Could... could it ? A new Chapter?
"Two years in a row!" Ava exclaimed excitedly.
Today was Monday, a little over two weeks after Mira's accident, and the first day of spirit week at Brennan High. And in a way, Ava had a right to be excited, seeing as last year she'd been forced to be Lady Gaga, and this year, she'd suggested something better: The Avengers.
"I mean, is this an amazing costume or what?" Ava spun, showing off the blacks and browns and golds and greens of her Loki costume.
"I have never been sexually attracted to Loki before," Zeke commented. "And I still can't believe I have to wear a sheet."
"You're Thor." Paige walked in behind him, dressed head to toe in red, white, and blue with a frisbee in her hand that resembled Captain America's shield. "Thor needs a cape. It's not our fault your redwood ass was too tall for the regular cape."
"You're the one who had too much hair to fit in the cowl," Sara reminded her, touching Paige's head. "You're not Captain America without the mask."
"I parted my hair like his, what more do you want?" Paige puckered her lips and Sara kissed her. "Besides, I always kinda liked Captain America and Maria Hill together." Sara looked at her dark blue and black jumpsuit, the fake utility belt, the boots, and smiled.
"I thought you were going as the Hulk?" Ryan asked, lifting his red and gold mask off his face.
"Do I look like I have time to paint myself green?" Sara leaned her head on Paige's. "Who am I, Idina Menzel?"
"But we agreed you'd be the Hulk," Ryan protested, wiping sweat off his forehead and wondering why he agreed to go as Iron Man. Because Paige said he looked like Tony Stark, that's why.
Brian walked in behind him, nearly running into him thanks to the eyepatch "Sara understands that the council has made a decision, but given that's it's a stupid-ass decision, she's chosen to ignore it!" He grinned and threw an arm over Ryan's shoulders. "Wow, I got to use than line before the bell even rang."
"Ryan, that costume is amazing," Sara said, hoping to ease Ryan's worry. "When did you become a master at dressing in plastic so quickly?"
"Aren't you hot in all that leather?" Paige asked Brian.
"Nah, Seth taught me some tips to stay cool in leather." Brian flipped the eye patch up and flexed his arms in the black leather coat.
"I'm hot in this stupid thing," Ryan said, pulling the mask off and fanning himself.
"Then take the chest part off." Ava played with her cape, spinning around to make it swish. "You're wearing an Iron Man shirt on underneath, remember?"
"Yeah but..." Ryan pouted. "I wanna be Iron Man."
"Seth and Mira here yet?" Sara wrapped her arms around Paige's waist.
"They'll be..." Paige trailed off as a guy with long dark hair, a stiff left arm, and black circles around his eyes walked by. "Bucky?"
"Who the hell is Bucky?" the person demanded. It was then Paige realized it was that senior girl with the prosthetic left arm who never combed her hair and apparently didn't know how to put on eyeliner.
"My bad," Paige said, waving meekly, feeling Sara shake with laughter against her.
"That was outstanding," Brian said, clapping a hand over his heart.
"This is just like last spirit week, huh?" Mira asked. Seth put his car in park and killed the engine.
"You and I remember last year's spirit week very differently." Seth looked her over. "And you look hot as a redhead."
"This stupid wig is making my head itch." Mira scratched her head, her short red curly bob swishing.
"Well, Scarlett Johansson would be proud."
"Except she never broke her arm, I bet." Mira held her left hand up. "And Clint Barton doesn't wear a leather jacket.
"He does when it's fucking freezing." Seth reached into the back for the his empty quiver, wrapping the strap around his chest. He looked over to see Mira staring up at the school. "Hey, you okay?" Ever since the accident, he had been even more protective and loving toward her. Turns out near death experiences could really bring two people together.
"Yeah, fine." Mira smiled slightly. "Just nervous."
"Don't be," Seth told her, reaching for her hand half wrapped in a cast. "It'll be fun, I promise."
