My BerryBot Life – Part 1 – TUF

Author: TheUsernameFound

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Welcome to Sweet ‘n Sugar Science Facility. Makers of the innovated simbot and suppliers of the world renound lifelike Apple Tart BerryBots.

These bots come in a variety of colors and are so affordable that any family can own one for the right amount of simolians. Which is nothing in comparison to these Simbots give back. And for an additional fee, you can chose your own customization and styles.

Not to mention are much more life-like then earlier additions.

We have perfected the art of BerrySimbots. And the leaders and high caliber producers. So why not, if you haven’t already, go out and purchase your very own today.  If you still aren’t sure, feel free to take one of the test run models. You won’t regret it.

I promise.

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“Move fingers.”

I do as the man instructs and watch as my fingers curl and uncurl. I then turn my attention back on the man.

“Now your wrists. And elbows too.”

Again, without word and without complaint I watch my hands twirl, my wrists making creaks and cracks as I move one wrist at a time and then together. I then do the same to my elbows. Things seem in working order, albeit a bit rusty for my wrists. A quick oil change should do the trick.

“Now move your legs. Wiggle your toes and then bend your knees.”

I do as he asks, noticing one leg is harder to bend then the other. All the same, I do not complain and focus my eyes back onto my creator waiting futher instructions. Behind him stands carbon copies of myself.

Or would I be a carbon copy of them?

“Is everything in working order K105F7?”

“I require oiling on my wrist joints and my righ leg requires more work. Other then that I am perfect for the first block of movement tests.”

He nods. “Let’s get to work fixing up the errors for the first block before working on the second block of tests.”

He reaches for a blowtorch and puts it againt my knee.  I should feel pain, but I don’t as I watch the bright light. As he works, I ask, “Are you going to give me a name? A proper one besides my serial code?”

“After.” He says wiping away the sweat that is forming on his brow. His eyes droop tiredly as he focuses his attention on my leg. My tight jointed knee.

He needs things to be perfect. I know. The company does not accept half-berried work.

I know the man must have made me and my sisters – would that be proper to say? – and from somewhere, though I have been alive only a handful of minutes, I know it takes six hours to make one of us.

All the same I feel – am I suppose to feel? I don’t think so, it’s not in my programming I don’t think… Or that either… Am I defective? – bored with watching him working on me. My eyes drift from him to the other me-sisters.

They are not moving.

It creeps me out and I turn and watch my creator working dilagently on his creation. On me. I sort of feel equally creeped out by this. But should I even be… Part of my inner workings screams “No.” I question on telling him this new turn of events in my brain. That something is not right. Not normal for a BerryBot of my caliber.

My creator moves to oil my wrists and when he finishes with one I lean back against the work bench and wait for further instructions.

In my programming, I realize I am to be shipped off and sold. It is a fact, but with my sudden (malfunction?) awareness, I do not like this idea.

“Say the sentance, using a different language for each new word, ‘You are so beautiful that you shine stars’.”

“Je są beau que je schijnen stars.” I say perfectly, not hesitating even for a moment as I switch from language to language and remembering the words that were the same.

My creator looks pleased and I feel happy (What’ wrong with me, I shouldn’t feel…) that I have completed part of the task of block two.

“Move your wrist and leg again.” I do as he says and he watches carefully.

“Everything is working a hundred percent,” I say, no longer feeling any problems that I was experiencing before. (Except I’m not suppose to feel. I should say something I should-) I blink slowly, not speaking. Even though I know I should say something, I don’t mention my odd malfunction. I wait quietly instead for my creator to give me further commands.

He smiles,”Good. Let’s get you down off the table now to see if you can stand.”

He helps me down and I stand their for a minute as he runs more tests.

Facial movements? Check. Able to stand? Check. Able to walk around unassisted? Check. Boosters attached to my feet working properly? Check, check and check. 

I look at him expectantly, “Are you going to give me a name now?” I inquire.

“After. You know I don’t give you a name. Your owner does.”

“I know,” I reply softly, “But I was hoping for a name besides  My serial number. K105F7. I thought you may help with that as my creator you’d have a better suiting name for me.”

Worry and panic crossed his face. “What do you mean?”

“Nothing, creator.”

“It isn’t nothing.” He says running his fingers through his hair. “Berry, oh berry…”

I stare at him waiting quietly for him to stop his mini-freak out. I suspect his lack of good sleeping habits may be the cause of his major distress. I even tilt my head as his hands cover his face.

He takes several deep breaths before looking up at me with wide, frightened eyes. “You aren’t suppose to think. To feel. Oh Berry I’m in so much trouble.”

“I’m sorry, creator.” I say.

He yells and then begins to hyperventilate. He whines, weezing, “Oh berry, this isn’t good. This isn’t good at all.”

I clear my throat politely, “Creator, if I may…”

His eyes draw onto me.

He looks lost and I know he hasn’t had this happen ever before.  In that way I feel special, bit I quickly note that I am at risk of being disassembled. And that is something I do no want to happen.

I do not want to die when I have yet lived.

I smile coyly,  “If it be best for you and me as well. How about we both forget I spoke outside the norm and not inform management on this little… mishap.”

Bitter Heart: Part 2

I made it as far as my bedroom door, before I completely broke down. My father disapproving of each heartbroken sob that escaped my throat. It wasn’t fair! This was why I didn’t want to get attached! Why!! Why did do this to myself! Poor Merlot, I just wanted hug him. Hold him till the hurt would go away, but there was nothing to be done. All I could do was stand by and watch.

He was my family! The one person I had ever felt close to, and now I was left with no one again. I mentally kicked myself for considering my day bad before. This was a nightmare and I had no way to wake up. No pink princesses, no more stories. I was alone, I would never make another friend. I vowed to it. Losing them was way too hard, and I couldn’t go through it again. Ever.

There was no comfort in knowing I might see him again. It wasn’t the same! It wasn’t fair, but really, when is life ever fair.

The first year, was just like we had promised. Writing all the time, several phone calls a week. The second year, the phone calls were less frequent, and even when I tried, I usually ended up leaving a message that was never returned. I became resentful, refusing to write, waiting till he wrote me first. It was one of many mistakes I would make. Soon there were no letters, no calls, no contact at all. I could feel a bitterness beginning to make its home in the already dark corner of heart.

My nineteenth birthday came and went, and it had been over a year since we had spoken. Obviously I was never adopted, and even when I found myself free to go home, I couldn’t bring myself to leave. I was scared. Scared of what I might find there. My father haunted its ground, and I knew it. Nothing had been touched since our departure. No one had ever set foot on the grounds since that awful sunny afternoon.

I just wan’t ready. Not yet.

\

 

What most other kids found as hard work, or boring chores, I found as a great relaxing way to ease my mind. Clean was always better and poor Gramma Mallow was getting old. So basically if I didn’t do it, it wasn’t going to get done. Most days I could be found, wiping down counters, making sure there were no mystery dishes hidden in any of the room upstairs. Daily maintenance to help keep our home in tip top shape. After Indy and Andy were adopted, by two sperate families thank goodness, the home went through it’s dryest spell yet. Which I suppose was a good thing. All the children around had homes, but it only increased my isolation, since Gramma Mallow was spending more and more time in her room.

It was a Friday afternoon, when I received a surprise visitor. I was busy as usual cleaning up. Dropping a few things into the dishwasher, when I heard a voice, much deeper and smoother than anyone I knew personally. “Hey you.”

Out of instinct, I shut the dishwasher closed, came to my feet, and without even looking started to berate the strange intruder for his lack of manners. “Look I don’t know where you come from, but it is proper etiquette to use the- Merlot?”

Even after he affirmed my question, it was still hard to grasp that it was him. He had grown up so much. A handsome young man now stood before me. For the first time in many years, I could feel a genuine smile trying to stretch across my usual scowl.

“What are you doing here?!”

“I just got my license!” He grinned, holding up the paperwork to prove it.

I took the paper, which I assumed he wanted me to do, and read it over. “96 out of 100. Not bad at all. Better than me… though I have yet to take it.”

“It was super easy.”

“You drove all the way here from Fondant Fields?”

“Well yeah, this is the first place I’ve gone. I had to come see you.”

I handed the paper back. “You came all this way to see… me?”

“Of course! We haven’t seen each other in forever and now that I can come to you. What would stop me?”

“I hand’t really thought of that.”

Merlot took off to the fridge, swinging the door open wide. “Man I’m starving. Gramma Mallow got any thing good to snack on?”

“Not really.” I said gravely. “Gramma Mallow isn’t cooking much these days.”

“Oh… well let’s go get something then! I’ll drive.”

“Haha alright. Let me just do a couple things.”

We hopped in his car, and drove out to the diner across town. It was a comfortable ride, he was a skilled driver, so I was relieved to find, that I didn’t have to resort to putting permanent nail marks on his dash. You never know what you are going to get, when you jump in the car with a newly licensed teenage driver. Ride at your own risk.

Lunch was decent. For greasy diner food anyways. Not my favorite, but lately pickings were slim and I wasn’t that great of cook back at home.

“So then he slipped! Fell face first into the trashcan! It was classic!! Hahahaha”

“Ah, yes that sounds most amusing.”

“It was. It was.”

We started to head back to the car, when he stopped me. “Hey Victoria, I wanted to ask you something.”

“Oh?”

“I wanted to know if you wanted to come back to Fondant Fields with me. You know, for the weekend.” He was slowly nodding his head up and down, some sort of silly, mind trick to get me to say yes.

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“We have a room all set up. Auntie Clarette is looking forward to it! Pleaseeeeee?”

He batted his eyelashes and I pursed my lips in reply. “Alright, but I need to go back to the house to get a few things.”

“Woo! Let’s go!” He cheered dangling his keys above his head, already running to the car. Silly boy…

“Man, nothing really changes around here does it?” Merlot asked, making himself comfortable on my bed.

“Not really no.” I was working on gathering a few things for the trip, trying to decide what to bring. I wasn’t very keen on leaving Gramma Mallow alone, but I assured myself she would be fine for the weekend.

“Oh you should bring pants or something warmer. Fondant Fields isn’t nearly as nice as here. It gets pretty cold at night.” He warned as he took hold of the bar underneath the top bunk, and pulled himself up into a half chin up.

“Very well. Slacks it is.” I closed the top drawer and opened the bottom one. Took out a couple pairs of slacks, and threw them with the other pile of clothes I had set aside. Packing them all into my carry on, I threw the bag over my shoulder.

“Ready!” As I’m ever going to be…

We were both greeted with open arms, by his aunt the moment we stepped in the door. Her heartwarming smile was infectious, and I found my own mouth trying to smile just as wide, to match her ferocity. “Hello dear! Oh, I am so glad you could make it! Come in! Come in! Merlot dear, why don’t you take her things to your room.”

“Sure!” Merlot grinned, snagging my bag off my shoulder, zooming up the stairs.

Clarette swooped her arm in mine and pulled me a little further into the house. “Now dear. You must tell me how you’ve been. It has been far too long.”

“Well… I just turned 19.” I had nothing else I could think of…

“Berry side layer, say it isn’t so! My you were just a girl, the last time I saw you.”

“Yeah, it has been a while…”

“So what have you been doing with yourself?”

“Well, I am thinking about going back to school. Getting a business degree.”

“Ohhh well, that sounds just delightful!”

“Back!” Merlot exclaimed dropping right down next to me with an exuberant hop.

“Wonderful dear! Why don’t you show our guest around the old place. Hmm?”

“Right this way madam.” He winked, throwing out his arm, for me to take. I was amused, so I played along. “Why thank you good sir.”

 
 

“So this is our room. Auntie Clarette, put a spare bed in here, so we could share a room, just like the old days! So what do you think?”

“Wow, it sure is… purple.”

“Yeah! Isn’t this cool! It will be just like it used to be.”

I surveyed over the room. Purple wallpaper, quilting, pretty much everything was some shade of purple. Some so bright, I swear I could feel my eyes bleeding. For some reason my eyes wanted to open wider, and that only made it worse. Merlot seemed perfectly content, so I left my comment on the decor as stated above.

A stiff chill ran up my back, causing me to clutch my arms for a bit of warmth. “Where can I change? You’re right, it is kind of chilly here.” 

“Oh right through that door.” He stopped. “Or I can just go downstairs. You stay. I’ll go.”

“Okay thanks.”

“See you downstairs!

With that he closed the door behind him, leaving me in the putrid purple room. I reminded myself it was only for a couple days, as I slipped into something warmer.

“Wow that is a big house.”

“Yeah…”

“Does someone live there?”

“No one knows.”

“No one knows?”

“Well… someone must, but I have no clue who. No one ever comes in or out. And it’s pretty heavily gated, so you can’t really get up there to have a look around.”

“How odd.”

“It is…Rumor has it a crazy old woman lives up there, but no one can prove it and no one has ever seen her… Now come on! There is way more interesting stuff to show you than this dusty old house!!”

In true “teenager with a car” fashion, Merlot wanted to take me all over town. Show me around Fondant Fields. Since I had never been there, I looked forward to seeing what it had to offer. He tried to find all the places I would find interesting, but in the end that left him completely bored out of his mind. While I was fascinated with the art in the local gallery, he was about ready pass out on the floor from sheer boredom.

“This is really interesting.” He yawned, looking at his watch.

“These are some amazing pieces. I have never seen anything like this.” I held out my hand, pointing to the canvas. “See that mark there? It’s some sort of artist insignia, yet it’s not.”

“Oh uh huh, yeah, that’s… great.”

“You’re bored.”

“No… what would ever make you think that.”

“How about you pick the next place.”

Well, I was thinking we could run up to the city! I here Briocheport is totally crazy!! And with you going, I think Aunt Clarette would be willing to let us. What do you say?”

“Have I ever told you no yet?”

“Once but…”

“Well, yeah.” A cunning grin curled my lips. “Let’s do it!” 

The sun was just far enough down in the sky, that all the lights, as far as the eye could see, were on, welcoming us into the city. 

“Wow.” The light flashed past my window, and I could barely take in all that I was seeing. I had never been to the city before. Let’s face it, I had never left Sugar Valley before.

“Welcome to Briocheport.” he smiled. A smile, that came off as more of a smirk. A smirk like, this wasn’t his first time in the city.

“You’ve been here before.” I gasped.

“I may or may not have borrowed my aunts car one night.”

“Merlot, you’re terrible.”

“You know it.” He chuckled, sticking his tongue half way out, playfully biting it with his front teeth. “Now let’s go see what we can get into!”

The night was filled, debauchery and all kinds of other nonsense. I was definitely out of my element, but even I have to admit it was fun. He some how managed to get me up for some karaoke, even though I am probably the most tone deaf person on the planet, and I didn’t put up too much of a fight over it all. I was laughing so hard I was crying and I was feeling more at ease, than I had…ever. The city is truly beautiful and we saw so much of it, I was just in utter awe the whole time. A night I would definitely remember for a long time.

“Merlot?”

“Yeah?”

“We’re lost aren’t we?”

“No. Well maybe.”

“I’m pretty sure we are lost.”

“I can find it, I just need a second to think.”

“We’re not even on the road anymore.”

“I know. Just give a minute here.”

I leaned my head against the seat and closed my eyes. We had pulled over after a small “short cut” ended up getting us so lost, we didn’t know which side was up. We couldn’t even locate a main road. Just trees, darkness and an array of bushes, that had a tendency to scrape against my car door, as we passed. 

Merlot drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. “Maybe if we try up that little hill.”

“Worth a shot. Don’t really want be stuck out here all night.”

“Okay.” He put the car back into drive and we slowly moved across the rocky road, my teeth chattering, head bobbing the entire way. The brights were only able to shine along the road in front. It was a pitch black night and it made for even rougher driving conditions. We finally got up over the hill and my entire lurched forward, ramming myself against the seat belt, when a heavy footed Merlot, slammed on the breaks. 

“OMB!!!!!”

“Do you realize what this is?!?!”

“No? What is it?”

“THIS!!! It’s the park! Victoria we found it!”

“What?” I wasn’t getting it. Of course I wasn’t, I had never seen it, I had no clue what it looked like. I Only knew what he had told me about the swing and flowers, the only thing missing was his little pink princess. A thought, which made me want to gag. Why did I ever read him that stupid story…

Before I had a chance to say more, he was unbuckling his seat belt and jumping out of the car. “Merlot wait!”

 
 

“It’s real! It’s real! I knew it had to be!”

The headlights shone bright upon the hidden park. Small cherub statues adorned the odd placed swing. “Who would put this way out here in the middle of no where?” I asked as I came up beside an overly ecstatic Merlot.

“I don’t know!!” He laughed, still bouncing up and down. Would have sworn their were springs in his sneakers. “So if this is real, maybe that means she is real too!? WHOA!? WHOA?! HAHAHAHAH!”

“Take it easy Merlot, it’s just a swing in the middle of a weird park.”

“Ah you don’t get it.” He grinned, waving his arm my way. “I just can’t believe it! Hah! Amazing!”

