PennyBassett Fanfiction

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Fudge Marble
Posts: 903
Joined: May 2016


Finally, another chapter ugh it's been so long. What does this human do all day that it would take her five months to finish the stupid chapter?!
(Answer: self-doubt and procrastination)
Do enjoy this one. Sorry, it's very gay again if you are homophobic or uncomfy with that then don't read this or just skip Dion's parts. Yes actually just don't read anything Dion talks about. (Even though he is a dear and deserves your love and respect)

I don’t recall what happened after that. I’m not sure what route Connie took, driving to the hospital. I don’t remember what anyone said to me in the half hour after finding Buck and Jules. I just remember the fear. That specific burning, stabbing at my gut and lungs. The nudge to cry or scream or pray and not being able to fit my mouth around any verbal announcement of my agony. My heart was a hammer inside my chest. It was similar to the feeling when Buck was kidnapped, except so much worse. Katrina was one of two people I’d ever met who could help me through a panic attack. Bernard was the other one. But that father-figure wasn’t there, and for the first time in about ten years, neither was my wife. Maybe she’d never be there again. That thought made everything hurt more. We walked into the hospital. Found a waiting room. Sat for what felt like hours. Lilly was the first actual doctor we saw. She came into the room in a business-like hurry that melted away when she saw us. What a pathetic group we must have looked like. She hugged me immediately.
“They just got her stabilized,” she said, helping me into a chair. I hadn’t sat down since we’d gotten there. She found a seat across from me.
“Then why are you crying?”

Transverse Myelitis. A made-up term. Just letters pushed together to describe something literally no one else but me understands. I don’t care if you can pronounce it or not. It doesn’t change the severity of it. How hellish it’s made her life. You can’t fix it by looking up the definition when I’m too tired or emotionally drained to recite three sentences from Sometimes I can hear her crying at night. No wonder I’m sleep-deprived. I sat next to my dad when Doctor Graham explained everything. What it meant for her, for us, what she would be able to do, what was hopeless, everything. And I just sat there, feeling so disconnected and so vulnerable at the same time. So angry and so sad. I wanted to murder the man who did this and comfort the man next to me.
Eliza and Mr. Whittaker got to the hospital at some point. The Bassetts, Jeff, and Jason trailed in soon after. Then Eugene, Eliza, and I went in to see her. She was asleep. Eugene and I sat by her bed, Eliza on his lap. I studied my mom’s face. It was strange. I’d never seen her look so sick. Even when she and Eugene were separated, she looked somewhat healthy. There was no color in her cheeks. Instead, a breathing tube laid across them. I could hear her heartbeat on the monitor above me. It made mine pound faster. I didn’t like thinking about how it almost stopped for good. A nurse was sticking some needle into her arm. Eugene flinched. I tried to take a deep breath.
She woke up a few minutes later.
He set Eliza down and took her hand. Something resembling ‘hello’ was muffled by a sob.
“Eugene what happened to my legs?”
I looked at the floor. Doctor Graham spoke softly. Explained the situation. What her condition meant. Everything she had told us. I didn’t look to see how she took the news. But I could sense her fear. Her grief. There was about a minute of silence after Doctor Graham had finished. No one said anything. I could see Eugene restraining his sobs. Katrina finally spoke, her voice low.
“I… can’t walk anymore?”

I woke up in the hospital. My heart was in my stomach. Something was wrong. I knew something was wrong. No, not because I was in a hospital bed. Not because my leg still felt like it was on fire. Not the pounding in my head, or the vertigo that attacked my neck when I turned my head. My sister Nahla was sitting by my bed.
“Hi,” she whispered, her eyes holding a deep pity. We’d been there before.
A wave of dread crashed into my chest.
She broke eye contact.
“Nahla, where’s Jay?” I choked on this sentence. It came out so much angrier than the first.
“He’s in another room.”
“Can I see him?”
“Alright. How are you feeling, Dion?” Doctor Graham walked in.
“Can you take me to see him?”
“He asked. I’m sorry,” she let go of my hand and stood up. Doctor Graham took her chair. In an unnerving silence she began to take my pulse. I let her finish.
“Why can’t I see him?”
“Because he’s dying, Dion.”

I didn’t know how to comfort him. At around ten, he came into the waiting room. I’d never seen him so tired. I hugged him for a long time. Then we just sat there. In that orange and white waiting room. His head on my shoulder. My fingers running through his hair. It was the best I could do. We weren't crying. We were still in shock. I knew something had happened. I think I understood that Katrina was paralyzed. I hadn’t seen her yet. Eugene kept saying she wasn’t ready to talk to people. Whit went in though. So did Connie. Everyone looked worried. A few people went home when it got late. There was nothing more they could do. Eliza went home with Wooton and Penny. Jeff and Connie went out to get coffee for everyone. Whit was still at the hospital, trying to get as many names as possible. Names for who’d been injured. Who’d died. That was the scariest part. Knowing we knew people who were now dead, but not knowing who. I checked on as many people as I could through text. No one responded when I sent out a message on the Smallpox group chat.


I was holding his hand. Trying to find a steady breath, my fingers moving across his.
I tried to answer. My sentence broke before I could finish it.
“Dion, will you hold me? I’m scared.”
“Okay,” I whispered, kissing his hand. A nurse helped me into his bed. He put his head on my chest like he usually did. Listening to my heartbeat. Always falling asleep. I stroked his wavy hair as our fingers intertwined again.
“I want to marry you,” he whispered. “I want us to have a big wedding. I could wear blue. You’ll wear purple. And everyone will be there. Even your parents. We’ll have tacos for dinner. Nahla can tell the story of how we met. We’ll go to London for our honeymoon. And I’ll embarrass you by telling everyone we meet how handsome you are. How proud I am to be your husband.”
I couldn’t answer. He made it so real. It was suddenly happening. He was just going to be gone. We would never get married, or adopt from China like we wanted, or build a house in New Zealand. He wouldn’t go on the mission trip next summer. Or college.
“Hey. No. Look at me. Jay. Jay, look at me. What’s wrong?”
“I can’t-” He’d sat up and was gripping his stomach. The nurse was at his side, telling him to lie back down. He did, sobbing.
“Can you make it stop? Please?”
“We can increase your pain killers.”
“Where are his parents?”
“They’re in Florida. Jay, I need you to take deep breaths, okay? I know you’re scared-”
“You think?”
“Listen. You should be able to go peacefully. No one here wants you to be in pain.”
“Why can’t you just- turn me off or something?”
“I’m sorry.”
“Hey, try doing what she says, alright? Focus on me.”
I pushed away a few tears from his cheeks. After a few minutes he was breathing steadily again. He was studying my eyes, tracing my jawline, the rim of my nose.
“You’re so beautiful,” he smiled, “You love people. You love people like Jesus does, so you can’t just stop when I’m gone. People need you.”
“But I need you.” I sniffed back a tear, grasping his hand. He outlined my lips, then kissed them softly.
“No. You don’t need me. You deserve the world. You’re still alive for a reason. Don’t forget that.”
His next breath was much weaker. He closed his eyes, trying to find more oxygen. He took a few more, unsteady inhalations, and whispered,
“Thank you, my angel. I’ll see you soon.”
And then he was still.
I limped out of the room, every ounce of me drained.
“Dion!” Trent ran to me, we hugged. Then just cried.
Jay’s death spread quickly. Quicker than I wish it had. The band sat in a waiting room for a long time. We still didn’t know how many people we’d lost. We knew that Jay was gone. That Mandy was in surgery. That Katrina had been paralyzed. We knew the rest of the band was safe. Fans started bringing me things. Flowers and cards. But I didn’t want sympathy. I wanted sleep. To numb the pain somehow. I let myself cry. I cried a lot. Everyone did. We mourned Jay together. At some point, Eugene went out to get Buck’s guitar. He came back, and we had a worship session. Around a hundred people joined us. We were there all night.

“I lead worship when I could. Tamika and I took turns. When we were both crying, we were both singing. That was a terrible night. We just lost so much.”

“Jeff and I went home at some point. Then Whit emailed us the list of victims. I hadn’t heard about Jay. Others included Nathaniel Graham, Brenda Shafer, and Nelson Swanson. But I had known all of them. All thirty-seven.”

“She only let Eugene in. Not Eliza. Not me. But I wanted to be with her. At one point I thought she was dead. But she didn’t want to see me.”

“I didn’t want him to see me. Not like that. He needed to know I was still strong. Regardless of how weak I felt at that moment.”

“I didn’t understand. Mr. Whittaker tried to explain. What did register made me upset. I think I knew my mum couldn’t walk. It’s hard to remember. It’s terrible. Thinking about it now. They didn’t know yet. No one knew anything.”
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse
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Miah Robinson
Chocolate Chip
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Joined: February 2019
Location: across the pond


Wow. Wow. Wow. That was so good!
But wait, JAY’S DEAD!? Noooooo!
"Well, that wasn't Shakespeare's Henry IV, but it'll have to do." -Don Polehaus
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Peach Cobbler
Posts: 1303
Joined: July 2016
Location: Tatsumi Port Island


What! Not my boy?
I'm Monty Whittaker's greatest fan. member of the K.R.E
:mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
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Raspberry Ripple
Posts: 573
Joined: July 2017
Location: With my puppy


O.o you killed him............. You really killed him.......
You did a really nice job you make me feel the emotions that there feeling great job!
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Fudge Marble
Posts: 903
Joined: May 2016


Another chapter! (Less than a month away from the last one?!) Trust me. I'm as shocked as you.
Mention of suicide in this one. Also, it's just sad.