"Maybe I should have gone as the Winter Soldier," Mira commented, wiggling her left fingers. "Paige would have liked it." She leaned across the seat and kissed his lips. His hand cupped her cheek, stroking her cheekbone with his thumb as they held the contact for a few moments, then rested their foreheads together.
"You know you're supposed to be brothers, right?" Mira asked, walking up behind Zeke and Ava mid-kiss.
"He's adopted," Zeke pointed out. "And looking good, Mira."
"Thanks." Mira held Seth's hand tightly, aware of just how many people she could feel staring at her.
"And now that we're all here; we have an army," Ava said, tapping her scepter on the floor.
"We have a Hulk," Ryan informed Ava as he walked to their table. Behind him was Chase, the incredibly good-looking and flirty guy he'd met on Valentine's day.
"Well, hello Chase," Sara said with a knowing smirk. He winked and clicked his tongue at her.
"You know each other?" Paige fanned herself with the Captain America frisbee.
"He was one of the dancers in 'Les Mis' last year." Sara popped a baby carrot into her mouth.
"Sara greened me up like Adele Dezeem this morning," Chase said, gesturing to the two green, hopefully non-toxic smears under his eyes and the zig-zag across his forehead. "But the torn shirt was mine."
"You look awesome, dude!" Brian flipped his eyepatch up to look him over excitedly. "Now we have everybody!"
"You okay?" Seth whispered in Mira's ear. Mira nodded, leaning against him.
"So, she's supposed to be Loki?" Chase asked, looking Ava over from his more than six foot height. "Kinda puny."
"Hey, I'm short," Ava said, using Zeke's hand to help herself stand on a chair, now taller than Chase. "But you're still beneath me."
"Oh, I like her," Chase commented, looking at Ryan with a smirk.
"Yeah, we all kinda do." Ryan helped Ava off the chair, and she perched herself back in Zeke's lap.
"Is it me or does that guy have heart eyes when he looks at Ryan?" Mira whispered to Seth, leaning into his arms as they looked at Chase and their friend flirt back and forth.
"No, he definitely does," Seth agreed.
Mira rested her head on the side of her inner locker, releasing a long and slow breath. Anxiety twisted and squirmed in her lower stomach, causing her hands to shake and her heart to race.
This had been such a horrible idea. She wasn't near fit enough to wear a skin tight suit like this. She had gained three pounds in the last two months, and now she was feeling them. She'd need to have a body like Paige, or actually be Scarlett Johansson to look good in this. But today she felt bloated, and like everyone was staring at her.
Mira wish she had brought a jacket or a change of clothes, but she had promised her friends that she was okay to be Black Widow for their Avengers. She couldn't let them down just because her insecurities had returned.
She closed her locker and looked down the hall to the girls' bathroom. Idly, she wondered if she could make herself feel and look better if she...
Mira gasped and shook her head, red curls swishing around her ears. No. She wasn't allowed to think like that. Her bulimia was behind her. But the scars stayed with her.
She knew she should talk to Seth or her friends, but something held her back. It was the lingering humiliation that she ever had an eating disorder that held her back. If she didn't talk about it, it was easier for all of them to move past. She had Ryan, who understood more than anyone in her group, but he was off somewhere with that hot hulk guy, and she wasn't going to ruin his first chance at a relationship because she was insecure.
So she released another breath and pushed away from her locker, brushing past people while keeping her lips pressed tightly and not looking at any of them. The clunky heels of her boots sounded like claps of thunder on the tile floor, drawing more and more attention to herself.
Her cheeks were probably as red as her hair when she reached the library, and she kept her head down until she was in the back in one of the booth-type tables, pressing herself up against the wall beside it and dropping her backpack to shield herself. She grasped the hairline of the wig at her forehead and peeled it off, tossing it on the table and releasing her hair from the messy bun. Her hair fell past her shoulders like a security blanket, making her feel just a bit better.
Pictures of Lucy always cheered her up. She scrolled through the photos on her phone with her thumb, keeping her mind focused on the baby smiling back at her, and not the urge to Google "Black Widow" and see all the models in the costume, along with the actual actress.