“Yes, mesmerizing…”

Once he had found his dream park, he didn’t want to leave it. Well, I didn’t want to spend all night in a creepy park, so I made him a deal. We stay for an hour or so and then we try to figure out how to get home. He had no problem with our agreement, so he ran back to car, to turn the head lights off. Just what we would have needed, run the battery down and be stuck. No thanks…

We found a nice place in the grass and settled in, he was still mindlessly chattering about how cool it was and I was mindlessly wishing we could go home. There was a nice view for stargazing, and I found myself quite interested in the constellations that could be seen from my comfortable place on the grassy knoll.

“Hey Merlot?”

“Yeah?”

“Since your aunt is your real aunt… Does she know what happened to your mother?”

Every movement beside me stilled, he wasn’t even breathing anymore.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry. I was just curious.” I added trying to smooth over my obvious intrusion.

Another small pause before. “I guess I got loose one night. Snuck out of our small little shack and out into the Twizzlerbrook swamp. No one knows what actually happened, when I disappeared, but my mother went looking for me. She looked everywhere. Her flashlight was old, and only lasted an hour or so, but she kept looking anyways. She went way too far out, deep into the bayou below town, got caught in the mud, and was sucked in. It took weeks for anyone to find her, and when they did, my poor grandmother, couldn’t take it. She weeped for days, swearing it was her fault. She should have stopped her, warned her, but she couldn’t. That is not fates design, or some other strange mutterings. The townsfolk didn’t really hold an old gypsy woman’s words for much value. Even though half of them had come to see her on at least one occasion, maybe more. One day, her heart couldn’t take it anymore. I guess losing me and my mother was just one straw too many… So unlike you, I actually did kill my mother.”

I leaned over onto my side, propping myself up onto my elbow. “Now just a minute. Merlot you can’t blame yourself for that. You were just a baby. There is no way, you can pin that on yourself. It was a terrible accident. Nothing more.”

I don’t think he was sure how to reply. You could see, the emotions raging through him, even without saying a word. 

He was silent and still for several more minutes after his sad tale. I had this eerie flashback, when I was telling my story. It didn’t make things any easier.

“I really want to thank you….For every thing. You have seen me through a lot, and I really appreciate that. I know I was a pain at first, but you never gave up on me. I wouldn’t even have found this place, if it wasn’t for you. So thank you. I mean it. Thank you for always being here.” He leaned over and planted a small kiss on my cheek.

As sad as it sounds, it was my first kiss of any kind. Well since my mother… I reached up and touched my cheek pulling my hand away. Looking at my fingers, as if I expected to see it on my fingertips. “We’re family. Of course I will be here. Always.”

We did eventually find our way home, swooping into our beds about 4:30 in the morning. Aunt Clarette was not amused, but when we explained how turned around her got, she lightened up a bit. The rest of the weekend was rather uneventful in comparison. We decided we had enough excitement, and spent our last evening, watching movies and stuffing ourselves on all kinds of insanely fattening foods. It was pretty glorious.

Monday after school, Merlot took me back home. He promised his aunt he would come straight home, so he dropped me off at the home and I waved him on, till he was out of sight. Ughhh now to get out of these pants, I thought to myself as I headed inside. It was fun, but home was definitely calling to me.

It was probably a couple hours after I had returned home, that I realized how quiet the house was. There was no noise at all, anywhere. The only sound to be heard was  the gentle tick tock from the large grandfather clock downstairs. Something in my stomach sensed something was wrong, but my mind and my heart, didn’t want to beleive it. I searched through every room, praying I would find her, sitting in a rocking chair, or perhaps outside in the garden.

When I first walked up to her room, I couldn’t bring myself to turn the knob. I shook my head. “She’s fine. She’s just napping. That’s all.”

I finally took a deep enough breath that would allow me to let myself inside.

“Gramma Mallow?”

The room was still, so still. She was sleeping peacefully on the bed. I breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh you’re just napping. You scared me half to death!”

She didn’t move. I stepped closer,  watching and waiting for her shoulder to rise and fall with her breath. It never did. “Gramma Mallow?” 

They said she went swiftly. No pain or struggle, she just drifted off to sleep. None of their reasoning’s helped to lessen my guilt. My heart was aching to get out. How could I leave her!? We might have been able to save her, if I had been there? I lost a piece of my heart that day. The only sort of mother I had, and now she was gone. I took refuge on my bed for several hours, I didn’t know what else to do. I wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn’t come. I wished for anyone to come and rescue me. I didn’t want to be alone, for the first time it was too much to bear.

“You can’t!”

“I’m sorry Victoria. I have no authority to change their decision.”

“But this is my home?!”

“I understand that, but this is not how things work. Gramma Mallow was slipping deeper into debt, but felt to guilty to ask you to go home.”

“But I can’t! I can’t go back there! Don’t you understand!?”

“I’m sorry.”

I could barely breathe. I was so angry, I wanted run her head through the glass window behind me. I couldn’t go home. I just couldn’t. How could no one understand! I gritted my teeth. “When?”

“You have two weeks, but the sooner the better. I am terribly sorry Victoria.”

“Whatever.” I growled. “You don’t care. You say you do, but I know better. Just get out! I’ll be gone by tomorrow.”

“Very well dear. Goodbye.”

I walked away with no reply. If I had, I probably would have gotten even nastier. I went back to my room and slammed the door.

“I have to be out by tomorrow.”

“I heard.”

“What am I supposed to do? They can’t expect me to go back there?”

I started to consider what I might find there and my breath quickened , my finger tips started to tingle, I clutched the clothing around my chest. “What am I supposed to do?” I just kept asking the same question over and over again.

“I don’t know, but we will figure it out. Okay?” I looked up to find those purple eyes bearing down on me. I ran across the room and threw myself into his arms. Sobbing so deeply I could barely stay on my feet. “I’m scared Merlot! I don’t want to go back there?!”

“I know, but what if I went with you?”

“You would do that?”

“We’re family right?”

“Yeah.” I smiled with a sniff as I wiped my nose. 

“Let me call my Aunt and let her know I am going to be staying here tonight.”

“Thank you.”

“No! No need to thank me. I’ll be right back.”

 

“I can’t do this.”

“You’re doing fine.”

“It’s too hard.”

“I know.”

I reached out for the frame. My fingers graced its edges, before running them over my mothers cheek. “She always had the most beautiful smile. Even when she was sad, she had this way of putting on the most believable smile. I always hoped I would inherit that from her, but I didn’t. I will always look like my father. Ugly.”

“You are not ugly. Don’t say that.”

“Heh. It’s true. I know it.”

“You have a beautiful heart.”

I snorted. “That is definitely not true. I am just like my father. I feel it, all the time. One day it will consume me.”

Merlot placed his hand on my shoulder. “It will not. Don’t say that. It won’t. You’re not. You are a good person Victoria.”

I picked up the frame, squeezing it close to my supposed beautiful heart. “I hope you’re right.”

“Once you have successfully spent the night in this big scary house. You have pretty much conquered everything. So, tell me, what are your plans after that Miss Bitters?”

“Probably go back to school I guess. Try and get what I need to transfer over to the Briocheport state university.”

“Briocheport? But that’s so far!?”

“Yeah, but I can’t support myself here, with no furthered education, besides it will give you a chance to see the city again right?”

“Yeah, I guess so. You gonna be okay, if I actually fall alseep?”

“I think so. Gonna go see your princess?”

*Yawn* I sure hope so.”

“Night then.”

“Night.”

The next two years, were a whirlwind of activity. I found myself constantly bogged down with course work, my part time job and any other mundane maintenance to be done around the house. This sadly left me little to no time for socializing. Merlot and I would call and chat briefly here and there, but it would be months at a time before we would actually see one another. I promised during my next break, that I would make it a point to come out to see him, but he assured me, that it would be no problem for him to make the trip out to me.

So the next break to come down the pike, I was sure to call him and set up our visit.

“Talk to me.”

“Merlot?”

“Yeah?”

“It’s Victoria.”

“Oh heeeeeey.”

“Hey, just thought I would let you know, that I will be free this weekend if you wanna come out.”

“Umm, yeah. Sure.”

“Great see you then!”

“Bye.”

“Bye bye!”

 

I was more than a little surprised when he popped up on my doorstep, not alone. In toe with a girl about his age, who seemed to have forgotten how stand on her own, and was instead using him like a coat rack, hanging herself all over his shoulder and cooing the entire time. It took everything I had not to throw up on her shoes.

“Uh hey, Merlot. Who is this lovely young woman?”

“Hey Vic. Oh this? This is Rassy. Go ahead darlin say hello.”

“Hi.” *giggle*

“I am kinda surprised to see you both here…” I added, eyeing her suspiciously.

“Well I figured since I was out here, I could see you both. You don’t mind if we both stay here?”

My blood was beginning to boil, but I pushed it all back down, deep down. “Not at all. Come on in you two…”

There is probably no need to tell you, that it was a less than enjoyable afternoon. The two were pretty much locked at the lips the entire time, only coming up for air when I alerted them that dinner was ready. The noises alone were enough to turn my stomach. I did what I could to tune them out, which mostly involved me watching the clock, begging for the day to be over.

That turned out to be a mistake. Well one of many. My second mistake was allowing them to take the room above mine. I had no clue what was happening up there, but I assured myself that I didn’t want to.  I ended up covering my head with a pillow, to try and block out the atrocious noises. Waiting ever so impatiently for the night to be over.

“Victoriaaaaaaaa~”

“Why don’t you come talk to me~”

“Hello? Is someone there?”

“Victoria dear. Come. We need to to talk~”

“Victor?” 

“Father?”

“I thought I asked you not to call me that. Oh my my, little Victoria. What a mess you’ve become. And to think you had so much potential. Wasted…”

“What are you doing here? You’re not real. You can’t be. You’re locked in a cell somewhere.”

“Am I? You always were a little dense. One of your many fall backs I’m affraid.”

“No. I won’t listen to you anymore! I won’t!”

“Oh Victoria. Poor insolent child.” 

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

“No I won’t let you hurt me anymore! I’m not a child! I’m not!”

“I’m not here to hurt you dear. I’m here to help you. Don’t you see? When you are nice to people, they view you as weak. You leave them wide open to trample all over you.”

“No. You’re lying!”

“Am I? Did you see what happened today? You let that boy walk all over you. You might as well have laid down on the floor, with a big sign that said Door Mat come on in.”

“No it’s not like that. He’s my friend! My family. He loves me!”

“Do you honestly beleive that?”

“NO! NO! I won’t. You can’t!”

“Do you think he would have come at all if it wasn’t for that girl, he brought here to fraternize with. You’re fooling yourself if you believe anything else my dear.”

“Please! Stop!”

“You have no family. No one wants you. Not even me.”

“Stop! I can’t! STOP IT!”

“No Just go away! Leave me alone! I don’t need you anymore!”

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA- Victoria? Victoria wake up.”

“NO!”

“Victoria you gotta wake up. You’re having a nightmare.”

My eyes shot open, and I wanted to spring out of bed, but the sight of Merlot and his little tart stopped me half way. Blinking blearily I gazed around the room, both sets of eyes were watching me.

“Are you awake now?” Merlot asked placing a hand on my shoulder. I looked at it. “I’m fine.”

“We heard you screaming.” Said his little female companion. Her voice was like nails on a chalkboard.

“I told you, I’m fine. Now I would like to get back to sleep. Thank you for your concern, but I can take it from here.”

“Victoria?”

“What?”

“Nevermind. Goodnight.”

I rolled over and pulled the blankets over my head. “Night.”

The next morning came far too quickly. I was still exhausted, but due to my lovely internal time clock, I was awake at 6:30, just like every other day. My whole body was frazzled, my eyes were a bit red and puffy, and all I wanted to do was shove little tart face out my front door.

My feelings of animosity grew deeper, when I was invited to accompany them to the pier. I should have said no. Perhaps it all could have been avoided…

“Merlot? Who the berry is that girl?!”

“Me? Who the berry are you?”

“Oh hey Apple… Hi. This is um Rassy. My friend.”

“Friend? I thought I was your girlfriend?”

“Girlfriend? Oh no no no. I’m his girlfriend. Tell her Merlot.”

“Errrrm…”

“I can’t believe you?!”

“Oh darlin relax.” 

“Don’t you tell me to relax. And don’t you ever call me darlin again. In fact! Don’t ever call me at all!”

Apparently, Rassy was not the only one Merlot had been hanging around with. Apple I think that was her name, was not very pleased to see them together, and everything pretty much broke loose after that. Everyone was screaming and crying and all I could do was watch. When Apple finally had enough, she ran off sobbing around the corner. To my horror, Merlot had this little smirk on his face. Was he actually enjoying it?

Well Rassy had, had enough as well, and demanded that Merlot take her home immediately. Probably the best idea I had heard all day. So I offered to walk back, I needed some time to think anyways.

The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. Everything about him was changing and not in a good way. I had even more time to think about it, after I got home, because it took him forever to get back. I assumed it had something to do with what ever had to pull to try and smooth things over with Rassy, but honestly that didn’t help his case either.

All the anger I had been suppressing was sitting at the surface, just waiting for him to come back. The moment he did, I wasted no time.

“Do you mind telling me, just what the berry happened back there?”

“What? You mean with Apple and Ras?”

“Ummm. Yes?”

“Nothing. Just a little girl fight. It happens a lot. It’s no big deal.”

“No big deal? That poor girl Apple. She ran away crying, and you laughed. I saw it!”

“Look, girls just get too attached to me. She’ll be fine.”

“What’s happening to you?”

“Me? What’s happening to you?!”

“You’re not that same little boy, fighting just to protect someone else’s feelings.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not a little boy anymore.”

“Those girls…”

“What? I’ll find another.”

“When did you become so arrogant.” 

“Look. Just get off my back alright.”

“I just can’t belive it. What happened to your princess? Surely she wouldn’t want to see you this way.”

“You of all people should know, she’s NOT REAL! Okay. Those dreams stopped along time ago, because new flash, I’m not a child anymore!”

“This is not you Merlot. It’s not. What happened to the boy who saw me through the scariest night of my life. What happened to the boy who dreamed he would find his princess. I just can’t believe, he’s not in there anymore.”

“People change.”

“I didn’t think you would.”

“Yeah, well you were wrong.”

My voice dropped very low. “I don’t know what else to say, except that I am disappointed in you.”

“Disappointed?! Geeze lady, where do you come off. You’re not my mother alright?!”

“But we are family.”

“No, we’re not that either. You’re just some lonley woman who needed someone to look after her.”

“I see.”

Everything I had ever known crashed down around me. I turned to walk away. He was right. He had always been right.

“Look, I didn’t mean that. That’s not true. I’m sorry. Victoria, please talk to me.”

“I think you need to leave now.”

Suddenly the realization, of what had just happened sunk in. I felt an arm grab my shoulder, pulling me back. “Please Victoria please?! I’m sorry?! I didn’t mean that! I didn’t!”

I couldn’t move. He was right. Berry how I hated to admit that he was right. Merlot continued to sob, pulling me back, but it was too late. My heart had shut down and those final words sealed it. I took hold of his shoulders. Wthout saying a word, I pushed him slowly out the front door. Closing it behind me, blocking out his cries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

With no more distractions in my life, I was able to fully focus on school. Quickly transferring to my first uni of choice. Graduated first of my class, and before I knew it, I had landed a posh job at a marketing firm, right here in our very own Sugar Valley. The moment I was in the door, I was moving up. Stepping on which ever peon I needed to get where I wanted to go. It was fulfilling and exhilarating. The entire office was terrified of me, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. 

Within five years, I had landed an executive position, with it only one superior above me. It wasn’t perfect, but I had a ways to wait to land CEO…

“Sir that is unnecessary. I assure you.”

“Nonsense. You are doing a bang up job! You really are, but the work load is just too much. Not even a super woman like you can do it all. Which is why we have hired you an assistant.”

“Sir I don’t need one.”

“This is not optional Miss Bitters. You either accept our assistant, or you will be looking for another job.”

“But sir.”

“Yes?”

“Yes. Sir.”

“Wonderful. I knew you would see things my way.”

“Hi Miss Bitters! Oh it is so wonderful to finally meet you. You are a legend! Wow this is just. I can’t believe you chose me, out of all the people!”

Fairy Floss… I hated her the moment I saw her. She was perky, pink, freckled and I couldn’t even stand to look at her, let a lone listen to her insufferable voice. This must have been what Merlot’s princess would have looked like if she had been real. The thought only made me despise her more.

She was the reason Merlot changed so drastically. Yes, it had all been her fault, and since I couldn’t punish the real princess. This little pink tart would fill the bill perfectly…

“You’re Late”

“I’m S-s-sorry?”

“I was expecting to see that report Wednesday. Where is it? hmmmm?”

“I put it on your desk Tuesday night before I left.”

“Well thats funny I don’t see it in my inbox. You know what i think? I think you forgot.”

“No Ma’am. I made sure it was out well before it was due.”

“Don’t you no ma’am me!I am your superior and you WILL NOT argue back to me!”

“I want to see that report on my desk in one hour! One hour! Now, GET OUT!”

I waited till I was sure she was back at her desk before I returned to mine. Taking a seat, I leaned over and slipped her report out of the trash, dusted it off a bit and set it down. Picking up the in house phone, I dialed over to her.

