So it's been what... a year? It's about time I put this out there. FINALLY the sequel to the moderately successful Screw perfection is here! For a second I'll fill you in on what's happened in my life this past year: I partied, I played video games, and that's it you're caught up :) I'm in a bit of a I-don't-care-about-anything phase at the moment. It's awesome. Really though I'm pretty excited for this story, I have plans. (Just so you all know, I'm smirking evilly now)
However, as you can probably tell by this chapter, I'm in need of a beta. I'm not bothered for this chappy but I'd like one for the rest of the story so if your interested drop a review/PM and I'll get back to you. Also if you haven't read SP then it's probably advantageous to read it first (just go to my profile) but I cover the major plot points in the beginning of this if you really can't be bothered. Apologies to the people who have read it and I'm just rehashing all the old shiz back at you.
Just a few plot points for the updates to come; every character who was still alive and present at the end of SP will be back here except Rocky who just didn't fit in anymore. The parents will be back but not until late on. There's also Brandon Foster, who plays a major role, and Logan Lang, who's slightly less major role but his presence if definitely felt. Some of the minor characters last time (eg. Melody) will probably be in the background a lot more but is still definitely around. I'll sneak them a scene in somewhere.
Chapter one: Almost Nothing
There was a time not so long ago when I would have been bored half to death if I was still at home at two o'clock on a Saturday afternoon. I used to hate sitting staring stupidly at the TV set when I knew there was so much more going on out there. Not that you'd think there was to look at this small, generic city. Everything here seemed basic to outsiders, the same grey identical buildings and streets as every other city on the planet. But below the surface hid a hive of fun and dangerous activities to pass the hours, particularly for stupid, over zealous teens like myself. More then once me and my friends had found ourselves in some form of overblown crisis, normally involving someone having too much to drink and doing something they later regretted, and having to deal with it the best we could (which, lets be honest, usually wasn't very well.) Hangovers, broken bones and broken relationships were the most serious consequence to these escapades but it didn't deter the rest of us from heading out the next week and doing the exact same thing. It used to be my idea of a good day out.
Emphasis there on the used to be.
Recently I'd been going through some changes...no, not those kinds of changes. I'm seventeen, that happened a long time ago. These were more mental changes. I'd felt for a long time that my life was completely empty in a spoilt-little-rich-kid sort of way. Not that my family is particularly rich, but you get the idea. In everyone else's eyes I was set, I had popularity, friends, looks, athletic skills, a girl friend, pretty much everything most boys my age cold ever want in high school. But it was all so fake I couldn't bear it. I only had so many friends so others could leech of my popularity, I hated sports and as for my girlfriend...well, I'm gay and she turned out to be a lesbian so no need to say that ended pretty quickly (we we're still good friends though.) So I just decided to drop it all, sports, friends, the lot, deciding I'd be much happier with a fresh start.
I was mostly right... I didn't have as many friends anymore but the ones I do have I was really close to. I became completely free of sport which was definitely a plus. The only real kick in the stomach came when my new boyfriend, who I was crazy about and had been completely in love with for several years already, dumped me by letter. By letter. No one has any idea how shit that feels, not even having him say it to your face. I admit it; I was crushed, for the few hours after I'd first read the letter I cried like a three year old. I really thought we'd last. I guess I can't really blame him for having to move away with his Dad after him mom was murdered but still it seemed as though he didn't even give long distance a shot, the letter came less then a fortnight after he'd left. When we talked on the phone I could tell his heart wasn't in it. I knew I was being selfish thinking all of this but I wanted him to come back more than anything. I miss him.
I shake off these thoughts off and pushed myself to my feet. As a general rule I don't let myself dwell on stuff like that for too long, it just gets me down. I decide out of lack of anything else to do to make a strong cup of coffee to try and pull myself out of my lazy afternoon fatigue. Not that Tiffany wouldn't crucify me when she gets back; she was an avid tea person and took signs of a preference for any other hot beverage as treachery. Not that I'm knocking Tiffany at all; she's been great to me... more than great actually... these past few months. After being kicked out by your parents for no good reason it could be seen as odd for an ex-sister in law you'd only known for a short time take you in but she didn't hesitate. She even went and brought one of those pull out couches I'd have a decent place to sleep. That day I had made a promise to myself to get a job and help to pay for myself, a promise which hadn't been fulfilled just yet but I was trying.
