Word to the Wise: Rarely is there any good in saying goodbye.
A Thief in the Night.
Coral saw Regina's smile falter and her heart felt heavy within the confines of her ribcage. She'd been accepted earlier, but she had wanted to stay and graduate, maybe attend prom. However something within her protested this idea, that something was connected to the shame and humiliation connected to falling prey to a stupid bet.
She'd known it had been too good to be true but she let herself believe- she couldn't go down that road again, it would only make her cry.
Coral realized her mistake -of telling Regina- the moment she let the words fall from her lips, Regina's smile could have fooled Coral six months ago when she didn't know her, but Coral knew that the smile didn't quite meet her eyes. In her eyes lay something a lot closer to disappointment.
"Chica, congrats for getting in! But what do you mean early admission, wouldn't you have had to leave a few months back? And prom is next week girl, you really going to miss your senior prom?" However after Regina's first question Coral had stopped listening. Coral should have responded to the acceptance letter the moment it had come in, shaking herself out of this minor detail Coral rationalized- surely it didn't mean she couldn't catch up if she left say next week, a few days from today- and it was crazy to consider this but, maybe even tonight?
Could she really? Right in the midst of finals and a week before prom and graduation?
As these thoughts blitzed through her head she knew she could do it. Her mother wouldn't like the idea, but for once Coral knew she wanted this enough to go against her mother
She wasn't going to take no for an answer, she began to compile the information and planning in her head whilst Regina waited for her response.
Oh, Regina. Coral nodded amicably, "You're right, I guess I'll just have to wait until after graduation."
After that lie, Coral knew she'd made up her mind.
He wasn't sure how it happened, but somehow Thomas found himself having dinner with his family, which wouldn't have been so unusual if there wasn't an extra person in the room. Dinner consisted of Chinese takeout for him, their guest and his little sister, and hospital approved food for his father who couldn't go through a whole meal without it expelling itself orally afterwards. The chemo didn't just cause Steven Guildenstern's hair to fall out; it also made him physically ill and unable to keep his food down.
Thomas wasn't sure how Ray happened to be here at this point in time, in a room where his father could become physically ill at any point and Thomas would have to tend to him.
How this happened was beyond him, but from the way Ray spoke to Cam, to the way his father nodded or shook his head slightly at Ray's enquiring questions, Thomas found that the answer nor the question was relevant to him.
"Nope, anyone can learn it." Ray replied to Cam's question about learning sign language, "You don't have to be deaf."
"I think Tommy's deaf sometimes." Cam's comment causing Ray to chuckle; Thomas shook his head at his little sister with a grin on his face.
"Dad, you want a drink?" Thomas made to stand but Cam in a blur had stood up and ran out of the room calling out that she was a big girl now and could get their dad a cup of water.
"There's a pitcher of water right here." Ray said to Thomas who nodded,
"She either wants to look like a 'big girl' for the guest, or is right now in the freezer eating out of the ice cream carton."
After a few minutes Thomas nodded to himself, "she's definitely eating ice cream." Ray laughed again, turning to Mr Guildenstern.
"How are you going to manage when Thomas goes to college?" When Thomas's father's expression closed off slightly Ray realized something wrong with his question. An honest mistake on Ray's part, but a raw subject for the Guildenstern's nonetheless.
Because Steven Guildentstern, unbeknownst to his children, even Thomas, had accepted the fact that he wasn't going to live to see Thomas go to college. It was something he'd made peace with after the last failed surgery to remove the cancerous growths around his lungs before it become impossible, before it spread. But somehow it had manifested again afterwards and spread unimaginably quickly.
"With difficulty." Those two words also described the way in which Thomas's father replied to Ray's question, with labored chesty coughs. Thomas moved to rub his dad's back but Steven put his hand up, indicating that Thomas sit back down.
Thomas caught Ray's stare, shaking his head slightly the look in his eye saying not to worry about it.
The possibility that his father might not live through the month, let alone the year was something Thomas faced every day, this didn't mean it was normal for other people.
Definitely not normal. No one spoke until Cam came running back.