Chapter 17
“Buck…. Buck?”
I could hear his voice, but it was muffled and distant.
“I just got dinner on the table. Um- it’s just mac n’ cheese. You need to eat.”
With my eyes shut, I sniffed, pressing my head further into the wall.
“I’m not hungry.”
“I know.”
He sat down on the couch with me and put his hand on my knee.
“Um. You haven’t eaten in three days.”
I hadn’t realized it had been that long.
“I’d feel so guilty.”
“Your mother’s worried. Will you eat something just to help her feel better?”
“You know Dion can’t even keep down food? Whenever he tries, he throws up. I thought Mom was asleep.”
“She’s resting.”
I nodded, then glanced at my watch.
“I have to get going,” I stood up. Light-Headedness overtook me, but I walked to the door without revealing my discomfort.
“I’m picking up Jules. We’re going to the park.”
“I see. Well um, be back by eleven!”
“Yeah okay.”


It’s weird. Not having parents. I called them on the way home from the hospital. I wouldn’t admit it then, but I thought maybe they’d let me come home if they felt bad enough for me. I was wrong. They didn’t answer until the fourth time I tried to call. I started crying the second I heard my mom’s voice. Nahla had to pull over so she could help explain.
“Mom. Dion was in a school shooting. A man came into Odyssey High School and killed a lot of people. We’re on the way home from the hospital. He was shot.”
She handed me the phone.
“What is this about, Dion? You’re okay, right? Why are you calling us?”
“Because Jay is dead.”
It was the first time I’d said it out loud. I sat there in the longest stretch of silence, my eyes closed, trying not to cry. And then my dad’s voice said, wholly devoid of empathy,
“We told you there would be consequences.”
And then he hung up, leaving me to rediscover grief alone.
They’re right about the stages. Shock and denial came first. Denial passed easily. I knew how to accept loss at that point. But shock. Shock was a shadow. A dream-like, twister, there to just remind me again how true that phrase was. The phrase that didn’t even sound possible, “Jay is dead.”
But for the most part, it went unnoticed. I guess that’s what shadows do, though. They go unobserved until we turn around. And I didn’t want to turn around. Anger hit me like a sledgehammer. It was a specific anger. I knew why I was upset. My boyfriend was dead, and I wasn’t. I could have died, and he could have been there. I’d been saved too many times. And for who? There was no one left to love me. No one left to miss me. I would be lying if I said I never contemplated suicide. I mean, why would I want to be here, miserable, when I could be there with him... That was the other thing. What people said. There were a lot of different comments about where he was now, but at the same time, it felt like everyone agreed. He wasn’t in Heaven. I had this phrase I would say to people. It was more of a way to comfort myself than anyone else. I’d say,
“Jay didn’t have a very happy life. It’s a good thing- how happy he is now.”
I got some weird looks, yeah. Christians would get very tense. Some would give me a tight smile, or a short nod before ending the conversation. Others would be a little less sensitive. Camilla Parker’s exact words were,
“Well, I don’t think people can really be happy in Hell, but that’s a nice thought.”
The people that were closest to me were the only ones that knew the truth. Jay was a Christian. He followed Jesus, he loved Jesus. He had such incredible faith. He just knew what was true. He could understand the Bible so easily. I can’t count how many times he had to explain a chapter or verse to me during our Bible studies. I’ve always been a visual person. Jay knew words. He would’ve known what to say to everyone.
I went out twice in the week after Jay died. I was still in a wheelchair, so going anywhere was difficult. I couldn’t drive. I lived with Nahla, so she had to take care of me. She was such a blessing. She was sort of the one person who gave their full attention to me. I knew the band cared, but it seemed like everyone had a significant other to check on or confide in. And no one wanted to deal with me. I made things so much more complicated. I think my sister saved my life. She took me to Whit’s End three days after the shooting. That’s where a lot of judgemental conversations took place. But I also spoke with Whit. He was a comfort. He took several hours to talk and pray with me. He wouldn’t really let on, but I knew he was hurting. Probably more than I was. He was a spiritual father to Jay. Jay wouldn’t have become a Christian if it weren’t for Whit. I think he saw Katrina as a daughter and knew how much she was hurting. Mandy was in a similar light. He knew her potential, and that felt threatened when she was in danger. And then all the other kids on top of that. The kids he’d known since they were in kindergarten. Children he’d practically raised were torn from him in an instant. I don’t even know how a person grieves like that. How do you ache for so many people at once?
Day four was the worst of that week. I’d confronted most of the people who didn’t respect my recently deceased boyfriend. I’d cried a lot. For the first time, I could step back. And there was the shock. Suddenly consuming me. I didn’t expect it to feel so much like fear. My shock became fear. I don’t know why but it was like without him there, everything just terrified me. And that made me cry more. Which made me more dehydrated. A fever gave me release on day five. It was almost calming at first until I was shaking uncontrollably and hitting a temperature of 103 degrees. I passed out and woke up back in the hospital. Vance visited on day six.
“Why are you here?”
“I um. I brought flowers.”
He set a vase of tulips on the counter across from my bed.
“Can I sit?”
He did, and then looked at me for a few seconds.
“How are you doing?”
“Um. I don’t know. He’s dead.”
“Yeah. I know. Dion. I know this is hard, but you have to except something.”
“What’s that?”
“I can help you.”
I practically laughed.
“I’m the only other person in the world who knew Jay like you did.”
I looked at my hands.
“He was terrified of you.”
“I’m sure. I wish we could’ve fixed things.”
I nodded.
“He um. He used to blush all the time.”
“I remember that.”
“The first time I kissed him. I mean he turned bright red. It was adorable.”
Two weeks after the shooting I was driven from the hospital in a limo. It was mostly to protect me from the fans. My phone was constantly overflowing with messages. I knew everyone was well-meaning, but I still hated it. It felt fake. I couldn’t shake the feeling that everyone just wanted my attention. There was usually some extra sentence or two about someone they lost in the shooting. And by someone they lost, I mean someone they maybe passed by in the hall a couple of times a week. I replied to a few. If it seemed like they were more genuine. Most I ignored or lost in the pile of notifications too deep to dig through while I was recovering. Nahla went with me to the studio. I was wearing a black suit with a dark purple button up.
“Hey,” she put her hand on my shoulder. “You look great.”
I tried to smile.
“I wish he was here.”
“I know.”


My hands were damp. My stomach turned as I felt the camera’s focusing in on us. Jules sat to my left. Trent was at my right. Lights came on, making my forehead hot. Ted Humphrey’s voice came on the microphone.
“Welcome back. This evening we’re speaking with an intrepid group of teens who survived the shooting that took place at Odyssey High School a few weeks ago. The overnight sensation ‘Smallpox’ is here to recount what happened.”
The host turned to us.
“First off I’d like to thank you all for being here. I know you have friends and family who are still in critical condition. Fans will recognize that you’re even missing a couple of band members. Mandy Straussberg is in the hospital right now.”
I glanced at the thin, dark-haired teen. He nodded.
“How is she doing?
“Um,” his voice shook as he struggled to form sentences without crying, “I- I haven’t been able to speak with her since before it happened. I won’t go into any details, but it’s… it doesn’t look promising.”
“I’m so sorry. We’re all thinking of you during this time.”
“Thank you.”
“Most of the fans know that Jay Smouse, your songwriter, passed away the night of the shooting. Dion, were you with him?”
“I was,” he took a moment, “We said goodbye.”
“I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”
From the corner of my eye, I saw Dion wipe his face with the back of his hand.
“Another prominent person in really all of the students’ lives is Katrina Meltsner.”
My eyes fell to the floor. I didn’t think he would mention her.
“How is she doing?”
Jules glanced in my direction, then spoke for me,
“She um… she was paralyzed. So… she doesn’t want to see anyone right now, but flowers and cards are appreciated. Also, food. She’s still in recovery and isn’t out of bed yet, so the rest of the family would really appreciate a few meals. I think Mr. Whittaker has a sign-up sheet for everyone- not just the Meltsners if anyone can bring in a few casseroles or something. But um, Katrina’s at home now. She’ll be alright.”
Jules’s hand tightened around mine.
“Okay. That’s good to hear. And I’m sure a comfort to her students.” He glanced down at his notes. “Let’s talk about what happened that day.”
I swallowed an ache in my throat. A few people shifted in their seats. Most of us hadn’t discussed our experiences in detail.
“Now Dion, Trent, and Tamika you three were actually in rooms the shooter entered.”
Tamika began slowly.
“Um. Yeah, so mine was the first classroom. No one was prepared. He came in, started shouting at everyone, then open fired. I hid under a desk and used my backpack as a shield.”
“And that was when you texted Vance?”
She nodded.
“What did that message to him say?”
“Just, ‘There’s a shooter. I think I’m going to die. I love you.’”
She sniffed, wiping her cheeks. Vance put his hand on her back.
“What was it like getting that kind of text from your girlfriend, Vance?”
“Horrible. Sickening. Um. I heard the gunshots and called the police, but it was completely unreal. I was in shock.”
“And that was the first report the police received of the event.”
Vance nodded.
“Buck Meltsner.”
I dragged my eyes to meet his.
“A Smallpox fan got a video of the emotional reuniting you had with your adoptive father, Eugene Meltsner. Did you know about Katrina’s condition at that time?”
“Yeah. I told him that she wasn’t breathing.”
“How did he take that news?”
I looked at Dion. His brow was furrowed.
“That’s kind of a personal question.”
This began ten seconds of silence. I felt more sweat forming at my hairline.
“Right,” Mr. Humphry said, shuffling through his cue cards. “Um. I was trying to avoid it, but I might as well address the elephant in the room. You’re all registered- Christians. The shooter was as well.”
This word came out louder than I intended.
“It’s said he targeted LGBT- people specifically. As Christians, does this feel like a positive thing?”
“We lost people.”
“Are you asking if we’re happy that there was a shooting?”
“I’m literally gay.”
I turned to Jules. My eyes told her everything. She stood up.
“A person’s relationship with Jesus Christ is not dependant on their success in earning a government approved title,” she took off her mic. “I’m sorry you’ve been misinformed.”
We followed her straight out of the theatre, past cameras, microphones, and fans into our limo, where she broke down crying.
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse
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Fudge Marble
Posts: 903
Joined: May 2016