Stretching my entire body as I walk, I trudge to the kitchenette and flick the kettle on, assuming there'd be enough water in the bottom for one cup. I swear the days are getting longer. Maybe I should get out there and do something. Call someone up and just... I don't know, fend off the boredom. Not that any of my friends had been a bundle of laughs lately. All Nathan did was sit and emo about his breakup with Rocky... not that I'm judging him too harshly for it but it's not fun to be around. Hollie and Lottie have been in the city for a while, some sort of secret emergency which they're refusing to talk about, and are returning tomorrow so they can get their asses back to school. Everyone else seems to have drifted off the radar a little.
The kettles not even boiled when I hear footsteps moving up the hall. There not Tiffany's, she's not due back for hours yet. And there much too light to be the Super's. I listen to them approach, wondering disinterestedly who it is. Disinterestedly at least until I hear them stop very close to our own doorway. The shadow under the door catches my eye as the person hovers, swaying from side to side, getting closer and further away every few seconds. Letting my curiosity get the better of me, I creep to the door and peep through the spy-hole.
There's an unremarkable woman stood in the hallway. She's distorted through the lens and facing away from me but I could just make out a few details. She's small and thin with wispy blonde hair and a brown trench coat which drags along the floor behind her. Something about her stature makes me assume she's old, she's alight hunch backed and slumped over. But what interested me much more was the curious way she was examining the doorway across the hall. The door to Ryan's old apartment. It seemed as though she's looking for some sort on blemish on the surface, running her hand over the door panels, jiggling the handle little, examining the frame work, and then go back to stroking the panels. I watch the woman for a few mints, forgetting the kettle now billowing steam on the countertop. That apartment has been empty since Ryan left weeks ago and was due to be rented to a new tenant, Tiffany's brother Brandon, as soon as the paperwork's completed. She has no reason to be here as far as I can tell, she doesn't even have the keys, so what is she doing out there?
It's weird, like she's invading our space. I most likely think this because me and Ryan spent most of our time as a couple in that apartment, but having this stranger trying to get inside his place seems somehow disgusting. Like she shouldn't be there. Weighing up my options and deciding that it was highly unlikely she was carrying an axe under that coat, I pull away from the spy-hole and grab the handle, swinging the door open with determination, intent of finding out what exactly she's up too.
She's so preoccupied with her task she doesn't even notice me at first. I stand in the doorway for a moment, waiting for her to realise she's being watched. A minute later and still nothing, which is odd because I'm exactly trying to be quiet. Maybe she's deaf or something? When it becomes apparent we could be here for a while I decide to speak first.
"No one lives there anymore."
She jumps visibly, pulling her hands away and spinning around so quickly it makes me a little dizzy. "I-I-I-I know, I was just..." She leaves the sentence hanging.
"You were just?"
She shrugs guiltily, glancing back towards the door with a shamefaced expression. She isn't as old as I first presumed, probably around sixty, but the lines around her forehead and mouth made her seem unnaturally aged. Her eyes too, looking into them was like looking into a broken mirror, they made her look as though she seen too much in her time. "I don't really know, I guess I just wanted to see the place?"
This answer definitely didn't satisfy me at all. "Why?"
"I'm sorry, who are you?" she spits, glaring at me with immense annoyance. I'm no psychiatrist but I don't think she wants to tell me.
"I live here, who are you?" I reply bluntly.
"I...I...I shouldn't be here..." she mutters, losing all her fire. "I'm sorry...I'll go."
I'm very taken aback by this, only seconds ago seemed very stubborn and determined to argue, yet now she was scurrying away down the hallway unable to escape fast enough. She's a good twenty feet away before I can bring myself to react. "No....hey...wait!"
She stops reluctantly and turns slowly, looking like she really doesn't want to be here. I actually feel a little sorry for her; she looks like a deer in the headlights. I mean, she's a little woman who was observing a locked door. How dangerous can she be? I'm such a jerk sometimes, I can tell from looking at her that she's hardly came to rob the place, she looks almost sad. I jog up behind, trying to look as unthreatening as possible, which is difficult considering I'm a good foot taller then she is and at least twice as wide. I smile as sweetly as possible.
"Listen, I'm sorry I was rude. What happened in that apartment is a touchy subject for me. It was nothing personal."
"It's... OK," she says, slouching her shoulders in relaxation slightly but still not looking entirely convinced I'm not about to kill her. Am I really that threatening?
"Did you know the people who used to live there?"