"What took you so long?" Thomas asked, blond eyebrow rising curiously.
"I had to get the thing to stand on silly." Cam replied, not realizing that there was chocolate ice-cream on her nose.
"Where is dad's water then?" Cam didn't respond at first, her six your old brain trying to come up with an excuse eventually her face crinkled up as she grinned impishly.
Regina left her house that night in search of José, her AP calculas final was tomorrow but Regina knew she couldn't study with José on her mind. She cared for him, and she was now letting this get in the way of her life. She'd left her closest public school to get away from shit like this happening in school. As she pulled her hoodie over her head she refused to look up at the guys across across the street a few houses down from her.
Especially since she used to go to school with them, it was unpleaseant to say the least.
Regina caught a bus to where José said he lived.
So she was a little confused when the house he described belonged to an African American family.
"Oh honey, you have the wrong address." The woman who answered the door was polite enough, but Regina could tell that the last thing she wanted to deal with was a teenager looking for a boy on this side of the district.
"Thank you." Regina looked at the address again, and the censor light revealed the yellow roses in a garden surrounded by a fence covered in graffiti. This was the house José described, why would he tell her lived somewhere he didn't?
Her phone went off, the message tone making her jump slightly.
Flipping it open Regina frowned at the unknown number, the message making her give a quick sweep of the street and opposite sidewalk. Ur lost chika, u better run hme if u kno whats gud 4 u. Unless u wanna cum see my room?
Even through text she felt disgusted, only one person came to mind. Not replying she put the phone back into her hoodie pocket.
"Looking for me puta?" Regina squared her shoulders and turned around, coming face to face with Ricci, half his face was in shadow under the street light.
"No híbrido, where the carajo is José?" Her voice was steeled, but she knew she was shaking, she just had to make sure Ricci didn't notice.
"Ohh, you ain't gotta call me mean nombres," he stepped closer and Regina took an involuntary step back. She cursed her immediate recoil, it only showed him her fear.
Fear got you killed around here. "What? No fiesty little comebacks? No bitchy things to say?"
"I'm just looking for José, I don't want any trouble."
The low chuckle he emitted sent a cold feeling down the back of her neck, "You are trouble, chica. You're a fucking fly buzzing around shit that doesn't belong to you eh." Regina reached into her pocket, her fingers coiling around her phone, her legs preparing for her next step to morph into a sprint.
Laughter not coming from Ricci made her jump and a few guys, who from what she could see were non-Clemington-students, joined Ricci from the other side of the rode.
"Who this be holmes?" One, who licked his lips like there was something perpetually on them, asked sidling up for a closer look. "She looking for a good time?"
Ricci smiled a smile that didn't reach his eyes,
"This is our boy, José's, perra, you know the one he told me to keep away from?" The group of them laughed,
"That little cholo eh?"
"Yeah es funny cuz he prolly not even seen her concha, he better stay hidden or he never going to see his puta or her-" he gestured rudely at her, getting so close that Regina shoved him away.
"¡Chingate, cabron!" Regina swore, "you leave him the hell alone!"
Ricci put his hands in the air, "It's that fiesty side I like mama." More sniggers. "Maybe you should come with us eh, we looking for him right now too, chu know?"
"I'd rather cut my arm off." Regina spat, really fighting the urge to run.
"I can do that if you like, I can cut you anywhere." She caught the undertone, she chose to ignore it.
"My parents know where I am," lie, "they're waiting for me," lie, "so-" she tried to walk away but somehow without her noticing his guys had surrounded her.
"You can't just walk away from our conversation mama." Regina turned back around to face Ricci, "he's in with us. The cholo's not home and nor is his familia." Regina felt a little relief, "If he's run, he's going to have another thing coming to him."
His hand gripped her arm, remaining as still and calm as possible Regina raised her chin.
"You don't know where he is." It was a statement, not a question.
"Shall we take her for a ride vato?" Someone from behind her chided, Ricci smiled but let go of her arm.
"We have things to take care of Lino, if she's still here after, you can ride her then." Regina couldn't help but feel extremely lucky, and as she watched them leave, getting into two or three lowrider cars she let out the breath she'd been holding as soon as the talk of taking rides popped up.
