takes a few minutes for my voice to work again, and my throat is like sand. "I, I talked to B-Brittany about it at school. A-And. I was thinking about… about y-yeah. If I would have…" kissed you back. If I ever would have wanted to. B-Because, gods, I think even back then, some small tiny part of me… "I didn't, I didn't think you meant it. A-And then she, she asked if I wanted you to mean it. If, if…"
And it's with a slow exhale of air and a nervous jerk of my hands that I breathe a, "Yes".
I don't say that part. I guess I don't have to, because he's a smart boy and he's probably worked it out already. Of course I wanted him to mean it. Of course I did.
I snort, to myself I think, and for a moment I'm lost back on the bridge, my hands tight around the rough rope, the kiss replaying over and over in my mind. Trying to sift through the avalanche of emotions, trying not to panic as things came to light. As questions that I really, really didn't want to answer were asked. When the answers scared the life out of me. "I can be kind of blind sometimes."
"Sometimes, he says." He mutters dryly and I flush as my hands move away from the ground, come together near my lap. Small flecks of dirt cling to the skin and I rub my palms together as a cool breeze picks up around us, smelling faintly of rain.
Sometimes. He has a point – I'm always the last one to understand something, the last to realise what's going on around me. The last to pick up on the most important things, like, y'know, how I like someone. How, how they might kind of like me back.
Oh, gods, that sends my stomach plummeting and my hands jerk. I wring them anxiously, my face aflame and heart roaring in my ears, tearing up my chest and I try to swallow it back or, or fuck, something.
Breathe in. Out.
Tell him, gods, you have to tell him. Just exactly how deep into this, this mess that you are, h-how you don't think you can live without him and oh gods. Oh god.
But I can't move my tongue, my lips and I think I'm going to be sick, b-because I can't –
We both snap around as the screen door creaks, and Tania looks almost guilty. She holds it open, seeming to hesitate before finally speaking. "Dinner's ready."
You have got to be fucking kidding me. Is she serious?! H-How the hell can… oh my god! It's like the whole goddamn world is against me or something!
I am never going to be able to get this out. Just, just fuck. Let me finish it, please. I can't do this stupid unsure awkward crap any longer.
Tuesday looks back at me with an unreadable expression, but pushes off the ground and goes towards her and in my mind I'm already calling him back. He turns at the steps, and scowls. "Hurry up. Like fuck you're not eating."
Like fuck I feel like eating. I just want to continue this conversation, come to a conclusion for once and all. Is it too much to ask for everyone to not interrupt for once? I swear it's like a sign that we're not meant to be, that this isn't meant to happen.
Because, honestly, who gets interrupted as much as us? I mean, really.
So I stand, unfurl myself slowly and try to hide the disappointment. Maybe we can finish it after dinner, or, or… or something. Maybe by then I'll be a coward again. Hell, who am I kidding? When have I ever stopped being a coward?
Tuesday goes through first, and Tania remains there holding the door open, and I have no idea why my skin is so warm. Blushing over what now? Being found with her son? Not like that hasn't happened before, I guess. She touches at my shoulder as I pass, and I pause unsurely. "Y-Yeah?"
And please, please don't ask about what just happened with Tuesday, because even I don't know that yet. I'm not sure enough of anything to be drawing conclusions from it. I just, I don't want to hope. Not yet.
But she doesn't ask about Tuesday. She watches him go, and turns back to me with her lower lip clasped between her teeth. "Are you alright, Seth?"
I feel myself frown, and I shrug awkwardly, clumsily. Am I alright with what, exactly? Tuesday, or the fact that we're bloody leaving? Because I don't think I'm ever going to be alright with the latter. But she can't know that, doesn't need to know that, so I force my lips to move. "Yeah. Are… are you?"
Because Lord knows Sam and I can't be the only ones suffering over it. I mean, I know we might have made her life a bit more dramatic and messy than usual, but surely she's going to miss us. Surely she cares that we're being removed. She loves us, doesn't she? She said so. So then why… ugh, don't even try to follow that train of thought, Seth.
Her shrug is just as hopeless as mine, and she looks down at the screen, at her fingers splayed over it, before she clasps them into a fist and offers a weary smile. "Of course."
Somehow, I don't believe her. She looks tired, so tired. But I don't push it, because Lord, what could I possibly say? How can I comfort her when I can barely comfort myself? How can I comfort her when all I want to do is beg her to keep us.
Don't make us go. Please.
She closes the door behind us, as if she's signaling the end of the conversation, and gives me a timid smile. And gods, I hope she knows I don't blame her. Neither of us do. She does know that, doesn't she? She must. "Come on."
I swallow, and for a moment my feet don't move. Can't. I stare at her helplessly, knowing this whole situation is way out of my control. Way out of anyone's control now, except the Department's, and they've made their decision. And I know they're just doing their job, but, but… Christ.
Everyone is out on the veranda around the table, with the exception of Corbin. Before I can ask Tania informs me that he had to go home to finish up on some work, and I'm smart enough to read between the lines and know he's giving us space. Time. Maybe someone should have told him that all the time in the world couldn't make this hurt any less.
My heart lifts a bit at the sight of Sam, looking at the fish and pasta on her plate quite morosely, her face kind of crumpled in the most heart-breaking way. She looks like she wants to be anywhere but here, and I guess in a week she'll get her wish. Which, obviously, is the problem.
I sit down beside her, and she doesn't look at me. She just plays with her fork, moving the white fish around aimlessly, streaking the plate with white sauce. Mayonnaise, I guess. Tuesday is across from me, already talking to Shannon normally, like nothing is different. Jax is curled up in the corner of the veranda, watching us all with interest shining in his big eyes.
Tania is the last to sit, after closing the glass door and visibly cringing at the squeal. She sits down between the girls, and she looks more uncomfortable than Sam and I combined.
I wonder where we'll eat dinner at our new house. If we'll all eat together, or be one of those families that separate at dinner and don't talk. I can't imagine that now, after doing it for so long. After being like this for so long; so close and comfortable and, and god. God.
My eyes are already burning. Fucking hell.
I look down at the fish, and I refuse to look up for the rest of the meal.
Dinner seems to stretch on forever, silent and everything it isn't normally. Everything it shouldn't be. But I guess nothing is normal anymore, is it? Maybe nothing will be normal ever again, because maybe we'll hate where we're going, and hate the people we're staying with and maybe they'll never be family.
Even the twins barely speak, and I spend the majority of the time wondering what is going on in Tuesday's head. If he's thinking about everything in the backyard, and if he's also wondering where that puts us. If there's even an us to consider. If he's reflecting on the things I said, the things I feel.
How much I care for him. Like him.
The thought makes me flush, and I nearly drop the plates I'm carrying back to the sink, my feet tangling up beneath me.
"Watch it, idiot." Tuesday snaps, and he grabs them off me the moment I regain my balance. He rolls his eyes scornfully and stomps off into the kitchen, and I scowl. Trust him to overreact about everything. It's not like I would have broken them, geez. Well at least that means he's on normal terms with me, if nothing else.
"Hey Seth, I'm going to bed." Sam's mumble is so quiet I barely hear her, and I turn around to her with concern. She can't be that tired already.
I hesitate, and push the hair out of her eyes, tucking it behind her ear. Her skin is so warm, so soft and young. She's so young. She doesn't deserve any of these troubles, gods. A thirteen-year-old girl should not have to worry about where she's going to be sleeping next week. No kid should. "Are you sure? It's, it's kind of early…"
"I'm tired." She says bluntly, and leaves no room for arguments. But then her lips turn upwards, try to, and I nod quickly, just wanting her to be okay. Please. She means everything to me. "I, I just. Yeah."
"Yeah." I whisper, and she doesn't have to explain. I understand anyway. I think for the first time in our lives I really do understand her. Fuck it, I feel her pain. Literally. I press a desperate kiss to her forehead, hoping it calms her mind or something (something amazing and wonderful, anything to make her feel better) and she pulls away before I can say anything else. I watch her go up the stairs, fighting back the need to go after her.
Just let her be for a while and she'll be okay, right? She just needs time. To, to accept and… and to what? Heal? Gods. Not likely.
"Oi," Tuesday reappears for a moment, looking cross, "are you going to help or not?"
"Y-Yeah." I tear my eyes away from the stairs reluctantly, and trudge into the kitchen. We're the only ones in here, and he attacks the dishes with an impossible amount of enthusiasm. Needless to say I'm kind of lacking that enthusiasm, and I dry the dishes so slowly he eventually gives up on snapping at me altogether. They have a dishwasher, but he's the only one that doesn't use it, for whatever crazy reason he justifies it with. Gets kind of annoying sometimes, but it's not it's worth saying anything to him about it. Besides, it's not like they're our dishes. Our kitchen, our dishwasher.
"I swear, you are the worst person ever at this." He mutters after we're done and I force myself not to roll my eyes. God, he can be petulant. "Make sure you don't stay up too late."
"W-Wait, what? I… do you…?" I don't even know what I'm asking for, exactly. He's going? But… doesn't he want to hear the rest of it? If I can get it out, that is. I don't know. How can he be going now?
But he shakes his head just a bit, and he looks almost regretful. "I have so much shit to do tonight. I have to organise all the rest of the crap for this protest thing at the end of the month, and I have to get my shit sorted for school, and all that. I'm not going to get a chance to do it tomorrow."
"Oh." It sounds way flatter than I mean it to, and I almost want to wince at myself. Way to make your disappointment totally obvious to all, Seth. Way. To. Go. "Um, okay."
I stay there for a moment, tentative and wanting to say something else, keep him here somehow, but he gives me an apologetic look and disappears. Into his room, I suppose.
Well. That… that was great. What, would it had killed him to spend ten more minutes with me? And then I chastise myself for being so unfair on him – he must have important things to do, and it's not like I'm going anywhere; he can talk to me any time. Right? It's not like he doesn't want to hear what I have to say, right? I mean, it isn't, it isn't like that. It's just because he knows he can talk to me anytime, and maybe he thinks I might need a break from all the emotional torture or something.
Except for how I kind of am, and in a week he might not be able to talk to me for weeks. Months. I don't know. That's what's killing me most of all; the terrifying uncertainty. The unknown.
I sigh, and glance across at Shannon's door, worrying if Sam is okay. She's probably already asleep, if she was even really sleepy. Maybe she just wanted to hide out. Either way I need to respect it, and give her the space she needs.
My room is so, so empty. And for fuck's sakes, Seth, it ain't your room anymore. It'll go back to being a storage room, maybe. I look around, at all the corners and spaces that could be filled with boxes and random debris, and an ache picks up inside me.
God, I'm going to miss here.
I can't believe it's Sunday already. Why are the days going so fast? Why are we so close already?
It's hard to believe this time tomorrow I'll be in court. That I'll be fighting for, well, might as well be my life. Our lives. This time tomorrow.
I roll over, the blankets twisting with me, and gaze at the wall. Despite the clock telling me it's almost nine-thirty it doesn't seem very light outside. That's never a good sign.
I wonder if it'll rain tomorrow. It'd be poetic, if nothing else. Because, you know, as if I need something else to make the day worse. If anything could; Lord knows regardless of what happens, short of a miracle, it's going to be the worst day ever. Not a comforting thought.
I might see him. I mean, I mean they said I wouldn't, that they'd take every precaution but you never know, and knowing what my luck is like… my stomach drops, curls and tightens and I press my face into the pillow, inhaling as much as I can.
Tomorrow is Court. The day I've been dreading since this whole thing started. And then Friday I, we, leave forever. Wow. This week is shaping up to be just so great.
I snort bitterly and close my eyes, bite my lip. Try not to think about how fucking terrified I am. How the fear is icy cold and painful and makes me feel like my stomach is made of knives. Like my heartbeat isn't speeding up, like my fingers aren't clenching my pillow.
Like I'm not completely doomed.
Because, let's face it, I'm going to mess up. Fuck, I always do. What have I ever done right? What good have I ever done? And, and fuck knows I've never been under so much pressure. Everything depends on tomorrow. If, if tomorrow fails, if I fail, then it's all over. No trial, no jail, no nothing. He gets away with years and years of abuse, with everything he's ever done to us. Me.
He'll get away with it all, free.
A-And I can't let that happen. Can't ever let that happen. For Sam, for. For me. For everyone, fuck. For Tuesday, because, because he never…
I can't fail. I can't.
My head is starting to ache from being on one side for too long, and I turn back onto my back again. Peer up at the ceiling, my heart thudding somewhere in my throat, and try to calm down. Force myself not to think about it, not to panic about it. Not yet.
Lord knows I don't envy anyone that I see tomorrow.
But will I see him?
I throw my arm over my eyes, tell myself to shut up. Please. I, I can't deal with it yet. Pfft, I can't deal with it at fucking all. I shudder, take a breath. Exhale, repeat. Calm.
Eventually I decide there's no point staying in bed any longer. All I'm doing is laying there freaking out over tomorrow. At least if I'm awake and moving I've got distractions, people, anything. As long as it keeps my mind off how fucking doomed we are.
How it's all going to be my fault.
I wonder if Tuesday is still coming. I wonder a lot of things, after last night. If he's okay. If we're okay. What we are.
Good, good, think about that, about him, not about tomorrow. Ignore the way your stomach is erupting in butterflies. Not even butterflies. Birds, maybe. Huge bloody birds. Oh gods, I feel sick.
Focus, Seth, focus. Don't think about it. Don't imagine his face. Just stop thinking about it. Please.
I hear the loud noises as I'm going down the stairs, and in the kitchen Sam is listening to music, her head bopping along with it. She has a heap of books over the bench, and appears to be do doing homework. Sam equals good. She's always distracting. Think about her mood, the way her hair is spilling over her hunched shoulders, lecture her on her horrible posture, help her with homework. Anything that isn't panicking about how much I'm going to disappoint her. How I'm going to fail her.
"Hey." My throat is dry, and I clear it awkwardly.
"Hey." She replies flatly, not looking up from the page. I guess she's still upset about yesterday, then. Bet she's going to be even more upset after tomorrow. I linger there for a moment with uncertainty, before touching her shoulder quickly and moving away towards the fridge. If she feels the touch she doesn't show it, and I hear the rustle of paper before she speaks again. "How'd you sleep?"
"Alright." I lie, because she doesn't need to know that sort of stuff. She doesn't need to know how scared I am. Not while she's worrying about other, bigger stuff. I fumble with the lid on the orange juice, and it pours out a little too hard. I'm so fucking clumsy. Useless. Oh god, I'm going to mess up so bad tomorrow. How badly can I mess up? W-What if I give the wrong date, the wrong, the wrong anything? Will they think I'm lying? That I made it all up? W-Will they hound me about it, because god, I crumble under pressure. I just can't function. "Crap. Um, homework?"
I find a clean tea-towel and mop up the spilled juice, making a face at the sopping material. I put it on the sink for now, and try again. I don't spill this time. Yay for me. About time I did something right. "H-Homework. Is that what you're…"
"Oh, yeah." She still doesn't look up, but her pen pauses for a moment. She's always had such messy writing; I could never understand how anyone could read it. "English. Poems."
"Fun." I mutter sarcastically, and I take my glass back to the stool beside her. It scrapes the tiles loudly, and I flinch at the awkward noise. It's just so quiet. She. She's so quiet. And it's unusual and awful and is just making it all the more obvious that things aren't okay.
Because we're leaving, obviously. And we have court tomorrow, and I don't know what to do.
I drink half the glass before I try to speak again, wetting my lips almost nervously as I twirl the juice in my hands. "Where's Tania?"
She shrugs, her black pen looping over the page. I don't try to look at whatever she's actually writing – Sam has always been sensitive about things like that. She didn't speak to me for a week once, after I read an essay of hers without her permission. "Upstairs, I guess."
"When did you wake up?" My eyes drift to the sink, to how the sunlight coming in from the window is making the silver sparkle. Not that sinks are actually made from silver. What are they made from? I don't know. Some metal. I could never make it in chemistry, clearly. I'm pretty sure Tuesday does chemistry. It wouldn't surprise me. He's into that sort of stuff, I guess. Or maybe it's just because he has the brains, and I don't. From what I've heard he's really good at Math and stuff. I wonder if he's awake. Well, of course he would be by now. I wonder what he's doing.
If he's thinking of last night. What he thinks about last night.
"Ages ago." She does sound tired, and I want to hug her. Just lean across and put my arm around her shoulder, kiss her forehead and promise her it's going to be okay. But I don't, because it won't be, and it's pointless to pretend otherwise. It's pointless to pretend that our future is bright and nice, when tomorrow is going to go the way it is, and then we leave.
So instead I swallow, still feeling awkward and strange and like everything is wrong, and drink the rest of my juice. I consider telling her what Tania told me last night, about the family we're going to. How nice they are, apparently, and how we'll still be together. But Tania might have told her that already, and I'm not risking rubbing the situation in even further.
Shannon comes in, making a loud fuss of noise and she's wearing our school uniform. Well at least it might have been the school uniform once. The shirt has been dyed sky blue, and she has it unbuttoned and tied into a knot around her ribs. There's a pattern around her pierced belly button, made of sparkly blue paint or something, and instead of socks she's wearing blue tights. I'm also pretty damn sure those shoes don't follow school regulation. Her hair has been parted into two, and she's tying off the last plait with a wide blue ribbon. "Hey, kids."
"Hey." Sam mumbles, not looking at her, and Shannon flicks her plaits back as she takes a can of lemonade from the fridge.
"What are you…" I trail off unsurely, still looking at the uniform in confusion. It's Sunday, and does Tania know she's dyed her shirt like that?
She opens the can and takes a sip, smiling widely. Her eyeshadow is blue, too, and there's more make-up on her face than I know the school allows. "It's the athletic carnival today, Seth. Where's your school spirit?"
Athletics carnival? "Haven't we already had that?" I voice my thoughts slowly, and she shakes her head as she takes another sip, being careful not to ruin her shimmering pink lips.
"That was the interschool carnival. This is the intercity one – all the schools in the city competing to get a place in the interstate carnival. It was on yesterday too, but today's where all the action is. It's always boring on the first day."
"Oh." I frown. Makes sense, I guess. I never really paid much attention. Probably should – school spirit and all. But will I be at that school for much longer? Private schools are expensive, and I know St. Anthony's College is definitely one of the most expensive ones in the city, if not the most. And maybe we'll live too far away from it, maybe they won't be willing to drop me off every morning and pick them up every afternoon. There is a bus service, I guess. Like it matters. After tomorrow I won't give a shit about school anymore. Anything.