"Slipping does not mean failure," she whispered to herself. The matra her old ED therapist had always tried to instill in her once she left the ward. "Relapse does not mean failure. Slipping does not mean failure. Relapse does not mean failure."
She almost jumped out of the booth when Iron Man appeared on the other side. "Jesus, Ryan!" She exclaimed, hand clasped over her heart. Ryan pulled his mask off and dropped it on the table, peeling the cowl to the back of his neck. His wild curls were sweaty and standing up in the back, his forehead shiny with sweat and his cheeks flushed.
"Sorry," he said with a small laugh. "Didn't mean to scare ya."
"Just thought I'd keep you company," Ryan said with a shrug, trying to smooth his hair down. "I saw you in the hall, you looked a little off."
"I'm okay," Mira was quick to reassure. "It's just..."
"Intense?" Ryan asked knowingly.
"Kind of." Mira sighed in relief, touching her forehead with the tips of her fingers. "It just feels like everyone's...staring at me."
"Well to be fair, we are the best dressed group of people in this school." Ryan reached across the table and took her hands when she looked away. "Hey, look at me."
Mira forced herself to look back at him, blinking slowly to hold her tears back. He squeezed her hands and gave her a reassuring smile.
"We've both been through hell this year," he told her. "And there are gonna be some times where life just fucking sucks, but we practically went through the eating disorder thing together." He touched her bright pink cast under her black sleeve. "So we got each other's backs with it, right?"
"Right." She pulled her good hand away to wipe at her eye, making sure not to smear her eyeliner. "Sometimes it's easier just to act like it never happened, though."
"Trust me, I know. But Danny and Mason always let me know that if I need to talk about it, I can."
"They're pretty awesome." Mira smiled affectionately.
"They are," Ryan agreed.
Before Mira could reply, her phone buzzed on the table
Ava wants a group photo, where are you?
Mira picked up her phone as Ryan looked at his own to see a text from Ava stating the same thing.
"Guess we better go find them," Mira tucked her phone in her purse and looked up with a half smile.
"Looks like it." Ryan climbed from of the booth and helped her out as well, touching her shoulder. "You gonna be okay?"
Mira touched his hand gratefully. "I think so," she said slowly. "I hope so."
"How 'bout this?" Ryan pushed the doors to the library open as they exited. "We go through the lost and found for something, you lose the wig, and go as Pepper Potts?"
Mira had to laugh at that, only able to imagine the kinds of foul smelling wonders could be discovered in the school's lost and found. "Thanks for the offer, but I'll pass," she said. "Maybe Seth will loan me his leather jacket instead."
"Yeah, that works too. But if you wear it for Ava's pictures, she'll get pissed."
"I won't," Mira promised. As they headed down the hall, she looked up at him. "How'd you know I was freaking out in the hall, anyway?"
Ryan wrapped an arm around her back and pulled her into a hug at his side, her arm wrapping around his middle. He pulled his mask over his face and glanced down at her, only his eyes visible through the slits.
"Hey, even Iron Man gets panic attacks."
"Baby!" Zack exclaimed when Mira, Paige, and Sara walked into the Pascal kitchen, Paige carry Lucy. He hopped out of his chair at the table and took Lucy from his sister's arms, rocking her happily.
"You're more baby crazy than Sara," Paige commented. Sara glared at her and Paige smiled innocently, batting her lashes.
"How was spirit week, ScarJo?" Marli asked her sister, marking her place in her textbook with a pencil.
"Amazing as always." Mira opened an overhead cabinet, taking out a glass and filling it with juice. "I'm just glad we were able to decide on either Avengers or Game of Thrones."
"Game of Thrones is awesome." Marli watched Zack bounce Lucy in his lap, smiling at the little baby giggles.
"I thought you were still grounded," Mira commented.
"What'd you do this time?" Sara asked. She and Paige each accepted a soda from Mira and opened them.