This one's a little more mature, so I guess 14+? It's nothing pornographic or accessive. Just more adult topics. This one is long though, so if you still feel comfortable reading it, go ahead and enjoy! I'd also be happy to send anyone a clean version or a summary of the chapter so you're up to date with everything.

Chapter 18
I want to clarify. It wasn’t my idea. I know that doesn’t excuse my actions, but I had sworn off partying. In California, I spent most of my weekends over a toilet bowl. I was fourteen. I don’t know why my dad never stopped me from drinking so much. I was never addicted. It was just something I did to fit in. That was back when I wanted to be in movies. Maybe my dad was thinking the same thing I was. Hang around famous people, you’ll make connections eventually. I didn’t. I made a few friends my age playing the same game. Most were from my school. But moving to Odyssey really put things in perspective. I realized I hated partying. I hated getting drunk. I hated large groups. I thought my boyfriend did too. But he surprised me. Because everything was Buck’s idea.
After our “interview,” the band did everything together. We started checking up on Dion more. After a few days, we were able to visit Mandy, who seemed to be improving after the surgery that removed a bullet from her shoulder. Buck and I were inseparable. We were both emotional. He was angry, and I was just sad. I missed Jay. I missed Mandy. I missed Katrina, who still wouldn’t let anyone see her. Buck and I were more physical, even before we went to that stupid party. Nothing serious. Just cuddling while we talked or watched a movie. We probably kissed too much. We didn’t pray together. I think that was our biggest mistake. I think that’s why our feelings didn’t change. Why we ended up being welcomed into a teen-drowned mansion by Valery’s stoner boyfriend.
Buck put on his headphones and found a couch to sit on. He poured me a solo cup of beer and said something about grief. I’d never used alcohol to numb myself. I knew he had. When he was younger at least. I fell asleep in his arms. When I woke up was stroking my hair. He whispered that he had money to stay a night in the hotel down the street. I just nodded. At that moment self-control was futile.

Sitting up made my head throb. My heart pounded in my ears. I lied back down. Buck was there next to me, still asleep. I put my chin on his shoulder. Those soft blue eyes opened slowly.
“Hi beautiful,” he smiled. I kissed him.
“I gotta go.”
He frowned, “Okay.”
I redressed myself, pushing through a seething headache.
“I can drop you off…”
“You’re drunk.”
“Oh yeah. Okay, I’ll stay here.”
“Alright,” I smiled and rolled my eyes. “I love you.”
“Love you too.”
I texted Dion.
“Really Jules?” He hadn’t started the car again yet. I took a breath.
“Spare me the lecture. I learned my lesson. I know how you feel about it. Don’t worry, I'm never getting drunk ever again.”
“There’s an idea. Did you and Buck…?”
“How was that?”
“Good, I guess. Probably a decision I’ll regret when I’m more sober... I feel terrible.”
“Yeah. You don’t look great.”
“I mean you look tired. Did you eat before drinking?”
“A little.”
“That’s good.”
He began to drive out of the parking lot. Beyond the windows of the beat-up Toyota Dion shared with his sister, headlights outlined a tiny Connellsville skyline. I sniffed.
“I hate myself. Why did we do that?” I started crying.
“Hey, you are pretty drunk,” he chuckled.
“I’m tired.”
“Okay. Try to get some sleep. I’ll get you home as soon as I can.”

It was around eleven in the morning when I parked my car in front of our apartment complex. Heavy clouds hung overhead. I walked up three flights of stairs, then hesitated at the door. The number 28 hanging on the door looking suddenly more menacing than usual. I adjusted my mennat, then unlocked the door. Eugene was waiting for me.
“And where the hell have you been?”
He shook his head and pointed to the front door.
“Outside. Now.”
He followed me out.
“I made myself clear, son.”
“Did you?”
“What about ‘do not drink alcohol’ was not clear?”
“I don’t know. I-I can make my own decisions.”
“Hm. And what other decisions did you make while you were out neglecting your family?”
“Neglecting my family?”
“Yes, Buck. In case you haven’t noticed, your mother hasn’t gotten out of bed in two and a half weeks. She’s seriously depressed. Last night she wouldn’t eat. She was too worried about where you were. Not to mention that Eliza is sick as well.”
“She can’t keep down a cracker. I don’t know if it’s a flu… I can’t call in a doctor or anything. I needed you here, Buck.”
“I’m sorry.”
He shook his head, his pointer finger resting on his chin.
“We’re cutting this off now. I hope you understand that. Not another drop, Buck. Alcohol does not fix mental pain. Sex does not fix emotional pain.”
I broke eye contact.
“You can come inside now. Your mother would like to speak with you.”
I hadn’t talked to Katrina in a couple days. She wouldn’t admit it, but she was ashamed of her condition. Most of the time she would only let Eugene into that tiny master bedroom at the end of the hall. I walked in. My mom sat in bed, her blond hair in two long French braids. She set down her book when she saw me.
“Have a seat.”
I sat down in the armchair next to the bed. For a few seconds, we didn’t talk. She just stared at me. I stared at the floor.
“Do we have to have this conversation?” I asked.
She took a deep breath.
“I’m not mad.”
“I’m assuming you were both drunk.”
“But there was consent?”
“Of course.”
“Did you use protection?”
I shook my head.
“I’m sorry! I figured you’d be happy I don’t carry around condoms.”
“I’d definitely prefer that over becoming a grandmother at thirty-nine.”
“…that’s fair.”
“So, we agree that wasn’t a safe choice?”
“Is Jules okay?”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Is she alright? Girls can’t just move on from something like that. Have you talked to her today?”
“Call her. Go to Connie’s. Do something. She could be feeling so terrible right now…”
“Because girls are emotional, Buck! She could feel like you took advantage of her. She was vulnerable. She was drunk.”
“I love her. She knows that.”
“Double check.”
She let out a shaky breath.
“Why did you do that, Buck? I wanted so much better for you.”
I was angry, but her question did make me think. Why did we? I mean- aside from the obvious. And then it hit me.
“Maybe I wouldn’t have if you weren’t shutting me out.”
“What do you mean, what? You won’t let me near you! I ask Eugene every day if I can come in, just to see how you’re doing and most of the time he says no.”
“I’m grieving…”
“And you think I’m not? This alone hurts so much. I hate it with everything in me. I hate him.”
“You have to let me figure everything out. I need time.”
“You won’t let me talk to you most days! You don’t want to talk about what happened. You’ve closed yourself off from everyone else.”
“You’re seventeen.”
“But I still need you! I need you every day, mom! You are the only person I can go to about my problems and one of my best friends is dead!” I was stopped by a sob.
“Come here, baby.”
I don’t care if I was being emotional. I was very broken. So, I let my mom hold me as I cried because she was my person who knew how to fix broken things.