"Anyway," she flicks her braids again, "Tues and I are going, so you should come. Show your school pride, that sort of thing."
"Dress up like a skank." Sam snorts, but it's light and jovial and the older girl smirks at her.
"I'm alright." I shake my head, not really in the mood for crowds and stuff. Chances are no one I know aside from the twins will be there anyway. Who would ditch a weekend in favour of celebrating more school?
She looks unimpressed about that, and slides the can across to Sam. "Here, I don't want it anymore. Sethikins, do you really want to be stuck in here all day? No offense Sammy, but your emo is kind of clogging the air."
I frown, and I don't know if I should snap at her to defend Sam or not, but in the end I don't have to decide. Sam snorts again, and takes a drink from the can. "Yeah, sure. You should go, Seth. Fresh air. Stuff."
Oh. Wow. She's convincing.
"Besides," Shannon's grey eyes light up with something I don't want to name, but know all too well. My stomach starts to curl in dread, because it's that stupid knowing glint they get when it comes to… yeah. "You can hang out with Tues."
I knew it.
I flush and look at Sam, just so I'm not looking at Shannon, and twirl the glass in my hands again as heat scorches my face. "I, I don't need to – "
"Fucking hell, Shan, can you not steal my eyeliner every two fucking seconds?! Or at least bloody return – " He stops in the doorway, his mouth staying open for a moment before slowly closing. I flush harder and look down at the bench, not really knowing… not really know anything. I don't even know if we're okay, after last night. Things just kind of… yeah. There was no conclusion, and I fumble with the glass as Shannon snickers.
"The fact that you even own eyeliner disturbs me, Tues, it truly does. You're not getting it back for nothing, you know. Favour time."
Tuesday crosses the room to the other side of the bench where his twin is, and wraps his arm around her thin, bare waist. "Ooh," he breathes into her ear, his eyes half-lidded, "anything for you, babe."
"Ugh!" She shoves him away with a high-pitched squeal of disgust and he sniggers loudly; I glance up and he winks at me. Great. More blushing, and I snap back to the glass, feeling a hell of a lot more awkward now. A wink is good, right? He can't be mad, then. Not that he has a lot of reason to be mad, I guess. Despite how open-ended last night was, it wasn't exactly… I mean, it wasn't bad. It didn't end on a sour note, and as far as I know we're still as close to friends as we've ever been (which admittedly isn't that close), so that's something positive.
"You are so fucking gross." She blanches, and beside me Sam is shaking with giggles. That makes me kind of smile, and I almost want to pat her on the back or something.
"That's not what you said last night." Tuesday sounds awfully offended, and Shannon releases another indignant cry. "Not that you said much last night. Too busy moaning and – "
"You are such a fucking creep!" His sister throws her arms up and storms out, yelling at him to hurry up and get dressed.
"Twincestuous plans not going well?" Sam asks Tuesday with an amused smile, and he heaves a very melodramatic sigh, shaking his head morosely, as though they're discussing someone's death instead of his twisted sense of humour.
"She keeps rejecting my advances. But it's okay, I'll get in her in the end. She can't resist my awesome charms."
"Oh totally." Sam deadpans, snorting again before resuming her writing.
Tuesday sniggers again and faces me properly; I flush again and my eyes dart away. God, I can't even make eye contact. I suck. He doesn't seem to mind, though, and places his hands on the bench. "You're coming to the carnival."
My eyes widen and I splutter excuses. "What? N-No, I – "
"You're coming to the carnival." He repeats calmly, completely cutting through my babble and I shake my head quickly; I don't want to go to some stupid carnival. Besides, it's every school in the city! It'll be huge!
"I can't, I have to, I have to finish homework." It's the first excuse that comes to mind and I hold it tight, wield it. "Um, Biology, a-and Math, and, and the case study for Legal – "
"I'll help you later with it." He dismisses it all nonchalantly and leans in closer. "You're coming. To. The. Carnival."
"B-But – "
"Just shut up already." And before I can move, before I can even blink or warning signals have a chance to go off he kisses me.
I jerk back in shock, eyes wide and breath caught in my throat, my heart hammering and oh god, oh god what the hell?!
He gives a casual smirk, looking way too smug. "You're coming. So hurry the fuck up and get dressed." He leaves, and all I can do is stare into empty space, my face burning.
Oh my god, I can't believe he just… like it was nothing! Like it was all so normal and what does that mean? What does it mean?
I whip around on the stool as my jaw drops; I completely forgot Sam was here! She's staring at me, stunned, her lips parted and eyes wide. She shakes her head slowly, and the corner of her lip rises into a half-smile. "So are you guys…" She trails off expectantly, and I blush harder, if that's even friggin' possible at this rate. My stomach is still squirming nervously, full of stupid butterflies and god, I can't believe he was so casual about it.
"I, I don't know." I stammer honestly, and under the bench my fingers tug at my clothes. "I, um…" But I don't have anything else to say, and all I can do is sit there and flush hopelessly.
"You should go get dressed." She smirks and looks back down at her homework.
"Y-Yeah." I slide off the stool slowly, numbly, and not totally sure about what the hell just happened.
What does it mean?
"Seth! Hurry the fuck up already!"
No surprises who that is. I roll my eyes and pull my shirt down – honestly, the idiot has no patience whatsoever. I run my fingers through my hair before leaving the room, shutting the door firmly behind me. I'm pretty sure the fumes are still deadly.
Tuesday is waiting downstairs, his arms folded over his narrow chest. He's wearing a white shirt with Billabong emblazoned across the front in blue, and dark jeans. There's a whole heap of dark blue wristbands around his wrists, and he gives me a scathing look. "What the fuck were you doing, making the clothes?"
"Very funny." I mutter, and he snorts and leaves before I can ask him not to kiss me in front of my sister. In front of anyone, really, because Lord, I can barely handle it myself. How would I even ask that, anyway? And in all honesty do I even want him to stop kissing me?
I follow him outside, and the weather does not look promising. The sky is a woeful shade of grey, with the sun barely managing to force its way through the thick clouds. Not exactly the type of day you want to hold an Athletics Carnival on.
Tania is already waiting in the car with her daughter in the back seat, and Tuesday climbs into the front before Tania can tell him not to.
"You just want to play with the radio." She says disapprovingly, and she shoots me a tender smile over her shoulder as she's reversing. She doesn't look as tired as yesterday, doesn't look as ruined. I guess that's something. I wonder how long it'll take for Sam to recover like that.
"Exactly." Tuesday sniggers, already fiddling around with the buttons and switching rapidly between stations. Shannon groans at him to cut it out and snaps her sunglasses out from inside her shirt somewhere. I don't know how she can keep anything in there; it doesn't cover much.
"Aren't you racing today, Tues?" Tania leans closer to the dashboard as she reaches an intersection, one hand reaching out to smack his hand away from the radio controls. "You won the eight-hundred-metre on the selection day, didn't you?"
Tuesday shoves her hand away and continues with his musical quest, finally settling on something low and slow. When he shrugs it's stiffer than it should be. "Suspended. Darren's doing it."
I sink back into the seat, feeling the bite of guilt. It's my fault he got suspended in the first place. If, if I hadn't dragged him into the stupid fight he probably wouldn't have ended up punching Julian. I wonder how he even is, not that I really care. Wonder if his nose healed properly. I feel the ridiculous urge to apologise again, and have to bite down on the side of my tongue to stop myself. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't appreciate it.
The rest of the ride is silent, with only the sounds of the radio and I pull at my seatbelt absently. Maybe I shouldn't have left Sam alone at home. I mean, not that, not that I think she's so upset she'd do something stupid, but, still. I just, I feel bad.
I hope she's okay. I hope her and Tania are okay, most of all. I know how important Tania is to her, and I understand how difficult it must be, but she probably needs Tania more than ever now. Would that be considered a catch-22? I never really understood that saying. Then again I don't understand a lot of things, so whatever.
The Athletics Carnival is being held at a huge field not far from the school, surrounded by a thick ring of dark green trees, and the car park is absolutely packed. The buses and cars take up all available space, so Tania pulls into the side of the road, right at the corner, and sighs.
"Alright, gonna have to make do with here, guys. You did put on sunscreen, right?"
"Sure." Shannon snorts and gets out, slamming the door too hard behind her (sometimes that girl has no respect for anything, I swear) and Tuesday gives his mother an exasperated are-you-seriously-asking-me-that look. She rolls her eyes and waves him off, and he gets out too.
"Hey, Seth," Tania turns as I'm still struggling with my stupid buckle and I glance up at her in confusion, "you'll be okay, won't you?"
For a moment I don't know what she's talking about, or what to say back, and all I can do is stare dumbly. And then I clue in and I look back at my belt, at the frustrating buckle and my fingers fumble to undo it as quickly as possible. Because, gods, as mean as it sounds, I can't talk about it. Not right now. So I just nod, and it's rough and unconvincing but she doesn't push the issue. She tells me to have fun, and let her know when we're ready to come home.
I can already hear the noise from the field before we even reach it; Shannon disappears instantly and I pause for a moment, staring out at the expansive pitch. It has a huge running track around the edges and the middle section has been divided into several sections, for several different sports. They've already started, I guess, because there is high and long jumps going on, and people are lining up at the start of the track to begin a race.
"Wednesday!" Sade comes from nowhere, tackling into him with the force of a thousand girls. They wobble unsteadily as Tuesday fights for balance, before dropping to the grass.
"Sade." He says flatly, out of breath and looking completely unimpressed by that particular turn of events. He pushes her off him and she jumps back to her feet, offering her hand and helping him up.
"What the fuck up?" She breathes, before pressing a brief kiss to his mouth. And then glances at me quickly, looking like she's just done something horribly wrong. "Oops. Crap, sorry, Seth. I should probably cut that out."
"Huh?" I blink stupidly for a moment, before realising what she was talking about, and blush. "N-No, I mean, it's, it's…" It's none of my business, I want to say, and to be honest it is. It's not like Tuesday and I are together, and I frown a bit as I realise it doesn't bother me anyway. Nothing like how it bothered me when Jon kissed him. I guess it's because I trust Sade, y'know? And gods, I don't mean that I don't trust Jon, because it's not like that. I, I don't know where we stand, but I still trust him, I think. But Sade's a girl, and as Tuesday doesn't seem to hold much interest in them I guess it isn't such a big deal to me. Not, not that I have a right to be bothered by it.
Her mouth quirks into a grin and I refuse to look at Tuesday until my blush calms down. "Alrighty then. Nice to see you boys are here, all with the supporting and whatnot."
"Is Jon here?" Tuesday asks, and I glance at him in surprise, or something close. He doesn't look uncomfortable though, and sounds completely normal. I guess… maybe they're back on good terms, after Brandon's party. After they kissed. My stomach churns sickly at the memory, and I shove it back quickly. Goodbye kiss. It was a goodbye kiss, and they're allowed to do that. It's not like we're together.
Sade shrugs, glancing out over the rainbow mass of cheering spectators. "No idea. It's just a sea of faces. Besides, I only just got here." She snaps her chewing gum and places her hand on her hip. She's wearing a flowing, girly dark blue dress that swishes around her calves, and the left side of her short hair has been pinned back by a shimmering blue clip. Why is everyone in blue? And it's only then that I realise it's because blue and white are the school colours. Fucking duh, Seth.
Sometimes I wonder how I even made it through this far in life, with the brain I've got.
"Are Darren and Brandon still racing?" Tuesday doesn't seem to be bothered by the thought of Jon being here, so I suppose that's a good thing. I just, I don't want them to be horrible, y'know? It sounds so lame, but I do want them to remain friends. As close as friends as they can get, at least. I can't stand the thought of anyone being hurt by this, though it's probably too late for that. I think we've all been hurt enough to last a lifetime.
"Yeah." She readjusts her clip and grins at me. "You just missed Brandy tripping up in the middle of the one-hundred metre sprints. Hilarious stuff."
"I'm sure." I mutter with a roll of my eyes. Trust her sadistic streak. We start moving towards the crowd, and their cheering is so bloody loud. The crowd is divided into sections, huge colourful blocks of people, and we're joining the sea of blue ones. "What are they competing in?"
"Brandon's already done the one-hundred metre, and he's up next for the two-hundred. Darren's doing long distance later on." She glances up at the moody sky with pursed lips. "If it doesn't rain first. Do you guys want a drink?"
"Mm, H to the O goodness. You guys want any?." We both shake our heads, and Tuesday looks up at the sky too before breaking off from us, going back towards the few stalls set up at the back.
"So, what, is it school versus school?" I ask, not very knowledgeable about these sorts of things. Then again, I'm not knowledgeable about much, so nothing new. We're at the back of the crowd, barely mixed in with a few others, and I cringe as another loud scream goes off around us.
She nods, and stands up on her toes to peer over everyone else's head before dropping back down. "Yep, and the whatever school in the city wins goes against all the other schools in the state."
"Oi, Sade," Darren elbows his way out of the crowd; he's wearing the school sport's uniform and his dark hair is plastered to his olive forehead. "Oh, hey Seth."
"Hey." I mutter, and he glances around asking if Tuesday is here too. Sade nods the affirmative, which Darren seems pleased by.
"Good. Do you have any sunscreen?"
Sade gives him an incredulous look, raising her arms to the side to show off her dress. "Does it look like I've got sunscreen? Where exactly would I hide it, genius?"
Darren rolls his eyes in exasperation. He seems to get exasperated at Sade more than everyone else combined. "Thanks. I'll be back." He disappears into the crowd again, apparently on the hunt for sunscreen, and Sade crosses her arms huffily.
"He's so stupid sometimes."
"He's alright." I defend Darren as much as I dare (without incurring her wrath, because Sade seems like she could be scary when annoyed), because I've got nothing against the guy. He's always so… steady. Calm, and collected and he cares about his friends a lot, which is always a plus.
She pouts, but doesn't say anything more on the matter. She doesn't get a chance to, anyway, because Brittany interrupts, and I guess everyone's into the whole school spirit thing. She's wearing blue too – a dark blue singlet and faded jeans, with a blue ribbon in her hair.
"About damn time you two showed up." I smile at her, and she links her arm with mine, looking at me with concern. "Are you okay now?"
"What?" I ask in confusion. Was I not okay? When?
She looks unsure and waves her free hand a bit in the air. "At the party. When you were upset."
"Oh yeah," Sade snaps her fingers and I guess Brittany must have filled her in. I don't mind – Sade knows as much about the Tuesday thing as Brittany does anyway. "What was up with that? Tues was like looking for you everywhere."
"Yeah." I mutter, and before I can control it my mind flashes back to the veranda, back to Jon's lips against Tuesday's, his arms around him, Tuesday kissing him back and oh god. I shake my head quickly, snap the hell out of it because I can't think about that, I can't. It actually bloody hurts. Goodbye kiss or not, it still… it still hurts. "Um, n-nothing. It was just…" I trail off and sigh. God, Seth, just let it go. Please. "It's okay."
They exchange dubious looks, but I'm saved by answering when Tuesday returns, a bottle of Mount Franklin in his hand. "Hey, Brit."
Brittany hugs him and kisses his cheek with a grin. "About damn time you got re-involved with your school. It's missed you."
He rolls his eyes and uncaps the bottle. "Considering its habit of suspending me, I can't say the feeling's mutual."
Sade snorts and takes the water from him before he can twist the lid back on, drinking some quickly. "Oh please, you've only been suspended twice, and you deserved both times."
Darren rejoins us, taking the bottle from Sade as she's about to give it back to Tuesday. He swigs it and tilts his head back, cracking his neck and causing Brittany to grimace. "Hey, Tues. You got sunscreen?"
Tuesday shakes his head, and motions to his skin. "Put it on before I left. I burn to a fucking crisp."
"You're too pale." The black-haired boy shakes his head and takes another swig from the rapidly disappearing bottle. "You know where some is?"
"Wouldn't the school have some?"
"Mm, theirs is shit though." He caps the bottle, but it's quickly snatched away by Lindsay, who comes out from nowhere.
"Feel free, everyone." Tuesday mutters sourly, but he doesn't seem genuinely annoyed.
"Don't mind if I do." Lindsay grins and takes a drink, pushing her glasses back up on her nose. She's in the school uniform, but like Shannon is wearing blue tights and has blue paint streaked across her cheeks. She hands it back to Tuesday, and he gives the small amount of water left a dismal look. "The two-hundred metres are about to start, if anyone's interested."
"Sure, why not." Sade snickers. "See how long it takes him to trip up again."
"What I don't get," Darren says as we're making our way to the front of the crowd, and I hold my breath as we go, wincing at the loud cheers and noises around us. "Is how he was chosen by the school in the first place. Boy can't run to save his life."
"Yeah, Tues." Brittany gives him a pointed look, her lips curved into a smile. "I wonder. How did he get chosen by the school, Brandon's good friend Tues, who conveniently happens to be the Sports Captain as well?"
Tuesday rolls his eyes and we finally reach the front, where there's a long rope pulled across to stop us from going any further onto the field. Conveniently we're right by the track, and in the centre of the field people are still doing the high and long jumps. "Hey, he won the race on the day of the interschool carnival, thanks. Nothing to do with me."
Brittany snorts doubtfully but grins and doesn't say anything else about it. There's a line of people at the start of the track, some way aways, but I recognise one of them to be Brandon. He's in the sports uniform and jumping from foot to foot, and I guess he's pretty nervous. I couldn't do anything like this, the whole carnival thing. Your whole school is riding on you. Way too much pressure for me. I'd just buckle and fail. Not that I'd get selected in the first place – I can't run to save my life. I can't do anything to save my life either, so I guess that's something we have in common.
"We should place bets." Sade murmurs and Lindsay gives her a dark look.
"A little more support for my boyfriend, please."
Brittany makes a cooing sound and flings her arm around her neck, yanking the poor startled girl to her. "Aw, that's so cute! Calling him your boyfriend!"
One of Darren's eyebrows rises ever-so-slightly as he takes the water bottle from Tuesday, and downs the last little bit. "Wouldn't be because he is her boyfriend, would it, Brit?"
"I know," She grins and Lindsay manages to break free, gasping dramatically for air, "but it's still so cute!"