“Hello?”

“Yes, Miss Floss it seems I have found your report. That is all.”

*Click*

Yes, this could be fun afterall…


————————

Epilogue-

“Morning.”

“Morning dear. How did you sleep?”

“Alright I guess. I’m starving.”

“As if that is anything new…”

“Yeah yeah.”

“Hmmm well what you know. Looks like the old spinster’s heart finally gave out.”

“What’s that?”

“Huh? Oh nothing, just says here that my old boss passesd away a few weeks ago. Rest is Peace Miss Victoria Bitters, you old bitter, bitter bat.”

*CRASHHHHH*

“Berry Merlot, are you alright?!”

“Uhhh yeah, I’m fine. The milk, I dropped it. I’ll um get some paper towels.”

“You sure?”

“Mhmm, I’m good. Everything is under control…You had a boss named Miss Bitters?”

“Yes, I never told you that before?”

“No, I don’t believe you ever did.”

“Horrible awful woman. I can see why I wouldn’t want to bring her up. You’re lucky you never met her.”

“Uhh, yeah. She sounds dreadful…”

“Look I don’t care how much it costs. I need it done…”

“Yes, drain it…”

“Well then it won’t be a problem will it…?”

“Alright. Uh huh. Goodbye.”

“That was work. They need me to take the lead place on the crew going to France.”

“France?!? When?”

“Next week. Just for a couple of weeks.”

“But Merlot, I won’t be here next week. Who is going to take you to the airport?”

“It’s all taken care of. They reserved me a spot in the extended parking, everything will be in order. You won’t have to worry about a thing.”

“Except that you are in France without me. What if you meet a silver little french girl…”

“Now Fair.”

“Sorry. It’s still…”

“I know…”

“France. What on earth would they need you there for?”

“Hey… Victoria, it’s me. I know I am probably the last person you want to see right now, but I just found out, and I really need to talk to….”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t have done this when you were still here. I should have…”

“Those things I said to you. They weren’t right, they weren’t fair, and you didn’t deserve them. I was an arrogant teenager who thought he knew everything. Well you were right, and I was wrong, because I knew nothing. I still don’t, but what I do know, is if I could take back what I said I would. I relive it, even now. Wishing I could catch the words, pull them back, before they did, what they did.”

*sniff* “I’m so so sorry, but I want you to know that I am doing what I can to make it right by you. I hope you know that, and I don’t know if it will make you feel any better to know, but I am being severely punished for everything.”

“I leave tomorrow, to put the final things in order, but I just wanted to come say *sob* goodbye. I love you. Thank you for everything. I never thanked you enough, so thank you.”

Bitter Heart: Part 1

Posting this here, because nothing has been added recently. Guys we need more puffs!! The readers miss you!

Guys I present to a little reading material whilst we wait for the next chapter.  A story that I think you will quite be interested in, but please be warned. This tale is sad and you should read at your own risk. It is very much a part of Splash though, so it fits right in here. New chapter is on the horizon! ♥ And if you read this on Tumblr just ignore me, or read again and break your heart again :| oh and the insignia is a tumblr thing lol…

“Come on. Everyone could use a friend.”

“I don’t…” He said gravely.

Clutching tightly to the orphanage issued teddy bear he continued to look out the window. His gaze never faltered from the distant horizon. I don’t think I had ever met anyone so lonely in my whole life. Well other than me of course…perhaps that was my heart went out to him so deeply. Dozens of children had come through the home over the years, so why did this one stand out? Why did I feel this need to take him under my wing?

I stayed with him a few more silent minutes before I returned to my room and readied myself for bed. I knew it would be no easy task, but I also knew that even if it killed me, I would prove to him that a friend was probably the thing he needed most.

It almost seemed comical that I would be the one person in the home, to offer a hand of friendship. I was pretty much the anti-definition of friendship. The antonym if you will. In all the years of my pathetic existence, I could have counted on one hand my entire circle of friends. A whopping number of one. Now I don’t know friendship protocol, and I am not a hundred percent sure someone your father has taken prisoner and locked in his dungeon counts. So for the sake of argument, we will leave her out. That brings my total down to zero.

It was the third day after his arrival when I decided to set my little operation friendship into action. The home had gone through a fairly sizable surge of adoptions just before Berrymas the year prior, so other than myself there were only three other children, four total if you counted me.

I wasn’t much of a child anymore though, I had been in the home for close to seven years by that point. My fourteenth birthday, extremely uneventful as it had been, passed by, leaving me a good two years past my expiration date. In adoption terms, if you aren’t adopted by twelve, well it probably isn’t going to happen. And if you are the daughter of a mad scientist, your shelf life is cut even shorter. I would have had to have been two or three with giant brown eyes for anyone to even consider me. I was none of those things, so the home was my home. Grandmother Mallow was a good caretaker, one of the best, but no caretaker, no matter how sweet or wonderful, could ever take the place of a mother.

I missed my mother… 

Man I must sound like the biggest sob story you have ever heard! We can come back to her later. For now, let’s get back to the story at hand. How I tried to befriend Merlot Pinot Noir.

At that time in his life, he was just Merlot. It was all he could remember. He was young. Very young when he entered the system. Due to a stack of clerical errors, he was sent to almost every home in the berry pages. Perhaps back luck, or maybe something more, had kept him one step away from adoption, before he was packaged up and sent somewhere else. Incredibly withdrawn, he in a lot of ways reminded me of myself when I was that age.

“Mind if I sit here?”

“I guess not.”

I had already knelt down onto the warm plastic, when his solemn reply floated past the giant sand cloud. He never looked up from his half built castle, and I had no clue what I was going to say next. I clutched up a small hand full of sand, allowing the grains to slowly slip through my fingers.

“My name is Victoria by the way. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Yeah.”

“So what’s your name?”

“You know my name.” He snapped haughtily.

“Maybe, but I was hoping we could have a proper introduction.”

“I don’t want to. I told you already. I don’t want to be friends.”

By this point, I had used all of my friendship knowledge. And even though I had told myself repeatedly it probably wasn’t something that happened overnight, it still stung. I don’t want to be friends….

I snorted in indignation. “Of course you don’t.”

My patience were already wearing thin, and I found myself incredibly annoyed that I was unable to properly handle a ten year old boys rejection. He was unfazed by my outburst and continued to work on his ridiculously shoddy sand lump.

“Well maybe we can try again later. It’s not like either of us are going anywhere any time soon.” I smoothed my voice a bit, trying my best to remind myself to stay civil. We weren’t going to get anywhere if I caved to my baser instincts and called him a little brat, or something worse… Getting to my feet, I dusted the bits of sand on my skirt before heading back inside.

“See you at dinner.” I called over my shoulder, before closing the door behind me.

“See ya.”

Dinner was probably one of the most pleasant times around our humble little homestead. Grandmother Mallow had first started life as an academy of cooking instructor. In fact the home was her academy, which she later had converted to the orphanage. Apparently something one day switched in her mind, and from that moment on, she was convinced she had found her higher calling from the great Berry above. Not that any of us were complaining, she was the best cook, this side of the Sugar Valley belt.

Children over the years had tons of complaints, not enough bathroom space, the beds were old and creaky, it was drafty and cold. No one however, had ever complained about the food. I would have dared someone to try. They would have been laughed out the front door. I guess what I am getting at here is, the food was exceptional, and hands down the highlight of my meager continuance.

I could smell the goopy carbonara all the way up in my room. My second favorite meal, next to her world famous hot dogs. I closed my book, set it on my pillow and headed to the bottom floor. The cheesy, creamy aroma leading my way.

When I got to the kitchen, the kids were already tucking into their plates and Grammy Mallow was still slaving away over the stove, still working on a little extra something she was cooking up.

“Dig in dear!” She grinned, flipping something, I wasn’t sure what, over her head and back into the pan.

There had been an empty place at the counter between the boys, and I did almost take it, but something caused me at the very last second, to veer off to the far end of the counter space. Not the right time to push the boundries, it would end up forcing him further a way. Leaving me with even more work to do.

Oh, the day and times of a bored orphan rat…

He was having a heated discussion with Indie over some sort of toy, which gave me a small twinge of jealousy. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be friends, he just didn’t want to be friends with me. I rolled up another heap of noodles on my fork, continuing to eat my dinner in silence. Maybe he didn’t need me after all. There was a big shocker, a revelation of epic proportions. Someone else who didn’t need the Bitters. *sigh*

After dinner, I washed up the dishes, it was my night, and then headed off to bed. Indie, Merlot, and Andromeda all bunked in the other wing, so I had the entire room to myself. Fully prepared to give up on my ill-conceived plan to cure my loneliness, I changed into my pajamas before collapsing into bed. 

The room had an eerie echo that never seemed to leave me. Any slight movement I would make, felt and sounded like it was amplified ten times louder than it should have been. The mattress let a loud creak as adjusted myself, trying to get a bit more comfortable, before I snatched up my book, returning myself to the mysterious world bound within it’s pages. My one true escape. I had read and re-read so many books over the years, I could have made a hermit cry.

It was just getting to the good part, a part I had read three time already, when there was a loud crash outside my rooms door.

*bang*

“Take it back!!” A voice cut through the air, a slicing edge to it’s tone.

“Make me!”

I looked over the edge of my book, staring at the closed door. Another crash was quickly followed by a frightened yelp, which was undoubtedly poor little Andromeda, cowering in a corner somewhere. I closed my book and threw it on the bed, before taking off in a dead run, towards the commotion.

 
 

I came on the scene to find Merlot in a headlock. Indie doing his best to twist his head right off his neck. Everyone was screaming, yelling or crying. Andromeda was in the corner trying to cover her eyes from the chaos, as I tried to figure out the best way to break them up. I did the only thing I could think of, I jumped on them both, until I could get between them. All three of us swirling in an enormous dust cloud on the carpet.

After some doing, I was able to successfully wedge them apart, everyone instantly getting to their feet, well and ready to charge at each other once again.

“Whoa whoa!” I boomed, throwing out my arms. “Everyone just settle down!!”

The pair continued to spit insults at the other, right through my torso. 

“Merlot! Indie! Stop! You’re going to wake-

“What is all that racket!!”

“Too late.”

Gramma Mallow was up, dressed and looking none too pleased. How she was able to dress so quickly, I had yet to figure out. I was convinced she slept in her clothes for just such occasions. Her eyes narrowed as she looked Merlot and Indies direction. No need for explanation on my part, she already had it all figured out.

She first turned her attention to Merlot. An angry glimmer in her eye. “Merlot, there is absolutely no fighting under my roof. NO… FIGHTING.”

Merlot dropped his head. If he could have sunk into his boots, I do believe he would have. “Yes, Ma’am.”

“And Indie. What is the matter with you? You have been here long enough to know the rules.”

“But he started it!” Indie bellowed, tears beginning to form at the corners of his eyes. Neither I or Gramma Mallow were convinced.

“I did not! You did!” Merlot screeched back.

Gramma Mallow lifted her hands, closing her eyes. “I don’t care who started it. It ends right now. Indie go to bed. Merlot, go find a bed in the other room.”

“But!”

“No arguments you hear?” Gramma Mallow was already comforting Andromeda the best she could, and the boys knew this conversation had ended.

“Come on.” I said placing my hands on Merlot’s shoulders, leading him out of the room. He never flinched or tried to pull away, but he did dog Indie with a death stare, all the way out of the room and half way down the hall.

To no surprise, he chose the bed on the far wall. As far away from me as possible. Nothing new really. I did the same to the previous inhabitant when I was introduced to the room. Of course not long after that, every bed was filled, both rooms, so my isolation had been pretty pointless. Still I understood it better than he would ever realize. He climbed to the top bunk. folded his legs together and brought them right up into his chest. I couldn’t see much from my angle, so I didn’t even attempt to crane my neck for a better view.

“Not a good way to start here bud.” I yawned, fluffling my pillow a bit.

“I know.”

“You just gotta let the stuff he says roll off your back.”

“It wasn’t my fault. He’s a jerk anyways. He desereved what he got.”

“From the looks of it, he had the upper hand.”

“You didn’t hear what he said to her.”

“Her? You mean Andy? Errr Andromeda?”

“Yeah. He was making fun of her. Saying her clothes didn’t match because she was too fat to fit in the other clothes. She started to cry.”

“And you decided to step in.”

“Now do you get it?”

“I do, but Gramma Mallows rules are pretty self explanatory. No fighting. No exceptions.”

“So I’m just supposed to stand by while he hurts her feelings?”

“Well no….”

“I don’t understand.”

“You will.” I leaned over to flip off the lamp, but before my hand could turn the little knob.

“Could you leave the light on please?”

“Sure.” I pulled my hand back, and jumped under the covers, covering my head to block out the lights, allowing my eyes to flutter shut. “Good night.”

“Night.” 

 
 

I felt the edge of my mattress dip, but I was too comatose to realize what it was. It wasn’t until I heard a creaaaaaak, that it dawned on me, someone had crawled up onto my bunk. I looked to the clock, three hours had passed.

Rubbing my eyes, I sat up to find Merlot at the edge of my bed, leaning up again the small ladder attached to the standard issue bunkbed frame.

“Merlot? What are you doing? It’s 2:30 in the morning.”

“I can’t sleep… Can… can I ask you something?”

“Okay.”

“Why are you so nice to me?”

I blinked a few times, trying to let the words sink in. “Whu?”

“Indy said you were the meanest girl he had ever known, but all you ever are to me is nice. Why? Is he a liar?”

I wanted to tell him yes, but then I would have been the liar. I was incredibly nasty when I wanted to be, and I had a way of scaring others away that I didn’t want to deal with. It worked too well, which is why I always found myself alone.

“I don’t know. You kinda remind me of myself, a little bit.”

“Oh.”

“It’s pretty late. Do you have any other pressing questions, or can I go back to sleep now?” I let out another big yawn.

“No. I’m good. Good night Victoria.”

“Good night Merlot.”

The last thing anyone wants to do is clean, but when you break one of Gramma Mallows rules, you better just expect it. Of course Merlot didn’t know that. He sure did afterwards though. Both boys spent the fleeting hours after school, cleaning every room, head to toe. I was put on Indy duty, since we were more likely to trust Merlot to keep working, and well, we knew Indy all too well to trust him on his own.

This left little or no time for chatting, for anyone. I buried my nose in a book, carefully gazing over it’s edge, surveying the scene peripherally.

“I’m tired.” Indy moaned, throwing the mop to the floor. It’s handle making a loud smack as it clattered to the floor.

I looked up, slipped a ridiculous excuse for a bookmark inside and slowly closed my book. “You’re almost done, but you can’t stop here. You still have half the floor to do.” I remarked, pointing out the half that was unfinished.

“But!”

“Hey, this was your choice.”

“Fine!” He grumbled, picking up the mop, beginning to mop much faster and harder than before, his obvious irritation now fueling the motion. 

Stone faced, I opened my book again. “That’s a good boy.”

By the time dinner was ready, all the chores had pretty much been completed, to the dismay of Indy. Hamburger night! Not quite my favorite, but still amazingly good. I grabbed my plate, and sat down in the same seat as before. I was more tired than I had realized, due to the early morning interruption, and was pretty much just going through the motions. Merlot and Andy were already nibbling away, as I set my plate down. 

I was peacefully, enjoying my dinner, when I heard the sound of one of the far stools, scraping across the wooden floor. I looked up to find Merlot, getting up from his seat, grabbing his half eaten hamburger. Carrying his plate, he walked to the empty seat between me and Andy.

A small smirk grew across my face as I took another bite. “The upstairs looks good.” I complimented after fully chewing my mouthful of burger.

“Thanks.” He picked up his burger again, taking a rather large chomp. “Isf the foo always thisf goodf?” He asked, his mouth so full, he looked like a chipmunk.

“It gets even better.” I winked. “Just wait for hot dog night.”

“So how long have you lived here?” Merlot popped over the side of the top bunk, scaring me almost half to death. My eyes shot open wide. heart beating widly. “You mean the home?” I squeaked.

“Yeah.”

“A long time…” My mind started to wander to my time before the home. It wasn’t much better. A sad realization, if I did say so myself. 

“Oh.” His feet could be heard drumming themselves on the mattress above. “Have you ever been in any other homes? I have been in tons!”

“Just this one. One’s enough.”

“Yeah… Hey! Has Gramma Mallow always been a Gramma?”

I laughed. “Well, she has always seemed like one, she doesn’t actually have any children of her own.”

“That’s sad.”

“It is.”

“I like her. She is tough, but we totally deserved it.”

“Hah! Well Indy did, definitely.”

 
 

“Did you ever know your parents?”

My body froze. I had been dreading this question would eventually pop up. It had always been one of the reasons, I didn’t like getting close to people. Remembering, even after all the years, was still… painful.

My expression dropped. “I did.” I answered gravely, staring off to the far corner of the room. My mind filled with a dozen memories all at once. I winced, trying to block them out.

“Oh I’m sorry.” Merlot hopped down, his eyes, filled with worry. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I was just wondering. I don’t remember my mother at all. Only that she called me Merlot.”