Someone knocked on my door. I opened it.
“Hi,” I turned red and broke eye contact.
“Hi. Can I come in?”
I nodded, turning into the house to find my tea again.
“Jeff said it would help the vomiting,” I shrugged, referring to the mug in my hand.
I took a sip. I’m not sure if he was looking at me. My eyes were fixed on the brown water inside the cup between my suddenly moist hands.
“Katrina told me to come over.”
My heart turned against my stomach. Eye contact.
“You told her?”
Wow, he looks different.
“She just knew.”
“How did she just know? She can’t just know these thi-”
“I don’t know! I didn’t tell her I swear! But I was gone for a long time.”
I set down my mug, panic flooding my throat.
“D-does he know?”
He nodded.
“Oh my god.”
“That’s not very Christian,” he practically laughed.
“I’m sorry, do you find this funny?”
He put his hands up.
“Just trying to lighten the mood. Does Connie not know?
“I didn’t think she did. I don’t know. She probably does though if your parents do.”
I sat down on the couch, trying to find my breath.
“Why did um- Katrina send you over here?”
“She wanted me to make sure you were okay.”
“So… are you okay?”
He sat down next to me.
“I- haven’t gotten that drunk in a long time.”
“That’s not… really what I was referring to.”
“I know,” I took a deep breath. “I’m okay… we didn’t use any kind of protection, did we?”
“Apparently not.”
“What does that mean?”
“I wasn’t sure if you took birth control.”
“I don’t.”
“So, I could be pregnant.”
“I mean- yeah… but that like- doesn’t happen hardly ever, right?”
“I don’t know.”
“Katrina thinks we should come up with a plan.”
“A plan?”
“To make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
I nodded once.
“Okay. Should we just stop talking?”
“No. I mean- is that what you want?”
“Obviously not. I don’t know what you want me to say. Everything was fine. It was good. But we broke a lot of boundaries. Especially the emotional one.”
“It was a pain killer.”
He let out a breath.
“I think we should break up,” I honestly didn’t expect to hear myself say that. I know he didn’t.
“I-I’m sorry?”
“We can’t do this anymore. We both know it.”
“So, do you want to take a break… or… sorry, you just kind of caught me off guard.”
I nodded.
“Yeah definitely at least a break. I love you. You know that. But we can’t be trusted around each other. It’s not safe this way.”
“Okay. Yeah, I know you’re right,” he swallowed, “I should get going.”
He stood up and I walked him to the door. And then we said goodbye.

My burning hands gripped the sides of the black music stand in front of me. As I pulled a creased piece of lined paper from my pocket, Pastor Knox lowered the microphone for me. I thanked him through a tight smile and brief eye contact. A drowning silence filled the room while I adjusted the paper to fit on the stand. I forced my eyes to look into the audience. I recognized few people. Why am I here? Do they even know who I am? Did they know who he was? Who he really was? That’s why you’re here. I struggled for a moment to take a sturdy breath, aligning my paper with a couple markings on the black pedestal. I glanced up again and found Jules’ eyes. She nodded. I opened my mouth.
“S-so before this I told a lot of people; I was really nervous. Everyone was surprised. If you didn’t know, I’m in a band. I think people assume I can talk in front of people easily. But talking about this… I’m not used to it so if I stutter a lot or run off the stage that’s um. That’s why.”
I got a bit of laughter in response.
“I’m going to talk about Jay Smouse. He was my boyfriend. I’m sorry if that makes anyone uncomfortable. I think his parents would be speaking instead of me, but they’re overseas right now. Please be praying for them. They haven’t been back since they found out. A lot of you don’t know who Jay was. He wasn’t the best at making friends. He’d been rejected a lot, so that made it difficult for him to approach people. First, Jay’s name wasn’t Jay. It was Jacob. Jacob Carson Smouse. He hated the name. I think it fits him. I looked up its meaning, but you probably all know what I found. Jacob means heel. So, there’s really very little symbolism there, but I’ll do my best.
Jay hated his name. Maybe because of its meaning. I don’t really know. But in a way, it’s a great representation of what Jay thought of himself. He hated who he was and what it meant to be Jay Smouse. I’ll never understand that. Jay was the most beautiful, deep, soulful person I’ve ever met. I wish he could have seen that. I wish more people could have seen that. How he treated others. I know he got a bad rep for being the “middle school bully” or something. So did I. But we grew up. After Jay became a Christian, there was such an amazing, obvious change in him. I can’t count how many times we passed someone on the street who needed help or money. He would drop everything. Pull over the car because someone needed help and no one else was helping. It was stunning. Jay was different. And not just because he was bisexual or because he could recite an entire Shakespeare show from memory. But his innocence. He never grew up in the best way. He was able to enjoy the simplest things. He just understood humanity.
Fifteen days ago, we were sitting in class. No one suspected anything, and in the four minutes the shooter spent in my classroom, my life changed so drastically. I never thought I’d be shot at. I never thought Jay would be taken from me like that. Some of you are probably wondering how he died. I- won’t go into gruesome detail, but he was shot in the stomach. So… he was… in a lot of pain until the end. Seeing him like that was so hard.”
I sniffed back a sob as tears slipped down my cheeks.
“Sorry. Um…”
I found my place on the paper. It was wet.
“I just wanted to take it from him. I wanted to put it onto myself. I’ve also been asked if I got to say goodbye. I guess I answered that already, but yeah. I got to say goodbye. I’m so sorry if you didn’t get to see your loved ones before you lost them. I know so many of you didn’t. If it’s any comfort, I think sometimes it’s better not to see them in pain. My last memory of my boyfriend isn’t a good representation of what he looked like most of the time I knew him. I wish you all could have known him. I’m sorry if he hurt you, or you were afraid to talk to him. Believe me, he was more afraid to talk to you. But I know he loved you all. I think he envied you all.
I’ll be done in a minute,” I folded up my paper, “but first I wanted to ask something of you. Please. Don’t dehumanize our community. I know you might not believe in our choices, but I wanted to show you how real we were. I’m gay, but I’m just as human. I loved him just as much as anyone else loves their boyfriend or girlfriend. Jay loved Jesus as much as any of you. Trust me on that. I know where he is. I know where I’m going.
Mr. Whittaker helped me step down from the stage, then took my place at the podium. I limped back to the row where the band sat. Jules stood up, hugged me, and handed me a tissue.
“You were good. You did so good,” she whispered.
The ceremony ended later than planned. We walked out of the church at around nine.
“Hey. How’re you doin’?” Buck came up behind me and put his hand on my shoulder.
“I’m okay,” I sniffed. “Mrs. Swanson just prayed for me.”
“That’s good.”
“Yeah. Yeah it felt really good.”
I crossed my arms as we began down the sidewalk. Many people around us walked in the same direction. That was a nice night. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t not, not mad. But I had some kind of peace. The weather was beautiful. A warm breeze eradicated any humidity the unusually hot spring day had left behind. A faint shade of blue or pink could be seen on the horizon against Mount. Ontree.
“How’s Katrina doing?”
“She’s um. She’s alright. This wasn’t easy for her.”
“I know. I’m glad she came though.”
“Me too.”
“Dion! Dion!”
I turned around to see Camilla Parker fast walking towards me.
“Hey, I’ll talk to ya later,” Buck nodded to me, as he left to find his family.
“Sure. Hey Camilla.”
“Hi. I wanted to apologize.”
“For what?”
“For saying Jay was in Hell. It was super insensitive of me. It was cruel.”
“No. You’re going through a lot. I get it.”
She nodded.
“Well thank you for understanding.”
“How are you doing?”
She took a moment to think as we continued toward Whit’s End.
“I miss her. Obviously. It’s embarrassing, but I forget she’s- she’s dead. I have to remind myself every morning that she’s not there.”
“Hm. You know, yesterday I texted him. I actually sent a text, somehow without even thinking about it. I have his phone! It was in my pocket.”
“What did you text him?”
“A meme.”
We laughed a little.
“How are your parents holding up?”
She took a breath and shrugged.
“Terrible. They cry all the time. We can’t get through dinner anymore without someone leaving the table. Her absence it just too much I guess.”
“Are you getting help?”
“Matthew and I go to a counselor every other day.”
“That’s good. Has it helped?”
“I think so. Sometimes it feels like a waste of time. I know it’s not. We’re having good conversations… Sorry. Can I ask you a question?”
“Why are you gay?”
“Oh. Um. I mean. That’s a hard question since I’ve kind of always known. I never liked girls like that.”
“Okay. But How did you really know you were gay?”
“Okay, that’s hard. Um. I- liked boys. I mean, how did you know you were straight?”
We were stopped at the front steps of Whit’s End. About a dozen people were walking in.
“Um,” she broke eye contact and swallowed. “Can we go inside?”
“Yeah. Yeah of course.”

My heart was pounding against my throat. I tried to take a deep breath as we found a booth to sit at. I folded my hands and stared at them on the table in front of me.
“Camilla? Hey,” Dion put his hand on mine, “It’s alright. Just talk when you’re ready.”
I nodded.
“I- I don’t think I’m…”
“You can say it,” he nodded.
“Dion, I’m a lesbian. Is that- did that sound right?”
“Yeah. Yeah, that sounded just right.”
A sob hit my chest.
“I don’t know what to do.”
He slipped into the booth next to me and gave me a hug.

She cried into my shoulder. I cried with her. Then I told her everything I wish I’d known. How hard it would be. And then we went on an Imagination Station adventure. We went on the Esther Adventure. Just to find somewhere better to talk.

He understood. I’d never met anyone who understood so well. That evening I came out. It was hard and terrifying and unexpected. But I took a step. Even if it was just to one person. I took a step. For the first time in a very long time, I had hope.


We left the ceremony and the next morning it was like an unliftable burden was placed onto our home. The burden of normality. Complete, grotesque, readily expectant normality. Like a starving lion, it had been waiting for us. For us to realize we had to move on with life. Yes, even though we’d lost people. Even though we were struggling financially. Even though one parent was wheelchair bound. We had to learn to cope. My personal schedule was turned on its head. Sleeping was… difficult. I wouldn’t admit it then, but I was in deep paranoia. I would go to bed as late as possible and wake up as early as possible. I needed to see that she was sleeping. I needed to see that she was breathing. Eliza had the flu, so I would stay up with her every night until she somehow got to sleep. I had to stay up to make sure Buck was in his room, in bed, alone. And then I’d wake up around four or five after getting maybe three hours of sleep. Make sure she’s breathing. Make sure she’s not throwing up. Make sure he’s here. I’d wake Katrina up at five to help her get ready. Then she’d help me make breakfast as much as she could. Then I’d go to work. Buck would stay home to take care of Eliza. Partly as punishment for his unruly behavior from earlier that week, partly because no one else could. Katrina helped as much as possible.