"Why yes, yes I am." Nicole pushes through Tuesday and Darren, in the exact same outfit as Lindsay. I guess they must have gotten dressed together or something. "What'd I miss?"
"We're placing bets on Brandy." Sade informs her lazily, leaning against Tuesday's side and he wraps one arm around her thin waist to hold her steady, pressing a kiss into her wispy hair. They're pretty close, I guess. She was the first friend of his, besides Brandon, that I met.
It's funny how everyone is friends, but there are like these little extra-special-friends or something mixed in. Like, Brittany and Nicole are usually inseparable, and so are Tuesday and… Jon. God, way to slap yourself over the head there, Seth. Darren and Brandon.
Tuesday and Jon.
"We are not placing bets." Lindsay growls, and then shrugs. "Besides, I'm flat-broke anyway."
"What else is new." Tuesday smirks, and he shakes his head as Darren offers him the empty water bottle. "Fuck you now, Darren."
"I'll pass." Darren replies easily, running a hand through his dark curls. "Maybe if your hair was longer or something. Fuck knows you look girly enough."
Tuesday splutters for a moment and everyone erupts into laughter as pink flashes over his cheekbones. "I do not look fucking girly!"
"You wear eyeliner." Sade points out, giving his eyebrow an unnecessary jab. "Every. Day."
"Because I look like a fucking albino without it! I have pale skin, pale hair and pale eyes!" Tuesday has released her and is waving his hands around emphatically, as if that is going to help prove his point or something, and I can't help but kind of smile. He does look kind of girly. But I've gotten so used to seeing him with eyeliner that the few times I see him without it it's like a shock to the system or something. He looks almost ghost-like.
"And look at those cheekbones!" Brittany chortles, running her fingertips down the side of his face and he jerks away in annoyance, scowling. "Could they get any higher?"
He shoves her hand away and shoots a sniggering Darren a dark glare as Nicole tilts her head back almost thoughtfully. Half of her braids have been dyed blue somehow. Maybe with that hair-spray stuff people use at carnivals and festivals, I don't know. "You do have pretty delicate features, Tues. And let's face it; your name is girly as."
This time I definitely can't stop the smile, as Tuesday just about explodes. "It is not fucking girly! Fuck you all!"
"At the same time?" Sade waggles her eyebrows with a purr, her tongue darting out to trace her lower lip suggestively and it's done so dramatically and obviously that I can't stop the snort of laughter that bubbles up inside me.
"I'm scarred." Darren deadpans. "For. Life."
"Ooh the race is starting!" Lindsay throws her arm up in glee, accidentally whacking Brittany over the head with it, and the girls all rush to the barricade.
Darren glances at Tuesday with a lazy smirk. "You alright, mate?"
"My name is not girly." He huffs, folding his arms sulkily and I shake my head with a half-smile as Darren snickers again.
Trust them to fix my emo. And, god, as I peer between the girls at the race track, this amazing, almost euphoric warmth spreads through me, lights up my heart like wildfire. Because I've never had friends before, and Lord knows I couldn't ask for anyone better. They're all amazing. Completely amazing and I am so goddamn honoured to know them sometimes. To just, to just be with them. Just knowing that they're not hanging out with me because they have to, but because they genuinely want to.
They want to talk to me, to spend time with me and hear my opinions. They want to help me, and support me, and, and. I've never had that before. From anyone, really. Excluding Sam of course, but that goes without saying.
And almost immediately there's an excruciating pang because I don't even know how long I'll be able to stay with them. I might have to move schools – hell, it's more than likely.
And then what?
Great. So not only am I losing my family, but I'm losing my friends too.
And I don't want to leave them. I, I can't. I've become so comfortable with them, so familiar and nice and I can't imagine having to go through it all again with a new bunch of friends, if I even manage to make any at my new school. I just can't. There's no other Sade, with her general oddities and quirks, her strange raspy voice and awful habit of ruffling my hair. Brittany, who's cared for me and tried so hard for me, more than anyone else. I've been through so much with her, and she's always, always been there for me. Lindsay, smart and god, she only ever wants the best for her friends, like Nicole, who is forever having fun no matter where she is, and Brandon, who manages to crack everyone up no matter what, usually at his own expense. Darren, who has to be the most calm, collected person I've ever known, and one of the most genuine.
The gun startles me right out of my thoughts; my head jerks up and for a moment my heart leaps somewhere, until I realise that it's only the gun that starts the race, and then realise that must mean the race has started.
Everyone bursts into loud cheers, shouting Brandon's name and I rise up on my tiptoes to see over the girls' bobbing heads, just as the race ends.
Wow. That was fast. Then again I guess it was only a two-hundred-metre sprint.
"What happened?" I ask Darren as the girls go nuts, hugging each other and squealing in their impossibly-loud voices. I swear, girls must have an extra set of lungs stashed away or something. No human being should be able to make the sounds they do. "Did he win?"
"He came second." Tuesday is looking beyond pleased, and he turns to Darren smugly. "See, that's why he was chosen."
Darren tips an imaginary hat, but he's smiling. "Touche."
Lindsay disappears, as Sade checks her watch. "Javelin is up next, I think. Darren's race isn't for another half an hour. Anyone for food?"
"I like food." Nicole exclaims with glee, and Brittany snorts disdainfully.
"Yeah, nothing like cheap crappy carnival food."
"Cheap crappy carnival catering (for Nada)." Tuesday chimes in and shrugs. "But I'm in. Anything's better than watching bloody javelin. It always makes me nervous."
We move out, towards the back of the crowd again and Nicole shudders. "Nothing like getting accidentally speared to make your day."
That does not sound fun at all. Javelin is the stick, right? And discus is that horrible disc thing? And shot-put is the one with the heavy balls. I failed at all of them, obviously. Hell, I failed at most things related to school, so HPE is no real surprise. Unfortunately, it was compulsory in primary school, and grade eight.
There's a few caravan-looking things parked in a semi-circle near the start of the trees, and from the looks of them they're food vans. And yeah, they don't look that appetising at all, but my stomach already regretting not eating breakfast. Damn my constant lack of money. And I should get a job, I know that, it's just. I have enough on my plate as it is. Maybe the new people will make me get a job. Who knows.
Who knows what they'll do, or what they're like. If we'll like them. If they'll like us, which might be a bigger issue. What if they hate us? Oh god, what if they regret their decision and have foster care take us away, and we're split up? Or sent to a place that's even worse?
"Oi, dickhead." Tuesday elbows me sharply and I glance at him in surprise, lost in my crazy train of thoughts. Life is made up of way too many what-ifs, in my opinion. God, I wish I could just, I don't know. See the future. Get some confirmation that everything, and everyone, is going to be okay. "You want anything?"
"I, um, I don't have any money." I mumble, feeling kind of embarrassed, if the warm flush of my cheeks is anything to go by. He rolls his eyes and asks again, and I shake my head. He's too persistent.
There's a vague queue of sorts, and everyone splits up to go to their preferred van. I stick with Brittany and Tuesday, who seem more interested in the one with actual food, while Sade and Nicole drool over the one with all the lollies and sweet stuff. Darren stays out of it all, asking Tuesday to get him a bottle of water instead.
"There are so many people." Brittany complains quietly, mostly under her breath, as she's fixing up her hair. Tuesday points out that it's all the schools in the city, and she scowls at him.
"Hey!" Brandon looks absolutely beside himself with joy; his face is flushed (or sunburnt) and he's grinning from ear to ear. There's a shining blue ribbon pinned to his chest, right on his heart, and his arm is looped around his girlfriend's shoulders. "Guess what! I came fucking second!"
"We saw." Tuesday says, sounding amused, but he offers a congratulations in unison with me and Brittany.
"Thanks." Brandon says, and there's a high pitch to his voice and it looks like he almost wants to preen or something. It's adorable. "Fucking hell I'm starved. You want anything, Linds?"
"I…" I stare down at the sandwich Tuesday has just thrust into my hands, and for a moment my mouth hangs open stupidly, not sure what to say. "Huh?"
He rolls his eyes, and waves his hand with annoyance. "Just eat the fucking thing, alright?"
"But I'm not hungry." I protest weakly, and just because my body likes to spite me (like, y'know, throwing up after someone's confession of almost-love, and accidentally ramming a knife into said someone) my stomach gives this ridiculously, shameful, obvious gurgle. Just to prove me wrong. I flush, and he glares quite pointedly at me. "Um, th-thanks."
"He's so cute," Brittany whisper in my ear after he's stomped away to join the others, walking ahead. "He's always looking out for you."
I flush even harder at that, because oh god, it's so true. In his own stupid little ways. He's forever trying to shove food down my throat, and whenever a problem arises (especially when it came to Sam) he was usually the first to bark at me to take action and solve it. Well, first after Tania, anyway. Lord knows what I would have done without them.
Lord knows what I am going to do without them.
Everyone is sitting down by the trees, under their non-existent shade (because as if we need protection from the sun today) and Brandon is still looking rather smug.
"I am so friggin' broke now." Nicole says mournfully, looking down at her packet of chips. She got a bottle of Coke as well, and is sharing it with Sade, who bought a huge stick of fairy floss. The thin white paper cone looks like it's going to break under all that pink fluff.
"Oh my god, same." Brittany got a sandwich too, tuna I think, and is in the process of ripping open salt packets to pour onto it. Gross.
I look down at my own sandwich; chicken and salad, easy enough. I almost want to smile, just at how, I don't know. Cute. How cute it was. Trust Tuesday. He just got fruit, and I learnt that Royal Gala are his favourite type of apples. Learn something new every day.
"Pfft, when are you guys going to get a job?" Sade snorts as she takes a huge mouthful of her fairy floss. She seems to struggle with it for a moment, before finally managing to get it all into her mouth and swallow it down.
"I have a job." Darren points out, in unison with Lindsay, and I glance at them with interest. I didn't know they worked. Darren shrugs at my curiosity. "Linds is a receptionist for that hotel near the river. The one with the fucked-up wavy roof. I work at City Beach."
"And he never gives me discounts!" Sade waves her fairy floss at him like it's a weapon, scowling furiously. "You and your stupid extortionate prices!"
Darren leans back on his hands, looking smug. "Jealous."
She hmphs and Nicole snorts, tossing her braids around. "I just quit my job, man. Give me a few weeks of leisure."
"No one will hire me." Brandon sounds quite distressed about this, and Lindsay gives his hand a supportive squeeze. They really are cute together. "But I've applied to like, five this week so yeah. Just waiting for them to call me back."
"If they do." Tuesday smirks, but Sade is quick to rain on his parade.
"Like you can talk, Tues. At least he's applying for crap, unlike some certain peroxide blondes."
He looks affronted, and snorts. He's twirling a leaf in his hands, his long fingers dancing over it almost tenderly, and my eyes keep returning to them, pathetically. Gods, I am so pathetic. No wonder everyone picked up on it before I did. "I just got a job, thank you very much. So fuck off, Sade."
"You got a job?" My eyes snap back up to his face in surprise – why didn't he tell me? Then again I guess there haven't been a lot of chances for casual conversation lately. We've been kind of caught up in other things. Other stupid, emo things.
He nods, and lets the leaf go as the wind picks up again; it carries it a few feet before the leaf floats back down to the ground and joins the other fallen leaves. "Yeah, at the animal sanctuary. Just weekends for now. I start next weekend."
"Oh, god." Brittany groans, and she gives me a grin. "Poor you; you're going to have to put up with all the animals he brings home."
"I can't take them home. They live there." Tuesday rolls his eyes at her, but I barely hear his reply. He starts next weekend. Next weekend I won't even be there.
Great. Yet another thing I'm missing out on.
Welcome back, Emo.
Sade winces loudly, and rubs the side of her jaw with a sulky pout. "Stupid toothache."
"You have a toothache." Darren says flatly, expressionless. "And you're eating fairy floss."
She gives him a weird look, raising her eyebrows. "What's your point?"
He just shakes his head as Brandon chuckles, and Nicole's phone goes off; she moves away to answer it and Brittany quickly steals her chips, having already finished her gross salty sandwich.
"You should go warm up for your race." Tuesday tells Darren as loud whistle blows somewhere. "It's a bitch."
Darren shrugs his shoulders casually. "I'm not racing."
"Huh?" Everyone turns to him in surprise, all at once, and I blink in confusion. "But Sade said – "
"I was, but I'm not now."
Tuesday looks absolutely appalled. "What? You can't just change your fucking mind, Darren."
But Darren folds his arms across his chest, looking completely nonchalant about the whole thing. He stands up and twists his ankle to the side, applying the tiniest bit of pressure to it before standing on it properly, his face blank. "Oops. Guess I hurt my foot. Looks like you'll have to run for me."
Huh? He can't just do that. And he didn't even really hurt his foot!
Tuesday looks just as confused as I am, and low murmurs break out throughout the group. "What the fuck? I can't just take your place. Kasey's the fucking reserve for starters."
"True." Darren agrees idly, before twisting his head and focusing on a familiar boy not too far away, talking to a bunch of blue-clad girls. "Hey, Kase, c'mere for a sec."
Kasey looks puzzled but obliges, and rocks back on his heels at the sight of Tuesday. "Are you back now?"
"Tomorrow." Tuesday replies, but he's still looking suspiciously at Darren.
"Good," Kasey looks relieved, "'cause we're playing St. Johns next week and we're going to get fucking slaughtered." He paused for the barest of moments, a flash of uncertainty sparking in his eyes before disappearing. "Everyone says you're gay."
Oh, gods. I had completely forgotten about that. The whole bloody school knows now, no thanks to Julian and Matthew. And maybe it was my fault, for upsetting them so much in the first place, though I guess they would have told anyone regardless if whether I'd been there or not. I cringe inwardly, looking at Tuesday quickly and please don't let this go bad, please don't let it upset him or anything, just, just…
But Tuesday's eyes narrow, and his lips purse, and I'm almost certain he's about to snap at him or make excuses and go or clench his fists or something. He doesn't, though. But when he speaks his voice is clipped, guarded, as if he's waiting for the other boy to start a fight. "What's it to you?"
Kasey shrugs as casually as one can, and cocks his head to the side. "Nothing, just wondering." And then he smirks a bit. "Explains why you like tennis. All those balls flying – "
"Finish that sentence and there won't be any tennis." Tuesday cuts in dangerously, and Kasey laughs, a genuine type of laugh that has no hatred, no disgust, nothing but amusement and I feel myself relax a bit as Tuesday rolls his silver eyes. That didn't go so bad, right? I mean, they're joking around about it so I guess it's good. It could have been a lot worse, and is it too much to hope that everyone else reacts the same was as Kasey? Because Tuesday doesn't need it; it's going to be hard enough going back to school with counselingas it is. He doesn't need everyone hating him on top of it.
Kasey turns back to Darren. "What'd you want me for, anyway?"
"Oh, yeah. I hurt my ankle, I'm not running. You hurt yours too."
"I did?" Kasey looks confused and Tuesday looks severely annoyed. He starts to say Darren's name in a very warning type of tone, but Darren shushes him by delivering the softest kick ever to the other boy's ankle. Kasey raises his eyebrows. "The fuck?"
Darren nods his head in Tuesday's direction. "He has to run now."
"Oh." Kasey seems to catch on at last, and looks down at his ankle. "Oh, yeah. Ouch. The pain. It's…"
"Agonizing." Lindsay supplies helpfully, looking very excited about the sudden turn of events.
"Yes. Agonizing." Kasey agrees in a complete monotone, and he sighs. "Sorry, Tues. Looks like you have no choice."
Tuesday looks flabbergasted, his mouth opening and closing pointlessly and I can't work out if he's angry or not. "I'm fucking suspended, you idiots, I – "
"Let's go change that." Darren grabs his wrist and drags him off through the crowd before Tuesday can get another word in, and I stare after them still in surprise. But before anyone can speak Darren returns, and swiftly plucks the fairy floss stick from Sade's unsuspecting hand.
"Hey!" She whips around angrily but he's already moved off, and she folds her arms a little too aggressively. "Jerk!"
"Can they even do that?" I ask eventually, as Kasey moves back off to join the girls and Lindsay shrugs cluelessly, but she's smiling.
Brandon shrugs and pulls Lindsay closer, placing his chin on her shoulder. "What does it matter? I mean, he's due back at school tomorrow anyway so his suspension is pretty much over. Besides, the reserve is out so it's not like they have a choice, and everyone knows Tues is the best long-distance runner in the school anyway."
Trust them to turn everything upside down.
Brittany moves closer to my side, and rests her hand on my knee. I don't mind, obviously, and her hand moves from my knee to my hand. She pulls me up and I follow in confusion as she leads me just a few feet away from the group, a little out of earshot.
"What's wrong?" I ask, puzzled, and she shakes her head with a small smile.
"Nothing. I just wanted to talk about the party."
I shift my weight from foot to foot uncomfortably, looking back at our friends. "I told you, I'm okay."
"Yeah, you are now." She slips her fingers through the loops of my jeans and forces me to twist around to see her. She looks concerned, her eyebrows knitted. "You weren't when you were bawling your eyes out in the gutter. Seth, what the hell happened? Sade said you went to talk to Jon."
I sigh morosely. Talk. Yeah. Right. Like that's going to be happening any time soon with us. I don't blame him if he never forgives me. But… but, god, that kiss. "I didn't. He asked for me and Tuesday."
She raises her eyebrows now, questioning. "And?"
I shrug uncomfortably, and I can't meet her eyes. Can't know how much this stupid subject still fucking hurts. Because I'm wuss, goddamit I'm such a wuss, and I can't handle it. I couldn't even handle one little kiss between them. It, it killed me. It fucking killed me. "Nothing." I mumble, and I'm pretty sure I'm flushing.
"Seth." Her voice has this warning tone to it, and I give an aggravated sigh and toss my head back to look up at the silver sky.
"They kissed, alright? And, and I guess it just, it kind of upset me for a moment. But it's fine now." I add hastily, almost pleadingly because, god, please believe me. One of us has to.
"Jon and Tues?" She sounds surprised, and not at all impressed. Hardly surprising, I guess. Of course she'd take my side; she is my friend and it's funny how she's the one that's been there the most when it comes to Tuesday. I did tell her first, after all. I remember the exact moment I told her that Tuesday kissed me, by the toilets.
I nod, because my mouth is ridiculously dry. I swallow it down and lick at my lips, try to tell my heart to shut the fuck up, just for a moment. One single goddamn moment, please.