She pauses to stare darkly down the fall for a moment before answering. "Kind of, not very well I guess..." I wait for more but she never elaborates.
"I'm Andy, I live across the hall. I was close with Ryan," I say, holding out my hand. Scrutinising me for a second, she peers through her narrow eyes with a look of immense concentration, which makes me very nervous for a moment, before seeming to decide everything's safe and accepting the gesture.
"How did you know Dahlia and Ryan?"
"...My kid's life was destroyed in that apartment..."
It takes me a second to connect the dots. "Oh... OH! Are you Dahlia's mother?"
There's another brief pause. "Yes."
I stumble over my words for a second. "I'm sorry." I'm not quite sure how to react to this. This woman's daughter has died, been murdered, merely a few weeks ago. She wasn't at the funeral, I know that much, and the fact she'd been sneaking around here seemed to imply there was some sort of bad blood between the two. To argue with your child and then have then die before you could make everything right... it's like that Mike and the Mechanics song but backwards. The one where the father died and the son can't forgive himself for not making up with him beforehand. My own fathers face flashes before of my vision for a second; we've been estranged for a while now. Since I came out and moved out it had all become very tense between us. Actually that's a big understatement, it was unbearable. However for a few weeks, after several long conversations and some hard truths, everything seemed to be looking up. At least until he rung ten days ago and announced that he and my mother were moving away since the big contract with the Cunningham's tobacco company finally came through and they were literally rolling in money now. At least he actually called to tell me now, a few months back and they would've just moved. I continue to look stupidly at the woman in front of me. I can think of literally nothing the least bit appropriate to say. Fortunately Mary opens her mouth to speak first.
"Don't be, it was nothing to do with you."
My hearts drops to the floor. I know I couldn't have done anything more to stop it, in fact I'd been credited to saving Ryan's life by the detective, but at the same time I'd been feeling a lot of responsibility regarding what happened in that apartment. I guess it's because I was lying by a lake making out with Ryan whilst his mom was being murdered in her bedroom at home. I keep telling myself it isn't my fault and find that if I don't think about in the day the guilt is mostly bearable. Still, I can't seem to be rid of the unwanted knot permanently situated deep in my stomach. It keeps me awake at night, I barely sleep anymore.
"Hm..." I search for something to say, "Do you want to come in and talk or anything?"
"No... No... I should go..." she seems to be pulling herself together once more, her voice is regaining some of its previous sharp quality. "Thank you anyway, Andy."
She says my name slowly; as though she was savouring the way the world rolled off her tongue. I don't like it; it makes me wonder how much she actually knows about everything that happened that day. My role in events isn't exactly a secret; what happened is still very much the hot topic on the tenant's lips even all these months later and there have been several reports in a few local papers even if they were vague on the details. Maybe she recognised my name? Maybe that's why she is in such a hurry to leave? I barely notice that she has turned on heel and is rushing away; by the time my brain has really processed it she's almost at the exit. I watch her as she leaves without looking back, a little disappointed in that I hadn't had the chance to ask her more questions.
"We're back!" Tiffany calls a few hours later as she scrambles through the door wrestling with her keys, three bags of shopping and an overexcited five year old girl. Little Casey rushes straight into the apartment and throws herself on the vacant armchair, hair hanging loosely over her face. She was turning into a proper little spitfire recently. Nothing fazed her at all; she was still young enough not to care about anything outside of Sesame Street. I had to admit I was pretty jealous of this, how much easier would everything be if the entire world simply passed you by without you taking the least bit of notice. If only I was five again.
"I don't believe it you know," says Tiffany, dumping the bags on the counter unceremoniously. "You're in exactly the same possession you were in when I left five hours ago."
"No I'm not..." I grumble, looking down at myself. Couch, robe, MTV... Shit, she's right. "It's not like there's anything to do anyway."
"Where are all of your friends? It's Saturday, I'm sure they're sat at home as bored as you are."
I grunt incoherently and return my attention to the TV. She sighs quietly and begins to put the shopping into the cabinets. I feel a little bad about treating Tiffany like this, she's made no secret about the fact she's worried about me lately, every other day there's a comment like: "Where are your friends recently?" "You look exhausted, do you feel OK?" "You're getting skinny, are you eating right?" I know that it's only because she wants to help but it does wear thin after a while. So I went through a break up, I'm not the first person on the planet to have my heart broken and I'm trying to get on with my life and recover in my own way. She doesn't need to be breathing down my neck twenty four-seven. Still, I keep this to myself, I don't want to hurt the feelings of someone who's been nothing but generous to me since I was thrown out of my own house.