Taking a moment to compose herself Regina stole one more glance at the house José had described as his. She was now sure of two things, one; José lied about his home, and two; she she was going to slap him when she found him.
Thomas held the bucket under his father's mouth as everything that he had managed to eat earlier today came spewing out. His father had long since lost any ability to be embarrassed about the side effects his medication and illness had, as he began to dry heave Thomas sensed that it was safe to remove the bucket.
Moving away from the bed he poured his father a glass of water, putting the cup to his lips. "Come on dad, take a drink." Thomas encouraged when his dad moved his head sideways, "You need to stay hydrated." He spoke in calm sentences, blue eyes unable to adjust to the sight of his father in so much pain. Steven Guildenstern was on the brink; despite Thomas' resolve to not ever think about having to watch him breathe his last breath there was no denying the fact that it was a reality.
Thomas just didn't know how to come to grips with the idea, the possibility. Putting the glass down, Thomas stood up and walked over to the open window where a slight breeze was coming through, he stared up at the darkening sky wanting nothing more than to see his father healthy again. The sound of sickly coughing had him close the window quietly before turning back around. Due to the chemo his father's hair was long gone, his skin was pallid and dry, Thomas was sure he could make out the veins just beneath his skin.
These days he hardly ever spoke, finding it too difficult and strenuous an activity. Thomas had taken to sleeping either on the couch in his father's room or on the floor, the last few weeks were hell for his father and it was killing Thomas to see him in such pain.
But what could he do?
The doctors had more or less given up, sure the chemo was still administered and it made Steven seem more alive than usual because throwing up was the most alive he looked, but all in all Thomas knew that his father wouldn't last out the year. They'd be lucky to get a few more months with the man. And there he went again, going back on his resolve.
The door to the bedroom opened as his little sister came treading in softly, in her hand was a book that every now and then she would have him read to her before bed.
"Tommy?" Her timid voice the only other sound besides that of their father's labored breathing.
Moving towards her he easily lifted her up as though she were still a toddler, lying her head on his shoulder she threw her arms around his neck, Thomas could feel the picture book digging into his back.
"Have you brushed your teeth?" He murmured into her hair, smiling when she nodded. "Alright, say g'night to dad first." Placing her down beside their father's bed, he watched as she leaned over their father to kiss him on the cheek.
"Night daddy." Steven could barely open his eyes, managing a small smile at his youngest child. As he opened his mouth in an attempt to speak Thomas stopped him,
"Get some rest dad,"
"Good night daddy, love you." Cam repeated, before turning back and reaching up for Thomas.
Giving his father one more look he left the room.
"Oh god, Nina, I just- you're the first person I could get a hold of, I'm at the hospital, it's my-" Thomas' voice broke the rest of his sentence incomprehensible, and before he could compose himself Nina told him they'd be there.
She didn't even check the clock before she jumped out of bed, not bothering to change out of her pj bottoms and singlet, running to Damon's room she barged in without knocking.
"Damon!" She flipped on the light to find him lying on his back staring at the ceiling; he didn't sit up, not until Nina somehow articulated that they needed to get to the hospital now.
As they sped out of the driveway she called Josh, "Hospital. It's Tommy's dad."
"Is he…?" Josh began,
"I don't know." Nina lied, knowing that the only reason Thomas could break down like he did was because his father's condition worsening. And the dry voice in Nina's head whispered, what was worse than dying?
Nina squeezed her eyes shut; she couldn't imagine how difficult this was for Thomas. "Just hurry." She whispered, before hanging up.
The drive to the hospital was the quietest drive of their lives.
Nina hadn't really been to the hospital much, sure there was that time they came to visit some classmate but she had opted to stay in the car, so as they reached the general waiting room in the emergency area she was at a loss as to where they should go before Cameron came running towards them her face crumpled. "They won't let me in to see my dad, they won't let me in." She kept crying, "they won't let me in!"
"Cam, come here, where's Tommy?" Nina asked, taking the little girl by her hand. Her big, almost cartoonish eyes watering as she gripped the older girl's hand tight.