"Shit." She says bluntly, and she releases me as her hands move to her hips. "Oh. Crap. No wonder why… Christ. Are they…" She trails off, not wanting to say it and I guess I can't blame her. I can barely stand to think it, let alone discuss it.
I shake my head, and she exhales with relief. "Thank god. Then why…"
"It was a goodbye kiss, Tuesday said." And I swear, I fucking swear I try so hard to keep the bitterness out of my voice. I don't think I mange it though, and she frowns.
"That's so… stupid. Who the heck does goodbye kisses?"
Oh god, not Brittany too. She's supposed to tell me that that's completely normal, that everybody does it and that my paranoia, my hurt is completely irrational. She's supposed to prove me wrong.
I gnaw at my lip helplessly, feeling a ridiculous need to justify it somehow. To find reasons for it, so that it doesn't scare me so bloody much. "Well, I guess, I mean, they were together for two years, so, so…" And it's all I can come up with, because I don't want to follow that train of thought. Not if it leads back to them, please. I just, I don't know how to handle it.
"Mm." She sighs and looks doubtful somehow, but lets it slide. She undoes her ribbon and gathers loose strands to redo it. "How're you guys going anyway?"
Good question. I have no idea. None fucking whatsoever. He kissed me this morning, as if everything was normal, but gods, I don't know. I don't know. It's all so confusing and all over the place. "I don't know." I admit quietly, and I bury my fingertips in the soft fabric of my shirt. "We, we kind of talked last night. But." My brow furrows and she finishes tying her ribbon, tighter this time, with a curious look.
"But? Did you tell him you like him?"
I flush, my fingers digging into my hips a bit too hard. Yeah, right. As if I could ever stop being a coward long enough to tell him anything that straightforward. "Not, not really. I, um, hinted at it. Kind of."
I kissed him. Does that count? And god, how embarrassing. Not even embarrassing. Mortifying. Humiliating. I can't believe I kissed him like that – what was I thinking?! That was probably without a doubt the worst kiss he's ever had, and he probably thinks I'm a complete moron for it. Christ. Maybe I should have researched it first. Can you even do that? Research kissing? Would that make me seem desperate?
I fail at life.
She rolls her eyes and shakes her head, mostly just to toss her hair around I think. Her lips purse. "You're never going to get anywhere, Seth, if you can't even be honest with him."
I am honest with him. I'm more honest with him than everyone else combined. I, I just… it's scary. Oh god, it's so scary. It's not like my heart isn't completely riding on it or anything, geez.
"I guess." I mumble, my cheeks heating up stupidly and I was honest last night. Okay, so maybe I didn't confess my, my feelings outright, but gods. Someone has to appreciate how difficult it was for me to get to where I did, right? It's not like pouring out my heart and soul with the risk of brutal rejection is an easy task.
She sighs again, and smiles kindly, taking my hand. "You'll be fine."
Ha. Oh, Brittany. You have no idea.
She leads me back to the group, just as Darren arrives back alone looking quite smug. "Tues is racing."
"Awesome!" Lindsay jumps to her feet, pulling poor Brandon with her, and Sade gives Darren's empty hands an incredulous look.
"Where the hell is my fairy floss? Did you eat it?!"
He rolls his eyes, exasperated again. "I threw it away. You have a toothache, idiot."
Brittany giggles and we move along back to the crowd with everyone else, as Darren places his hands over his ears to block Sade's whining out. Brittany's hand remains in mine, soft and warm, until Nicole reappears and steals her away, gushing something about some boy, and Brittany whispers that she'll be back.
They are already warming up at the starting line, and Tuesday has swapped his white shirt for the sports' uniform's shirt. I guess it must be regulation or something.
"How did you convince them?" Brandon asks, leaning on the barricade with Lindsay wrapped around his arm, her face buried in his shoulder.
Darren shrugs, ignoring Sade who is sulking beside me. "Didn't have much choice and it's not like he's suspended anymore."
I look out across the field at Tuesday, his hair causing him to stand out a mile against the other runners, and I hope he wins. Well, of course I hope he wins. That goes without saying.
"Are you two going out yet?" Sade asks me suddenly, her eyes darting between Tuesday and me, and I flush at once, hunching my shoulders as much as I can because I can feel everyone's bloody eyes on me. Great, guys, way to make me feel not nervous.
"No." It's nothing but a mumble and I don't have to look at her to know she's rolling her eyes. Darren shakes his head disapprovingly along with Brandon and Lindsay just sighs wistfully. Fortunately, the gun goes off before anyone can ask anymore stupid questions and I look up quickly as Tuesday darts across the field. They run in a group, around the whole field and just watching them makes my leg muscles ache.
"How many laps do they have to do?" Lindsay asks in a pitying kind of voice, and Brandon grunts "four". His girlfriend looks sympathetic. "Sucks to be them."
Brittany and Nicole return, Nicole grinning madly, and Brittany pushes past Darren and Brandon to be with Lindsay at the very front of the crowd. Brandon doesn't seem to mind; he just stands a little to the back of her, his hand still clasping hers, and I have to admit I'm starting to think they'll be together for a while. They seemed one of the most unlikely of couples, but I think they have something special going on. I mean, Brandon cares for her deeply, whether that's a romantic love or not yet, and Lindsay, well, she loves him. They seem to understand each other, and they get along. Maybe it was good that they were friends first.
I think they'll be fine.
If only I could be so sure about my own relationships. Relationship. Singular. Potential relationship. And, god, the thought just scares me sometimes. The idea of a relationship, like, like that. And after last night there's no doubt in mind that I… oh gods, that I actually want that. A relationship. With him. It's just, y'know. It's so fucking scary. All those coupley things that couples do. It'll be weird even thinking of us as a 'couple', let alone, I don't know. And Jon said that Tuesday isn't all that eager on public displays of affection, which is fine because Lord knows I wouldn't be that comfortable with it either, but what about private displays? Imagine being able to go up to him whenever I want, hold his hand or just be with him. Kiss him. To be that comfortable with him, with no stupid boundaries or lines.
My face is on fire, I can feel it. Way to go, Seth. Blush up a storm and let everyone know what you're thinking about. But they're all too busy watching the race to pay attention (thank god) and I think they're on their second lap.
"Hey." There's a touch to my elbow and I turn around expecting Darren, or Brandon, or anyone but Jon. He smiles weakly, almost timidly, and all I can do is gape at him wordlessly.
"Whoa, shit." Brandon looks as surprised as I feel. "Hey, mate."
Darren nods a hello at him too, and Jon just nods back at both of them, before his eyes snap back to me expectantly.
S-Sade said he might be here, but I didn't, I didn't really think… oh, gods. He is probably the last person I want to see at the moment, here, with Tuesday around somewhere and after the party… they kissed.
I swallow, and my mouth already feels like it's been stuffed with cotton. My heartbeat is almost as loud as the constant cheering around us. "H-H-Hey."
He looks out at the field, his brows knitting for a moment before his hands slide into the pockets of his pants. His shoulders, his whole posture, is tense and I swallow again, desperately wishing someone would come interrupt, anyone. As long as, as long as… because I don't know what to say. I don't. There's been so much bad blood between us, and I don't even know how to begin to fix it. And now that I think Tuesday and I are finally getting somewhere, finally sorting us out, I… I just don't know what to say to him.
He looks back at me, and he looks tired. I guess he would be. I wonder what he was going to say to me at the party, if anything. But Darren had said he had requested me too, so there must have been something. "Can I talk to you for a sec?"
And oh god, it's not because I don't like him, or, or that I hold anything against him (they kissed) but, it's just… it's too hard, it's too complicated and I don't want to hurt him, I don't want him to hurt anymore. And what if he's angry at me? What if he's just going to yell and shout and blame me for everything? Not that I don't deserve it, but still. I don't think I could handle that. I, I can barely handle seeing him.
But I can't say no, because this has to be as hard for him (I'm the one that stole his boyfriend away) as it is for me, and god, he looks so tired. So I nod, numbly, and he hunches his shoulders as another excessive roar goes up. He looks like he wants to be here even less than I do. "Can we uh, can we go somewhere more… quiet?"
I nod again; I can't speak. Don't even know how to start. He turns, melting into the crowd and I have no choice but to follow him. I throw a helpless glance over my shoulder, willing anyone to come and rescue me. Rescue both of us, because this cannot end well. It never has and considering the circumstances I can't really expect it to.
He leads me away from the crowd, down near by the stalls, where it's shady and the noise isn't quite so loud. There are a few students from varying schools dotted around, but none within earshot and nobody pays us any attention. My stomach is twisting nervously, my palms damp against my jeans (oh why did I wear jeans? It's so hot) and I can't quite look at him, can't make eye contact.
Can't risk seeing the disgust and hatred I might see there.
I stare at the ground, feeling hot and ashamed and my teeth dig into my lip a little too hard. My hands feel like they're going to start trembling, and I shove them into my pockets so he can't see. Can't see how scared I am.
He's quiet for a while, and I can't be sure if he's even looking at me or not. He seems nervous too, and maybe that's a good thing, m-maybe that means he isn't angry, I don't know.
This is the first real attempt at conversation, at even interacting peacefully, we've made since the whole thing started. The whole thing. What a way to simplify it. Since his boyfriend kissed me, and then confessed he had feelings for me. Since their relationship ended over it, and Jon was left heartbroken.
Eventually he clears his throat, and I've never heard him sound so forced and awkward. It's almost like he's trying not to choke on the words, and that hurts somewhere, though I'm not sure why. It hurts that it affects him that much. That this is this hard for him. "So, um." He stops unsurely and I hear the wavering intake of breath. "How… How've you been?"
Is that a serious question? How does he think I've been? But I bite my lip harder and shuffle my feet nervously, scaredly, and I just want to get out of here. I don't want this conversation, whatever it might turn out to be, I don't want to see how sad he is now, or how alone. I can't. I can't. It makes me regret every step I've taken with Tuesday so far, and I can't be feeling that now. We've finally gotten somewhere. "O-Okay." It hurts my throat to talk because it's so dry. I don't want to ask how he's been, because I already know the answer, but I can't not ask. It's not like I don't care. I do, gods, I care about him so much. It wouldn't be this awful if I didn't. "How… you?"
He pauses before answering, and his voice is strained. "Alright."
I nod, and I mean to say "that's good" or something along those lines but I can't bring myself to speak again. There's an elephant beetle scurrying over the grass, as fast as they ever go, and I watch it desperately. Anything but Jon.
And god, I'm so sorry. I never meant for this, I swear. Any of it. But it's happened anyway, and I can't apologise enough for it.
Why can't I just say that?
But my mouth won't open and the words won't come and all I can do is pray he understands anyway. Somehow. Lord knows I don't blame him if he chooses not to.
"Look…" He shuffles as the wind picks up, a warm breeze that smells faintly of rain, and clears his throat again, so hard it must have hurt. "About the party…"
I want to wince. That. That. Gods, that's the last thing I want to talk, think, about. I just, I can't. It practically tore the heart from my chest, and I can't go through that again. I can't even describe how much that hurt. And it was partly my fault, for jumping to conclusions and assuming it meant they were back together, but still. Who kisses people goodbye like that?
"I'm sorry." His voice is low, pained. Like maybe his mouth is full of cotton too. "I didn't, I didn't mean… I honestly didn't plan for that. I, um, I forgot you were there."
Like that hasn't happened before. Like those few times they would start kissing and get too into it, completely forgetting my presence. When they were actually together and happy, and none of this awfulness had happened. When Jon and I were friends, and Tuesday and I were still trying to be. Funny how the roles have reversed. Now Jon and Tuesday are fighting for friendship, and we're… I don't know where we are.
"It's okay." I mumble, because I don't know what else to say. There's nothing I can say. Technically I have no right to be annoyed about it – Tuesday and I aren't together, and if he wanted Jon could try to take him back. It's not… it's not my right, and it's none of my business.
But oh god.
"It's not." He says, and I think he shakes his head. I see a faint blur of black, at least. "It, it really isn't. I shouldn't have kissed him. I just, god, Seth." He sucks in a deep, shivery type of breath and exhales slowly, like it's taking everything in him to keep going. Like it hurts him that much, and I have no doubt that it does. "It's just hard. To go from everything we had to… to nothing. To not even friends. I, I just…"
"I know." I whisper, but I don't. I don't know how that feels; I've never experienced the breakdown of a relationship. I pray to God I never will, because I don't think I'd be able to handle losing him. Tuesday. And Jon loved him. Loved. Without the slightest doubt, without any hesitation whatsoever. He loved him truly and completely and so, so much.
He snorts quietly, but I don't think it's done with spite, and there's a long, aching silence. I want to speak, want to say anything I possibly can to make this better, to fill up the stupid awful silence but I can't. The wind rustles the trees around us, the smell of rain getting stronger, and in the distance there are chants going on. School cheers, I guess. I wonder if Tuesday is doing alright, and hope he wins. It has to be close to finishing now, right? And it's stupid, because this isn't the time or place for it, especially with Jon, but I kind of wish he was here. Just as some sort of comfort, something to make me feel a bit more sure, a bit more safe about this.
"I treated you like crap." He says after a long, long pause and his voice holds so much regret. It's enough to make me look up, to see the sorrowful look on his turned-away face, and I swallow as something behind my eyes bites. Starts to prickle a bit, and I can't cry, not here. Not now.
"No, you didn't." I say feebly, because, because he had reason to. He lost everything because of me, me, and, and I understand. I understand how hard it must have been, and then to see me every day and know what was going on with Tuesday, know how Tuesday felt about me and I guess he knows how I feel about him. However I feel. "I, um. I deserved it anyway."
He snorts again, and this time it is spiteful but it doesn't seem like it's directed at me. "You really didn't." He says flatly, and lifts a hand to push his curls away from his face as the wind caresses them. His hand lingers for a moment at his temple, before dropping and curling into a loose fist. He still doesn't look at me; he's facing the crowd, watching them instead and probably wondering about Tuesday too. "It wasn't your fault. I don't, I don't…I don't blame you for it."
I swallow again and look down, squeezing my eyes shut as they grow hotter, and I have to take a deep breath to stop the tears from leaking. And oh god, I can't do this with him. I just want it to be over, and for us to be okay again. For him to be okay. "I, I should have… like you said, I should have…"
"What?" He asks, and he gives a short, bitter laugh. His gaze switches to the grass, to the elephant beetle maybe, and his shoulders hunch again. "Told me? Told me what? There was nothing… there was nothing I didn't already know. I, fuck." He takes another breath, sounding desperate and wounded and he shakes his head.
There's another long pause, and my mind flicks between the past few days, weeks. When he speaks again his voice is very nearly trembling. "I knew how he felt about you. He denied it constantly, the few times I actually had the guts, the… the few times I could bring myself to mention it. But, but…" A shaky exhale. "Thinking you know is one thing, but actually having it confirmed…"
"Yeah." I whisper, and I know what he means. It was the same thing with Tuesday's… how he feels about me. Suspecting it, being told it by other people. It doesn't compare to the person admitting it themselves. It doesn't have the same devastating effect.
He runs his hand through his hair, and I think I hear a sniffle, but I don't dare look. Because I'll just burst into tears and beg for him to forgive me, to be okay and god, god. I just, I can't.
He clears his throat again, and his foot scuffs the ground. The elephant beetle is gone, has cut a path around one of the trees and disappeared. I wish I could disappear with it. Away from here, from this horrible thick air and this choking guilt. From the utter helplessness. "I'm sorry I took it out on you."
I shake my head, unable to get anything out, and have to force myself to take slower breaths, to calm down. When I finally manage to reply my throat burns. "I'm sorry it even happened."
You have no idea how sorry I am.
"Me too." He says quietly, and he sounds it. He visibly hesitates and looks away again at the crowd. The smell of rain is stronger, closer. "As cliché as it sounds… I, I just want him to be happy. I always just kind of assumed it would be me."
Me too. We all did. Because, god, not one of us could have known how it would turn out. How it could change so quickly, and everything could get so messed up. No one could have guessed this was going to happen.
"Guess it's you though." He says after a painful moment and I want to cringe. Not because he's being mean or anything like that; he isn't. Just the fact alone is enough to upset me. I feel so upset for him. And I want to tell him that it isn't me, that it probably won't be me because we're hopeless, I'm hopeless and I don't know how to do it. I don't have the courage that he has, or the brains, or anything he has. I'm completely useless, and I'm everything Tuesday shouldn't be interested in. Everything that shouldn't make him happy.
I have the sense to know that isn't the right thing to say, though. After all this, after all that's happened between us, I can't shrug it off and tell him that I don't know what I'm doing. That I'm scared out of my mind, and I'm not even sure anything is going to happen between us. That there's no guarantee yet, because maybe I've screwed it up too many times.
He looks at me, finally looks at me properly and I barely have the strength to maintain eye contact. His eyes are a little too shiny, a little too damp looking. "Just keep him happy, yeah?"
I grab my lip again with my teeth – it's all I can do to stop myself from crying. And it's absurd that this is even happening. It's like he's giving me permission or something, or letting me know that it's okay. And I don't know if that makes it any better or not. It still hurts the same. My throat is dry again, and my eyes are burning and somewhere in my chest my heart aches, mourns for him. "Yeah." I whisper, and it's all I can say.
It starts to rain. The faintest of drops, warm and cool at the same time, and at first I barely notice, probably because we're more under a tree than not. An angry cry ripples through the spectators, and I guess the rain's going to put a dampening on the whole event. No pun intended.
His eyes drop away, and he bites his lip. "I guess – "
But he's interrupted by Lindsay, who swings around my neck and jerks me too hard, causing a bit of pain. "Tues won! He fucking won!"
That's good. Better than good. Not that I thought he'd lose – the boy can run, that is for sure. It's just, gods, I wish she hadn't interrupted. And at once she seems to realise the same thing, because she sobers up immediately and looks between us guiltily. "Oh. Shit. Sorry, I didn't realise…"
"No, it's okay." Jon shakes his head, forcing a tight, thin smile and he looks almost relieved to have something to change the subject to. To get away from this. Not that I blame him, gods. "That's great."
"Yeah." She agrees quickly, and she's already backing away from us. "I'll just… go…"
No, please don't. Stay.