I could hold her. She would sit on my lap for hours. Buck would sit on the couch in the corner and we probably watched every Disney movie on Netflix three times. That time turned out to be really beneficial. Eliza would fall asleep on the couch or in her bed and Buck and I would just talk for hours.

“Why did you stop?”
“…I miss him.”
“But what happened next?”
“Ask someone else. Ask Elizabeth. I can’t write any more.”
“Sure, you can!”
“I don’t want to. Please don’t make me.”
“Okay… I’m trying to help you out, Mrs. Meltsner.”
“I know.”
“Just one more paragraph?”
“Can I sleep after that?”
“Of course.”
“Alright. One more.”
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse
Jo March
Raspberry Ripple
Posts: 709
Joined: July 2016
Location: Look in the Library


Wow. Okay then. I'm not particularly sure what I think about this, I just know you did a great job portraying the emotions and thoughts of the characters. Your writing skills have definitely improved...
Jo March
"There is no such thing as impossible. The word itself says I'm possible."-Audrey Hepburn
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” –C.S. Lewis
“No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.” P.T. Barnum
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Fudge Marble
Posts: 903
Joined: May 2016


Haha well thank you. Yeah frankly I'm not too sure of what's happening or how I feel about it either. Should I keep writing this series? Idk sometimes I want to delete this topic. My parents are convinced I'm scarring the twelve-year-olds I've told not to read this stuff.
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse
Caramel Crunch
Posts: 114
Joined: December 2018


I agree with Jo, your writing is brilliant. When I come up with stories/fanfiction I know what I want to happen, so I just link those events together. so you could always write down the scenes that are crucial to the overall plot, and then add the rest after as deleted scenes. I do agree it may be slightly too mature for younger readers. maybe you could post a 'cut-down', less serious version on here, and post the more mature version on I personally can't wait to hear how this fanfiction story ends, and it really would be a shame to not be able to read the whole thing.
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Fudge Marble
Posts: 903
Joined: May 2016


Alright, thanks! That's really helpful! I like the idea of posting the full version on a different platform. Not sure if I'll use or a different site, but it shouldn't be too hard to sort the chapters so I can put all the important information here.
Last edited by PennyBassett on Fri Jul 19, 2019 7:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse
User avatar
Fudge Marble
Posts: 903
Joined: May 2016


We got to over 50,000 clicks since I posted last. So that's pretty sick. Let me know what you think of this one. (13+ probably. Just inexplicit reference to sex and stuff.)

Chapter 19
It was one of the worst feelings I’ve had to face. That all-consuming stab of soul-deep dread. The sudden inability to breathe as panic made me run to my car, turn it on, drive back to CVS, make another purchase, speed back home. Face reality. There they were. Two lines. Two dark lines.
I didn’t know who to tell. I didn’t want to tell anyone. When I went to church that Sunday, I felt like I was lying. I couldn’t escape the feeling that they all knew. They all knew what I’d done. What I was thinking of doing. What I wanted to do to myself. I wanted to leave. I’m not a fighter. Instead, I’ve got my flight instinct mastered. I’ll run away from anything too hard to face. I can run for years. I have run for years. I’m still running from some things.
I didn’t really do much for a few weeks. Our school classes were moved online. I’d always gotten good grades, so finishing my homework usually took around four hours. The rest of my day was spent numbing. Numbing the pain. Numbing the regret. Numbing shock. Numbing the PTSD. Trying not to fall asleep. I finally realized how Buck felt every night. And I couldn’t tell him. I didn’t tell Connie. She was different during the months after the shooting. She seemed older somehow. Jeff did too. They were constantly stressed out. They wouldn’t say it, but I knew money was tight. Jeff usually left once a month on a mission trip, but they stopped soon after the shooting. Paranoia is powerful, and it had sunk its claws even into the northernmost territories of Alaska. No one wanted Carry the Cure’s help. What I can define now as depression and denial kept Jeff from trying to find another job. Our income rested on Connie’s work at Whit’s End and an occasional wedding. Though, even that business slowed significantly. To put it mildly, we were a mess. I wasn’t about to make it bigger.
Life continued at its normal pace. Everyone else’s world didn’t stop turning just because mine had. Part of me thought if I ignored it, things would just fix themselves. But they didn’t. And then one day I got tired of running.
It was a Tuesday. It was snowing a little. Nothing really happened. No one had even talked to me that day. But I called Buck.
“Are you sure?”
His gaze was fixed to the napkin holder between us. I looked past him. Across the street from a nearly vacant Whit’s End, a couple held hands and laughed as they walked through the snowy park. Cold envy rushed to my forehead. I nodded slowly.
“I haven’t gone to the doctor, but I don’t think two pregnancy tests would lie.”
My eyes fell to the floor. I heard Buck swallow.
“Um. Sorry- it’s just- it’s a shock.”
“I know.”
“Have you told anyone else?”
“What’s your plan? I- I don’t want to tell you what to do.”
“Bold of you to assume I’ve come up with a plan.”
“You haven’t?”
“Of course not,” I twisted my hands together, trying to break the silence, “I don’t want to get an abortion or anything.”
“I didn’t think you would. How do you feel about adoption?”
“I think I’d feel guilty. I don’t know. I’ll think about it. But this isn’t just my decision. You do have a say in it.”
“Okay. It’s just kind of weird now. Didn’t we break up?”
“Well that’s what makes this- complicated.”
My eyes bounced from his eyes to his chest, back to those deep blue eyes- I need him.
“We could move in together,” he said out of nowhere.
“I’ve been saving up. We could find an apartment. Raise our kid. That doesn’t sound too bad to me.”
“I agree, but that’s a lot to rush into.”
“Just thinking out loud.”
I took a breath.
“So, I guess we tell people now?”
“Yeah. Yeah now we tell people.”

I’d heard Dion tell his coming out story a couple times. He’d always described a scene where he’d sat his parents down in the living room to tell them. I didn’t fully understand that feeling until I had to tell my parents that my girlfriend was pregnant. Once I had chosen the right sentence, it played on repeat against my skull all afternoon. I finally got them alone.
My mom and dad, the two most beautiful, loving people I’d ever met, sat in front of me. These were the people who had given up everything to be my parents. To make sure I was in a family. To make sure I had a future.
“Uh. Thanks for agreeing to talk to me.”
Just say it.
Katrina lowered her eyebrows.
Just say it.
Eugene cleared his throat.
Just say it.
Say it.
Say it!
“What’s this about?”
“Jules is pregnant.”
Eugene told me to sit down.
I did.
“Give me your hand.”
I did.
“We love you. Son, do you understand?”
I nodded.
“I messed up.”
“And you’re forgiven. Completely forgiven.”

“Mr. Hansen, I realize this is unusual, but please- just try to understand my situation. He’s seventeen. He’s just lost his- I- sir-…. alright. Okay. I’ll be in at nine.”
Tears pounded down my cheeks as I set my phone down on the tiny green thing we in front of me we called a dinner table. With the back of my hand pressed against my mouth, I took in a few unstable breaths and forced myself to walk into the living room. I sat down on the thinly carpeted floor. Next to me lie a tightly wrapped bundle of brother. I stared at his face for minute. I studied his tear-stained brown skin, his dark scattered freckles, the wrinkles between his eyebrows. Maybe he was having a nightmare. In a practiced gentleness, I stroked his hair, letting his heavy black curls ripple between my fingers.
I squeezed his shoulder.
Those inky wet eyes blinked open.
“I need to go to work.”
This didn’t seem to register.
“They need me at the store in twenty minutes. I’ll put on Netflix for you.”
I picked up the remote and found the app on the TV, then started Aladdin. Before standing up, I gave him another assuring shoulder caress.
“Please don’t leave me.”
I turned to the emotionally ill child next to me and got on his level again. He was so young. His eyes and nose were red from days of crying. His lips chapped. I took his hand, then kissed his head. I took a heavy breath, keeping my forehead against his for a moment.
“I’m so sorry. I love you.”
It took every ounce of energy I had to leave.