“It’s alright. It just brings back a lot to think about is all.”

“Oh.”

“It’s a pretty long story. You sure you want to hear it?”

He nodded slowly.

“Alright.” I let out a low sigh. “I knew both my parents. My father more than my mother, but only because she died when I was just a few years old.”

Merlot, intrigued with the story settled on the edge of my bed. I continued. “My father was a horrible awful man, and I am not over-exaggerating. He was violent, cruel, and just a down right bad person. My mother was usually the brunt of his attacks. That is, until she couldn’t take it anymore…”

Giant purple eyes, opened wide. “What happened?”

“Well.” I didn’t even want the words to escape my lips. It was like opening an old wound, only to find it just as fresh as it had always been. I choked back a sob. “We found her in the bathroom. So many pill bottles around her, it looked like a scene from a horrible movie.”

“Oh no.”

I nodded. “They couldn’t revive her, she did an excellent job. After her death, my father turned his attention to me. When he wasn’t busy in his lab, trying to figure out some ridiculous way to take over the universe, he was blaming ME for her death. I was too young to understand otherwise. So I spent my childhood believing I killed my mother.”

“What happened to your dad?”

“Heh, he finally took things too far, when he kidnapped a girl he was convinced came from a different plane of existence. A non berry.”

“Whoa. Was she?”

“Oddly enough. She was. Eventually though he got caught. Thanks to me…”

“You turned your own father in?”

“I didn’t really have a choice. Her friends cornered me. I felt guilty. I knew what he had planned for her…” 

“Scary. Is he still out there?”

“No. He was finally captured, rotting in a cell somewhere. With no other relatives, I was placed here, till I turn eighteen. Then I can go home… not that I consider it much of one.” 

“Whatcha readin? It must be good. You read it a lot.”

Slightly embarrassed, I thumbed to the next page. “Just a book with a bunch of fairy tales. You know, princesses, princes, dragons, the standard fairy tale stuff.”

“Sounds cool.”

“I like to think so.”

“Which one is your favorite?”

“Hmm let’s see.” I fanned the pages till I was at the table of contents. Using my index finger, I dropped through the different stories, till I found the perfect one. “This one.” I poked the paper with my fingernail.

“The princess of dreams.”

“Oooooo! What is it about?! Would you read it to me?” 

“It’s about a princess, who lives two different lives. One when she is awake, and another when she is asleep.” I closed the book and got up from my bed. “I guess I could do that.”

 
 

“Victoria! Victoria! Wake up Victoria!!”

“Wuhhhh.” My vision was blurred, but I could see a whole lot of purple, bouncing in and out of my line of sight.

“Guess what!? Guess what?! Guess what happened?!”

I sat up a bit. “I don’t know what?” I asked concealed inside of a giant yawn.

“I met the princess!!!”

“You what?”

“I met the princess from the story! She was pink and beautiful! It was amazing!”

“Wow. That is amazing.” My tone was less than impressed, probably due to the fact I was still half asleep.

“There was this huge field of flowers! And there was this swing! It was soooo cool! Do you think I will see her again?”

“Probably not. It was just a dream.”

“Oh. But the princess had dreams like that all the time.”

“True but that is just a story.” 

His face dropped, the disappointment, riddled in his brow. I bit my lip. “You never know though. Maybe. Anything is possible. Right?”

His face brightened. “Right!” Leaving no hesitation he bounded out the door and downstairs for breakfast. I rolled over and tried to get a few more minutes sleep.

So to my dismay, and Merlot’s delight, she did come back. Every night, she came back… Which meant every morning, I got to hear about his cotton candy princess. It didn’t take too long till I had my fill of the pink little girl with pink hair and freckles, but it was a small sacrifice to pay for our blooming friendship. I for once, had learned a little bit of patience. So even though, I had come to despise everything that was this girl, I smiled and nodded and listened to every last detail he felt I needed to know, which was pretty much everything.

“So then I pushed her on the swing! And we just hung out together, talking and other stuff. I still don’t know her name, but maybe one day I will. Do you think she will tell me? Maybe I should tell her my name. That would be a start.”

Ughhhh….

Now lisen carefully my friends. Anger is powerful, hurtful and incredibly unforgiving. It can flare sometimes at a moments notice, leaving every thing else to burn around you. Like a spark that gets out of control. One should never speak out of anger. It should be left for another time and place. A lesson I should have followed, but even as much as I refused to admit it, there was a part of my father, hidden deep inside me, just waiting for a chance to break out. Ruining everything I had worked so hard to accomplish in its wake.

The day seriously had been the worst day ever. Well, worst day in a really long time. Nothing would ever surpass the time with my father, but never the less, the day sucked blue berries. It started off wrong, which is never a good sign. My alarms batteries had gone flat, which left me with no wake up call. I ended up missing my favorite class, and barging in on the one I hated most. Of course my teacher made sure everyone was aware I was late, and I was getting marked for it. Added a detention when I rolled my eyes. Nice going Vic.

The day only got worse from there. Nilla and her cronies thought it would be funny to trip over my backpack, fall face first into the table, flipping my entire tray into my lap. She swears it was an accident, but I seriously doubt it. I got up to clean myself off, and ended up slipping on some the spilled orange juice that was now on the floor.

So I spent detention, drenched in juice and spaghetti, which even the security officer at the front of the room could smell. All I wanted to do was get home, but since I was held after, I had to walk. So I did. All the way up the hill.

When I got back I collapsed in my bed. Wishing the world would just go away.

 
 

“Hey!! You’re home! I didn’t even think you were here. You have been super quiet!” Merlot bounced through the door, like most days, but I was just not in the mood. Everything was irritating me, and his bright, bubbly, excited usual self was no exception.

“Go away Merlot. I’m not feeling well. I just want to be alone right now.” I groaned, rolling myself into an even smaller ball.

“But I had this great idea! You have to hear it! It’s so cool! I think it might just work!”

“Not right now. Maybe later okay?”

“It will just take a second. I promise. Okay so what if I were to-

I should have just ignored him. I should have bit my tongue. Fight the burning anger raging in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t… I shot off from the bed, glaring right down into his face. My expression alone was enough to cause him to stop mid sentence.

“I don’t care about your stupid plan OKAY!!!! Just get out of my face! I don’t want to hear about your stupid princess any more!! JUST GET OUT!!!” 

His face fell the moment the words left my lips, and I felt my heart squeeze. What had I done. I squeezed my eyes shut. No…. “Merlot, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”

It was too late. He was already heading out the door. *slam*

It was less than a second before I was running down the stairs to chase after him. “Merlot wait!!” I clambered down the stairs, but slowed my pace when I heard two unfamiliar voices in the foyer. Soon the two women and Gramma Mallow came into sight. 

“Oh Victoria! Come here dear! We have the most wonderful news!!”

“Oh what’s that?” I asked, taking my first step onto the floor.

“Victoria this is Clarette. It would seem that we have located a family member of Merlot! And she has come to adopt him! Isn’t that wonderful?!”

There was no chance for me to reply, because behind me came a loud gasp. “NO!”

We all turned to find Merlot running through the kitchen to the back yard.

“Oh dear…”

“I don’t want to go!” He whimpered. “I want to stay here!”

I could feel my heart continuing to twist, deeper and deeper. I knelt down, my knee hitting the ground a lot harder than I wanted. “Merlot, this is a good thing. You have family. Family that wants to adopt you. This is what all children here want.”

“I don’t! I want to stay here! With you! I’m sorry I bothered you before! I promise I won’t ever again! Please just let me stay here. This is my home. You are my family!”

He wrapped his arms around my shoulders, and I couldn’t even bring myself to look at him. It hurt too much. The guilt was stabbing right through the center of my chest. “I’m sorry Merlot. There is nothing I can do. You have to go.”

“NO!!!!!!”

“Please. I promise we will still be friends. You can write me any time that you want and I will try and see you when I can.”

“Please Victoria! Tell them! Tell them I am happy here! Please!?” His pleading sobs were too much to take. I could feel the tears threatening to fall, and my fathers voice, reminding Bitters don’t cry. I got back to my feet. Goodbye Merlot. You will be happy I promise.”

“No!!!” 

I couldn’t watch any longer. The social worker and Clarette guided in through the house to the front door. Crying the whole way, but he did allow them to take him where he needed to go.

I watched from the window as they put him in the car and drove away. 

There went my only friend.

Penny Blossom and the rose – Berry

My little Tumblr story that I concocted to feed my Shenny obsession. If you are not aware of these guys. They are my Berry sweet verison of Sheldon and Penny, but their names are Penny Blossom Delight and Shark Calypso, so Shenny still works. 😄 ♥

Night 1~

The night ended almost as painfully as it began. Pure humiliation, thankfully only one person had been there to see it. Unfortunately that one person was someone she cared an awful lot about, which only made the painful sting of embarrassment even harder to take. It was supposed to be a great evening. Two friends, one accompanying the other to an off color performance at the Lucky Sweets bowling alley, more specifically above the bowling alley. What it turned into was a nothing short of a nightmare. She was supposed to be preforming, that was why she had invited everyone to go in the first place. Of course everyone bailed on her. She hadn’t really expected anything different.

So it came as quite a huge surprise when she was greeted outside her door, by a certain neighbor as she made her way to leave. He was locking his door just as she was shutting hers. Something had changed his mind. She had no idea what it could have been, but was grateful that at least someone was willing to be there to support her. A gratefulness that would quickly transform to regret. Fired, in front of everyone including her only friend in attendance. How does that even happen! Was her singing that bad? She didn’t wait to find out. Storming down the stairs and out, she fled into the night. Slightly agitated, she fumbled through her purse for her keys, a choked sob escaping her lips as the koala bear key chain with all of its contents hit the road. Could this night get any worse? The way things were going, it was going to take a miracle for her to get them both back home safely. Every worse case scenario invaded her mind.

On the drive home she refused to cry out loud, it would have been wasted on her present company anyhow. Sure it would have felt better to just let it all out, but her overwhelming feelings of anger and disappointment made it hard to decipher what she was actually feeling underneath them. Instead her tears fell silently occasionally glistening in the passing street lamp. She just wanted to get home as quickly as possible.

The flowers had been forgotten or so he said. It was hard to tell with him. Perhaps he had researched a little too late the symbolism behind red roses and decided to keep them in the apartment, no one ever knew what was happening in that rather brilliant cranium, but what ever the case had been, the roses were still sitting on the coffee table as he made his way across the hall to knock on her door.

Her face was still stained with mascara, her hair still in it’s perfectly twisted bun. The only task she had managed to complete before the all too familiar door knocking ritual, involved her dress, one pair of fuzzy slippers and heart spattered sweat pants. It seemed like an endless trek to her front door. Maybe she could just pretend she wasn’t home. No he had just seen her to her front door only a few minutes before. Failing to think of any other option she opened the door, far too exhausted to care about the fact she looked like an absolute wreck.

“Yes?”

“Penny, I know tonight has been an exceedingly difficult one for you.”

Did he really want to talk about this? Now? She squeezed her eyes tight, trying to block out the memory. The scene was permanently seared into her brain so the darkness only made things worse. “I really don’t want to talk about this right now.”

“Understandable. That is not why I am here though.”

“Oh. What is it?”

“I have come to understand that when in a state of distress it is recommended to be with friends or someone other than yourself, and we just so happen to have two pints of ice cream in the freezer. Unopened. Vanilla and I believe rocky road.”

“Are you inviting me over?”

“I believe I am. Yes.” 

The gesture was far too sweet to pass up. She didn’t even go back in to wash her face, grabbing her keys from the bowl and locking the door, the two friends made their way across the hall.

“I have something for you.”  A giant bushel of red roses still in the pot rested in both of his unsteady hands.

“Flowers for me?”

“Yes, well it is customary to present the lead actress with roses. Though I did not realize the implications behind the color. It seems I should have purchased yellow. As yellow is the color of friendship. Correct?”

“It is.” The lead actress leaned over the arrangement and allowed the intoxicating scent of the roses dazzle her senses. “They are beautiful. Thank you.”

“I was going to keep them after my egregious error, but once the night had met its inevitably solemn end, I figured you needed them. Maybe they could help. So here.”

Graciously accepting the flowers, she hugged the clay pot close to her body. “This was really kind of you. Thank you again.”

“You are very welcome. Though you do not have to hold them the entire night. You can, if you wish, but they will also sit nicely right there on the table. Excuse me. I will go grab the ice cream.”

Penny nestled down in her seat on the three cushion couch, a small smile beginning to take the place of the frown that she had convinced herself would be her new permanent expression.

The remote had been broken for a couple of weeks and even though it would only take a few AA batteries to fix it, the remote had yet to be tended to. Instead everyone had become accustom to working the tv manually. He knew it had been a trying night for Penny, so in another oddly-kind-out-of-the-norm gesture, he allowed her to pick what movie they would watch now that their short video game session had ended. Penny picked up the carton of half melted rocky road, as he flipped slowly through the channels. Nothing seemed to pique her interest until True Limes flipped across the screen. “Oooo this! Stay right here.”

As instructed he left tv on channel 27 and reclaimed his seat next to her. It wasn’t their normal kind of movie, in fact it didn’t seem like a normal kind of Penny movie either. It was action adventure with a whole lot of explosions. Penny was not interested in her usual type of movie. It made her too sad, she had always wanted to be the lead role in a romantic comedy, so the thought of watching one, only caused her even more depressing dread. This, she didn’t have to think, just watch, enjoy and listen as her dear friend ripped it to shreds.

Jamie Lee Citrus sashayed across the screen in her little black dress, dancing her sensual dance to her husband unbeknownst to her. “This movie is ridiculous. How could she not know that was a tape recorder. Wouldn’t she hear the click. It’s not very believable.”

“That’s why it is a movie. It is meant to be fun, not necessarily believable.”

“And what is with the rose. She is practically writhing under it’s touch. How could something that grows out of the ground, evoke that kind of reaction?”

Penny rolled her eyes. It’s not the flower, it’s the person holding it. In one smooth motion, she took hold of his shirt and threw him down on the couch. Before he had a chance to object, the aspiring rom com actress plucked a single rose from the arrangement and with an over dramatic oooo, slid the flower over his T shirt, which was still covering his chest. She wasn’t sure what had possessed to her to do it, but she had only intended it to be a joke. A joke he did not get. His eyes shot open wide, with a slight mixture of confusion and fear, the moment she recognized it, she felt all the blood drain from her face.

What had she just done…

 

“I’m sorry!” Penny stammered. “I was just teasing.”

“I hate to inform you Penny, but it was not very funny. It was an invasion of my personal space.”

“You’re right. I was out of line. I’m sorry. It was a joke, but you are right it was a bad joke. I’m sorry.”

She watched as he dropped his face into his hands, refusing to look at her. Penny’s heart was beating so fast it seemed to skip a beat every now and again. She wanted to place a hand on his shoulder, but she knew that would only feed the flame she had already started. Her nerves were shot and her lips had curled into a distressed smile. It wasn’t funny but the proper use of her facial muscles seemed impossible to control at that moment in time. “I’m sorry.” She said again, much more lifeless than before. She stood from the couch and marched through the front door, back to the safety of her own apartment. She didn’t mean to slam the door behind her, but a lot like her facial muscles, she was not in control. Auto pilot sent her through her front door, unlocking the deadbolt faster than she had ever done before. She closed the door behind her and slid down it’s cool surface, landing in a rumpled mess on the floor. Way to go Penny you successfully made the night even more embarrassing than it had been before.

———————————————-

Night 2~

Her plan had worked for a short amount of time. If only it could have lasted a bit a longer. Using her working knowledge about the beautiful mind across the hall, she had managed to avoid him for several long and lonely weeks. She wasn’t even sure why she had the need to go to such drastic measures, all she knew was, she had really crossed the line, with hands down, her best friend, and the thought of looking him in the eye now terrified her. She never allowed herself to ask why it did so. No, she was far too busy spying out her front door, open just a crack, to make sure the coast was clear. Things had worked to her advantage up until an unexpected phone call from her work. The onslaught of extra diners for Valentines day, coupled with a few timely MIA waitresses meant, an unscheduled leave from her apartment.

She opened the front door and peered into the hall. Everything seemed in order, all she had to do was get the down the stairs and –

“Hello Penny.”

Pennys’s gaze dropped to her feet as she made her way past. Still clutching her keys, she chose not to look back and instead headed for the steps. Once she had made it onto the first step, which in her mind meant, everything was going to be okay, she finally responded back to the aforementioned hello.”Oh Shark honey this is not a good time. Work just called and they need me to come down immediately.”

One step.

Two steps.

She had this for sure.

“But I need you.”

and third, no, no third step, her foot was hovering just above it.

Realizing what he had said, quickly added. “I mean I need to talk to you.”

Penny’s shoulders slumped forward, she just couldn’t get herself to look back. “I really have to go to work, but I promise the moment I am back, Okay.”

“Very well.”

“Okay great.”

True to her word, as well as his, the instant Penny arrived home, she was greeted at the top of the steps. Her stomach did a flip flop from nerves, but she forced a smile before letting them both inside her apartment. The living room was dark and for the first time in a long time it felt terribly uninviting. Walking to the hall she flipped on the light there and then joined her strange companion on the couch. The thought had crossed her mind, that it was odd he located himself on the couch, but nothing seemed to be happening normally that night.