But soon she's gone and it's just us again, just us and we can't look at each other. Can't do anything with each other, because we're complicated and stupid but gods it shouldn't be like this.
Why couldn't Jon be a bad person or something? Why couldn't it have been a horrible, unhappy relationship? Not that I would ever wish that on them, but. It would have been so much easier. But instead Jon is really nice, and one of the best friends I have, and their relationship was nothing but happy, as far as I know. Aside from the whole me thing. And god, it's laughable to think there even is a 'me' thing. That I had an impact on it. Little old unspecial me.
But. Given the chance. And god, I don't know if this makes me a bad person or not… I'd give anything I could to change it. Go back in time. But. I can't give him back. Not, not that he's anyone's to give, but you know what I mean.
I can't lose him.
E-Even if, even for…
Does that make me a bad person? A selfish person? It's just, it's just that we've gone through so much and, and I can't lose him now. Can't lose him ever. I, I… yeah. I just can't.
The rain is gaining strength, and I can hear it hitting the leaves above us. It's getting colder, I think, and I suppress a shiver. The air between us is horrible and awkward again, and I'm almost glad for the footsteps that come our way, until I realise who it is.
Tuesday looks out of breath, probably is out of breath considering the distance he just ran, and his eyes are narrow, guarded. He hovers uncertainly between us, his silver eyes flicking between Jon and me. "Hey." He says eventually, and I'm not sure who it's directed at.
"Hey." Jon smiles at him, and it's tired and every shade of exhausted but it's a smile. A real, genuine, happy-to-see-you smile. It kind of lifts my heart a bit, until I remember why he smiles at Tuesday like that (because he loves him and never wanted to lose him) and my heart crashes back down into the heap of guilt.
Tuesday gives him a hesitant smile in return, and glances at me. And I know he wants to ask what's going on, because there's a curiosity sparking in his eyes, but he doesn't. He doesn't say anything, just waits patiently, and Jon finally looks back at me with another shuddery breath.
"Anyway, I… I guess I'll see you at school."
"Yeah." My voice cracks, and I swallow fire. Depending on how long I'll be there for, at least. "I-I'll see you then."
He nods jerkily and looks back at Tuesday, as if he's considering saying something, his brows furrowing a bit. Tuesday beats him to it, though. "I'll call you tonight." He says softly, and Jon smiles again, but it's sadder.
"Yeah." He whispers, and he turns like he can't take this anymore, and my hand shoots out and grabs his before I can even think about it, before I even know what to say.
His eyes meet mine, and I swallow. I want to cry. "I'm sorry."
The corners of his lips turn upwards wearily, and he gives my wrist the gentlest of reassuring squeezes. "For what?"
And the he's gone, walking off towards the crowd and my hand falls back to my side limply.
Tuesday shifts beside me, and I glance back at him. "Um, congratulations. For winning."
"Oh, right." He shrugs his shoulders jerkily and looks back at the crowd, at the track. "Yeah. Thanks."
"Shouldn't you be going to get your medal or ribbon or whatever?" I swallow and another shiver runs through me; the rain is definitely getting worse. I can hear it properly now, and it sounds like it's not going to let up any time soon. Trust it to rain on the one day they need sunshine. That's just our luck.
He frowns, falters. Runs his hand through his damp hair and throws a glance in the direction Jon walked off in. "I guess. Is he…" He trails off with his nose wrinkling, like he doesn't know what to actually ask. The right words to say.
"He's okay." I mumble, and I pray it's true. He's as okay as he can be at this stage. He's handling it a lot better than I would be able to, that is for sure. If nothing else. "He, um." But I stop there, because I don't really want to tell him what Jon said. Not because I'm actively keeping it from him, it's just that. Not yet. I don't know if that makes sense.
He looks like he wants to ask something else, or maybe just ask me to elaborate, but he doesn't. He doesn't get a chance to, because Sade bursts in and grabs his arm. "Tues, you dickhead! They're looking everywhere for you!"
He gives me a reluctant look before being dragged off, and I shake my head. Trust him to come straight here without checking everything out first. I wonder if someone told him Jon and I were talking. Or maybe he had no idea, and just wanted to… but that's ridiculous, because I can't mean that much.
I shiver again, but this time it has nothing to do with the rain. And I hope Jon is okay.
"Well, that sucked." Sade says flatly, pulling the clip out of her hair. Her hair is soaked, the blond wisps plastered to her face, and she wipes it back with irritation.
Brittany's hair is just as bad, only because hers is so long it's become a tangled mess. "Tell me about it. You'd think they'd put up bloody covers or something."
"Over, what, the whole field?" The boys are the only ones not bothered by the rain, and Brandon peers out at it with a grin. "Hope it floods and school is cancelled."
"Oh, yeah, because that's likely." Lindsay says scornfully; her blue streaks are running, and she looks as though she's just smeared blue paint in splotches over her lower face. She kicks at the wet grass beyond the cement moodily, scowling at the flecks of mud that splatter on her shoes because of it. "Can we go now?"
"Yeah, yeah." Brandon sighs exaggeratedly and grins at Tuesday. "Congrats about your race, man. We're in the interstates, right?"
Tuesday nods an affirmative, and the other boy gives a whoop of joy. "Sweet! Fucking awesome. Hey, see you guys tomorrow. Don't be late, Tues! First day back." He grins and takes Lindsay's hand, and she gives us all a sweet smile before they dash out from under the safety of the bus stop, into the pouring rain.
"They are so going to get pneumonia." Nicole remarks with a giggle. The blue has already begun to wash out of her hair, so I guess my spray theory was right.
Sade groans melodramatically and kicks her legs out. She's sitting on the thin seat with Brittany, Nicole and me. "We're all going to get pneumonia and die! I have to bloody walk home!"
Darren points out a car coming towards us, its headlights shining for some reason, and shrugs. "My brother's here. We can give you a lift if you want."
"Ooh, can you give me a lift too?" Brittany asks eagerly. "It'll save me having to call my mum."
"Yeah, whatever." He nods and gives Tuesday a one-armed hug type of thing that guys always seem to do. "See you tomorrow, mate."
"Yeah." Tuesday mutters and he's quickly enveloped by Sade's arms. "Fucking hell, Sade! I need to breathe!"
Sade hugs him tighter until he's practically gasping for breath, and lets him go with a raspy laugh before pressing a quick kiss to the corner of his mouth. "Catch ya later, Sunday."
And then she rounds on me and before I can even squeak has grabbed me just as tightly, squeezed me until I can't breathe anymore before ruffling my hair – I jerk my head away and scowl, sucking in beloved oxygen. "See you tomorrow, Sethy."
"Oh wait," Tues says quickly as though he's just remembered something, "we won't be at school tomorrow."
Huh? We won't?
Everyone else is just as confused. "What do you mean you won't be? You can't start slacking off school already!" Brittany exclaims, and Tuesday gives me an incredulous look.
Oh my god. I can't believe I forgot all about court! I was only freaking out over it this morning! Wow. Like… gods. How could I have forgotten about it?! It's all I've been thinking about since we were even taken into foster care!
"Oh." I say dumbly, more to myself and Tuesday than anything. "Yeah."
"We have some shit to do." Tuesday explains and he shrugs nonchalantly. "I might be back in the afternoon though, at lunch. If not I'll just see you on Tuesday, you dickheads."
"Yeah." Sade looks downcast, but sighs. "Alrighty, see you then."
Darren rolls his eyes as she gets into the backseat of the waiting car, and gives us both a casual nod. "See you on Tues. Make sure you've got that report done, Seth, or at least a draft of it or something."
I nod, muttering a "sure" and he gets into the car, in the front passenger's side. Brittany lingers for a moment longer, giving me an encouraging smile (and I think she's encouraging me about Tuesday, but with the way my stomach is suddenly churning it should be about court) and gets into the car too.
We watch them drive off as Nicole's mother pulls up; she jumps off the seat and gives us both a cheery goodbye (and our replies are so half-hearted and lame and ugh) and disappears too.
And then it's just us.
He remains leaning against the post, and the sound of the rain on the roof is almost deafening. It's so heavy. It hasn't rained this hard for a while, I don't think. The cement is soaked, and I keep my shoes as far away from it as I can. That's the last thing they need.
"So, um, do you need to call Tania or something?" My voice rises to be heard over the pounding rain and he shakes his head. He's changed back into his white shirt, and it's already pretty much soaked.
"She said she has to do some things for work at her office. Have to catch the bus."
"Oh." And I can't remember a single time I've caught a bus. Like I've ever even had the money to do it. How stupid is that? It's weird how many things you miss out on in life sometimes. And it's always the things you kind of assume everyone's done, like riding a bus. "Um, I don't have any money."
He gives me a wry look, the corner of his mouth quirking a bit. "What else is new?"
I flush and look down at my knees, bent together. I shuffle as far back on the seat as I can, trying to put as much distance between the soaked ground and my feet. I hope there are no ants on the ground. Do they know when rain is coming? I mean, can they sense it or something? It would kind of suck if they couldn't. Whole colonies would drown on a daily basis.
The car park is almost empty, and there's no one really around. I can't see anyone from our school left, and I ask how Shannon is getting home.
"Fuck knows. Her friend." He looks up as the bus pulls up, and pushes off the post. "You ready?"
I grimace at the wall of rain, and I'm shivering already. It is way too cold. "Not really. M-Maybe – "
"Shut up." He grabs my wrist and yanks me forward before I can finish, and I gasp as the freezing cold water hits my skin, hard and fast and stinging. We practically run to the bus, and I'm so desperate to get inside I almost trip up on the steps.
Tuesday pays for the tickets and yanks me along the narrow aisle – buses aren't that fascinating after all. It's nearly full; there's only two seats empty and he pulls me to the closest, shoving me down by the window before sitting himself.
"F-Fuck," his teeth are kind of chattering, "it's fucking cold."
"Tell me about it." I mumble miserably, rubbing my arms fiercely, trying to generate some warmth somewhere. It doesn't really work though, and I sit there shivering madly as the cold water runs down the back of my neck, soaks into my clothes, drips off my nose.
I hate rain, I've decided.
"Ugh." He runs his hands through his sopping hair, and slumps down in the blue seat. We're soaking the fabric, and I feel a flash of guilt for a moment before accepting there's nothing I can do about it. There's a loud level of noise in the bus, mostly from the kids and young teenagers in the back, and I look out the window – it's still pouring.
I damn near cringe as we approach a round-a-bout, and my hands fly out to grab the steel bar as we turn hazardously. "Tell me this isn't going to crash."
He scoffs, and pulls at his shirt. "Don't be such a loser all your life, Seth. Besides, if we crash and die at least you'll be dying by my side? Who wouldn't wish for that?"
Despite the stupid hot blush that lights up my skin I manage to give him a scornful type of look but he only smirks.
We're silent for a while, just listening to the other people in the bus, and watching the world go by. My clothes are sticking to me in the most uncomfortable of ways and I shuffle in my seat awkwardly, wishing the ride would hurry the hell up so I can go home and change. Get warm, decrease the chances of me getting pneumonia (thanks, Nicole).
"H-Hey, Tuesday?" My voice cracks a bit and I clear my throat, shivering and hunching up as much as I can just to stay warm. Ugh, I'm pretty sure the bus is actually using its air-conditioning. Who does that in the rain?! Like, seriously?
"Mm?" He barely twists his head, his eyes focused on an advertisement plastered to one of the windows.
I hesitate, and bite my lip. It's wet and slippery, and my teeth graze over it lightly. "You… you don't have to come. To the court. I… you should go to school."
He looks at me properly, his eyes narrowed a little, and I shrink away with another flush. My eyes go to my lap, and my arms are folded for warm so tightly that they're beginning to ache. "You don't want me to come?"
"It's not that." I say quickly, because god, no. It's not that at all. Of course I do. I mean, not, not in the court room of course but… the support would be nice, I guess. Lord knows I need all the support I can get. "It's, it's just… it's your first day back, and…" I trail off and bite down on my lip harder, pull at it a bit. "It's important."
And he has counselling. That's very important. Way more important than my stupid court crap. Besides… it's not like I'm going to do anything good anyway. All he's going to see is me completely screwing up mine and my sister's lives.
"Somehow," he says coolly, "I think this is a little more important, thanks."
"But – " I break off and swallow, and my throat hurts again. Maybe I'm coming down with something. Because that would be just my luck, wouldn't it? All in one week. Court, sick, leaving. Doesn't get any better than that. "Tuesday, it's, it's important."
"So are you." He snaps and I my teeth snap around my lip way too hard at the comment; the warm flush that was eating my skin before explodes and my head jerks away as my heart flutters somewhere.
O-Oh. That's, that's… that's nice. Really nice.
"Okay." I whisper, and despite the miserable situation and how bloody cold I am, and how tomorrow is way too soon and oh god I'm going to die, his words kind of make me want to smile somehow.
Is that lame? It is, isn't it?
It's just, y'know. I'm important to him. Me. With all my faults and problems and holes, I'm important to him. Because, because god. Because he likes me. Because he thinks he might love me.
I don't even bother trying to fight off the grin. I just turn my face away, and pray he doesn't see it.
The bus ride takes half an hour. Is it supposed to take that long? By the time it pulls up at the bus stop I'm pretty sure I've developed triple pneumonia or something, or at the very least there's a cold festering in my lungs.
And it's only when we're on the steps of the bus, about to step off, that I realise something.
"Um, we're not at the house."
"I know," Tuesday says from behind me in an impatient tone, "it's about two blocks away."
I spin around, my jaw dropping in horror. "What?!" No bloody way! That means we have to go into the rain again! Is he trying to kill me?!
"Can you hurry up please?" The bus driver barks, and Tuesday gives me a rough shove before I can stammer an apology; I land quite ungracefully on my feet (somehow) on the grass. The mud squelches beneath my shoes, and when Tuesday steps down beside me it sends mud flying up; it hits my pants and I whirl around gasping; the rain is like fucking knives.
"Which way is it?"
"Come on." He has to shout to be heard above the rain; he takes off in one direction and I'm quick to follow. Oh god, I hope it's not raining tomorrow. Please don't let it rain tomorrow, please. Enough things will be going wrong as it is.
And I swear, those two blocks are the longest blocks of my life. They just don't end, and by the time we reach the house my feet are so numb I can't even feel them anymore.
Tuesday takes way too long with the stupid gate; I plead with him to hurry up and he snaps at me to shut up, before finally shoving it open.
We pound up the steps and onto the veranda, and the moment we're under cover we both buckle over, panting and breathless.
"Shit," He curses, holding onto his side, "I think I have a fucking stitch."
"And you're supposed to be a long-distance runner." I reply as best I can, struggling just to bloody breathe. And oh god, I hurt everywhere. Fucking everywhere.
He gives me the finger and digs into his pockets for his house-keys, experiencing a bit of trouble with trying to even separate his pockets because his jeans are so soaked. The door squeals open and I've never been so glad to hear it before.
"Shit," he says again as we're treading carefully inside; all the lights are out, and I blink around in the dark. There's a fumbling noise, a barking and he must find the light switch because it flickers on. Jax is at my feet, licking at my pants and trying to get to my skin with all the energy he normally has.
"Ah, fuck." Tuesday scowls, "we're getting water everywhere; mum is going to fucking kill me. Hurry up and get upstairs."
I wince, glancing back over my shoulder at the thick trail of water we've left and take the steps two at a time, reminding myself to go back and clean it up.
Jax comes bounding up behind me, trying to tangle himself in my feet and I push open the door to my bedroom, ready to just grab some dry clothes and have a shower but I freeze in the doorway the moment I turn the light on.
Sam is curled up in my bed, her head buried between the two pillows and the blanket tangled around her midsection. She's fast asleep, Chops under one of her arms, and stirs with a moan.
I snap the light off quickly, grabbing Jax before he can dart into the room and wake her properly. I remain there for a moment, my mind racing with ideas. I could sneak in, I guess, but how I'm going to find anything without a light is anyone's guess.
Why is she even in there? Why isn't she in Shannon's room? Maybe she was just missing me. Not me, but… maybe with all the crap going on she just wanted something familiar. Something that wasn't going anywhere, or making her leave.
Either way, she's there now and I can't wake her.
"The fuck are you doing?" Tuesday hisses behind me and the hallway is providing enough light to illuminate my sister wrapped up there. He pauses, and sighs. "Great."
"I'll just, um. Do you think there'd be clean clothes in the laundry?" I ask, racking my mind. When did Tania do laundry last? Not that she ever actually uses the drier, but gods, I'm hoping. I can not stay in these cold sticky things. Maybe if I just have a shower and… and then what, genius?
I am so screwed.
Tuesday rolls his eyes, and grabs my wrist as Jax jumps free, tugging me forward and ignoring my protests. "Just c'mon. It's not like you can't borrow my shit. Just remind me to wash it in holy water or something afterwards."
"Very funny." I reply sarcastically as I'm shoved quite harshly into his bedroom. He flicks on the light and closes the door, and something in my stomach drops as I realise all at once how utterly alone we are. How private and away and alone.
"Ignore the mess." He steps over it, attempting to make his way to the wardrobe and I focus on that, on the appalling state of the room instead of how the door is closed and it's just us.
I've forgotten how cold I feel.
"Always do." I mumble, looking around uncomfortably. Is it weird that I feel uncomfortable here now? It's his room again, and I don't belong here. Hell, soon I won't belong in this whole house.
"It's not that bad." He says, his voice muffled by the wardrobe because he's half inside it. I grimace and look down at the mass of clothes littering the floor, and wonder how the hell Tania doesn't strangle him in frustration.
I wonder how clean our next home is going to be. I wonder how permanent it's going to be, and if it will ever really become home. Because Lord, we've already found one. This. Here. It is our home.
He comes back out holding a bundle of clothes in his arms, looking unimpressed. "I have got to sort this shit out." He scowls at my nod, and dumps the clothes on the bed. "You could help, you know."
"It's your mess." I point out unhelpfully, and he scowls again.
"What-the-fuck-ever. Are you going for a shower?"
I shrug uncomfortably and I think I'd do just about anything to get out of here. Where there are other people, or open space, something safer and, and… somewhere where it's not just us and all I can see, hear, feel is him. "Y-yeah."
He sorts through the clothes, kind of, pulling out random bits and pieces. "Right, well, fuck knows you're skinny enough for everything to fit you." He claws a shirt free and moves closer – I inhale way too sharply, too suddenly and obviously and he pauses mid-step, hesitation clear on his face.