“Oh my god, I am so sorry.”
I scurried to pick up the boxes of Advil I’d dropped in front of a man walking down the medicine aisle.
“No, no you’re fine. Don’t worry about it.”
He handed me a box.
I hurriedly put the containers back on the shelf.
“Hey, you’re Nahla, right?”
“That’s right. Do I know you?”
I scanned the creased face of the man in front of me, trying to pinpoint where I’d seen those blue eyes before.
“No, no. I don’t think we’ve met,” he explained, “but I’ve seen you on Dion’s Facebook page.”
“Oh. Of course. You’re a fan. Well if you’re looking for an autograph or something, he’s not seeing anyone right now. There are kind of bigger things going on.”
“Yeah, I know, I’m actually just wondering how he’s doing. Sorry, I’m Jason Whittaker. I think you’ve met my dad. He owns Whit’s End. He and Jay were really close.”
“Oh, yeah I took Dion to Whit’s End a couple of weeks ago. Sorry. People have been very invasive. Um. He’s doing alright. He’s- well he’s grieving. We have good and bad days.”
“Of course. If you don’t mind me asking, where is he staying right now?”
“He’s living with me. So right now, he’s home alone. It’s the first time since it happened. But I have to work, you know? I can’t stay with him all the time. I don’t know how he’s doing. I can’t call him. I’m- frankly I’m afraid he’s suicidal.”
“Then he can’t be home alone!”
“I know, but I didn’t know what else to do. If I don’t work, I can’t pay off my apartment. Our parents won’t come take care of him- they- they don’t-” I was cut off by my sobs. I tried to contain them.
“Can I hug you?”
I nodded.
“I’m so sorry, Nahla.”
“I might have a solution.”
“What’s that?”
I wiped my cheeks with the sleeve of my sweatshirt.
“What would you think of him staying with me?”
“What? I can’t ask you to do that.”
“You’re not. I’m volunteering.”
I chuckled despite my tears.
“You don’t have to work?”
“Actually no. I run an antique shop. I can close it until he’s doing better, and no one will complain.”
“Alright. Um, does he know you? If you’re Whit’s son, I’m sure you’re trustworthy, he just- he’s unstable right now.”
“Yeah. We met at the service last week.”
I nodded.
“Okay. Um. Can you meet us tomorrow at nine-thirty?”
We exchanged numbers before parting ways, and I went home that night with more hope than I’d had in a long while.

“Jeff?! Did you get those application forms?!”
“They’re in the car, babe! Do you want one of those yogurt-granola things to take with us?!”
“Oh, Sure!”
“Sorry,” Jules gagged, pushing past me, into the bathroom. I followed her in.
“You good?”
She nodded before vomiting into the toilet. With a square of toilet paper, she wiped her mouth, then leaned against the wall.
“I hate this.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. I’m getting what I deserve.”
I couldn’t really disagree with her.
“Do you need anything?”
She sighed.
“I’ll be fine. Breakfast is kind of ruined,” she pulled herself up, “I need to get started with school anyway.”
I nodded.
“Jeff! Do you have your driver’s license?!”
“In my wallet, Connie.”
I found her at the kitchen island.
“I think we finally have everything.”
“Looks like it.”
“Oh! I forgot to tell Jules about that- never mind we’re late I’ll meet you in the car!” She was upstairs by the time she finished the sentence.

“Are you okay?”
“Hm? Me. Yeah. I’m good,” she squeaked, tapping her finger on the armrest between us.
“Okay. Cuz, we haven’t talked about this pregnancy thing.”
There was about half a minute of silence.
“I didn’t know they were sleeping together. I mean- were they- did they do that in OUR HOUSE.”
“We ‘do that’ in our house. And Jules said it was just once.”
“Yeah but I know these teenagers. They are sneaky. Lying all the time. I lied constantly as a teen. Constantly. And am I just supposed to believe she got pregnant just after one time? I’m not pregnant.”
“You didn’t lie as a teenager.”
“Before I became a Christian.”
“Buck and Jules are Christians. Also, why wouldn’t you believe that? It happens all the time. You’re on birth control. That’s why you’re not pregnant. They didn’t.”
“See that’s the other thing! She told you more about this than me!”
“She probably thought you’d punish her.”
“Yeah, you bet I would!”
“You’re not helping your point.”
We both took a breath. Eight months to go.


I woke up in a cold sweat. Through my nausea, I was able to pick up my phone to see the time.

My heart skipped a beat and made me jolt.
“Calm down, Dion. It’s just the front door. You’re fine,” Jay laughed in my head.
I nodded to myself. He was right. He was always right. I was safe.
“Hey. Thanks for coming. Sorry. I meant to wake him up before you got here… but. I don’t know, he looked so peaceful,” Nahla spoke from our small entryway. I didn’t recognize who’d come through the door until he had followed my sister into the living room and taken a seat on the floor next to me.
“That’s Jason. Whit’s son. He’s hot.”
“Shut up.”

I found Nahla’s eyes.
“You know Jason, right?”
I nodded.
“Okay. You’re gonna go stay at his condo for a little bit.”
“Lucky you.”
“Shut. Up.”

“Um. I’ve got a nice place. A whole guest bedroom. You wouldn’t have to sleep in the living room.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Honey I can’t take care of you. I need to work. We’ll have to put you officially in the foster system. But this looks like a really good solution to me.”
The almost nervous man in front of me cleared his throat, “I um- I have a pretty big TV.”
“See this is why you should come to be with me instead. They don’t need you. She’s trying to shove you off onto someone else. They’re trying to find you a babysitter. I need you.”
“I don’t want to be a burden.”
“Are you kidding me? I’ve been praying for someone like you to spent time with.”
“Oh. I- didn’t realize he’d been praying for you. That’s. That’s actually pretty cool. You can’t say you haven’t been praying for someone like him. Don’t try to lie. I’m in your brain. You told me anyway. Remember? The night at the carnival?”
I changed into clean clothes while we waited for a social worker to show up. A few signatures later, Jason was my foster-dad. And I actually felt really proud of that.

“So, when we get home, I’ll make you whatever you want for breakfast.”
This forced me to take a breath. The idea of someone spending their time pampering me was so foreign. Even just breakfast. It was something. A parent hadn’t made my breakfast in six months.
“Okay. Do you have hash-browns?”
“Yes, sir.”
“So Nahla didn’t mention this, I don’t think, but I found a therapist for you. She’s a Christian and specializes in helping gay youth. She’s lesbian herself. You’ll be very safe.”
“Wow. He’s good.”
“Yeah. No problem.”


“I’m up.”
“No one’s paying you to sleep on the job. You realize that.”
“Yeah. I know. Sorry. Um. Who are we checking on today?”
“Two-hundred seven.”
“That’s right. Know someone there?”
“Yeah. A few. You?”
“Wait- two hundred? That’s a long walk for midnight.”
“Cory wanted us to catch them when they don’t suspect it.”
“Cory’s a drama queen.”
“You wanna say that to his six-pack? That’s about where your eyes meet right?”
“Very funny. Let’s just get this over with.”
“So, who’s in two ‘o seven? A long-lost girlfriend?”
“It’s an odd cell.”
“A long-lost boyfriend?”
“No. Actually.”
“Then why do you look so wistful?”
“Oh. I see those English classes are doing your vocabulary wonders. Wistful.”
“Answer the question.”
“Fine. Fine. My son is in cell two hundred seven.”
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse
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Chapter 20 (woo)

And overnight my life’s purpose completely changed. My occupation became preservation. I went from selling ancient lawn furniture to spoon-feeding a seventeen-year-old. The days blurred together. Each one was the same. I got up, got dressed, made breakfast, woke Dion up, fed him, told him to get dressed, got disobeyed, gave up, put on a Disney movie, more food, more cleaning, what else is there to do, more reading, more crying, more comforting, more healing, small healing, millisteps, progressless.
“I miss him.”
I just nodded.
“I miss touching him.”
“Yeah. When Jerry died- I didn’t expect that to be so hard. Sometimes I just needed a hug from my older brother.”
But it feels fake. Fake advice. Trying to relate and failing every day. I could try to speak on my breakups, but they’re such different things. Pouting vs. Grieving. You can’t compare them. I don’t know what he’s going through. He reminded me that two days ago. I have no idea how he feels. That bothers me for some reason. I don’t like things I can’t understand. But I can’t understand him. I don’t understand what it’s like to be black, or Asian, or mixed. I don’t understand what it’s like to be gay. I’ve never been rejected by my parents. I don’t understand how emotional he is. My brain labels emotion as weak. It probably came from my job. I guess we have one thing in common. One thing I can understand. We’ve both been shot.
“Dion. You need to get up. Our appointment is at eleven.”
“I don’t want to.”
“I know, but you need to anyway.”
“I can’t.”
“You can. It’ll make you feel better. It always does. I’ll get you something at Whit’s End after.”
“People at Whit’s End hate me.”
“That’s not true.”
I put my hand on his shoulder. He flinched away.
“Please. We’ll go wherever you want. Just get up.”

Dion’s POV

I wish I could remember more of those days, but I don’t. It’s just a blur of nightmares, vomit, and that light blue bedroom that threatened to drive me into the ground. I hated sunny days, I hated visitors, I hated light. How can anyone be remotely happy when I am sinking into hell? All I knew was that my love was gone. My love was gone, and he wasn’t coming back.

We walked into Walmart. People avoided eye contact with us as we made our way to the baby section. I fished the list from Rachel House out of my pocket.
“Where do we start?” Buck asked.
We’d forgotten a cart, so he went back to get one, leaving me, standing alone in front of a section of onesies and socks. I’d always passed by that isle so many times, always thinking everything was so cute. Now that I had reason to be there though, it was overwhelming and uncomfortable. Buck returned with a cart, using it as a scooter briefly, before bringing it to a halt in front of me.
“You know you could try to act your age for at least five minutes.”
“Woah! Jules look! It’s a little bear… what are these called?
“Can we get it?”
“Babe I don’t even know if we’re having a boy or a girl yet.”
“Um- I’m pretty sure bears are gender neutral.”
“Okay, maybe we should plan on buying the things we need first, and then if our very limited budget allows it, we can buy the bear onesie.”
“Now go get diapers.”