"Where's Nathan nowadays? He hasn't been over in a while," apparently she isn't going to let it go just yet.
"At home moping."
"Well, get him off his butt and down here because you're going to need some help when Brandon moves in tomorrow-"
"Tomorrow!" I'm so shocked I cut her off. That was too soon, I didn't expect him to arrive for weeks!
"Yeah, I know I was surprised too. But apparently your dad helped with some of the legal stuff..." I raised my eyebrows at this. "And the rent's dirt cheap since, well, you know..."
I did know. And this provided the perfect window for me to mention my earlier run in with Mary in the hall which I'd been dying to tell her about since the second she walked in the door.
"Yeah, one this topic you'll never guess who I ran into earlier."
She stops midway putting some canned soup in a cupboard and studies me with a quizzical expression. "Dahlia's mother?" she repeats slowly as though she was making sure she heard it right.
"And she came here?"
"Yeah... Well not exactly. I found her lurking in the hallway a few hours ago. She was all embarrassed when I approached her, tried to do a runner."
Tiffany still seems slightly bemused. "Dahlia's mother? What did she want?"
"Dunno," I shrug truthfully.
"You know, in all the years I knew Dahlia she never once mentioned her mom." Tiffany resumes putting the food away casually, apparently getting over the shock of it all. "I always thought that she'd died or something... What did she look like? Was she tall?"
"Not particularly." I answer, knowing what was going through her head. Dahlia was easily over six feet tall, and the fact that she always wore heels didn't help matters either. I know it's a ridiculous thought, but it was easy to think she belonged to a family of giants or something of that sort. Like Hagrid was her father or something. Odd thought I know, but true. "She didn't really look that much like her."
Tiffany shrugs. "Weird huh. So about tomorrow, you guys will help out right?"
"Sure, I'll call Nathan later."
"Great! I think you get on with Brandon. Armed robbery aside he's a really good guy."
I hold back a laugh, she's being deadly serious, it's just the way she worded it. "Yeah, how long's he been inside for again?"
"Five years, and that was with a great lawyer and a plea bargain... there's some pissed off gang members after him now that's for sure." She smiles amused.
As hilarious as she seemed to find it, I'm really alarmed by this. "How is that funny?"
"They all got twenty."
"Fair enough," I stand and head towards my chest, the large wooden box which contains all of my clothes (there's a serious lack of closet space here.) Despite the fact it's six p.m. I'm planning on getting dressed and heading out for a while, there was only so many times you can watch the same eight music video's MTV shown without getting annoyed and Casey will probably reclaim the TV for Nick Junior in a few minutes anyway. If there was one thing guaranteed to piss me off more than Metro Station for the umpteenth time today it was another rerun of The Suite Life of Zach and Cody. I'm sure that show was only commissioned for the punny name. "I'm going to head out for a while if that's OK?"
"Sure, bale on me when I have a ton of unpacking to do," she says with a smile. "Where you off to?"
"Oh OK. Don't be too late back."
"'Kay," I push myself up from my comfy position on the couch and wander over to the chest, rubbing imaginary sleep from my eyes. I wasn't really in the mood to move, but sure enough the sound of the TV channel changing and the Ashley Tisdale's shrill voice was exactly the motivation I need to spur me on. I was dressed and ready to go before I knew it. I mumble a half-hearted good bye to Casey and Tiffany before letting myself out.
The corridors are dimly lit and seemed to stretch unnaturally long. The late November days meant that sunlight is sparse in the daytime never mind at six o'clock in the evening when it was almost night time. I glance at the doorway across the hall and again think back to the run in with Mary. Dahlia's mother, it still seems strange. There's a niggling thought in the back of my mind, something about it still bothers me but I can't quite put his finger on it. I don't think about it too much though, there's nothing I could reconsider that he hadn't thought about twenty times that day already. Instead I do my best to put the entire thing out of my mind and let myself out of the building.