We're barely a few feet apart, and my stomach is twisting fast, my heart racing in my ears. And, and it scares me, more than usual, because no one else is home. Except Sam, and she's asleep.
We're alone, and there's no one to interrupt us. No one to stop me from panicking, from freaking out and running. And, gods. I'm scared. I'm so fucking scared. Of what I might say, if the conversation leads to there. Of what I might not say.
I don't know which is worse.
His shirt is plastered to him like it's another layer of skin, and the water has turned it so transparent that I can actually make out the scar from the knife. I don't know why that thought both terrifies me, and… and something.
"You should have a shower." His voice is quieter than it was five seconds ago, and I swallow nervously. I should do a lot of things – I should get out of this room right now, because, because he's looking at me, like, like that and his eyes are far too penetrating, far too everything.
"Seth…" He visibly hesitates, and swallows audibly. I inhale deeply, my breath trembling as much as my skin and when his hand brushes over my arm, my wrist, my teeth sink into my lip to stop it from shivering. To stop me from shivering.
He closes the space between us until he's just there, his eyes silver and bright and focused entirely on mine and oh god, he makes me feel so exposed. So completely naked. Rain clings to his eyelashes, until they flutter shut and his lips are cold, damp.
His hands move around to my lower back, thumbs sliding up my shirt either side of me and I can't help but shiver, unable to keep my eyes open any longer.
He kisses me slowly, gently, his lips barely brushing mine for the longest time, and my fingers grip into my wet jeans, clawing at the rough denim because I don't know what else to do and, oh god, his mouth is so warm. His hands sweep up my back under my shirt, fingernails grazing the wet skin and I shudder, flushing when my throat makes this stupid ridiculous whimpery noise that comes from nowhere, that I barely even hear myself make, and his teeth graze over my lower lip; it sends an immeasurable amount of, of something through me that goes straight down to my stomach, straight down somewhere and for a moment I can't breathe at all.
"Seth," he breathes my name across my mouth, before moving away and I bite back the whimper, the plea for him to return because oh god, oh fuck I don't think I can get enough of it, of, of this.
I jump and freeze, gasp, when something damp brushes over the side of my neck – his mouth and I can't stop the shudder, the, the anything and then oh fuck.
He, he does something, I don't know what and oh god I don't care, his lips and his teeth and his tongue and it sends this, this oh god, and I can't stand anymore, my legs are nothing but jelly and I can't breathe, can't think, can't do anything but fucking tremble and I have to bite my lip to stop from whimpering, from something because oh god if I open my mouth I don't know what I'll do, what'll come out.
And then just as I'm starting to get comfortable, as I'm getting as close to calm as I can ever get in this situation, with him pressing against me like this and oh god, he pushes. Gently, oh-so-gently, and I freeze, my limbs flailing hopelessly as the world tilts all too suddenly, and my back hits the soft mattress.
"W-W – ?!" I stare up at him with wide, frightened eyes, my heart hammering wildly in my chest.
"Sh," his lips brush my ear, follow the curve of it and I shiver and oh Lord his breath is so warm, my teeth chattering loudly and I'm not even cold, not, not even, oh god I can't fucking think; my body tenses further as he rests over me somehow, his hands at my sides, "trust me."
And I do, oh god I do, it's, it's just that it feels so different lying down. So, like… vulnerable.
Like I'm completely at his mercy, his. Like, like I'm his.
His hands find the bottom of my shirt and I tense, my heart leaping into my throat as he pushes past it,under it and they find the steep curve of my ribcage, his damp thumbs massaging the dip at the centre and something gurgles in my throat and oh god I flush so fucking hard, w-what –
Sharp pain spikes in my lower lip and I jerk as his teeth close around it, and oh god his tongue and I can't breathe, I can't fucking b-breathe, I, I, oh godohgod h-he can't, he can't be – but he is and he does and oh my god every time he moves it's like, it's like, oh god I can't think.
His hands twist at my sides, nails scrape down my ribs and they're so rough and calloused and covered in his, in his oh god, ohgodohgod, not like this, not like this p-please –
My head spins; I flinch and gasp and suddenly my skin is crawling, crawling, and it feels wrong, oh god it feels so wrong.
"Stay still," he breathes and oh god his breath smells like vomit, "stop fucking moving or – "
I jolt in shock, in, in something and Tuesday's lips brush over mine, kiss down on mine and oh god, he tastes like beer and vomit and his teeth rip at me, force my lips apart and oh godohgodohgod –
"S-Stop!" I lurch up all at once, my heart walloping against my chest in one big awful go and pain explodes in my head; I reel back with a cry of shock and he falls back off the bed with a howl.
"Fuck!" He swears loudly and I gulp down air, stunned and paralyzed and, and fuck. What the hell, what the hell was that?!
Oh god, oh god.
I'm such an idiot!
I scramble to the edge of the bed, guilt swarming through me. "Crap! Sorry! I, I didn't mean to, I, s-sorry!"
My own head, forehead, is throbbing madly and his hands are wrapped around his, his face twisted in pain. He gives me a dark look from between his splayed fingers, and rises to his knees. "S'fine. Not exactly how I wanted this to end, but hey, whatever. Better than being stabbed, I guess."
I flush, chewing at my lip (his teeth and oh god they were so sharp, so fucking cruel) and give my shirt a hard tug. I mean, Christ. I, I can't even handle kissing without freaking out, without, without seeing, feeling, him. Oh god, I'm so completely hopeless. Hopeless and useless and fuck, what does he even see in me? What?
I'm such a failure of a person. I probably fail more at life than everyone else combined. He could have had someone normal, someone, someone other than me. Gods, he should have stayed with Jon. I fall back, hunching my shoulders and feeling so bloody ashamed. Mortified. I, I can't believe I…
He gets in everywhere, doesn't he? Just, just when I think it's over, when I think I couldn't possibly think about him any more, it happens. At the most annoying times. Oh god, he's like a fucking parasite.
I, I just… it felt so real. Like it wasn't Tuesday's hands at all, like, like it was… f-fuck. Don't think about it, please don't think about. Please.
"I'm sorry." I whisper, and my voice croaks. Oh gods, don't cry, please, fucking please. Not here, not, not now. I, I can't deal with that. Not, not after… oh god, why did I have to think of him? Why? Why? Just when things were going so well. When I was going so well. We. When we were. "I, I just – "
But I can't explain it, can't even begin to. I don't know why. My tongue just refuses to move, and, and I can't think of the , dammit, it shouldn't be like this. It, it shouldn't. It can't be. I can't think of him every time Tuesday touches me, kisses me.
"It's okay." He cuts off my stupid pointless stammering, sounding like I didn't just practically throw him off me and knock our heads together in the process. He lowers his hands, and his eyes are on me, thoughtful, calm. "Was expecting it. Not so much the head injury, but fortunately I've always been a bit fond of concussions. They make my head spin like fun."
I blink in surprise, licking my lips slowly. They're already dry, like they weren't being caressed by his mouth only moments ago. A frown forms, and I slowly cross my legs. "You… you were expecting it?"
How could he possibly have been expecting it? He couldn't have known that was going to happen. Even I didn't…
He shrugs nonchalantly, and his gaze travels to the cluttered desk, and narrow. "Yeah." He says, in this brisk tone of voice and at once I understand.
"Oh." I say softly, releasing my lower lip from my teeth. Oh. Of course he knew it was going to happen.
Because it happened to him as well. God, it must have. I guess he was lucky he was with someone as kind and understanding as Jon. And the thought of Tuesday thinking the same things I was at that moment, feeling the same horrible clawing terror as I was.
Feeling Craig's hands instead of Jon's.
Oh god, please don't cry. How the fuck does this happen to people? I, I just.
He twists, until he's half leaning against the bed, and sort of facing away. I lick my lips again, not knowing what to say for a moment. My hands are fisted, and I inhale deeply, already feeling nervous about the questions I want to ask him. It takes almost a full minute for me to work up the courage just to open my mouth.
"Did… did you ever…" I trail off tentatively, well aware of how thin the line is. How easily it is to cross it, and upset him, and once he's upset there's no going anywhere. He just…closes up.
He visibly stiffens, shoulders locking in that defensive way of his, and for a moment I fear I've gone too far, already have the apology on my tongue, but then there's this kind of slow, uncertain intake of air, and he speaks. His voice is rough, but I've learned to look past that. It's just a defense mechanism.
Fuck. It all is.
"The fuck do you think?"
I look back at the wall, my fingertips brushing the cool surface before I wrap my legs up in my arms, and bite down on my lip. The same place he had been only moments before, and some part of me somewhere kind of wishes he was still there, with his lips and his teeth. I can't believe I… gods, I feel so fucking stupid, but at the same time it's like… he was there too, y'know? It isn't just me. It's a normal reaction, so it's okay. "Did… did Jon… did he… I mean, well, did… he understand?"
I remember the time we went to Jon's house, in his bedroom when they didn't know I was around. Jon hadn't sounded very understanding then… but of course, how could he have known the real truth? He didn't. And I don't think Tuesday would have told him for a very, very long time, if ever. I wonder… I wonder why not. Would Jon have treated him differently, if he'd known about Craig? Well, of course he would have. I guess you never see people in the same light, after that.
He snorts, and he sounds a little bitter. I have to remind myself that it's probably not directed at me per se, but more at the conversation in general. "He understood as much as he could, without knowing what he was actually supposed to understand. He never…" He pauses, as if he's not quite sure he wants to continue, but Lord knows I need him to. I just need him to stay. Talk it out for once. Please. Finally he clears his throat. "He never pushed me into anything, anyway."
But I can't exactly imagine Jon being the type of person to force anyone into… yeah. Especially someone he cared for as much as he cares for Tuesday.
"That's good." I mumble, and he twists around to face me properly, and his eyes are piercing. His hand reaches up and skims over the messed-up blankets, brushes mine and I bite my lip helplessly, forcing myself to keep eye contact. After all if I can't even hold eye contact with him, then gods. We're screwed, aren't we?
And can I please stop referring to us as a we, as if we're actually… official or something. And oh Lord that's probably not the right word, but, but. We're not really anywhere at the moment, are we? We're not anything. Just, just. With all this touching and kissing and the way he talks and looks at me.
Something's changed. Christ, everything's changed. I just don't know how much yet. What, what effect that's going to have on… us.
He takes his time to speak, like he's working through everything in his mind first to be sure he really wants to say this. Which only makes me even more nervous, and I'm pretty sure my hand is trembling in his. Pretty sure I'm trembling everywhere. "Seth… I would never…" He trails off, his voice wavering like he's reluctant to voice exactly what he'd never do.
But I get it anyway, and my skin flushes. My gaze jerks, breaks and I swallow. "I, I know."
He'd never force me into anything. Rush me. Not that he would ever want to, after everything he's been through too. Out of everyone on the planet, he'd have to be the most understanding about it.
And for some reason I want to cry again. Christ. What the hell is wrong with me?
I shake my head quickly, praying it's not obvious and quickly move the focus. "When…" And this is the tough part, if there is one single tough part out of all of them, because… because I never thought I could get this far with him, I guess. That we could have this conversation, because every time it starts he runs, or I get too scared, and, and. I need to know.
I need to know.
"W-When did you get over it? I-If…"
Just give me something, anything. Tell me that it's going to get better, that, that this won't keep happening and I won't dream of it anymore. I won't think about it, and cry, and I won't, I won't. Just. Please.
Tell me at some point it will all be okay.
"Oh, god," and he laughs, this horrible biting, sardonic laugh that makes my heart kind of stops for a moment. "That's fucking hilarious."
I stare at him with wide eyes, unsure, my stomach already curling in dread, and he shouldn't be acting like this, right? Why is he acting like I just asked him the dumbest question in the universe? Why… why is he so… "W-What… how is that funny?"
He chortles acerbically, and gives me this rueful, annoyed look. Almost angry. "The fuck is that? You think I… how the fuck does anyone 'get over it', Seth? How the fuck?"
For a moment I'm too taken aback to speak, to think. And then it all comes rushing back, in one big horrible flush and it's like all the energy drops from my body, all in that split second. "You… you're not…"
Of course he isn't. Gods, what the hell were you even thinking, Seth? You fucking know he isn't. The way he acts, the way he reacts. How the hell would he be over it?
"Yeah." He snaps, and he gets to his feet so quickly, so angrily. Like he can't take another moment of this and oh Lord please don't run, please, please. "As fucking if, Seth. It doesn't fucking work like that."
I hesitate, already feeling nervous somehow. "Well, well maybe if you actually did the therapy or, or something, a-and – "
"And what?" He snarls, whipping back around and, and he's so livid. Oh god, he changes so quickly. "Talk about how he – fuck, Seth! What the fuck is that going to do?! It isn't going to change anything, it isn't going to magically make it all fucking better!"
"You never know until you try!" I blurt in this horribly desperate kind of way, and I swallow quickly. "I, I mean… it does help some people. So how will you know unless – "
"Would you just shut the fuck up about it?! It's none of your – "
"Don't tell me it's not any of my business!" Oh god, I don't want to fight, please don't fight with me. I don't want to fight; it's only because I care about him, why can't he see that? Why does he always have to be such a stubborn idiot? Why?
His mouth flies open like he's about to yell something back, but before I can even flinch it snaps shut again and his eyes slit, dangerously thin. And I know that look – fuck, I know it all too well. I know it probably better than anyone else in the world, because Lord knows he seems to give it to me more than anyone else. "You should go for a shower."
My heart sinks. No, no, please don't do this. Don't end this here, not now. Let's actually finish it for once. Why doesn't he ever just try? "B-But – "
"Just go for a fucking shower, Seth." He says sourly, turning away and my shoulders, my whole damn body, slumps.
"Why won't you ever just try?" The whisper is out of my mouth before I can stop it, and for a moment I almost think he hasn't heard (please let him not have heard it) but then he speaks and there aren't enough words to describe how much it hurts. How much it fucking kills.
"Why can't you ever just leave me the fuck alone?"
Oh gods, talk about a slap in the face. Kick in the heart.
For a moment all I can do is stare at him, and it fucking hurts. It's like being back at square one all over again, and we've made so much progress and how can he be saying that now? How can he ask me something like that?
I swallow slowly, burning. I can't look away from him, and his fists are clenched. And god, oh god, I would give anything to unclench those fists right now, to take them and smooth away any troubles he has. All this. I would give anything to make it go away for him. But he can't, he can't keep lashing out at everyone else because of it. He can't keep doing this to me every time it's mentioned.
"Because," and it's nothing more than a mere whisper again, "I… I care about you, I, I mean… how, how can you even…"
"Hey, guys?" The door's opened by Tania and I look down immediately, my face flushing dumbly and oh my god, what is it with the constant interruptions? Is someone trying to mess us up?! "Sorry, was I interrupting?"
Yes! Yes, you were, just like you were interrupting last night too. And god, I don't mean to be so snappy (mentally, at least) towards her, it's, it's just. For once I would like to finish a proper conversation with Tuesday.
For once. How are we ever meant to work this out?
"No." Tuesday replies crisply, and I can feel him look at me but I don't have the guts to look up. Not at the moment.
"How was the carnival?" Her voice is hesitant, but I seriously doubt it's because of her son. It's like… it's like after DOC's phone call she doesn't know how to act around us anymore. Like she's expecting us to lash out at her at any moment over it.
I, I wouldn't. I mean… it's not her fault, it's just… why can't she –
Ugh. Don't even go there, Seth.
Tuesday shrugs coolly, and his stance is still off. Still guarded and defensive and ready for battle. And how the hell did he ask me that? Gods. "Alright. I got into the interstate, so did Brandon."
"Wait, you ran?" She sounds a little confused by that, but ultimately pleased. "That's great, honey. Hey, um, I was wondering if you two were busy tonight."
Pfft, busy with what? What would we both magically be busy with? Certainly not each other, the rate we're going. At the moment I don't think Tuesday can stand another second of me. And good Lord that thought hurts. It hurts more than it ever has, because, because I thought we were finally… somewhere.
I don't know. Maybe I was getting too ahead of myself. Too hopeful.
There's a rustle of clothing, and the door creaks open a bit more. Her voice is louder, closer. I keep my eyes glued to the blankets, to the folds and creases that form every time I move the tiniest bit. I try not to focus on either of them. "I was wondering… I want to take everyone to dinner."
"Everyone?" Tuesday repeats suspiciously, and I already know what he's going to ask. "Is Corbin going to be there?"
Tania gives one of her long-suffering sighs, and I don't have to look up to know she's looking at him exasperatedly. "Yes, Tuesday. Corbin will be there. Seeing how he's part of the family and all."
Family. Yeah. Great. Lucky him. He gets to stay part of it, and we… we don't. We get to leave, we get taken away and Lord knows when we'll see them again. If ever.
And Tuesday, what about Tuesday.
"I don't see how – "
"Don't even go there, Tues." Tania snaps, effectively cutting him off and I can bet she's glaring up a storm at him. When will he learn to just let it go? He doesn't know when enough is enough, does he? God. No wonder he's always in so much trouble all the time. "The point is – dinner. I'd really appreciate it if you could come, Tues. And Seth?"
Oh god, please don't make me look up. Not at either of them, because both of them hurt the same. But I have to, I can't just ignore her (it isn't her fault) so I force my head up, and her eyes are shining with hope. "Can you come? I would really like you to."
"Sure." I mumble, because I can't exactly say no, can I? Not that I feel like going to dinner right now. Hell, eating is the last thing I want to do, let alone eating out in public. I just… I think I just want to be alone. Or sort this, this thing out with Tuesday.
She visibly relaxes, her smile loosening a bit and she looks back at her son. "You're coming."
"Why does Seth get a choice and I don't?" He demands angrily and she smirks, finally seeming a bit like the old Tania. Like… the before Tania.
"Because Seth is not a brat like you. Now get ready; we're leaving in half an hour."
Tuesday starts arguing, and I leave them to it. I slip out past Tania while she's moaning about how she should have gotten an abortion, and don't even hesitate in front of my door. To be frank, at the moment I'd rather risk waking Sam up than deal with any of it.
It turns out I needn't have worried at all. Sam is awake, sitting up in bed with the lights on, her hair a mess and face mid-yawn.
"Oh, um, hey." I sit down on the edge of the bed after closing the door behind me, cutting off their voices, and she gives me a sleepy smile. "You alright?"