"She told Seth's mom to fuck off at the hospital after the accident," Paige informed her. "Which was ballsy, in my opinion."
"I thought so too," Marli agreed. "And no, my grounding ended yesterday, remember?"
"Oh yeah." Mira grabbed an apple from the fruit bowl and washed it off. Paige and Sara grabbed snacks of their own from the fridge. "We're gonna watch Steel Magnolias, care to join?"
"Like a party or something?" Marli asked. "I don't see how that's a party."
"Hey, that's my line!"
"So she seriously told Seth's mom off?" Sara asked as Paige and Mira sat on the couch next to her.
"From what I heard, yeah," Mira said.
"Zack told me," Paige informed her girlfriend. "Mrs. Ramsey was getting all weird and territorial of Lucy, so Marli told her to fuck off."
"What's going on with Seth's mom?" Mira wondered aloud as she pointed the remote at the TV and turned on Netflix. "She's been weird for a while now."
"Well, Seth did have a weird breakdown a few months ago, remember?" Paige asked while playing with her Captain America frisbee.
"Yeah, Seth said she...got him through it." Mira brought her juice to her lips, eyes narrowed in thought. "So, movie?"
The three girls had tears in their eyes as Sally Field performed one of her most famous and heartbreaking scenes near the end of the movie. Tissues were distributed and smeared mascara and eyeliner were neatly wiped away with each blot.
"Woo, gets me everytime," Paige said when the credits began to play.
"She just delivers it so perfectly." Sara tossed her tissue in the trash and plucked another one out of the box to wipe away the residue and blow her nose.
"And the movie just gets better with each watch." Paige uncrossed her legs, the material of his costume squeaking. "Thoughts, Mira?"
Mira looked deep in thought, had been throughout the whole movie. Something about her friends talking about Carolyn earlier, followed by watching such a powerful scene, was causing her to wonder something.
A hand touched her shoulder and she blinked out of it. "Huh?" she asked Paige.
"I was asking if the movie's still as great as last time," Paige said.
"Oh, yeah, it was." Mira climbed off the couch. "Excuse me."
Paige and Sara exchanged confused looks as Mira rushed to the kitchen and said something inaudible to Zack and Marli, followed by Zack yelling "Hey!" and her returning to the room with Lucy on her hip.
"Paige, can you do me a really big favor?" One-handed, Mira placed her daughter in her car seat and buckled her in, the baby beginning to whine. She'd been anxious about being back in her car seat since the accident.
"Of course," Paige said, confused. Sara sat on her knees to look over the back of her couch when Mira pulled her coat on with some difficulty.
"I need a ride to Seth's house."
"Seriously?" Sara asked. "You're ditching us now? You can't wait for us to leave?"
"It's an emergency." Mira zipped her coat and tugged her beanie on her head. "I think I may have figured something out."
"You're not gonna hit her, are you?" Paige jingled her car keys with raised eyebrows, expecting an answer answer.
"I promise." Mira shoved the car seat into Sara's hands. "Carry that, please."
"When your car gets out of the shop, you're driving me around as payment," Paige said, pulling her jacket on.
"Are sure about this?" Paige asked as they walked out to the car.
"Yeah, it's gonna be fun."
"I mean, it's not crazy, right?" Mira asked, pushing the stroller ahead of her.
"I spent the better part of my day in a Hawkeye costume, nothing is crazy to me today."
"You can take that off, you know."
"I will when I'm sick of it." Seth reached past Mira and steadied the stroller when it began to wander. "Will you let me push it already? You only have one hand."
"I can do it!" Mira objected. He shrugged and pulled his hand back, tucking it in his jacket pocket. "But, seriously, do you know what I mean?"
Seth shrugged. "Hell, I don't know," he said honestly. "Somehow I doubt Joseph's death would have any affect on my mom."
"Like I said, it's just a theory." Mira sighed, gripping the handles of the stroller and turning it around a corner with Seth's help. "Okay, fine, you do this."