We got back to my house and transported all our new goodies to a corner of my bedroom.
“If this doesn’t make you want to get an apartment, I don’t know what will. You barely have room to breathe in here.”
“Okay that’s an exaggeration. And I still don’t understand how you expect us to be able to afford an apartment.”
“Yeah. Well, we have some money.”
“College funds.”
“College funds. We were saving up before everything went crazy.”
“I’m still saving up.”
There was a beat.
“So, then we have more than I thought.”
“I’m sorry. Maybe I’m misunderstanding something here. You’re saying that when we turn eighteen, we should move into an apartment to raise our baby, and the way we plan on paying for it is throwing away our future?”
“What future? Christian colleges barely exist anymore, we couldn’t get in anywhere else, and we have Smallpox. We’ll make so much money once we start doing shows I know it-”
“But we can’t do that with me pregnant, and we can’t write more songs without Jay, and in case you forgot, he’s dead, so that’s not happening.”
“We’ve written some stuff.”
“It’s not as good.”
“Maybe it could get better. We could do covers. We’re celebrities!”
“We’re not celebrities.”
“Then why do you have three million Instagram followers?”
“You think I want that? They’re all watching me, Buck. Everyone. All the time. You know I get death threats on that app? I’m not doing shows anytime soon.”
“Okay. That’s fine. But I think you should tell the public.”
“It’s better than rumours getting out, or you getting hurt. What are you going to do if you don’t, just hide in here for nine months?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know yet. I can’t talk about it now. I- I don’t feel good.”
“Okay. I’m sorry. I’ll- let you rest.”
He kissed my forehead before making a quick exit.

“Hey! Rookie! Could we get those pretzels over here?”
“Yeah. I’m sorry. I’m coming.”
I set a large box of pretzels in a tiny kitchen area, then sat down. It was my fifth day on the job. No one knew my agony. I had landed planes in the middle of jungles, and the closest job I could get to a pilot was being a flight attendant. It was painful but paid the bills. Maybe it would give me a chance later. I knew that was a slim possibility though. People didn’t want Christians flying their plane. We were terrorists after all. Why wouldn’t we go through years of flight training just to kill ourselves and a bunch of people in a burning plane crash?

My son dragged himself into our apartment and slumped onto the couch.
“What’s new with you?” I asked, smirking at his expression.
“Jules doesn’t want to tell everyone she’s pregnant.”
“Okay. I mean- can you blame her?”
“Kind of. I don’t want her to get hurt. People have to find out eventually, right?”
“Sure. But you don’t introduce yourself as an ex-convict.”
“What’s your point?”
“That it’s her decision. Yes. People will have to find out. And yes, it’ll be embarrassing and difficult. So why shouldn’t she get to choose when she tells people? I know you feel like you need control here-”
“No, I don’t.”
“But you can’t this time.”
He sat there for a minute, staring at our decade old carpet. Then he stood up.
“Can I get you anything?”
“I’m good.”
He nodded, wandering toward the kitchen.
“I’m not mad.”
“I know. Just disappointed.”
“Get over here.”
With his hands in his pockets and eyes on the floor, he stopped at the wheels of my chair.
“You are not a disappointment. You never have been. I need you to know that.”
He nodded.
But he didn’t believe it yet.

“It’s been ten years.”
“It hurts.”
“I know.”
“Where’ve you been?”
“I had to go. I didn’t have a choice. You knew that.”
“You left me.”
“I know. I’m sorry. Is he taking care of you?”
“You’re gonna get me out of here, right?"
Last edited by PennyBassett on Tue Aug 13, 2019 5:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse
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Can I just say gay fanfic about AIO is such a shock and a breath of fresh air lol. I'm impressed you had the guts to write something like this in this community. It's very good and relatable and seems to be honest for someoneone who probably hasn't experienced half of the things that have happened in your fanfic. Great job! Some of the Christian stuff is a but wierd, but you've taken on a world and set it in a new world, and its continutity and realism is superb. I would love to see this as more of a book with each plot fleshed out a bit more fully. Thank you so much for sharing your talent here!
xo eht haiasi-
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Aw, this meant so much. Thank you! In reference to the AU stuff, uh, yeah it's weird. It's fun though at the same time because it's kind of a challenge to take something strange and pretty darn unrealistic that I came up with in middle school (and I guess thought made sense at the time) and try to make it somewhat believable. I'm glad you're enjoying it! If I made it into a book, which I've thought of doing, I'd probably set it in a different time period to avoid weird near-futuristic stuff like trying to keep up with technology or not getting it published soon enough and causing it to bleed into current events and stuff.
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse
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Location: On AIOWiki


I'm anticipating the talk with that therapist...
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Post this on AO3, Penny. Trust me, you really should.
I'm Monty Whittaker's greatest fan. member of the K.R.E
:mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
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Heya Kiddos. So fun fact I had to re-enter this super long chapter because my computer hates me. Woo. But yes, again, it's super long, so that's cool. It's also depressing. It's also got an age limit. Please, for your own emotional safety and mine, do not read this if you are not fourteen. Or at the very least don't read the first spoiler section. It gets heavy. As always, I appreciate feedback. :)

Chapter 21
“Mr. Whittaker. Welcome.”
“Right. Sorry. Jason. Well, you know what to do.”
“Yeah. Not gonna lie, I didn’t expect to have to do this.”
“Why not? I think you have some of the most important information.”
“I don’t know. It probably won’t hold up in court.”
“Maybe not. I like to think though, that your words aren’t for a judge and jury. It’s for everyone who wasn’t there. People will find this part interesting. They need to know how you ended up where you did, anyway.”
“It’s my life though. It’s- you know.”
“Yeah. I get it.”
“So. Where did we leave off?”
“You were taking care of Dion.”
“Hm. That’s right.”

My palms felt strange against a steering wheel. With the wet folds of my hands clinging to leather, I tried to slow my heart rate. It hadn’t stopped pounding in my ears since I’d left. I glanced at my car clock. I’d been gone for ten minutes.
Calm down, Jason. He’s fine.
It was the first time I’d left Dion alone since he’d moved in with me. The first time I’d driven in a couple of weeks. I took a heavy breath. It felt like a part of me was missing and no number of diaphragm-centered inhalations were going to change that. I wasn’t doing anything difficult: just going to Whit’s End. It was nothing unusual. But for me, at that time, I had to constantly resist the urge to pull into a driveway or backroad and turn around. This made me angry. It meant I’d gotten attached. My mind said attachment was a weakness, and I would not let myself feel weak.

I felt so weak. It already felt like my body was shutting down, why not take control, ya know? So, I tried. I wish I could say it wasn’t planned. As sickening as it is, my heart actually started racing with excitement when Jason said he was going to leave for the afternoon. I got the same thrill when I heard the garage door shut. I was lying in bed, cold, sweaty sheets lying over my half-numb leg, my other covered in goose-bumps. I took a deep breath and the most genuine, full smile spread across my face since I’d lost Jay. My stomach turned. My aching arm reached for the cane leaning against my nightstand. Determination filling my every movement, I used the stick to pull myself up, out of the room, down the hall, and into the kitchen. There, I rested, my smile unwavering. I scanned the cabinets. I felt an odd pressure to pick the right one. I knew I could get too tired or even faint if I spent too much time reaching up or moving things around. I hadn’t eaten in about four days. My eyes stopped on one above the microwave. It was as good a guess as any. As I limped over to it, I became more aware of the phones in my shorts’ pocket and their weight against my thigh. The thought of burying them or something slid across my brain. I didn’t have the energy. Just opening that blue cabinet door left me out of breath. But there it was. My wild card. My getaway car. My release. With a clammy hand, I brought the plastic cylinder to lean against my stomach, (I’d drop it otherwise) then took another look around. Along with the navy wooden cabinets, sky blue wall tile filled any spaces they did not. White tile lined the floor. A black refrigerator with a screen on it filled the room with a low hum. That was the only noise. Outside was dreary and silent. I took a breath and took a seat at the small, but nice-looking black dining table. Shaking, I set the bottle in front of me. And that’s when reality pulled up a chair and lay his wiry hands, folded onto the wood between us. With piercing white eyes, he glanced from the bottle at my fingertips to the perspiration on my hairline and scoffed, his nose in the air. In a crisp, ungodly tone, he whispered,
That inaccuracy lingered a moment, as I dropped my cane. It sent a snap rippling across the kitchen behind me. It took a deep breath, but I was able to open the bottle. I looked the demon in the eyes, I poured the smooth get-out-of-jail-free cards into my palm, and without hesitation, piled them onto my tongue. A full mouth was a foreign thing. I accepted the help of a nearby water bottle. And in a few seconds that first round was past my throat. What a glorious, choking, sensation. I filled another palm, but that time stopped at my lips. In the seat across from mine, that enemy sat cackling; cracking up at every action.
“You’re still wrong,” I said aloud.
And down went another round.
The second time felt different. It felt worse. It felt better. I felt sick. My pocket buzzed. I regained blurry eye-contact with my monster, to see him shaking his skull-thin head. I’d lost control awhile ago. Through blurry vision, I was able to press ‘answer’ and ‘speaker’.
“Dion! It’s not your heart! You have no right to stop it!”