She nods clumsily and rubs the back of her neck, yawning again. "Yeah. Tania's taking us out for dinner."
"Yeah, I know." I murmur, picking Chops up and picking at his soft fur. Wool? "She just told me."
She crawls to the edge and sits beside me, her bare legs hanging over the side as she takes Chops from me and gives him a lazy squeeze. "Why are you wet?"
I look down at myself in surprise. I guess after all the… everything I'd forgotten how I'm completely soaked. At least I'm not dripping anymore, I guess. "Oh. It's raining."
"Really?" She blinks at the window blearily, and shrugs. "Cool."
I brush the messy hair away from her face and kiss her cheek. "You've been sleeping a lot lately. You sure you're okay? Because… I mean, you know you can talk to me if you… if you want."
And she smiles at me, this low but genuine smile, and stands up. Her knees crack, and I grimace. "I know. I'm alright. Just… tired, I guess. Do you need the shower?"
I frown, partly at her noncommittal answer and partly at how my clothes are sticking to my skin in the most uncomfortable of ways, but shake my head. "No, it's okay. You can go first."
"Are you sure?" She hesitates, her eyes flicking between the door and me, as if she isn't quite sure if she wants to actually leave or not.
"Yeah." I sigh, tired and gods does the bed seem comfortable right now. It isn't, though. I mean, it is, it's just. There's so much space. I never know what to do with it all. I'm used to small, narrow, snug beds. "Just don't be too long. Apparently we're leaving soon."
"Yay." She murmurs sarcastically, and I give her half-hearted attempt at a smile as she leaves. I look down at Chops, so bedraggled from his years of being squashed against her, clutched with desperation and loneliness. Sometimes I kind of wish I had something like this. A comfort, I guess.
Lord knows I could have used one.
I tuck him under the covers, his soft head on the pillow, and sometimes I think I still do kind of need one.
I'm definitely going to need one for tomorrow, that's for sure. Fuck, I don't think anything could comfort me tomorrow. Nothing will make a bit of difference.
I'm still doomed.
And I swear, my skin is still crawling.
By the time I get downstairs everyone except Shannon is already in the lounge room waiting. I swear, it is impossible for me to have decent timing about anything.
If I'm late tomorrow will they call it off? Oh god, I hope so. I, I hope they call it off, I need them to call it off.
I can't do it. I can't. I can't even handle thinking about it without feeling like I'm going to vomit.
Oh fuck, what if I throw up in the court room? Will they be mad? Stacie said they'll be really nice and understanding and that I can take a break whenever, but, but Christ.
What if he's there?
Don't think about, don't think about it, oh god, please don't think about it. Focus on the stupid dinner, on Tuesday, on something, anything.
Anything other than that.
His hands. His teeth.
No. Don't. Don't even… don't go there.
Corbin is here, on one couch with Tania buried deep in his side, and Tuesday is at the far end of the other couch, stubbornly looking the other way. His hair is in barely damp curls, his wrists still decorated with an array of bands. I think they're all fund-raising, charity-like things. I see them for sale at school a lot.
He doesn't look at me when I come down the stairs, and I try so fucking hard not to take it personally. Because, really, after all we've been through today, can we really have gone back so far in just a few seconds? Really? We can't be back at square one, right? Not after… not after everything.
Christ, Seth. Why can't you just keep your bloody mouth shut for once?
I sit on the other end, because there isn't much room left on the couch with Corbin and Tania, and try not to make the gap between us obvious. Or maybe just obviously intentional, I don't know. Why is there even a gap between us? I look over at Corbin and Tania, and, and m-maybe I'm not ready to be at that stage with Tuesday yet, to be so openly affectionate, but… but it's a nice thought, right? It's a nice thing to hope for, to work towards.
That we can be that comfortable.
Gods. My face catches fire, and I try to hide it as much as I can, praying no one is very interested in watching me. Sam is balancing on the coffee table, her attention focused entirely on the mute TV, so that's something. And I don't think Tuesday will be looking at me any time soon.
I try to ignore how much that thought digs into me.
Shannon comes down the stairs seconds later, wearing a very short but pretty white dress, her hair in long curls. She's even painted her nails white to go with the dress, and I have to admit no matter what the occasion is (or isn't, because why are we going out to dinner anyway?) she always makes an effort. Whereas I just throw on whatever looks the least stupid, or is the cleanest. I'd say that's the difference between boys and girls, but I know Tuesday makes an effort too. He must. I mean, no one can look that… yeah. Stop that train of thought right there.
I don't even remember when I started to think of him as good-looking. As more.
Oh god, will I ever stop blushing?
"Took you long enough." Tuesday gripes, disgruntled, and Shannon ignores him as she flips off the TV and grabs the car keys.
"Whatever. Let's go."
Tania and Corbin share one last kiss (Tuesday's jaw tightens) and then Tania stands to snatch the keys off her daughter with a snort. "I'll be taking those, thanks. Get your Learner's first, maybe."
Shannon pouts, but follows them outside and Sam is close behind. I go after her, leaving Tuesday to lock the doors, and I almost want to hang back and ask if he's okay. If we're okay. Because I don't think we are, and Christ, I'm sorry for bringing things up, I, I just, can we just go back to how we were this morning?Okay and normal and fine?
But I don't, because I have a feeling it wouldn't end well, and this isn't exactly the time or place. I guess I'll have to wait until we get back home. Fantastic. A whole night of awkward fun.
The car we used to go to the beach isn't here, which means we're going to be split up between Corbin's blue car, and Tania's car. Shannon and Sam immediately head for Cobin's, and I stay with Tania. Goes without saying who Tuesday picks.
"This'll be nice." Tania says absently as she's starting the car; Corbin has already taken off. "It's a nice restaurant. Lord knows we need a nice night."
We need a nice night?
And then it hits me all at once, right when I'm winding the window up properly, and for a moment my arm sags. My whole body sags. And I realise what's going on – it's a pity dinner. It's like an apology; that she's sorry for things turning out like this, that she's sorry. It's like her way of trying to make it up to us.
Oh my god. How did I not see this before? How stupid am I? Why the hell did I agree to come?! I mean, it's a nice gesture and all but, fuck. It's the last fucking thing I want. And I seriously doubt it's what Sam wants too. We don't need this.
We don't want it.
And suddenly tonight is looking a whole lot less appealing. In fact, it's looking awful. Awful and miserable and oh god. How could she think taking us to dinner with the family will make us feel better? It's just going to be upsetting and, and fuck.
Great. Just great.
If tonight wasn't ruined before, it sure is now.
The restaurant is located right right near the harbour; a fancy-looking dimly-lit glass mass. And it looks expensive. The thought doesn't comfort me at all – so, what, the more expensive it is the less guilty she'll feel? The less betrayed we'll feel? It's just. It's so bloody stupid, and it doesn't make anything better at all. It doesn't fucking work like that. Why can't she see that? How does she not know that?
It doesn't change the fact that we're leaving, does it? No. Nothing will.
I wish I had stayed home. Except for home is kind of the wrong term now, isn't it? The house. It's back to the house. No attachments. Fuck. Why did I let myself get so attached in the first place? To the house, the rooms, the walls, the atmosphere, the feel. Them. Tania, Shannon. Tuesday.
Why am I so fucking stupid? I knew we'd have to leave at some point – hell, I reminded myself of it every friggin' day. And now look where we are. Leaving. In a week. Less than.
I'm so stupid.
She parks, and I wonder if Sam is thinking the same thoughts I am. I wonder if she's as annoyed, as hurt by it as I am. As if taking us to dinner makes up for it all. It's like a last-ditch effort to make us forgive her or something.
And, god, not that I need to forgive her because I don't hate her, I don't hold it against her, I, I just..
We get out, and I'm grateful that the car park is under cover, because it's still raining quite heavily. And in the back of my mind, the stupid part of my mind, almost kind of wishes Tuesday hadn't changed into a black shirt. Because, um, the white. It, it. Yeah.
God, I am so bloody inarticulate sometimes. Okay, fine, all the time. And if I just stopped thinking things like that. Like about how… oh gods, shut up. Face. Burning.
Focus on something else, anything else. Oh. Yeah. Pity dinner. Gee. Way to suck the soul out of everything.
The others are already here, waiting, and there's something about Sam's expression that suggests she's figured out the same things I have, because the initial joy is gone. Her face is blank again, her eyes downcast and she couldn't look more out of place in this gorgeous building if she tried.
She takes my hand on the way, silent. It was a nice thought, I guess. Send the poor kids off with something nice, something to remember us by. Pfft.
Like we need a gesture like this. Gods, there's no way we could ever forget everything they've done for us. Especially Tania. Mostly Tania, actually. Because while there's no denying the paths Tuesday has (unintentionally) taken me on, it's Tania that has had the most profound effect on us. In shaping us.
Tania and Corbin are in front, and the twins are behind us, talking in low voices that we can't hear. Maybe they're thinking the same things. Probably thinking we're not even worth this much effort.
And then I want to friggin' hit myself. As if Tuesday would be thinking that. Fuck, Seth, what does it take for you to just bloody learn? It's not like, y'know, he likes you or anything. And I seriously, seriously doubt Shannon is thinking that either – she's so close to Sam. I imagine, I'd like to imagine, that she cares about her quite a lot.
And Tuesday. He, he has… feelings. Likes.
Even when it's a passing thought it makes my heart lurch painfully. Is it supposed to do that?
Inside, the restaurant is just as fancy as the outside. It's huge for one thing, with massively high ceilings and glittering chandeliers, providing the perfect ambiance.
Tania has reserved a large circular table right by the wall-length windows, with a pristine crimson tablecloth and matching chairs. And normally I'd be gushing over it, admiring how beautiful it all looks (because oh god, it does) and how much this must have cost her, but right now my stomach is stone and all I can do is try not to break down and beg why.
Why go to all this trouble if you're just going to throw us away anyway? Why? There's no point. It is never going to make us feel better about it.
Tania sits in the seat closest to the window, after Corbin chivalrously pulls out her chair for her, and then takes the one to her left. Tuesday sits on her right, with Shannon beside Corbin and Sam beside her. Which leaves me the remaining seat, between Tuesday and my sister, and I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be. At least one of them should make me feel better, right? Ignoring how awkward Tuesday is. Sam usually does though. Hell, just knowing she's breathing and okay makes me feel better most of the time. But this time she isn't okay, and would probably prefer to be not breathing, so it doesn't seem very promising.
The moment we sit I reach for her hand again, under the heavy tablecloth, and she doesn't protest at all. She holds mine in return, her skinny fingers wrapped tightly around it, and it makes inhaling a little easier. Makes it a little less shaky.
Because, fuck, if Tania is going to sit here and tell us about how much she's come to care for us, and how sorry she is, I don't think I can take it. I just can't. I know she's sorry, but, Christ.
Sam and I are the only ones that don't speak while the ordering takes place, other than to actually order. When the waiter asks me what I'd like to eat I spend almost two minutes staring down at the menu, not seeing a single bloody word, until Tuesday runs out of patience and snaps at me to hurry up. I'm so surprised that he's actually talking to me that I fumble and order the first thing my eyes land on – some chicken and potato bake thing and beside me Sam mumbles that she'll have the same.
Shannon and Tuesday discuss the upcoming interstate athletics carnival, pondering on the schools that have made it in, and Tania sits in complete silence, her hand grasping Corbin's.
She looks at the tablecloth the entire time, like now that we're actually here she can't bring herself to look up at us, knowing what she'll see. Can't say I blame her. We mustn't be a very pretty sight at the moment.
Sam twirls the fork around with her free hand, digging its prongs into the thick red cloth, her face downcast. Her hand in mine has gone limp, and I squeeze it gently, but she doesn't look at me. I bite my lip, and wince at the sharp pain that causes.
That's going to hurt for quite some time, I guess. But, gods. It was, it was… and I flush as the whole moment resurfaces in my mind, with Tuesday's damp hands running down my sides, my hips, his teeth and tongue and, and o-oh god.
I swallow thickly, and pray, pray, that no one is paying attention. Especially not Tuesday. How embarrassing would that be, him knowing I'm sitting here remembering how he kissed me. How he held me, touched me.
I down half the glass of the water I ordered in some lame attempt to shut my burning skin up, and damn nearly choke on it. Smooth, Seth. Real suave there.
The meals arrive fairly quickly, and my bake would look so, so goddamn delicious if I was actually in the mood for it. If I was in the mood for anything at all, really. But I'm not, because I feel sick and horrible and I know what this is about. I already know what's going to happen, what she's going to say.
Don't get me wrong, I love you and all, but I have to send you away. I'm sorry.
Oh, Lord, focus on the meal, the meal. Not her, not her slack jaw and pitying eyes, not what you know is going to come out of her mouth. None of that, please.
Not how you're going to be sent away, and oh yeah, you have court tomorrow.
My belly flips in the worst of ways, and the food is nothing but lead in my mouth. It takes everything in me to swallow, and I can't even pretend that I can taste it. I can't taste anything. My throat feels too constricted, too something.
I feel like I'm going to be sick.
And then it happens, the dreaded moment that Tania clears her throat and puts her glass back down. Neither her or Corbin are drinking anything but soft drink, and I guess it's because they have to drive. Responsible parenting, if nothing else. Not that it matters how they parent us anymore. After Friday nothing will matter.
I don't want to stop eating, or give her any of my attention. I don't want her to start, can't have her start. Because, because after that… Lord knows I might as well just walk out the restaurant doors and never return. That's practically what's happening anyway, right? But just… just please. Don't let her say she's sorry. Because I can't take that phrase anymore, can't take her apologies. And I know it's not her fault, it isn't, it's, it's just… oh, gods.
I inhale as I force myself to swallow, force the damn food down into my churning belly, and I'm faintly aware of my hand quivering. It's resting near my plate, and I move it to under the table in record time. She can't know how much this is going to affect me. It will only make her feel worse, make her apologise even more and in turn make us feel worse.
God, it's just a vicious bloody cycle.
I stiffen when something brushes the side of my leg under the table, my eyes swinging around jerkily to stare at Tuesday in something akin to shock. He gives me a barely noticeable nod, as if he's trying to reassure me or something, and I sort of relax as his fingers wrap around mine.
His hand is sosoft.
Wait, so… so we're okay? Even after… oh. Well, obviously, that's better than not being okay.
Tania looks down at her plate (she ordered something to do with prawns, I think) and even from here I can hear her inhale. It trembles as much as my hand is, even wrapped in Tuesday's warmth. "S-Sam… Seth…"
Sam has a sudden death-grip on my other hand, her fingernails too sharp for my skin's liking, but right now I couldn't care less how deep she cuts me, as long as she's okay, and she knows I've got her. Regardless of whatever Tania might say. I'm here for her; I always will be. As long as she knows.
Everyone else is quiet, the twins watching their mother with questioning eyes, whilst Corbin strokes her hand comfortingly, his eyes glued to her fingers clutching at him. And I feel this ridiculous, ridiculous pang because as stupid as it sounds I kind of want to touch her too. To hold her hand maybe, or just, just, I don't know. Comfort her somehow. Make her feel better. Even as she's telling us how we have to leave her house. Our home.
Fuck. Our home.
She takes another shuddery kind of breath, deep enough for it to hurt maybe, and my hands were free I would be clawing at my shirt in anxiousness. As it is I feel sick with nerves, my stomach possessed by a thousand kamikaze butterflies. My palms must be so damp, but neither Sam nor Tuesday make any move to let me go.
I'm vaguely aware of a dull pain in my lip, and I realise I've been biting it without even realising it. Great. Nothing like a little blood to flavour your food.
"Yesterday's phone call was so sudden." She says finally, without looking up, and her voice sounds so, so… mournful. And we're not even gone yet. And Lord knows that just makes the pang harder, deeper. And I'm already so fucking sorry, for the split seconds that I blamed her, or thought ill of her. It isn't her fault, Christ. I know that. "Kind of rocked… kind of rocked my world a bit."
Ha. Understatement of the year.
She's already sniffling, and wipes at her eyes with her free hand. Tuesday's fingers trail along her forearm tenderly, lingering at her elbow before dropping away to the table. "You, you kids… you weren't supposed to stay any longer than a couple of days, and then a couple of weeks. But it's been a couple of months now, and…"
And please don't make us go, please. We don't know how to live without you, don't want to know how. You could give me my biological mother back from the dead and I'd still choose Tania in a heartbeat, so please, fucking please.
Don't do this to us. I'll beg, f-fuck. Pray. Anything. Just, just don't.
My stomach is fluttering and my eyes are burning, and my heart is all but breaking. I have to take quick, desperate breaths; gulp down mouthfuls of air and beg myself not to cry.
It's hard enough just watching her try not to.
She grabs at her serviette, Corbin's hand moving to her upper arm to stroke her, and when she speaks again it's clear she's on the verge of tears. "B-But, god. I am so, so, so h-honoured to have met you, to have known you. I'm so honoured to, to have watched you both grow so much, a-and to watch you become such a large part of our lives."
Tuesday's fingers slip between mine, smooth and warm and when he squeezes so, so gently I want to cry again. She's honoured? She's honoured? Doesn't she realise it's the other way around? Because, because, Lord, we would be nothing without her, nothing. Sam and I, we, we wouldn't be so close now and I wouldn't have anywhere near the amount of courage, of self-worth, of anything that I do now.
Not without her. Not without them. I wouldn't have the life that I have now.
Sam is already in tears; I can see them snaking down her soft cheeks and I want to wipe them away, kiss them away and tell her that it's going to be alright. Somehow.
"God." She takes another deep breath and she's twisting the serviette in her hands, ripping the delicate material apart with every word. Her cheeks are pink, and her eyes are red. Practically shimmering with unshed tears, and I have never wanted to reach out and hold her so bad in my life. To let her know that we don't blame her, and we forgive her, but oh god please don't send us away, please.
We'll do anything, fucking anything.
"I've been so, so f-fortunate to have known you, and loved you. And, god, I love you both so, so much. I think of you as my own children."
And, oh. If that doesn't pack a punch. It feels like I've been slapped over the head and stabbed in the heart at the same time. One of her own children. And I remember the time she called Sam her daughter, and I have to bite down on my already broken lip to stop the stupid hot tears from falling because I can't cry, I can't. If I do I don't think I can ever stop.