She had barely taken her seat when he started to speak.

“Is there something troubling you?” He inquired. “Are you under distress again. Did the ice cream not work?”

“The ice cream worked fine. I have just been busy.”

“Excuse me for saying so Penny, but it feels as if you are avoiding us. More specifically me. I can not say to a certainty that this is true, but it has been 17 days and you have not come to the apartment once. The longest duration of time between your usual visits is 10 hours.”

She didn’t have an answer for that. He was right, as usual.

“I guess I was a little embarrassed about how I acted that night. I stepped over the line with you and I felt so awful about it that I had nothing else to say but I’m sorry, and since I’m sorry could only get me so far I-

“I don’t like it when you go away.”

“Excuse me?”

The lanky physicist turned in his seat to face her. “I said I don’t like it when you go away. The entire time you were gone, all I could think about was when you were coming back. Several times I stood at your door, but for some reason knocking proved to be too difficult. For the first time in my life I considered the fact it might bother you and I went back inside… I have never worried about such trivial things in my life. I found myself worrying a lot after that. Thinking about the way I reacted, wondering if I had been too harsh. These things are not me Penny, and yet now they are. It was that worry that brought me here tonight. Penny, the last couple weeks have been incredibly empty. Even worse than my quarantine in the Sugar Valley general.”

“I- I don’t know what to say.”

“You don’t have to say anything, just being here with you again has given me a lift in spirits. You have always had that effect, and in it’s absence, I have come to realize that I do in fact need it.”

Now it was Penny’s turn to feel the wide eyed surprise. Her reply escaped in only a whisper. “You need me?”

“I believe I do. I’m not one for outward affection, berry knows how I feel about that, but with you it was slightly more tolerable.”

“That’s the sweetest thing I have ever heard. I think.”

“Sarcasm?”

“No.”

“Penny I know this may seem a bit odd coming from me, but permit me to ask, seeing it is February 14th and I know that you are heavy into the social conventions of these manufactured holidays…do you have a Valentine yet?

Penny’s heart had taken off, full steam ahead. She was sure he would be able to see it slamming in and out of her chest. “I missed you too.” Was all she was able to formulate.

“So does that mean you do not have a valentine yet?”

“A small smile lifted the corners of her mouth. “No, I sure don’t.”

“Than I wish to fill the position.”

“You’re hired.”

“So what are my duties? I have little no experience with this sort of thing.”

“There are no duties. You just get to hang out and maybe have a nice dinner or go for a nice walk.”

“From all the movies I have ever seen there is always some sort of touching…”

“There doesn’t have to be, those movies are made to make girls melt like a popsicle on a hot July afternoon.”

“I see. If it would be alright with you.” He scooted forward. “I would like to try something. Something that is very new to me, but the last couple days I have thought of nothing else. May I touch you?”

Penny felt her knees buckle and even though she was seated, she felt as if she was going slide right off the couch. Once she was sure she was in a stable place, she nodded and watched as carefully he brought his hands to her face. It was a small gesture, nothing behind it but curiosity and that was certainly not new, but somehow it knocked her right off her feet. His surprisingly soft fingers graced her cheeks and she allowed her eyes to float closed. She had never experienced something so sweet or sensual. The usual desire that exuded from the guys in her normal company had nothing on this. Even her reaction was completely different. If it had been one of her exes doing the touching she would have jumped him the moment their skin touched, but this, this she allowed to happen, to take it all in. For the first time in her life she felt truly appreciated.

———————

Night 3~

The awkwardness was beginning to wear on Penny. It was her turn to feel the cold shoulder of omission, it was easy now see why it had been so difficult on her dearest friend. She certainly hadn’t expected it. After the evening they had spent together, she had assumed things between them would slowly settle back into their normal rhythm, but she was far from correct with her hypothesis. Hypothesis… Penny laughed to herself, she was sounding more and more like them everyday. It angered her a bit that the one person she wanted to share her humorous piece of knowledge with, was the one person who had been avoiding her. Not that he would have been interested in knowing, he would have cared less, but that would not stop her from telling him, if he had been there to listen that is.

The only thing to accompany Penny in her apartment stairwell that night, was the quiet hum of the elevator, resting just the other side of the wall from where her head was leaning. She had tried explaining to herself a few times, why she was sitting there, three floors below her own, but no explanation ever lent itself.

Truth was she had to see him. She needed to see him, talk to him, find out was happening in that big genius brain of his. After knocking on his door had led her no where, there was no other choice but to stalk him at the only place he would be unable to avoid her. He had been out late doing who knows what, and the apartment was empty again. Uncharacteristic? Most definitely, but in the long run would prove beneficial. Penny knew he had gone out alone, the boys were also out, but on a separate venture, so that meant when he finally did arrive home, he would be alone. Now she just had to wait. Her heart was beating so hard and fast, it felt as if it were slamming against the inside of her rib cage. Every time she imagined him there standing at the door, it began drumming faster and faster. At one point she placed a nervous hand over her chest, in fear it would leap out if she didn’t take immediate action.

Just a little while longer, she promised herself.

Just as expected, at quarter past eleven, a familiar lanky frame walked through the glass doors to find her there. Unfortunately the quiet lull that had been keeping her company, had inevitably caused her to fall asleep. Her head was resting peacefully against the cold wall, still succumbed to her dreamless nap. A quiet voice drifted across the hall, gently waking her.

“Hello.”

Penny’s eyes fluttered open to find an inquisitive face staring down upon her. She blinked a few times, a smile begging to meet at the corner of her lips. “Hi.” She yawned. Her voice was still laden with sleep, and she could hear it the moment the word had left her.

“You were asleep.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Did you lock yourself out of your apartment?”

“No.”

“So you just decided it would be a fun idea to take a nap in the stairway?”

“Not exactly. I was waiting for you.”

“Me?”

“Yes. I need to speak to you.”

“Oh…”

Penny could see every muscle in his face stiffen, as if readying himself for the unavoidable incoming blow.

“Penny it has been a long day. I was stuck in a mindless meeting all night and I would really like to go to bed.”

“Yes I know.” She countered. “This will only take a minute. Please?”

“Very well.” He stated almost robotic-ally, motioning with his hand for her to get on with what ever she needed to say.

She exhaled deeply. “Okay.” That was it. That was all she was able to coax out. Hers eyes opened wide, pleading for a little assistance, but all she got in return was a lifted eyebrow. “Yes? You assured me this wouldn’t take long.”

“I know. You’re right. Okay, okay. Here goes…” This time it came out in one long string of syllables. “I haven’t forgotten about valentines day, and really really hope you haven’t either.” Once she had finished she brought her hand to her face, biting the edge of her finger. She waited on pins and needles for him to respond.

There was a quiet calm resting over the entire room, and to her surprise his features softened. “No I have not forgotten.”

Penny could feel herself getting lighter, the weight bearing down was beginning to lift, just like the morning fog she knew all too well. She wanted smile and throw her arms around him, but she knew him well enough to know, not to try it. So instead she settled for a small head nod. “Good.”

“It’s not a good idea. You and I.” He came back quickly, quicker than she was expecting.

Crash. Crash. Crash. Everything crashed back down upon her, causing her entire body to jolt from the shock of those five simple words.

“Oh.” She could feel the disappointment creeping in, taking hold of her heart. “May I ask why?” She asked, but she wasn’t exactly sure if she truly wanted to hear the answer.

“We are far too different. Your needs and mine are on complete opposite ends of the scale. Logically it would never work, so there would be no point in putting either of us through it.”

It was as if the wind had been knocked out of her. She stumbled for words, but she wasn’t even sure what she was fighting for. A single tear began to form at corner of her eye. “Well.” She forced a laugh. “You’re the genius.”

Normally that would have been the end of it. She had learned through enough trials not to argue, but this time was different. This time it meant something. “You know what? No. You are wrong here.”

“Penny. I am never wrong. I think we have efficiently established that.”

“Maybe so, but this time you are.”

Startled by her adamant demeanor, he stopped to watch. Brilliant eyes searching for some sort of answer to what was happening. “What are you trying to say?”

“I’m saying that logic isn’t always a factor, and certainly not when dealing with the heart.”

“Interesting. So what would you suggest?”

Penny could feel her frustration rising. “It’s not like that. Why is this so hard for you to understand? Never mind. I know the answer to that.”

“Penny. This conversation is slowly losing speed.”

“I know! Ughhhh. You think all day long about everything, but sometimes thinking isn’t required! You make me feel things. You make me realize there is more to me than just sex or booze. There is someone out there who cares about me as a person, and whether you want to admit it or not. That someone is you!”

“Of course I care about you. You are one of my most trusted compatriots. This is just another reason why it would be ill-advised to try and manipulate the parameters of our paradigm.” 

He was using those big words again, only now she could follow along a tiny bit easier. Why didn’t he get that! He had taught her so much over the years. She wasn’t just the pretty girl next door anymore, she was his trusted friend and adviser. She thought to herself for a moment, leaving the stairway and her friend behind. Perhaps he was right. They already had a good thing going, maybe parameter manipulations would just mess it up. Rule number 1: You never mess with a working formula. She was about to concede her defeat, when he chose to take it one step further.

“I would be an inadequate match for you anyways. You require things that I just don’t see myself ever being able to provide.”

“Like what?”

“You are a physical creature Penny. You enjoy touching and kissing and all those other physical aspects of a relationship and I… well I don’t think I really need to explain to you how I feel about that sort of behavior.”

“No… I totally get it.”

“I don’t wish to lose you as my friend Penny. I hope that is clear. I just can’t offer you any more than that, and to my dismay, I find that this upsets me to certain extent that I cannot seem to understand.”

It took her a moment to properly chew on his muddled mess of an explanation, but it finally sunk in. “It bothers you that you can’t provide those things for me?”

“To a lesser degree… yes.”

“You know I would never ask you to do anything you weren’t comfortable with.”

“I do.”

“So you have actually given thought to… us?”

“More so lately than I care to admit.”

“Is that why you have been avoiding me?”

“No.”

“So then, why?”

“I was following your lead. You had chosen the same mode of action, so why couldn’t I?”

“But you had just gotten done explaining to me how much you had missed me. Why would you turn around and ignore me?”

“To see if I could.”

“Excuse me.”

“I was conducting a test, to see if I could manage with out you there. I survived, but it was incredibly less interesting. Dull would be the correct word for it. That is when I realized that I do not wish to continue through this life with out you, but to keep you on full time, as it were, well I can’t offer you the adequate wages you would require.”

“Honey, I’m not asking for anything from you. I don’t require a wage. I get more out of our relationship the way it is now, than I have with any of my other relationships combined. It’s just after that night-“

“I stepped over the line, and I apologize. I was curious and my curiosity may have started something that I am not capable of finishing.”

“I want to understand. I truly do, but if you feel something, there is no shame in admitting it. Did… you feel something?”

“I’m not sure.”

“I did. Which I guess is why I am standing here arguing with you about it. I don’t know how to explain it.” Penny let out an exasperated sigh. “You know. It’s late. I have pushed the issue long enough. Maybe we can discuss it another time.”

“I don’t mind. Being to able to talk to you again, is proving to be just what I need.”

“Doesn’t this all sound a little familiar?”

“No. Should it?”

“Never mind. Why don’t we go upstairs and I will make us some tea then.”

“Very well.” 

Penny let them both inside and then hurried over to the kitchen. Filling the pot with water and setting in the stove before addressing the issue at hand. “All I have right now is an earl gray. I hope that is alright.”

“It will be fine. Thank you.”

Penny nodded and then went back to her work. Grabbing a couple mugs from the cupboard, she set them out with a tea bag in each. What was actually happening eluded her, but she had to admit that yes, it was nice to be talking again, even if the subject was on the awkward side. They were always best when they were together. If only they could make it work. Her mind wondered across the stretch of her large front room. Maybe she didn’t need all that physical stuff, or maybe he could learn to live… just a little. Yeah that wasn’t going to happen. 

“Penny?”

“Yes?”

“I’m not sure what I am doing here.”

“Well I invited you up for tea and-“

“No I mean, I am not sure the proper way to proceed.”

“Proceed with what?”

She wasn’t expecting him to cut across her living room, and she most defnitely did not expect him to join her standing next to her stove, the kettle just beginning to heat. Confusion colored her face, but she continued to study him carefully. Again she asked. “Proceed with what.”

He began to speak as if he were addressing the floor. “I want you to understand that I have not taken this decision lightly.” His gaze slowly started to rise, but lost momentum the moment he caught sight of her hands. Gingerly he reached out for her unsuspecting hand and carefully wrapped his long fingers around it. “Even now I am finding it hard to decide which side of the coin I will fall on.”

Time and time again he had the power to render her speechless. She blinked. Opened her mouth. Nothing. She tried again with little more success. “Shark-”

She could feel her whole body vibrating with anticipation, only she soon realized it wasn’t her at all. It was him. His hands were shaking like a leaf. “You’re nervous.” It was obvious but some reason she felt the need to point it out.

“Terrified.”

Terrified… the word along with its concept, slapped Penny up side her head. “No.” She squeaked, pulling her hand away.” No, this is just, no. No.”

Sharks eyes opened so wide that she feared she would fall in. “But I thought that this is what you wanted.”

“It is, well I think it is. No!” She shook her head, desperately hoping so shake loose some sense. “I want this, but not like this. It’s okay to be nervous or even a little scared, but terrified? Shark this isn’t fair to you. This is doing exactly what I promised I wouldn’t. This is pushing you too fast, and I refuse.”

“I’m confused.”

“I know.”

“Well you have officially lost me. I don’t know where to go from here.”

“Let’s just forget any of this ever happened.”

“You know it’s impossible for me to forget.”

“I know… Okay let’s pretend this never happened. We do that all the time. Right?”

“But Penny.”

“Please. This is all my fault. I started this whole mess. You have your life and I have mine, let’s take it back to how it was before. What did you call it? A factory restart.”

“Reboot.”

“Right. That.”

“If that is what you wish.”

“There is no possible way to grant all of my wishes right now, so yes, this is what I wish, and maybe one day you will come to find a place where you are ready, but it’s not now.”

The kettle on the stove started to whistle, and Penny quickly turned around to tend to it. A sharp stab of hurt, relief, and confusion, struck her at her core. She sniffled deeply, but its sound had been drowned out by the depleting high pitch wail, as she pulled the pot off the hot burner.

“You know it is a bit late for tea… I should probably get home.”

She gripped the handle of the kettle. “Yeah. Alright. Goodnight Shark.”

“Goodnight Penny.”

Shark closed the door behind him and walked the short distance across the hall to his own apartment. Baffled as well as confused and he hated every moment, but like most things with Penny, he was more concerned with unraveling the mystery than that tinge of embarrassment currently resting in his belly. She had been upset and he could tell, but why? He tried everything to make her happy, and nothing seemed to work. He was slowly convincing himself that he was not cut out for this sort of thing, but even still, when the time came for him to “pretend” he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Why? He had no idea in the slightest.

Penny had settled into her new favorite past time. Sliding down various forms of furniture or hardware and coming to land in a puddle on the cold floor. How was she going to fix this? She knew for a fact, things would not go right back to normal, she wasn’t sure if they ever would. Even if they promised it every day, she just didn’t see how it would be possible. Mentally kicking herself, she began to regret her hasty reaction. Maybe she should have let him “proceed”. Maybe he would have shaken off his nerves and knocked her socks off. Her mind started to consider what may have happened if she had held her tongue and she only felt worse.

What was she going to do…

———————–

Night 4~

Things did not return to normal, nor did it look like they would be heading in that direction any time soon. The awkwardness was apparent even if it was only to Penny. It was hard to get comfortable, to let herself relax. The comfort of her favorite spot on the couch, was no longer enough to help her out of place feelings. She tried everything she could to fix her internal alienation. Some decisions, she would have admitted, were a little on the stupid side. She had fallen back into the arms of several men trying to heal the loneliness in her heart. Time and time again she tried, but she soon learned, it wasn’t working anymore. She was miserable and the only way she could think to fix it, was completely out of the question. She was in a world of hurt and there was no one to turn to. Leo sure wouldn’t understand, and she couldn’t possibly discuss it with the girls. Instead she spent every night alone. Sure she might have gone out, with several different guys, but she not once had she invited them back to her place. It was a step in the right direction, but she was still suffering quietly, while the one person who could offer her some sort of semblance was still blissfully unaware… or so she thought.

She was going out again. She didn’t even care that is had been her fourth night that week, or that she already reeked of juice and she hadn’t even hit the bar yet. Penny was still feeling horrible and the only way to escape it, even if it were only temporary, was by drowning her sorrows in the bottom of what ever bottle she could find. She wasn’t drunk but she wasn’t sober either. This fact would have been apparent to anyone who was watching, almost tripping over the rug in her bathroom as she stumbled in to fix up her hair a bit, she finally came to rest standing in front of her sink.

Knock Knock Knock

Penny?