It's cold and grey as expected and I immediately regret not grabbing a jacket. Hugging my arms to my chest I cross the parking lot and set off down the street. Since my parents had moved I hadn't had access to a car (Tiffany didn't drive) so busses and the sub way had become a major but irritating feature in my life. Not that I need one now, the "Usual Place" as I had dubbed it, wasn't very far away from Bluecreek, it was just around the corner in fact. The Usual Place has had many names over the years; it was previously referred to as "The Stoner Place" when Gemma Pike, Devlan Green and their group were in high school. It's where they'd go to skip school, smoke pot and drink. However, since they left two years ago it had been deserted, so I decided to claim it for myself. Admittedly it wasn't much, it used to be a tunnel way which ran under some train tracks and roads but it collapsed a few years back and had to be closed off. However there were twenty meters of tunnel still accessible with working light fixtures and no wind or rain. Gemma and Devlan had even decorated; there were a few moth eaten chairs which I'd taken it upon myself to staple some old cotton sheets to out of a mild revulsion for the ambiguous stains on there. There were old magazines lying about and several partially shredded posters on the walls of bands such as Opeth and Volbeat. There was what even seemed to be a rusty old CD player, but I guessed it hadn't worked in a long time. It was just as good a place as any to be bored at weekends.
I collapse into one of the chairs and reach underneath where I kept my stash of soda. The seat groaned underneath me but I'm not too worried, it does it every time. Opening the can and secretly wishing I had something a little stronger then diet coke, I reach into my pocket and untangle my earphones before slipping them into my ears and letting the music drown out the distant sound of speeding cars.
Another day wasted, I think glumly as something depressing by some crappy indie band flows through me, I really need some more excitement in my life. When did I turn into this?
"They're, like, an hour late Andy. Are we going to be here much longer?"
"For the last time, Nathan," I growl through gritted teeth and glare at my best friend, "I don't know. Tiffany has gone to ring the company and see where they are. Now can you just quit your whining for five minutes before I kill you,"
"I am not whining. I've got stuff to do this afternoon, that's all."
"Logan can wait a few hours," I mutter disgruntled.
"How do you even know it's with Logan?"
"It's always with Logan."
"It's not my fault you two don't get on," he mutters.
"I-It's not that we don't get on," I mumble slightly, "It's just we-"
"Can't be in the same room together for more then five minutes?"
I sigh. He was right, as close as Nathan and Logan had gotten since Nathan's break-up Logan and I just didn't get on. Logan was sociable, frivolous, aloof, vain, forever curious, easily bored and exactly the type of person Nathan needed around him at the moment. I grudgingly admit it's kind of my fault they had gotten so close. You'd think that going through difficult break-ups at the same time we'd be able to help each other through it to some extent. Not much, we are guys after all, but at least a little bit. However, when it became clear that Nathan didn't want to forget about his ex I began to quickly tire of him and his attitude. I appreciated he was hurting and everything but after several weeks with no progress at all I'd pretty much stopped calling him. In my defence I hadn't planned cutting off contact all together, but after a while social calls outside school dribbled to a minimum and, before I realised it, Logan, who had always been somewhat in the group but much more on the outskirts then the two if us, had slipped into my vacant position as Nathan's go-to guy. I was relieved at not having to put up with Nathan's angst anymore but it didn't feel great having my best friend being slowly taken away from me.
"Meh, we're just different," I shrug nonchalantly.
Nathan looks like he might say something else on the subject, but thankfully Tiffany choses this moment to re-enter the room looking a little pissed. "They said they're just around the corner, something about an accident on the freeway. Any minute anyway supposedly."
"Thank God!" Nathan gasped, resting his head on the wall behind him. I guess I'm still too peeved to say anything out loud but silently agree.
We sit in relative silence for the next few minutes as Tiffany quizzed Nathan over where he'd been for lately. Admittedly I stop listening after a while, resorting to quietly watching the minutes tick by on my old watch. It reached six twenty-eight before there was a sharp rapping on the door. Tiffany's mood changed in a heartbeat. She went from frustrated conversationalist to practically giddy, leaving her forgotten sentence unfinished she beamed at Nathan for a second, then at me and back at Nathan. Springing up she was across the apartment and throwing the door open within seconds. I couldn't quite see the person on the other side but deduced from the squeal and throwing of arms around an unseen neck that the enigmatic Brandon had finally arrived.
Underwhelmed? I don't blame ya. This was really difficult to write, I kept jumping between past and present tense AND first and third person so apologies if there's mistakes somewhere, I did try to catch them all. Hopefully this won't be a problem from now on because I'll have a beta.
Next time: the girls will be reintroduced and Brandon and Logan brought in properly.
Tell me what you think?