She shakes her head, and she looks a bit dazed. "I… It'd gotten to the point where I didn't think they were ever going to transfer you. I'd just gotten so used to… and then yesterday Jess called, and I realised I had to let you go."
Oh, god. How can she do this to us? And Sam's hand is holding me so tightly that my skin is stinging, and I know I'm bleeding, but I think I'm holding onto her hand just as hard. And, Lord, I don't think I can let go.
"But I can't." And now it's barely more than a whisper, cracking and hitching with every unsteady breath. "I just can't. You both mean too much to me."
She can't what? Can't let us go? What exactly is she planning to do; stay in contact with us when we move house? And, gods, I don't know if that's better or worse. To, to hear from her constantly, but never being able to be with her. It would be nothing but torture, and Sam releases a quiet sob beside me, muffled by her free hand, and I bite back one in return.
"What do you mean?" Shannon voices my thoughts for me, sounding suspicious.
Tania clears her throat, or at least tries to. "I, I called Jess back this morning. Seth, Sam. Babies. You, you're not going anywhere. Unless… unless you want to."
Wait… what? Huh? W-What does… what does she mean by…
I stare at her in confusion, suddenly frozen, my breath stuck in my throat. Immediately, my heart does this flutter, this horribly hopeful dance and I speak slowly, with restrained desperation. "W-What do you mean we're not going anywhere? Aren't we… aren't we moving on Friday?"
And oh god, oh god, oh god, please, please, please, please, please! Tell me this is really happening, that she's really saying this and oh god, please –
Her smile is upset and tired and everything but it's still a smile. It's still a goddamn smile. "Not, not anymore. We sorted it out. You're staying. Permanently."
What?! Is, is she fucking serious?!
My heart leaps into my throat altogether, beating madly and erratically and for a moment all I can do is gape, something, unable to breathe or move or think, and, and oh my god, oh my god.
We're staying! We're fucking staying!
"Really?" Sam whispers besides me, like she just can't believe it, and I have to force myself to sit still, not to burst out of my chair and fucking scream. Because we're staying, we don't have to go, we're staying with them forever!
Tania nods, and the tears are spilling down her cheeks now, but her smile has widened and she has never looked so happy. "We're organizing for you to be put under my care full-time. There'll have to be a placement meeting and then – "
"Oh my god!" Sam cuts her off with a squeal, releasing my hand and all at once spinning around to throw herself at me; we nearly fall off the chair completely and she's laughing against me, crazy, high-pitched hysterical happy laughter, shaking in my arms, and I want to fucking explode with joy.
I can't believe we're staying! We're going to be under Tania's care full-time, she's going to be our guardian and oh my freakin' god I don't think I've ever felt so high, so relieved.
My head is spinning and I'm pretty sure I'm laughing along with Sam, my arms starting to ache from holding her so tight, and we're staying!
I don't think I've ever felt so happy. Fuck that – I know I haven't!
"You are such a bitch!" Tuesday exclaims angrily. "Making us fucking worry like that! The fuck is wrong with you, woman?!"
"Don't swear." Tania replies smugly; she bursts into laughter too when Sam lets go of me, jumps out of her seat and races around the table to hug her too. "Oh, Sam. God, you guys. How could you think I'd let you two go? I love you. It took me a while to work out the finances and things, but I promise you that you're not going anywhere."
"Thank you." I can barely speak because I'm grinning so hard, because my stomach is going so nuts and my heart is racing and oh god I feel so fucking high. I want to jump across the table and throw myself at her, to kiss her feet and thank the Lord for blessing us with her.
And, god. I can't stop grinning, can't stop smiling and I'm so bloody happy it actually kind of hurts.
Thank you. God, Tania, thank you so fucking much. What the hell would we do without you?
And then another thought strikes me and my head spins again; I laugh dizzily and want to cry out to the skies that I have a mum. We. We will have a mother, a fucking actual proper legal mother.
And we're not going anywhere, she's not making us go anywhere and she's never going to let us go. She's let us into her life, shared it with us and she's always going to be there for us, always going to care for us and look after us and oh my god.
"Wait, wait." Shannon raises her hands, and Sam is giggling madly in Tania's lap, squirming in her arms. She looks at Tuesday and I with raised eyebrows. "So, if you're going to be their legal guardian, does that make them incestuous? 'Cause, ew."
"You are so fucking disgusting." Tuesday snaps at her as Sam and Tania burst into laughter again, but his cheeks flush a delicious shade of pink and under the table his fingers find mine again, warm and safe and normal and him. I squeeze his hand back this time, unable to control the giddiness any longer, and grin my life away.
I've never been so happy.
Sam rides with us on the way back, and this time there isn't a single hint of depression. Christ, how could there be? How could there be anything but pure, utter fucking joy?
We're staying. I can't believe we're staying.
I look out the window the whole ride home, and Lord knows my jaw is actually physically aching from smiling so much but I just can't bloody stop. After all that, after all that. She called Jess and asked for us to stay.
"I don't get it," Sam is in the front passenger seat; she was so damn happy it was like Tuesday didn't have the heart to fight her for it. Which means the radio is stuck on some channel he hates, but he doesn't seem to mind. "What does it really mean?"
Tania hasn't stopped smiling either, and I can't believe how happy she is about it too. Like it's a dream come true or something and oh god, what a great dream it is. We have an actual home. "Well, at the moment I only have short-term guardianship of you. I would be applying for long-term guardianship, and then hopefully at some point I can apply to be your legal guardian. See, at the moment you are under the state's care. Technically, you can't even get a haircut without notifying them first, and usually they would ask for the parents' permission, if possible."
"But you got Seth's hair cut." Sam points out, confused, and I raise my hand to my hair affectionately. I quite like my hair, but then again at the moment I quite like everything. Hell, how could I not? Life's awesome.
Tania chuckles. "Well, I guess the twins inherited their rule-breaking from somewhere after all. In any case, eventually I would apply to be your legal guardian."
"What if they don't want to give you long-term guardianship?" Sam asks, and for the first time since the good news her voice wavers.
"Jess said it should be fine, and I can't see a problem with it. For starters, Seth is sixteen, so he's at the age where he can legally pretty much decide where to stay, and his opinion is taken very seriously. And as none of your family has shown any real interest in taking you in, they won't have a problem with you wanting to stay with us. After all, they try not to stir up trouble. Why take you from a home that you are happy in, and have shown considerable improvements in, and place you in an unknown environment? As long as there's no trouble, they won't be bothered."
Well, that's reassuring. And also pretty much common sense, I guess. Why would they disrupt the peace like that? Besides, I can't see Jess objecting; she likes Tania, I think. And Tania's right – we've improved so much with her, and most importantly we're happy.
"That's good." I murmur, still smiling stupidly and my skin is still humming with so much positive energy that my fingers are fidgeting in my lap. I can't keep still, I can't stop smiling.
Gods. How could I ever have thought Tania would let us go without a fight? She loves us, genuinely loves us with all her heart. How could I ever have doubted her?
Somehow, Corbin beats us home as well and Shannon is already inside, curled up with Jax on the couch.
"Oh god," Tania groans, "what are we going to do with that dog?"
"Oh, yeah!" Tuesday snaps his fingers. "Darren said he can take him. He's already got, like, two other dogs, so he'll have plenty of friends."
"Yes," Tania mutters and gives the dog a disgruntled look, "because that's what I was concerned about. His number of friends."
Tuesday ignores her and scoops the dog up, ignoring his sister's death-glare, carrying him into the kitchen. Shannon hmphs and slinks upstairs to change, pulling her heels off as she goes, her bare feet barely making a sound on the steps.
Sam gives us both this grin and runs upstairs, shouting something back about needing to get a good night's sleep and telling me to hurry up. For a moment it confuses me, until Corbin kisses Tania goodbye and tells me he'll see me tomorrow, with a smile and a wave. And then I remember what tomorrow is.
Oh, oh god. How could I have forgotten again?! All the joy over staying, and, and, fuck.
In just a little over twelve hours.
And it's like my whole body loses all its energy at once; my knees feel like jelly and my lungs won't work and, and my stomach dives.
Tania pulls me down onto the couch with a worried look. "Baby, what's wrong? You look like you're going to be sick. Do you feel sick? Are you feeling a bit nervous about tomorrow?"
Nervous? Nervous?! No, I'm not bloody nervous I'm fucking terrified! How could I not be?! I'm going to mess everything up so fucking bad, I, I, it's ruined and, and Sam and oh god, oh god.
In a bit more than than twelve hours. Twelve hours. That, that isn't enough time, I, I don't even know what I'm going to say. What if I don't know the answers to whatever they ask? What will they even ask? Dates? But oh god what if I don't know? I have a bad memory, I, I mess up dates, what if, what if, oh Lord.
"Seth, whoa, you're going to make yourself sick, honey. You have to calm down. Please."
I don't want to go, please don't make me go. Please let there be a fire, let him fall ill, let me fall ill, let it be postponed again, or, or, f-fuck please.
Please, please, please, I'll do anything, anything.
Just don't make me go tomorrow, please. Fucking hell, please.
"I, I – " But I can't speak, can't make any sense of anything and it feels like my stomach is full of thunderous birds, all clambering to get out at once, and oh god I'm going to be sick.
"Worried?" She asks softly and I can't even nod; my hands are fisted so tight in my shirt and oh god, oh god.
I'm so doomed. We're so doomed. And oh my god I feel so sick, I feel so fucking sick and I'm going to throw up, I'm going to throw up and, and, and oh god, please don't, please, please, please, please, please.
Her hand touches my face from nowhere, startles me and I jump, breath dying and choking and oh fuck – she holds me still, and my skin feels like it's on fire.
"You'll be fine, Seth." She whispers, right by my ear, and her hands stroke over my back in long, gentle strokes. "You'll be absolutely fine. I have the utmost faith in you, Seth, we all do. And we'll all be there for you, you know that. It'll be okay, honey."
Oh god, no it won't be, why won't she see that? How can she have faith in me when I don't have any in myself?! How can any of them? They know how useless I am, how hopeless and stupid and oh g-god, I'm going to cry, I'm going to fucking cry.
And sure enough my eyes are burning, wet and stinging against her shoulder and I can't breathe properly, can't think properly, can't do anything properly and I'm so doomed, I'm going to ruin us forever and Sam's never going to want to speak to me, ever, and, and, and oh f-fuck –
"Shh," She murmurs, "you'll be okay. Shh. Calm down, babe."
I don't think I've ever held her so tight before.
I don't think I've ever been so scared to let go.
"Thanks," My voice croaks and dips and she doesn't pause in her rubbing, her soothing and comforting. "For, for. For letting us stay."
She chuckles quietly, and her lips are warm against my forehead. "Thanks for staying. I don't know what I would have done without you guys."
Sam moves, squirms against me like she's in the middle of some really interesting dream or something. Maybe she's running a race or something. Something active like that, I guess.
And gods, I'd give anything to be in that dream right now. To be anywhere right now, anywhere but laying here awake in my bed, my heart racing around my chest in a panic.
Tania is in bed; everyone is. I don't know what time it is, and I don't want to look. Don't want to see how much closer I am to that horrible court room, to, to him.
To our father. To our end.
Because it cannot possibly go right, it never does with me. He's always won before, always. He's always gotten his way, always beaten me down and he's always won.
Why should tomorrow be any different? He's an adult, after all. He's an adult and I'm just a kid and why would they believe me? He probably has some cunning, manipulative lawyer to handle everything for him. I, I don't know what I have. Who. Morrison, right? And she's good, isn't she? She seems good. And, and I have my diary, what's left of it, and my statement, and Sam's statement, and, and whatever proof they managed to get from the house, if anything.
But is it enough? Will it actually be enough? Because… because if they don't believe me, if they don't, if, if there isn't enough proof for it to go to trial, then what? What do we do then? He's won. And he'll be free forever. He'll have gotten away with years of torture, with years of abuse and cruelty and he can't. He can't get away with it. We've, we've been through too much for it to all go South now, g-god.
H-he can't win. He just can't.
"Seth?" It's a barely intelligible murmur, laced with sleep and disorientation. Her breath is hot against my collarbone, her hair itching the skin of my neck.
"Yeah? What's wrong?" I whisper, tightening my hold on her and feeling a flash of guilt for accidentally waking her. She needs her sleep; she's definitely going to need it for tomorrow, that's for sure. And I almost wish she wasn't coming.
She doesn't deserve to be put through all this shit, god. She's only thirteen. And, and I don't want her to be there when… when I completely screw everything up.
Because, oh god, she's going to be so disappointed in me. Everyone will be. And he'll have won, have gotten everything he wants, and oh fuck he was so right. He told me I'd never be able to prove anything, that no one would ever believe me.
And he's so right.
She shuffles closer, bundled up in the sheets. And god, I'm so glad she slept in here. Just… the comfort. Fuck, do I need the comfort right now. The warmth, the familiarity, the faith and reassurance and the trust and love. "Go to sleep."
Her voice is muffled by my chest, and her arm sweeps over me, until her hand is curled into a slack fist beside her mouth. Her wrist is right above my heart, and I inhale slowly, precariously. She's already asleep again, her breaths evening out, deepening.
She's so peaceful. She deserves to stay that way. After everything we've been through, we both do.
Everything he's put us through.
He doesn't deserve to get away with it. Nobody does, not him, not Craig, not any of the other monsters that treat their children, innocent fucking kids, like that.
I can't screw up. Oh god, I can't screw up. Please, please, please. Oh god, help me tomorrow. Don't let me fail, don't let me fail Sam, I can't do that to her, to, to us. H-He can't get away with what he's done, please don't let him.
Sam moves again, nestles into me further and I kiss her forehead, the curve of her cheekbone, desperate and pleading and please.
For her. For her.
Don't let me mess this up.
Eight and a half hours.
It's twelve-thirty, and the time is barely crawling by. Every minute feels like an hour, and every hour feels like an entire day. The entire night.
It's freezing out here; the rain is still pouring down by the bucketload, making a loud racket on the roof. It sounds like there's a riot going on up there, and I hold myself tighter. My arms started aching ages ago, but I don't relax them. I hold on to myself like my body's the anchor, and I can't let go.
It's silent inside the house, and I'm pretty sure everyone is in bed. Why wouldn't they be, at this hour? And they all have a big day ahead of them today. And oh god, I can't believe it's Monday already. It's today. Court is fucking today. It's the day I've been dreading for weeks.
In less than nine hours. Less than nine.
It's a big day for everyone, I guess. Especially… especially Sam. And I wonder if she's as nervous, as scared as I am. Why wouldn't she be? He's her father too. And, and today determines everything.
Because everything will have been for nothing if I fail. And Lord knows I am, I am because that's all I ever know how to do. All I'm ever capable of.
"Seth," Tuesday's drawl comes from out of nowhere, and I look around in surprise. He's leaning against the doorframe, the screen door only partially opened. He's in his basketball shorts and a singlet, and his hair is a complete mess. He looks like he only just woke up, like he's still kind of half asleep maybe, and I guess he must have come to the kitchen for a drink or something, and saw the back light on. "What the hell are you doing? It's after midnight. And it's fucking freezing."
"Yeah." I whisper, and I glance back out at the onslaught of rain. A wind blows and I shiver, lowering my face into my the warmth of my arms. The comfort. "Can't sleep, I guess."
Who would be able to, in my position?
Eight and a half hours.
He sighs, but I can barely hear it above the rain. I squirm out of the way as the door swings open properly, until I'm pressed against the cold metal bar of the railing. It digs into my back, and I frown as he steps out onto the concrete, giving the rain a reproachful look.
"Wouldn't it be fucking ironic if it rained all day."
I snort quietly, and my nails scrape lightly against my quivering skin. Ironic. Yeah. "Something like that."
And I can't keep the surprise off my face when he lowers, sitting down beside me on the top step. He hisses at how cold the cement is against his bare hands and legs, and tilts his head back with another sigh.
"W-What are you…" I trail off uncertainly; why is he staying out here? "You should go back to bed."
"Makes the two of us." He replies darkly, and gives me a pointed look. I flush and look away again, rubbing my hands across my arms to try and generate some heat. And god, I'm so tired. I'm so fucking tired. My eyes feel like they've been staring at a screen for hours on end or something, and I can feel it in my bones, my joints. Every time I move there's this delicious warmth, this yearning need for a comfortable bed. Back with Sam.
But gods, I was too restless and my mind just won't fucking stop. My stomach won't stop squirming, twisting and dipping. Won't stop going over today, over and fucking over.
I press the heel of my hand against my forehead, willing it to shut up for just a moment. To stop focusing on it, thinking about it obsessively because I have to sleep. I can't go without sleep, not when it comes to something important. I'll be too tired and, and I won't be able to focus, won't be able to think straight, and then what? I'll screw it up even more.
I need to sleep. I, I just can't.
"Can't sleep." I mumble into my hand, before lowering it back to my arm as the icy wind blows again; I can feel him shiver beside me and he shuffles closer, probably just wanting to get away from the cold wall. I can't say I mind, and when I feel him press against my side it's like a whole new type of warmth.
A safe kind.
"You should go to bed." He says, and I shiver again. Please don't let me see him tomorrow, please. Gods. Gods. So fucking closer and oh Lord why can't I sleep? Why can't I sleep and sleep and never wake up? Miss the stupid hearing altogether, and have everything be okay.
Let it flood, please let it flood.
But I don't move. I can't move. My body is stuck in this stupid curled up position, my hands buried in my arms. My mind racing at a million miles an hour, full of pleas and fear, shivering from the cold and pure, raw nerves.
He doesn't move either. His hand takes mine, pulls it away from my arm, to the tiny crack of space between us until it's resting on the cool cement.
"Thanks," I whisper and I'm not even sure what I'm thanking him for. For staying, for being here. Because, god, they're all being so great about it. They're all coming. To support me, to be there for me when I completely fuck it up. It doesn't change how fucking terrified I feel, but it's as much of a comfort as anything can be.
And oh god, I've never been so scared.
The time on Tuesday's watch is one-oh-one.
Please don't throw things?
I did warn you that it sucked. In any case, it might be a while before I can update. Some funky, not-good things are going down, and I'm not sure where I'll be for a while. So. Fingers crossed.
Promise the next chapter won't suck so fucking much. Well, it can't, seeing how it's the last chapter and all.
Take care, guys.
Dirty Angel Toes