Knock Knock Knock 

Penny?

Knock Knock Knock

Penny?

Damn, just what she needed. She had almost made it out, but not quick enough. Rushing to door she opened it and offered for Shark to come in. He took one small step in, barely enough to consider it inside, and then slowly closed the door behind him.

“Penny? I have something important to ask you.”

“Shark honey, I really don’t have time right now. I was just leaving.”

“Oh. You are going out again?” He took a sniff in her direction. “It smells as if the party has already started.”

Penny bit her lip, unsure of how to answer that. “I may have had a little kick off party before hand.”

“I see.”

“What did you need to ask.”

“Well I see that you are busy, but I was about to take a walk to the new Thai place down the street and I was very much hoping that you would accompany me.”

“Oh… I would, but I am meeting someone at the bar.”

Shark pretended as if he had missed the whole thing, unfazed, he walked the length of her living room and settled into the chair that he had pretty much claimed was his. Adjusting in his seat before looking up to find a very confused Penny.

“So, I gotta leave now…?” She added, trying to get her point across.

“Penny, I don’t know if I really need to point this out, but things have been uncomfortable for you lately. And try as I might, I can’t seem to figure out why. Yes, I have noticed the new awkward stance you take when sitting on the couch, and I have even noticed the high volume of muscle bound guys you have been meeting up with. Now if it is possible for me to be aware of all this, don’t you think you should be?”

Penny was not wanting to hear any of it, and it only made it worse coming from the one person she was trying to medicate herself from. But lying wasn’t something she liked to do to Shark. Letting out an exasperated sigh, she walked closer to Shark and the chair. “I’m having a hard time because I miss you. And I feel guilty about all these feelings I have been having.”

“This all started that night, with the rose.”

“Something like that.”

“So what is it that you need? I thought you wanted to bring a new variable to our paradigm, but you refused the moment I suggested it.”

Penny shook her head. “There is nothing I want more, but I know it won’t happen.”

“Why?”

“Because… just because.”

“Have you considered the fact, that maybe what we need to do, is at the very least test your hypothesis. How will we ever know for sure.” 

Penny moved without any consideration for where she was going, if she had, it probably wouldn’t have happened. She leaned in and placed her hands on either sides of his chair. Still not saying a word she dropped in closer, studying Shark’s face closely, his eyes had widened a bit, but in no way was he attempting to recoil. She closed her eyes and softly pressed her lips against his. Figuring it would be a short peck with no sort of reciprocation, it came as quite a surprise when she felt his lips soften and push back ever so gently against hers.

Trial 1 initiated. 

In one swift unexpected movement, Shark had managed to slip his arms from underneath Penny’s hands. She collided with a small thud on the cushioned arms of the old chair. No sooner had she landed, did a pair of strong hands fasten themselves around her curvaceous hips, drawing the sweet waitress into his lap. Everything in the apartment faded into the shadows, leaving Penny and Shark to continue their experiment. She feared the moment she would have to let him go, what might happen, or even worse, what might not. Worry pulled at the back of her mind, but a playful nip on her bottom lip sent those worries straight out of her head. Who freakin cared what would happen, THIS was happening now, and she was going to enjoy it for as long as it lasted.

From there it was like a chain reaction. Penny knew exactly what to do, and Shark was willingly along for the ride. It wasn’t long before she had pulled him onto the floor, kissing him a bit more passionately, almost as if cuing him as to what would be occurring next. He amazingly enough caught on quickly, and allowed for her to lead him further down the path of the unknown. A small moan slipped from his lips which only fueled Penny to go further. She was far too into it stop by that point, but ubruptly Shark pulled away, sitting upright. 

“Penny?” He gasped, still trying to catch his breath.

“Yeah?” She was trying to do the same.

“I would like to stop now.”

“Oh. Sure. Of course. It is getting pretty late.” She tried to pull away, but he kept his hold on her.

“No. I don’t want to leave. I just wish to stop. Things escalated quite quickly and-“

“You don’t have to explain. It’s fine. It’s fine. Really.”

“Okay. Good.”

Penny knew it would be out of the question to convince him to sleep in her bed, even if they were to just lay there. So she decided on a better idea. Hurriedly she made her way off to her room to grab one of the large throw pillows. Returning to the spot where Shark was still propped against the chair, she plopped the pillow on the floor and snuggled down into it. Shark watched for a moment, before Penny looked up to him, a sleepy smile on her face as she motioned with her hand for him to join her. Cautiously he got down onto his elbow before resting his head on the pillow completely. It was easy to tell, he had no idea what was happening, so Penny offered a little insight by lifting his arm and sliding underneath it. Instinctively he allowed his hand to rest on her shoulder, while the other came to rest on her arm. He pulled her in a little closer and planted one small kiss on her forehead before closing his eyes, listening intently to rhythmic sound of her breathing.

She had never intended for it to last all night, but within a few moments the pair had drifted off to sleep, sharing their first night together.

——–

Infected

Solak- an Indonesian palm, also known as snake fruit

Infect- 3b, to work upon or seize upon so as to induce belief or support

First person- 1a a set of linguistic forms referring to the speaker

——————————

I don’t know what I was doing here, I let her drag me to the club, again, and I don’t even like crowds! I’m such a push-over when it comes to my cousin.

“Whatcha thinking about?” she asked.

“I’m wondering why I let you drag me here.” ‘Here’ is a small dance club in our new home of Sugared Sky called The Moon. This would be the third night I let Watmel drag me out in search of a vampberry.

“A purple vampberry would be perfect. Any vampberry would be great, but if only it was a purple one.”

“What are you going on about Mel?”

“You just don’t understand Bell, I must meet a vampberry…”

Catching a sympathetic look from the bartender, I suppressed a yawn. Mel’s plan of meeting , the subsequently falling madly in love with (a preferably purple) vampberry was beginning to take a toll on my sleep patterns. We weren’t even sure there were vamps in Sugared Sky, and the only confirmed population was in Briocoport, several hours still away.

“Bell!!” My cousin latched onto my arm, waking me back up, “there dancing, no don’t look! The yellow one, it’s his eyes, I said don’t look!”

But I could care less and looked where she had pointed out. The berry in question did have bright yellow eyes that seemed to fluoresce under the lights of the club. And of course, since I looked his way he headed over to the bar where Mel and I were sitting.

“talk to me”

“I am talking to you Mel”

“No I mean hold a conversation with me. I don’t want him to think I’m staring!”

“but you are,” I replied returning to my drink (some kind of pick me up that will no doubt lead to a sugar crash in a few hours). Finally I couldn’t take Mel’s fidgeting any longer, turning to the guy I asked, “Are you a vamp?”

The guy made a strange face while Mel made a sound similar to a birds, in distress of me asking the question on her mind.

“Which one of you is asking?”

“She is,” I replied and turned back to my drink. Mel was in deep distress now and was trying to smooth things out.

“Well you know… your eyes… um… well… do you know of any…”

“and if I did know of any vampberries?” he asked

“Would any of them be purple?”

Wrong question, for one second there was anger on his face, but he just turned his head and left abruptly.

“Wait!” Mel chased after him, they got about halfway out of the club when she got to him. I didn’t hear what she said, but I heard him, “no I don’t think you’re actually sorry. Good night”

Mel was left standing there when I was hit by a weird thought. Whoever that was might think Mel was a shallow berry (which she kinda is), but I wouldn’t stand to be lumped in the same category.

“Hey you!” and surprisingly, he did turn around. “Listen, you may not have accepted my cousin’s apology, but it is my fault for bringing it up. She’s been going on non-stop about vampberries and I just wanted it to stop.”

“Fine,” he replied after a minute, “I’ll accept yours. I’m Solak.”

“Belue, and the pink one was my cousin Watmel, I really am sorry about her.” It was then I noticed that his eyes, now out of the lights of the club, were glowing on their own. “No wonder you were offended by her” I muttered.

Solak gave me a weird look.

“I mean…” now it was my turn to stutter, “you really are one.”

“And if I am?”

“Well I’m not going to tell Mel, that’s for sure. And I’ve got to go.”

“Sure you do, we’ll meet again Ms Belue.”

Not if I have any control over it, I thought. I wanted nothing to do with vampberries, which was all Mel. Speaking of which, what is she doing?

———————————

BZZZT!!

The call alarm broke my concentration, and I held back a cry as my chisel gashed over my hand instead of the clay block.

“BELL!! Our ride’s here!”

Yes I’m being dragged into another one of Mel’s ideas, but unfortunately, I had good reason to partake in this one. Mel decided to throw a block party of sorts for those of us who live in Dockside, and probably getting to know our neighbors was a good idea. Especially since Dockside, for all the clubs and high rises, isn’t the safest part of town. Luckily the party is held at the museum, so I could say my hellos and then disappear into the exhibit.

Fate didn’t think do though…

“Your cousin isn’t shy is she?”

Why did he have to be here? I had done good forgetting about him for a week now just to have him show up again. Some luck I have. And no, Mel wasn’t being shy, she was chatting with everyone who came her way.

“Is she still going on about vamps at all?”

“Hmm, oh no she’s been quiet about it, but then work got busy for her and she actually needs to sleep now.”

“You look wildly uncomfortable Belue, why don’t we go somewhere less crowded?”

“Like a date? No.” it was really a no-brainer; be stuck in a crowd, or stuck with a vamp. I’ll take a crowd any day, but Solak didn’t seem to get the hint.

“Liar, let’s go.”And with that he took my arm and walked me right out of the party. Now I’m not a coward, and it’s nothing personal against vampberries I never really believed I would meet one) but I just don’t like people getting in my space. And Solak was doing just that. It’s said that a vampberry can read your thoughts and influence your thinking and that’s the last thing I wanted. So the less proximity spent around a vamp, the better.

“See, it hasn’t been that bad.” And he was right, unfortunately. We ended up at the town’s other dance club Jawbreaker, and the place was dead. If it weren’t that fact, I don’t’ know what I would have done. But since we had the place to ourselves, it was quite different. Now it was night and I still couldn’t get rid of him. Maybe if I tried being nicer…

“Fine, I’ll admit I had fun, it beats the other place, way too many people.”

The last thing I remember is him moving in (for a kiss, for a bite?) when it all went dark.

—————————————

My head throbbed when I came back too. The first thing I became aware of was daylight the second was a voice.

“I’m telling you man, she just passed out on me… no…listen, what girl is going to believe that nothing happened when she wakes up in a stranger’s house? I’ll be lucky the cousin doesn’t stake me when she gets home…no I wouldn’t put it pass the cousin, she’s got a vamp complex…I’ve got to go, she’s waking up.”

Crap, he saw me watching him.

“Ready to go home?” I just nodded in response. He told his friend nothing happened, but why did my head hurt so much and why couldn’t I remember anything.

“Kay, you should call your cousin too, she’s probably worried.” Again I nodded, I just really wanted to get away. So I did the one thing I could think of, as soon as he left the room, I ran for it.

————————————

“We need to talk”

“I don’t want to talk Mel, just let me watch TV.”

“No. You haven’t been yourself for almost a month now. Something’s eating at you and you need to tell me what it is.” The only problem was, how in the world was I to explain that for the last month I had been thinking non-stop about a vampberry that I never wanted to see again. It’s like my mind had been infected with him and I couldn’t get rid of him. They say vamps can control how you think; could this be revenge for running away without letting him explain anything?

“Yo Bell, I’m talking to you here.”

“Sorry, I just don’t feel like talking.”

“You do realize I’m throwing a party tonight?” Yeah I had forgotten about that. “Tell you what Bell, put on a nice dress, say some hellos, and if you still feel like hiding out, I’ll let you leave.”

This will actually do you good Bell, I thought to myself, meet some new people and put all thoughts of a particular yellow berry out of your mind. That was my plan anyways.

Unfortunately for me, as I was making my way to the balcony for some fresh air, I noticed a straggler.

“Leave my house right now,” I hissed.

“We need to talk.”

“No we don’t.”

“What’s your problem?”

“My problem is you’re like a poison, I can’t get rid of you in my mind. Is that some sort of vamp revenge? Drive me crazy with thoughts of you?” Hindsight being 20/20 they say, I shouldn’t have turned my back to him. Once out on the balcony I felt myself get yanked back against the wall.

Well that just pissed me off all the more, yet a traitorous part of my mind was enjoying it and wanted more. My anger won out, and I smacked him across the face. How small of it am I to have enjoyed that act.

“You think you’re the only one ‘infected’ as you say. Take some comfort in the knowledge that I can’t seem to stop thinking about you either.”

I fought the urge to laugh, here were two equally angry people, apparently for the same reason. But I wasn’t going to give in that easily.

“I don’t believe you,” I retorted, “besides, everyone knows vampberries can control the thoughts of others. You’re mad at me, so you’re in my head messing with it!”

“No. no I’m not,” he said with a sigh. Taking a step back he continued, “you know your own mind too well for someone to mess with it.”

“How do you know that?”

“The night you passed out, I was trying to poke around in it. Your mind blacked out in order to protect itself. No one could influence your thoughts, they are all your own.

“but you,” he continued, “have no such powers and will have to live with the fact that I have feelings for you and won’t let you get away so easily.”

I could feel a flush rising to my face. What a pair we would make, we’d drive the other crazy. That’s when I noticed that Solak himself looked somewhat ill.

“Are you okay?”

“Vamps can get the flu too. Do the two of us at least have a truce?”

I remember hearing that vamps need fresh plasma every now and then, otherwise they weaken. Keeping this in mind, I held out my arm to him.

“We have a truce, and you need plasma. I’ll share in place of a handshake.” He smiled as he brushed my arm aside.

Through the stars around my head, I could already tell he was feeling better, and shared a smile with him.

I might not have wanted anything to do with vampberries, but I would be a fool not to see where this relationship could take me. And I haven’t looked back since.

Thorn Part 1 by cupcake

I was born to the world as Thorn Bitters, though over time I eventually got blotted out of my family tree as if I never existed by my own doing. Rebellion as always been a part of my nature, at every turn and any opportunity I made it my mission to defy my parents, my family and their ways. For most of my teen years they had hoped that it would eventually curb and I would be the kind of Bitters our family was known for. But that only made my desire to go against their grain even more insatiable. I was never going to be what they wanted, the obedient son.

“Your father will hear of this Thorn when he gets home, mark my words.” My mother threatened her usual threat when I defied her while my father was at work. But this time was different, this time it was my future that was at hand. And though I maybe sometimes I might be a stereotypical lackadaisical teenager at times I abhorred having everything planned out for me without having any choice about it.

I had come home from school late like usual from detention to overhear my mother, the well-known Kiwi Bitters on the phone as usual. Normally I would have passed it off like I usually do but my name was mentioned one to many times for my liking and I could tell that it wasn’t a call from school. So I grabbed a bowl from the cabinet and a box of cereal from the pantry before nonchalantly sitting down while trying to look bored.

Pushing the cereal around in the bowl I listened in on her half of the conversation trying to not to alert my mother onto my eavesdropping. “Yes, well Thorn is seventeen now this time next year he’ll be interning at his father’s office….”

“……..”

“I’d say in 4 years’ time would be perfect. By then hopefully Thorn will be somewhat established or at least with his foot in the door. We’ll have plenty of time to plan…”

“……..”

“A late spring one would be great, right before it gets too hot.” She said the last words slowly as she caught me watching her. As I stood up to put my bowl in the sink I could feel her eyes still on me as my mother spoke into the phone. “I think this weekend we will take you up on your invitation, you’re right its time they met.”

As she hung up the phone I could hear my little sister coming down the stairs with her school work to do her homework at the table as she did everyday around this time. “And just who am I meeting?” I asked as I followed her into the living room so my sister wouldn’t hear the argument that was sure to come, her heels clicking on the polished wooden floor the whole way. The dying sunlight poured through the tall windows that reached from the floor until the ceiling as night was beginning to approach and soon my father would be home.

“Rosemary Bergamot of Briocheporte Bergamots, we’ll be visiting her family this weekend. You’ll finally get to meet your future wife. Who if everything goes well you’ll be married to in about 4 years.” My mother replied casually as she checked quickly checked her makeup in the mirror that hung in the hall.

“Already? I’m not even out of high school yet. And I don’t want to have to marry some girl that I barely know let alone one that you’ve picked out.” I said in shock even though I knew for some time since my cousin’s wedding two years ago when I realized the sort of marriages Bitters had, that my time was running out.

“You know this is our way Thorn. Every Bitters marriage has been an arranged one, your father and I were arranged as was your grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, everyone. If you think you have a choice in this you are very mistaken this is one thing you can’t rebel against Thorn.” Her voice took on a threatening tone as she said my name, warning me not to push the issue any further. But I didn’t want to meet some girl this weekend who was supposed to be my future wife that I didn’t want to even marry in the first place. For berry’s sake I was 17 I wasn’t supposed to be thinking of marriage. No I was supposed to thinking about how I was going to be breaking the strict no dating rule and taking Posey Petals out to “study”.

“Like fudge I’m not, I’ll stay be staying home this weekend. You can go meet her and tell her parents this is not happening.” I spat out as my mother’s face darkened and she threatened to tell my father about this when he got home. By now the warm light that had shone through the windows was gone and the room felt chilly and cold just as my parent’s relationship was with each other.