"Thank you." Seth stepped in her place and took the handles, leaning forward to look down at his daughter. "We don't want the stroller rolling out into traffic, do we, Lucy?"
"I have been trying since I got home to get her to say mama," Mira said with a pout, following Seth along the walkway. "Figures she'd say it to you and not me."
"I think she's just shy," Seth said. He gripped the handles and hauled the stroller over an uneven part of the sidewalk.
"Plus she's still a little weird from the accident," Mira added, wrapping her hand around his strong bicep and squeezing it. "She gets fussy when she's in her car seat for too long these days."
Seth pulled the stroller off to the side near a bench and sat, turning it toward him. Lucy was snuggled in her blankets, her stuffed pig in her arms and a wool hat almost covering her face. She giggled and reached a hand out when she saw her parents looking at her.
"I still have nightmares about it," Mira admitted in a whisper, seeing him turning to look at her out the corner of her eye. "I could have lost her because someone ran a red light."
"I know," Seth said just as softly, taking her good hand in his. "But she's okay and so are you." He lifted his arm up so she could sidle up to him, kissing the top of her head and holding her close to him.
"I love you," Mira whispered, laying her hand on his thigh. "You know that, right?"
"I do." He nuzzled his nose to the top of her head, against the soft wool of her hat. "I love you, too."
"Beh-beh," Lucy said, scrunching her face.
Mira touched the baby's soft head with her bandaged hand. "Yeah, you're the baby," she crooned.
Lucy's round blue eyes moved to her father, hand touching Mira's hand against her head. "M-muh-muh," she said to him.
Mira gasped, looking up at Seth then back to her daughter. "She said it!" She squealed softly.
"Told you," Seth told her warmly, eyes flickering between the two. He reached into the stroller and lifted her carefully, keeping the blankets wrapped around her, and laid her in Mira's lap.
Mira kissed her forehead, brushing her soft cheek with her thumb. "I needed to hear that," she whispered in Lucy's ear. "It's been a rough time. 'Course, you know that."
Seth rested his forearms on his knees and rubbed the back of his neck. "So... you really think my mom is messed up because of Joseph?"
Mira looked up, brows raising slightly. "Yeah, I do," she told him. "You said so yourself, she's been acting different the last few months."
Seth nodded, playing with his leather bracelet. "I'll talk to her, see what she has to say."
"I think it'd be good for you," Mira said, leaning against him with Lucy curled up in her lap. "For both of you."
"Yeah, probably." Seth draped an arm around her again, leaning his head against hers. "But aside from that... you're okay with everything?"
"I think so," Mira whispered, kissing Lucy's forehead again, staring off in the distance. "Just having a few nightmares, nothing I can't handle."
"Because I was going to suggest staying at my place tonight," Seth said, tracing a finger along her scarf.
Mira looked up. "Really?"
"Yeah. Maybe being somewhere different and not being alone will help you sleep better."
A smile tugged at Mira's lips and she nodded. "Okay, sounds good."
"Great." Their cold lips met in a brief kiss, noses nudging together.
Shifting on the bench, Mira handed Lucy back to Seth to put in the stroller. "Come on," she said, getting to her feet. "Let's finish around the park and head back to your place."
Seth stood as well, eyes momentarily drawn to the near faded bruise on her forehead until she absently pulled her hat down over her ears.
"Sounds good," Seth told her softly.
Bracing his hands on the stroller, he began pushing it forward and they made their way along the sidewalk. And every now and then, their eyes would meet and they'd smile at each other.
And Mira would later learn that Seth was right, there were no nightmares that night.
Someone needs to take The Avengers quotes page away from me.
Guys... what can I say? This story honestly got away from me. I found myself unable to even care about this story anymore. After 6+ years of dedication to all this, I was ready to call it quits. But from time to time, I would open it and write a bit and soon I found it finished. I don't know when the next chapter will be, but I will get it done as soon as I can and this story will be finished.
Read and Review!