"He's talking with the doctor, they won't let me see daddy." Cam's voice was small now, whimpering as though she'd come to the understanding that being loud wouldn't mean she'd be heard.
"I'll go find Thomas." Damon walked off, towards the emergency rooms where he was stopped by a nurse.
"Only immediate family, hun." The older woman cautioned, Damon barely looked at her,
"My brother's back there." Nina heard him say, either the nurse didn't care, or she was too tired to make a fuss but she nodded him through.
Nina bit her lip as she pulled Cam close, realizing the little girl only had her pajamas on. Taking off her hoodie she wrapped it around her,
"Nina?" Cam whispered, climbing into Nina's lap,
"Hmm?" Nina replied,
"Is my dad going to be ok? Tommy said he would be, but Tommy lies sometimes." Nina didn't respond.
What the hell could she say to a 6 year old? She could lie, but what's the use? Nina rested her chin on Cam's head, looking up she glimpsed through the doors a broken Thomas emerge from the room his father must have been in, her arms wrapped around Cam, her throat catching as she realized that there was no other choice but to tell Cam the truth.
She couldn't do it.
"Neens?" Josh's voice pulled her out of her stupor, wiping tears she didn't know had trailed down her face Nina pulled back from Cameron who looked at Nina wonderingly before turning to see Thomas staring at them hollowly.
Cam sprung out of Nina's hold and sprinted towards her brother, Nina stood up and with Josh by her side followed Cam past the nurses who didn't even bother to stop them.
Nina watched feeling more helpless than ever as Thomas took Cam's hand and led her into the room.
"Day?" Nina already knew the answer before Damon shook his head,
"Fuck." Josh murmured, the three of them stood just outside the door, Nina holding Josh's hand, tears falling, Damon's voice was gruff when he called their parents to inform them, no one but Nina noticing that his cheeks were wet.
Josh, the same as he told his mother.
But what of the Guildenstern family? Nina thought, there was no one to inform.
Both their parents were only children, both their parents' parents were deceased.
Nina couldn't think of any blood relatives that could take charge of what needed doing. Thomas never spoke of distant and/or overseas relatives.
Thomas and Cam were all alone in the world.
Nina hated herself for even thinking that last thought, because Thomas and Cam weren't alone. They had each other, and they had them, the Wiles' and the Grey's. Thomas wasn't alone; he had his friends who despite some crap were family of a different sort.
He would need them now more than ever.
"Damon, honey, you need some sleep. You'll be a much better friend to Thomas, alive." There was no arguing with Sarah Wiles, but Damon wasn't tired. Sure he hadn't slept for a day or two, but one of his best friends' dad had just died. Damon hadn't even wanted to come home today, especially since tomorrow was the funeral. But with his mother's insistence Damon had promised Thomas he'd be back in less than 4 hours and came home.
And now his mother was insisting he have "just an hour of rest, at least. Please baby, for me?" his mom took the keys to his car and left his room. Damon sat on the side of his bed, staring out the window. Why did shit like this have to happen to good people?
It was so fucked up, Thomas had never done a bad thing in his life that Damon knew of, and Cam… shit. She was six years old; she'd already lost her mom and now her dad?
Damon didn't even realize when he'd started crying, but before long his face was in his hands and he was sobbing like a fat kid being informed they'd just shut down McDonalds forever.
Pull yourself together you fag. It'd been a while since that bastard voice of his had ridiculed him, of course it'd return at one of Damon's most vulnerable moments.
Seriously, you're being a grade A bitch.
Damon laid back and stared at his ceiling, was it bad that he didn't just feel grief for his friend, but also relief that it wasn't one of his own parents?
Yep. So now you're not just a bitch, but a twisted bitch to boot. It's no wonder that little virgin wasn't in to you. She could see right through you.
Damon closed his eyes, and despite the constant nagging of the voice of his inner bastard, he finally dozed off.
A/N: And nearly a year later I update. I really am sorry.
Oh, you may notice that I'm shocking with setting.
Setting and time.