“I don’t care tell him in fact I’ll tell him.” I started out to say before my little sister Olive interrupted us “Mom can I have some help with my homework? I don’t get something.”

“Olive Bitters we are talking here. What do you do when someone is having a conversation with another?” Our mother asked her voice was sharp enough to make Olive shrink away a little as she started to mix a two drinks at the bar like clockwork, one to hand to our father the moment he walked into the door and another to have with him as they tried to top each other with who had the worst day. “Excuse me mom…” She began to say but was quickly cut off. “Excuse me Ma’am Olive.” She corrected not letting any sort of imperfection slip by as always.

“Excuse me Ma’am” Olive started out again tentatively while she traced her fingers over the bars stool as my mother nodded her on “would you please help me with my homework?”

“No. Maybe if you paid more attention in school you wouldn’t need help.” Mother replied her voice as icy as always. “But she hit me! It wasn’t my fault!” my sister protested but I knew it was no use. “Here Ollie I’ll help you since I did all of mine already today.” I said quietly before taking her arm to lead her back to the kitchen so I could help like usual. “Will you please stop calling your sister by that ridiculous name when she has a proper one.” My mother exclaimed exasperatedly as she slammed the cabinet door to the bar closed. It would only be a matter of time until Olive grew up and realized a few things about our parents and stopped trying with them like I had quite a few years ago.

When my father got home my mother didn’t tell him right away until after dinner and Olive was sent up to her room to play before bed. But when she did his shoulders slumped for a moment as he sighed before he squared them and gave me a look that suggested that I should shut up and listen to exactly what he had to say. But like everything else I did, I didn’t and as I tried to sleep that night after we argued my words continued to ring in my mind as I tossed and turned. “I’ll never be what you want me to be.”

It didn’t take long before a thought began to form in my head. Ever since I was little I always toyed with the idea of running away and becoming someone else, I even had a new last name picked out. Prickles, Thorn Prickles. Just in case I ever did leave plus it kind of had a nice ring to it too. As I thought more about it and the future my parents had picked out for entailed, the more I couldn’t pass off the idea as a childish fantasy.

Getting up I reached under my bed and searched for the duffle bag I knew that was hidden somewhere under there but my hands only seemed to find the other odds and ends that were burrowed there. I didn’t dare turn on my light just in case one of my parents would see the illumination from underneath my door. Soon my hands felt the stiff canvas material of the bag and I quickly pulled it out and some of the contents from under the bed got dragged with it too but I didn’t care, when my mother came in here and found the mess I would be very far from here.

Packing didn’t take long, just grabbing a few necessities and all the cash that I had ever saved up. As adrenaline rushed through my body making my heart pound loud enough to echo in my ears and made me wonder momentarily if anyone else would hear it as I crept through the hallway and down the stairs to the kitchen to grab some food before I left.

Pilfering the fridge for items that might stay good for some time the unnatural light in the dark room nearly blinded me as I heard Olive’s voice whisper behind me. “Thorn? What are you doing?”

Turning around I faced the only thing that could ever make me regret my decision. Olive stood there in her pajamas with an empty glass in her hand and a bewildered look on her face. She was only a child and knowing her future made me hate our family with their ways even more. “I’m leaving Ollie.” I whispered back to her as her eyes widened. “You’ll come back though right?” She questioned fearfully as she glanced up towards the ceiling where our parent’s bedroom was the room right above us.

“No, I don’t think so.” I answered as I shook my head barely able to look at her heartbroken face. “But… But you can’t leave!” Olive exclaimed as she raised her voice and I instantly motioned for her to keep her quiet.

“Ollie when you get older you’ll understand why I have to do this” I tried to explain to my sister as I fell short of words to say to her before she asked me another question “Where will you go?”

“I don’t know yet, anywhere but here. I heard of a town called Huckleberry Sprigs that’s nice maybe I’ll check that out.” I answered as I opened the door hesitating for a moment before I left and said. “I’m sorry Ollie but really you’ll understand one day why I am doing this and I hope you remember that you do have a choice no matter what they tell you.”

Into the dark and silent night I left with a glance over my shoulder I could see Olive’s sad face at the window illuminated only by the hall light before she disappeared and I began to run.

I didn’t know where I was going but I knew that it was a better place than what I was leaving behind. No longer was I a Bitters but someone with a brighter future as a Prickles.

Fight or flight, in a family like mine sometimes fighting is taking flight.

Can We Pretend…? By: Amy


Can we pretend everything is alright,
for one last night?


Let’s not think about tomorrow,
it brings me even greater sorrow…


Kiss me like you meant it,
even if you don’t…


I want to know you love me,
for one last night,
when everything is alright…

Saudade – Part 3 by jennyspin


The sunlight filtered through the window, washing the room in a warm glow. I pressed my eyes closed, not willing to wake just yet. I was alone, I noted, but it must be later in the day. I felt my cheeks flush as moments of last night flickered through my mind. It had been months since I’d been able to look at him that way; since my body had responded to his so effortlessly. I started to wonder if maybe we could be happy together again, if maybe he could stir me from the emotionless dirge I’d been singing since. . .
After summoning all of my willpower, I finally rose from the bed and slipped on some shorts from the suitcase. Papaya had made pancakes; I could smell the sticky, sweet rounds as soon as I pulled open the door to the kitchen. She greeted me with an affectionate smile and handed me a plate piled with a serving of her breakfast special.

“How did you sleep?” She inquired, wiping her hands on her apron.
Slate, who was already seated, and I exchanged a knowing glance as I sat down with my plate.

“Almost perfectly” I replied, watching him closely, trying to read his guarded eyes.
“I was thinking that we could take a walk on the shore after we’re done eating. It’s a beautiful day outside.”

“That sounds wonderful.” I said cheerfully. In fact, I was surprised at how happy I was in that moment.
After we’d cleaned up the sticky plates Slate and I headed down the worn wooden steps to the backyard. The edge of the ocean was nary a 5 minute walk from the house. I found myself instinctively led to the edge of the ocean where I put my bare feet on the tide’s edge. As the cool water drew in to the shore, lapping at my toes, and the coarse sand began to adhere to my heels; I realized just how much I missed the ocean. Briocheport had beaches, but they had always seemed cold and over-populated in comparison.
I felt Slate’s warm, calloused hand slip into mine.

“Do you remember the summer we met? How long has it been anyway? It’s strange to think about how different my art used to be then.”
I turned to look at him and wondered if he could possibly be the same person I’d met 6 years ago.
“Of course I do. How could I possibly forget those days?” My voice felt dry, my throat constricted as I remembered how he’d once called me his muse.
I broke from his hand and took a few faltering steps away, I couldn’t let him see the tears that burned my eyes. I hated reliving this all, but it seemed inevitable. I tried to blink the blooming tears from my eyes and sat down in the warm sands. I closed my eyes and let the sun warm my exposed skin, hoping futilely that it might just warm my mottled heart as well.

Soon enough he joined me in the sand, wrapping his familiar arms around me, pulling me back to him in more ways than one.
“This feels like déjà vu.”
Slate’s voice was warm, fluid. While it had previously been soothing, now it only haunted me and served to narrate my every insecurity. His hands traced shapes on my skin as he held me; I knew this feeling too well.
“Do you remember when we left? It feels like it happened different lifetime doesn’t it?”
I could only nod in agreement; after all, it did feel like it happened between two different people than we were today. We’d fallen in love that summer; I’d given him my future. I gave him my full trust and faith in a youthfully naïve confidence, but how else can you explain love?
We spent those short days engaged in an endless conversation, sharing every aspect of each other known existence. He knew my philosophies, fears, inhibitions, and passions as well as my own mother, if not better. I was so young, so willing to accept love in all of its forms and fashions; I suddenly found it harder to breathe, to function when he wasn’t around. I wasn’t afraid to bear him my heart and allow his hands to feel how it beat.

I told him everything I knew about myself, and together we discovered aspects of ourselves that were new and frightening. He told me of his past, of his horribly normal childhood. He’d moved to Redcliffs simply because it was where the person who picked him up as a hitchhiker had been headed. As a young artist, he spent most of his time wandering from place to place, eventually finding a group of friends with whom he rented a small apartment. I remembered how often he spoke of his restlessness.
He knew that he wouldn’t get anywhere in Redcliffs, it was just too small; he had to go to the big city. When he asked me to go with him towards the turn of fall, I immediately said yes, though I must admit that afterward my doubts and fears surfaced with a quiet vengeance. I loved Redcliffs, it was my only home, and I had never been away from my mother for longer than a week. But somehow, Slate knew how to address my every qualm and coaxed me into joining him. I was quickly blinded by my own lovely idealism. I could only imagine his success, which I thoroughly believed included my reassuring presence by his side. I simply needed to go with him; there was not another option. He made the transition into the city flawlessly—I on the other hand, had a bit more trouble.


We rented out a cramped, dingy apartment in one of the seamier sides of Briocheport with the little money that Papaya had been able to give me along with her blessing. We both took unbearable jobs: I worked the graveyard shift at a local diner while Slate found his pay doing page work at one of the office towers during the day. In spite of our circumstances, we were blissfully happy.

Although we only saw each other for a few passing hours every day, we found a way to enjoy each other, to be purely present in the other’s life. His slightest glance would ignite a smoldering ember in the pit of my stomach that he knew how to fan into an inferno all too quickly. I was insatiable; he was insatiable.

We were enraptured by and entrenched in the brief moments we could spare between work schedules. While I was at the diner all night, Slate dedicated himself to his art and spent countless hours painting and repainting what canvases we could afford to buy. I can still relive those countless modeling sessions during which he’d peer from the edge of his work to address me, remind me of my worth to him.

“You’re my muse you know. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of painting you—I want to show the world your face, your essence, and most of all your devastatingly singular existence.” His voice expressing a sentiment I grew to recognize so acutely.
But when he wasn’t there, I felt desperately alone and hopelessly useless. I didn’t know anyone in Briocheport and often times I was too afraid to leave the apartment. Extroversion was hard for me, so I usually retreated back within myself, reanalyzing and reliving previous decisions and events. I hated the idea of living the rest of my life waitressing; I couldn’t help but feel like my life wasn’t amounting to anything and it made me wonder if it ever would, if I even had the capacity to create anything of merit to not just myself, but to anyone at all. I was terrified that I would turn to dust at any moment.
The problem was that I feared that if I told Slate about my predicament, he would think I was dissatisfied with the life we’d created. After all, his career was progressing much faster than either of us had imagined possible. We hadn’t even lived in Briocheport for an entire year before he’d been able to snag a place in a group exhibition at the local modern art museum.

Thinking back, that opening night was the turning point, the night that changed each of our lives ineradicably. I’ve recounted and reevaluated every minute of that night so exhaustively that I now only need to close my eyes to see those white gallery walls, to hear the murmur of close conversation, and to feel the irrepressible excitement that permeated the evening.

It was hosted by one of the city’s wealthy philanthropists to give up and coming young artists exposure. I’d never been to an event of this scale and I’d certainly never met people as wealthy as those I met that night.

Slate was getting the attention and praise from potential buyers and gallery owners for which he had hungered for years. It didn’t take long for his attention to be consumed by future prospects and I was left in the middle of the room feeling vulnerable and uncomfortable in my new dress, although I wasn’t alone for any extended period of time. A slight man sidled up next to me, a little too close for my own comfort, but I was desperate enough to talk to anyone.

“It’s all rather exhilarating isn’t it?” He said, his voice was nasally and dripping with an artistic entitlement.
“I absolutely adore seeing all of the fresh young talent before the city corrupts them. Seeing them like this—so innocent and eager—makes their falls so much sweeter, doesn’t it, lovely?”
I struggled to find a reply, and I hated the way my voice sounded as if it could barely skitter from between my lips.

“Oh, well, yes. . . I don’t really know actually; this is the first gallery I’ve ever been to you see.”
I could see something dark glimmer beneath his eyes and his mouth twisted into a sly grin.
“How delightful indeed! So where are you working, you know, finding your pay?”

“I’m working as a waitress right now, but I. . . well I know I want to do more than that.”
I could feel his cold eyes calculating the situation, expertly determining the most profitable course of action.

“Well, well, well! That’s not a good fit for a lovely girl like you; we both know that. I’ll tell you what, have you ever done any modeling?” His slender hand moved to rest on my arm as he inquired. I must have blushed 3 shades of pink with modesty and I shook my head.

“I can hardly believe that; with the right connections and a face like that, you could be big—not to mention your body, absolutely perfect.” His eyes raked down my form as he reached into his tailored pocket and pulled out a business card to press into my palm.

“When you call, ask for Cinder Grey. I’ll get you some auditions, easy as anything. Now I only need your name.”
My throat was painfully dry and a small croaking noise came forth as I tried to speak, the words seemed to stick inside of my throat.
“Lavande LeClerc, and it was. . . a pleasure to, to meet you Mr. Grey.”
He let forth a slow, rolling laugh that seemed horridly contrived.
“Please, call me Cinder. And it was truly a wonder to meet you darling—be in touch.”
I watched as he turned to leave the gallery, stopping occasionally to speak to some wealthy anonymous or another before he truly took his leave. Suddenly, I felt filthy, used. No, I told myself, he’s trying to help you and if you don’t call him you’ll be working at that diner till your old, too old to make any impact. Can’t you see, this is your chance! I kept telling myself over and over. Besides it’s not like you have to work for Mr. Grey, I’m sure he will just give you some contacts and you’ll never have to see him again. I knew that I owed it to myself to try.
By the end of the night most of Slate’s pieces had sold and he’d been commissioned for several more and I had a prospective modeling career ahead of me: our fates were sealed.


When I’d called Mr. Grey he asked to meet me at his office, and I all too willingly obliged. True to his word, he gave me the names and numbers of people who would be able to get me interviews and auditions.

I was painfully modest at first and uncomfortable with my sexuality, to say the least. But as time progressed, I realized that it was a job and that I was putting on a façade for a client. Soon I took to donning that same façade during situations or events in which I felt out of place or uneasy.
After a year of modeling, I was considered one of the rising stars of the industry and I’d even taken on Cinder as my agent. He assured me that the next step was to branch out internationally. My life was moving so fast that I could hardly recognize the woman in the mirror.

Cinder introduced me to the fast paced parties of Briocheport’s upper echelon and I was quickly swept into the fray, it overwhelmed me. Sometimes Slate joined me; sometimes we’d hardly see each other at the same party. We were both devoured by our own growing need for immediate satisfaction and carnal pleasure.

There have been moments when I’ve seen him with another woman, but when I look back, fighting through the haze of substance, she is never there. Something sinister and perverse crept into our relationship and I wasn’t quite sure if I knew him any longer. Even more so, I wasn’t sure if I knew myself; someone else’s countenance marred my reflection whenever I tried to get a glimpse of myself. I was so disoriented—literally and figuratively— I hardly ever knew where I was or whose apartment I’d woken up in.
We were living a life for which I never could have prepared, and the city had consumed me so completely that I did not have the capacity to change—I was in too deep and I was dreadfully, hopelessly lost.

I was constantly exhausted and my neglected body began to show signs of deterioration. My eyes were constantly ringed with black circles and my muscles ached with each movement. Even worse, I began to become sick too often for my own comfort and I worried that something was seriously wrong with me and for the first time in years, I went to the doctor.
I heard the words that any model at the height of her career dreads above all: you’re pregnant. As the doctor went through all of the necessary precautions and instructions for a healthy pregnancy I sat in shock. My mouth went dumb; my ears went deaf. This couldn’t be happening; this couldn’t be possible I thought in disbelief. How was I going to tell Slate? What will he think? Will he leave me?
I felt nauseous. A fear deeper and more complex than any I’d ever felt before took a hold of me as I left the doctor’s office. I realized that I would have to be blunt; I would just have to come out and say it. Oh berry, I wasn’t ready to be a mother!

My heart raced the entire taxi ride back to our apartment and I went through a thousand scenarios in my head a thousand times each. I could hardly feel my body as my hand rested on the doorknob to our front door. I inserted the key and turned it till I heard the ominous click of entry. I pushed the door open and found Slate where he usually was during the day, at his easel.

My stomach dropped and I tried my best to remind myself to breathe. I bit my lower lip and summoned whatever courage I had left in my broken body.
“Slate. . . I have something to tell you.”

Saudade – Part 2 by jennyspin


My attempt at composure was in vain—the tears began to spill from my eyes as we pulled up to the house and Papaya emerged from the front door. I ran to her arms and found a childish comfort in her soft, familiar embrace.
“Darling, it’s so wonderful to see you, and Slate, handsome as always! I wish you would have called a bit earlier, I would have cleaned up the house.” Papaya said as she led them both inside.

Not a single thing had changed in this house for years, the walls had faded from time and sunlight but, the house was exactly as it had been when I was younger. I could just see myself running through the brightly lit hall, ready for a day on the beach.

Papaya led us into the friendly kitchen, all the while chatting idly about the town happenings, and began to rummage through the refrigerator while asking behind her shoulder if we had already eaten. Slate excused himself to take a call as his phone vibrated loudly in his pocket. Always working, I thought. I leaned back against the old wooden table and laughed softly to myself at my mother’s endearing over-accommodation.

“Mom, please, you don’t have to make anything. We’ve already eaten on the road.” I lied, not wanting her to put herself through too much trouble.
“If Slate is hungry, I’m sure he will find some leftovers to heat up later.”
“Ok, if you insist.” She said softly, closing the door to the fridge and turned to look at me, really look at me.
“Is everything alright, love? You seem off, distant.”
As our eyes met, I desperately wanted to pour out my troubles, to tell her exactly what was wrong with my life and allow her to use her maternal omnipotence to make all my problems disappear.
“Mom, I’ve been evaluating my life lately. And. . . and well I don’t know where I’m going—figuratively of course.” I finally said and a fraction of my burden lightened. It felt so **** good to be able to say these things out loud. Then I finally tried to say what I was most scared to voice, as if hearing it out loud would finally make it undeniable and true.
“It’s just that, well. . . I don’t think that. . . that it’s going to work out with Sl—“

I quieted abruptly as the man of the hour strode back into the room, pocketing his cell phone.
“Just another scheduling issue, but it’s all taken care of.” Slate said, leaning against the refrigerator.
“Papaya, I must say, I’m so glad that you are letting us stay with you for the weekend, your hospitality is always incredible. I only wish that I had the energy to stay up and chat, but I’m beat. Lavande are you going to sit with Papaya for a while?”

“I think that I’ll join you. I want to get up early to watch the sun rise tomorrow—it’s always been my favorite part of living on the beach.” I kissed my mother on the cheek and began to follow Slate into my old bedroom when she lightly took hold of my arm.
“Did you want to tell me something before? You never quite finished what you were saying.”

I looked up to meet her questioning eyes and felt my heart swell with longing. I couldn’t burden her also. No, I couldn’t ask her to spend the rest of the weekend catering to a man if she even had the slightest suspicion that he had done wrong by her beloved daughter.

“No mom, I’m just stressed with work; I just needed some time away.” I assured her, half-attempting a weak smile.
“Good night mom.”

“Good night my flower”

Following Slate into my old bedroom I couldn’t help but remember the last summer I’d spent in Redcliffs—the summer that we met. We found each other so remarkably intriguing, our relationship started off with a magnetism that can’t be put into words. We were inseparable.
Just being in my room made me realize that it was strange to think of a time when he didn’t color my world.

I watched Slate absently as he pulled his shirt over his head and removed his trousers for bed, he had always been quite a physical specimen, I thought. A slow smile spread across my lips and a faint blush colored my cheeks as I remembered the animal attraction that electrified the lightest of his touches when we were younger, where had that gone?


Seeing me watching him, Slate turned with a mischievous glint in his eyes as he closed the distance between us and took hold of my hips.
“Things have been rather boring between us lately, haven’t they?” He rasped as one of his hands ran up the length of my back, his finger tips seemed to burn holes straight through my clothes, igniting my skin.

“Shall we change that?”

I knew that he didn’t need my answer; just being back in this room made his touch exciting again. My flushed lips parted and a small gasp escaped my lips as we met in a kiss. I tried to remember the last time it had felt this good to be with him.

As Slate quietly drifted off into sleep, my eyes closed, but wouldn’t grant me rest. I kept thinking of that summer, of meeting him, of falling in love. Somehow the memories were as vivid as if they had happened that very day. I had just graduated high school that spring and I was planning to celebrate my 18th birthday at the beginning of the summer with my two best friends. Raspberry, Fleur, and I had become quite the trio that year.

Raspberry Glacé and I had been friends since childhood, she was the closest neighbor I had and we became fast friends on the shores. She was my best friend and closest confidante for longer than any other friend I’ve ever had. We’d grown up together and developed into two very different young women, but we’ve never allowed our different views to conflict within our friendship.

Fleur was actually Raspberry’s exchange student from Chambery and would be leaving at the end of the summer after spending the year abroad in Redcliffs. While we’d only known her for our final year of high school, Raspberry and I connected to Fleur immediately and the three of us became inseparable. It was exciting to be young and beautiful (though we hardly realized that we were at that point). We had planned on spending the entire summer together: lounging on the beach by day and hitting all of the hotspots by night.

Since both Raspberry and Fleur were already 18, we decided that on my 18th birthday we would go out to the most popular nightclub to celebrate our entrance into legal adulthood. In true anticipation of the night ahead, we all gathered at my house beforehand to get ready together.

Raspberry, in her true fashion, had chosen a form fitting dress that left little to the imagination while Fleur chose a more conservative dress that catered to her more eclectic styling. On the other hand, I had no concept of style or finesse and threw together the only things I had that I believed would translate closely enough to club wear.

We walked (just in case one of us had too much nectar to drive) over to Tranquility once half the night had already passed. It was the newest nightclub in Redcliffs and the only one on the beach front, though it had a pool of its own. It was a lounge of sorts by day and a dance club by night. We could hear the music’s bass long before we saw the actual lights dancing through the windows. I remember how giddy I was; I was thrill by the idea of dancing for however long I chose and by the knowledge that adulthood held the freedom after which I searched for most of my life. We danced for what felt like an eternity; reveling in our newly redefined youth.

The lights seemed to pop with each thumping beat and the club was thick with smoke. We were no longer girls; we were women and everyone seemed to take notice. I had never felt so empowered by my own femininity.

As the sky began to lighten, signaling the imminent sunrise, we reluctantly took our leave, swearing to each other that we’d spend the rest of our lives dancing together.

I don’t know if it was the nectar clouding my judgment or if it was fate, but when we left the club I told Raspberry and Fleur that I would meet them back at my house in a short while—I wanted to watch the sunrise on what felt like the beginning of my life.

I made my way over to the closest park and hurried to find a bench so that I could bear witness to the first break of dawn. I spotted a collection of benches and hastened to take a seat. I barely noticed that I wasn’t alone; in fact he took me by surprise.

“You’ve come to watch the sunrise also, or are you running from an angry boyfriend?” Came a voice from the bench next to me. My head was still swimming and I startled quite easily.
“Oh! I didn’t know that I had company, excuse me.” I said, suddenly acutely aware of my appearance, wondering what he thought of me.
“I wasn’t expecting anyone else to be out here so late—or rather so early. But yes, I came to watch the sunrise, no boyfriend.”

“Well you came on the right day; I’m certain that this will be a good one.” He said, moving with ease to sit next to me. His voice was smooth, yet subtly rough, like a fine Irish whiskey’s soft burn as it travels down the throat. He was a stranger, but I was at ease with him. I could tell that he was at ease with himself.

“I can never decide whether I prefer sunrises or sunsets. They both intrigue me, but in two completely incomparable ways. The sunrise seems to bloom, to give credence to the belief in hope and sanctify the new day—watch.”

Sure enough, the sun began to crown on the horizon and the sky seemed to progressively burst forth with color. It was inexplicably beautiful and I realized that it was the first time I’d really watched the sunrise. I turned to look at the man next to me, his chiseled jaw line and curiously stern features were perplexing. Even if someone had warned me, I don’t think I would have ever been prepared for his eyes: the lightest steel blue with the slightest hints of color around his pupils.
“You see, aren’t they exhilarating? While sunrises seem to explode, sunsets seem to bleed into the horizon, as if the very sun were taking its final gasping breaths.” He said as his hand moved to rest on my knee.

I abruptly stood from the bench, but he reacted just as quickly, placing a firm hand on my hips to pull me closer to him. Scared and startled as I was, I look into his eyes. Strangely, I believed that, for the first time in my life, I was seeing another human being, really seeing him. For the briefest of moments, we shared an experience, an existence that seemed to transcend all understanding. We knew each other in that moment, but it was fleeting and my lungs began to breathe again, my heart began to pump once more.

“I’m. . .” I struggled, desperately trying to regain my composure, feeling he might dissolve into dust if I didn’t.
“I’m Lavande. . . Lavande LeClerc.”
A slow smirk graced his lips as he extended his hand.
“Slate Astral, it’s a pleasure.”

Saudade – Part 1 by jennyspin


The weathered wood creaked as I shifted my weight on the bench, I knew that this would happen—Slate was perpetually late. I hadn’t the slightest idea as to why he asked me to meet him at this park on such a dreary day, no sensible person dare leave the warmth of home on a day like this. The wind was beginning to sting my cheeks as I fidgeted and checked my watch once again only to find that a paltry three minutes had pasted since my last observation. I quietly admonished myself for my own impatience and turned my gaze to the city around me. I could have sworn that the sun hadn’t shown in days; the clouds stirred endlessly, plaguing the city with biting gales. How reflective of my mood, I thought bitterly. I cannot fathom why Slate would want to meet me in what is most likely the most neglected park in the city, bare victim to whatever punishment the accursed elements would see fit.

Regardless of his intentions, I knew that I had to tell him that our relationship had turned into a circumstance too painful to endure. I could no longer bear the distance, the silence, and the sickeningly poignant mess our relationship had become. A soft, musical laugh afforded me a respite from the melancholy of my own thoughts as I turned to find a couple sharing the sanctuary of the nearby subway entrance. A part of me couldn’t bear to watch them hold each other, but the romantic in me held out in secret, daring me to take my eyes away.

I could tell that they were tourists by the way that their softly twisting words fell flat on my ears in incomprehension. And by the way that they were absolutely enraptured by each other’s gaze, I could tell that they were blindly in love. The man was holding her lightly, speaking in a languid voice. And although I could not understand what he was saying to her, I could imagine that he was whispering words of his undying affection: “My love, My rose, Your eyes are the stars”. I averted my eyes from the couple, hoping that they wouldn’t turn to see the envy in my eyes and the jadedness I could barely hide from myself.

Checking my watch again, I sighed and realized that I should have anticipated Slate’s unpunctuality and come later than he asked. What was I thinking? I cursed myself for repeating my mistakes and cursed Slate’s lateness again for good measure. I buried my head in my hands, simultaneously hating him for his faults and loving him because of them. We’d been together for 6 years now, and I could no longer deny the fact that he wasn’t the same boy I’d met that summer so long ago. But then again, I am not that same girl either—the girl who would skip out of any obligation if only for the opportunity to spend that afternoon in his arms.


We’d both matured into adulthood in two divergent directions, and I couldn’t help but feel, no matter how deeply it hurts me to say, that the seemingly indefatigable love that once held our relationship so steadfastly together, was aging along with us and beginning fracture. Thinking of him, thinking of us; sometimes it makes me forget that I had a life before we met, before he seemed to become ineradicably woven into the fabric of my existence. But after all, my story began far before I ever knew Slate Astral and far before I could imagine just how penetrating a man’s gaze can truly be.
Not many people know that I’ve never met my biological parents. As far as I have been told, my mother was a married woman who couldn’t quite explain why her child had lavender coloring to her vanilla husband, nonetheless who had fathered the child while he was away on extended business.

So, she thought it best to keep me a secret from both her husband and my biological father. Sometimes I wonder how long she thought before deciding to sever all ties to her daughter, how many scenarios she played through in her mind. I can only imagine how alone she felt, how much it must have hurt to surrender the child who was most likely the closest she would ever get to true love. Shortly after I was born, she entrusted me to her closest friend, Papaya Mist, who lived in Redcliffs—far away from anyone who would dare to recognize the girl’s parentage. Evidently, I knew from a young age that the woman who I called “Momma” was not my birth mother, but she was my mother nonetheless and I haven’t thought of her in any other way.

I lived with Papaya in our quaint little beach side abode for the entirety of my blissful childhood. Papaya was a natural mother, she adapted to my arrival with an ease and sense of responsibility that belied her young age. There are times when I cannot help but wonder if she assumed the role of my mother so effortlessly because she was trying to numb the pain of a past hurt. After all, I had always wondered who the man in the photo beside her bed was and where he was now.

Every now and again, I see a flicker behind her eyes as if a fleeting memory had resurfaced to the forefront of her thoughts if only for a second, but then the moment would pass and she would resume reading her book or helping me with my assignments. When I was younger I used to imagine how that mysterious man had fit into this house, how he’d have warmed the room with his laughter and her heart with his smile. So, maybe it was but a product of my own imagination to assume that I was filling a void within Papaya’s heart, but the passing glimmer of longing in her eyes and the silent weight on her shoulders told me otherwise. Perchance it was an insight into some forbidden past? The romantic in me would like to think so.

But please don’t get the wrong impression; when I was a child, I saw Papaya as the tangerine embodiment of motherly affection.

I cannot describe my childhood as anything but perfect. Oh how I wish I could retreat back to my childhood, when things were so simple, when innocence so flawlessly clouded my perspective, making life feel unblemished and pure.

But that’s what makes childhood so sweet isn’t it? The realization that once unwittingly lost, one can only look back upon her innocence from the ever increasing fissure of adulthood. I can only imagine a life in which I live renewed by a reclaimed youth; when did I get so old? How I long for summers past and for the opportunity to sink back into the warm sands of my youth; when life was still so mesmerizing, so beguiling, and so utterly spellbinding.

The sound of approaching footsteps woke me from my reverie and thrust me back into my unwelcome reality: I still had to address Slate. I tried to swallow the dry knot that had developed at the back of my throat, but it only seemed to settle uncomfortably into the pit of my stomach. A warm smile spread across his lips as our eyes met and I began to doubt my resolve. He sat down next to me a let out a sigh as he shifted his weight forward for a moment.
“Hello love, sorry I’m late. I had to deal with a finicky client at the studio” He said before letting out a long yawn.

All I wanted to do was crumple to his feet and beg him to make our lives as they were, as they were meant to be. Surely fate would grant us this one wish.

No, I told myself, be strong; be practical—you can’t change the past. I’d been living on the dreams of what might have happen for far too long. But no matter how many times I told myself this, I couldn’t help but remember what we’d lost and how it had altered the very fabric of our lives in a way that not even Slate could fix anymore. I couldn’t carry the weight of our darkest hour, our anguished secret, any longer. I squared my shoulders as I listened to him recount the events of his day. The sun was setting and I was only halfheartedly contributing to our conversation. Soon enough it was dark and I pulled whatever courage I had left together and rose from the bench to make my speech. Unfortunately Slate took that opportunity to stand and pull me into his embrace.

I knew that he could sense my rigidity and how desperately I was trying to guard my emotions—he knew me too well. He drew back to look into my eyes, searching for meaning as he spoke.
“Is something wrong?”
He asked as he raised a hand to my cheek, running a thumb across my temple and into my hair. The words stuck to my tongue and I could only bow my head and bite my lower lip.
“I know that you have been tense lately, so I thought that we could go away for awhile; escape the city.”

My eyes rose to meet his earnest smile and I knew that if I didn’t say something soon, I might lose my courage. Lowering my head once again, my voice quavered with the slightest hesitation as I tried to expel the speech I’d been rehearsing in my head for weeks.
“I don’t know Slate, I. . . I think. . .”

But he quietly silenced my protests by hooking his index finger under my chin and raising it so that he could speak directly, knowing that our eyes communicated far more than our lips ever could.
“I know you Lavande LeClerc. Let’s go back to Redcliffs; don’t you want to visit Papaya? We haven’t seen her since. . . well, for too long. I’ll drive—you won’t even have to lift a finger. I know you Lavande, I know how much you need this.”

I chewed my lower lip lightly, knowing that I’d lost my opportunity and hating myself for bending to him so easily. I suddenly abhorred how profoundly we knew each other. More so, I resented my own hesitation and fear. It was so easy to say that final speech in theory, but that look in his eyes quickly crumbled my determination. . . I knew that this would hurt. Before I had a chance to think it over I found myself responding.
“Sure, I. . . I’d love to. It will be great to see her. I haven’t exactly realized how much I’ve really missed her lately.”

Slate’s face lit up at my confirmation and he lowered his hands to rest on my elbows.
“Wonderful, we can leave first thing tomorrow.” He said as his thumbs slowly stroked my forearms. He placed a chaste kiss on my forehead and broke our embrace. He’s being overly affectionate, I noted but couldn’t imagine why.
“I was starting to worry about you, you know.”

I gave him a weak smile as he took my hand to walk into the nearby subway. Momentarily numb, I tried to grasp the basics of what just happened. Evidently, I’d failed to speak my original intentions and now we were going back, back to where it all began. I hated myself in that moment and hated how agonizing I was making this process. The reality was that we were too connected for me to not think about just how deeply our separation would scar, how effortlessly it would break his heart.

The next morning we’d each packed a small suitcase for the weekend and loaded our things into the back of his sports car. What a change from the dusty old pick-up he used to love, I thought sordidly.

The 5 hour drive seemed to pass in the briefest blink of an eye and soon enough we were pulling onto the secluded stretch of beach upon which I spent my childhood. The sight of that weathered blue house seized the breath from my chest as an intense wave of nostalgia washed over me. I never could have anticipated the strength of my returning memories. My mind flooded with past recollections that I was certain I had forgotten. The weight of long remembrances bore down on my conscience and I knew that I’d spend this weekend reliving so many experiences. But wasn’t this what I wanted?