“Dion! Dion!” I screamed into my iPhone for probably five minutes before the sobs against my throat couldn’t be suffocated anymore. My head spun. I held it against my mattress.
“Babe. Hey. Hey.”
And then I was in Buck’s lap, trying to catch my breath, forcing out what words I could. He understood.

I shoved my car into park and stumbled onto my front lawn. It was dark by then, but the three emergency vehicles in my driveway and the adjacent street gave plenty of light to the otherwise silent middle-class neighborhood. I couldn’t get through my door fast enough. I pushed past medics and police officers to my embarrassingly nice kitchen, in the middle of which lie- who was that? The young man, beautiful, scarred, dark, endlessly freckled, motionless. That was my child. A medic was kneeling next to him, giving him CPR. A hand appeared on my back. I turned to see Detective Polehaus’ eyes filled with ageless empathy.
“I need to sit down,” I breathed.
He nodded and led me to the living room couch, where I buried my head in my hands.

Jules silently cried on the drive to Jason’s. Buck sat in the back seat with her, holding her hand. I was asked to drive when it became clear she didn’t want her boyfriend to leave her grasp. I parked on the side of a luminescent street and helped Jules out of the car. She was dazed but able to cling to us as we brought her inside. Several medics stood and knelt in front of Dion’s barely visible body. The living room held Detective Polehaus, who stood in the corner, staring at the floor, Nahla, with her eyes, fixed on another section of carpet, and Jason, who got up from the couch when he saw us. He tried to greet me, but tears cut off his first sentence. I gave him a hug, then explained.
“Jules wants to pray for him.”

I can’t explain how I knew. I just felt this heaviness all day. Some sort of dread seemed to sit in my chest until Dion was all I could think about. And then at around five, it hit all at once, along with a great fear. That’s when I called him. Then I knew I had to be there. I had to pray for him. It wasn’t an option. It was a command. So, Buck and I got on the ground next to him, took his hands, and prayed.

You need to understand. The medical professionals around us could not bring air to my friend’s lungs. They’d been trying for half an hour when Jules and I showed up. My stunning, tear-stained girlfriend sat down with the hopeless human and fell into deeper prayer than I’ve ever seen come from her. I couldn’t follow her to wherever she found Jesus to plead for the life I could feel slipping from me. Yet. Our God remains El Roi.

There was a rush of oxygen and a burst of light. And I was there. Not fully, not audibly. But I was there. I had failed. Thank God, I had failed.

The second Dion was breathing again he was transferred to a stretcher and put in an ambulance. I followed it to Odyssey General Hospital, where I stayed the night in a waiting room armchair. I was awoken the next morning by Doctor Graham, who explained that after they’d removed the poison from his system, Dion had made a full physical recovery. She knew why. She knew prayer had worked.
“It’s all my nurses can talk about,” she chuckled, leading me to my ward’s brightly lit aquatic-themed room. Colorful paper fish hung above the bed at the center of the room, while paintings of similar creatures lined the walls. I pulled over a chair and sat down next to his bed. Dion opened his eyes when I took his hand. His gaze was too much. I tried to catch my breath, sniffing, staring at the ground a moment, just wanting to say something. I couldn’t find any words. So, I cried again. I cried and stroked his head until I got out a crackly,
“You are so valuable.”
We brought him home a week later. I can’t say he was happy about his situation, but something was different about him. There was hope in my house again. There was expectation, and occasionally even joy. We had our rough days. We had days when he wouldn’t get out of bed. Days when I caught him harming himself. Days where he helped me make dinner. Slowly, we were making progress.
“Dion? Can I talk to you about something?” I took the remote from the coffee table and paused his movie. He sat up and stretched, leaving a space for me to join him on the couch.
“So Wooton and Penny Bassett are in a similar situation that we are.”
His eyes narrowed.
“They have a friend that stays with them sometimes,” I explained, “He’s about your age. Anyway, they asked if we wanted to come over for dinner tomorrow night.”
“Um. How is that like our situation?”
“Because he’s- gay.”
“Okay now it feels like you’re trying to set me up with someone,” he laughed.
“Actually, I was just thinking you could use a friend who understands.”
He nodded.
“Okay. Yeah, that could be good.”

Across from me and my plate of macaroni and cheese, sat a blue-eyed brunette wearing an oversized black sweatshirt. He bit his lip as if he was going to say something, then put a forkful of food into his mouth. Chewing, he made eye contact with Wooton, then a split second with me before looking back to his food. I looked to Jason for help. His glance wide-eyed and confused, he gestured toward the boy with his spoon of homemade applesauce. I took a deep breath.
“Um. How long have you known the Bassetts?” I spoke at a weird volume, not wanting to interrupt the adults’ conversation or get stuck repeating myself.
“Um. I guess it’s been… wow. Nine years? Yeah, I met Wooton when I was eight.”
I nodded. There was maybe a minute of us eating and listening to the other table conversations.
“That was actually a funny situation. I pretended to be…” his sentence trailed off. I stopped eating.
“Sorry,” he stared at the table, swallowed, looked at Wooton, “He’s dead now.”
“Max Hampton. He was one of the shooting victims.”
“Oh. Wow.”
“I feel like I’m missing something,” I said after Wooton didn’t explain.
“Um. I pretended to be Max to steal his PowerBoy comics. That’s how Wooton and I met. He thought I was Max for about a month.”
I thought about asking another question, but Winona started crying. As Penny unbuckled her from her highchair, Wooton stood up.
“I can take plates if everyone’s done.”
We nodded and helped him stack the half-empty dishes. No one had an intense appetite. As we followed Wooton and Penny into the living room, Wooton turned to us,
“Grady, how about you show Dion your room.”
“Uh,” he faced me for a split second and blushed, “Sure.”
My cane feeling heavier than usual, I followed Grady up a winding staircase to a room the same size as Nahla’s apartment. He had what must have been a king-sized bed, a tv with multiple gaming stations connected to it, a mini-fridge, microwave, and a balcony. He shut the door behind us and sat on his bed.
“I think this is the scene in the movie when we confess our undying love and then make out as a Lauv song fades out the shot on a suggestive note.”
“You’re not Jay.”
“I know- I was joking.”
“Oh,” I tried to laugh.
“You can sit down if you want,” he gestured to an armchair next to his bed. I sat.
“This is a- nice room.”
“Thanks. It’s pity.”
This I genuinely laughed at.
“Are you a gamer?” He asked, nodding to the television set.
“Not really. I like movies.”
“What kind?”
“Historical, sci-fi, fantasy, a lot of Disney.”
“Yeah. Disney movies are good, okay!”
“Hey, I agree. What’s your favorite?”
“You’re gonna laugh at me.”
“Doubt it.”
“Fox and the Hound.”
He thought a moment.
“Okay. I can see that.”
“What does that mean?”
“You’re Copper and Jay was Tod.”
I nodded.
“We had our first kiss watching that movie.”
“Okay pardon me for asking, but at what point during that movie was the kiss? Cuz I feel like most of it is just super depressing.”
“That’s true, but there is this one part, where Tod rolls over and Copper kind of stands above him. Okay, it’s hard to explain, but Copper says Tod is his best friend and then Tod says it back. So, I just turned to him out of nowhere and kissed him. In my mind, it was like, “this is where our friendship ends.”
“Wow. Okay, that’s pretty cute.”
“I like to think so. I sat back and he had the cutest smile on his face. I really miss his smile.”
“I’m so sorry.”
I nodded.
“Yeah. Me too.”
I’m not really sure how it happened, but that blue-eyed boy with wavy hair down to his shoulders and Spider-Man socks was able to pull me out of my grief. Our conversations, our weekly dinners, our milkshakes at Whit’s End gave me something to look forward to. So, when I couldn’t get out of bed and felt like sleeping forever, he was never far away. He was perfect for me. He never overstepped boundaries, never pushed for romance, never gave me reason to doubt his intentions. We were friends. And that’s exactly how we liked things. It’s exactly how we needed things.
“Elizabeth! Buck! It’s time for dinner!”
I woke up to Katrina calling from the kitchen. I rolled over in my bed, and stared at the door for a moment, thinking about going back to sleep. They wouldn’t care if I did, right? I’d been up half the night trying to write songs. I counted how many hours I’d gotten again. Three and a half. I looked at the clock. With that nap, it was five and a half. I wasn’t particularly hungry. I couldn’t remember the last time I was.
“Coming!” I tried to mask my anger at being pressured to leave my space. Sitting up made everything hurt, but I made it to our small kitchen table in one piece.
“Hey. Did you have a good nap?” Katrina asked, handing me the spaghetti.
“Hm. My neck hurts, and I’m still tired.”
“Well maybe you shouldn't have been up until four in the morning,” Eugene mumbled.
I coughed back a smart response. Eugene had been getting on my nerves lately. It was like everything said in my direction had a judgemental undertone. I passed him the tomato sauce without making eye contact.
“So, um. Your father and I have been wanting to have a quick conversation about this summer with you two.”
Eliza perked up.
“So, you probably already know we won’t be able to afford a vacation. However, it is possible we’ll have a chance to visit Gramma Shanks next month.”
This made me smile. I hadn’t seen Gramma since my adoption, and honestly, I didn’t want a big vacation. Mr. Skint and I had explored the ins and outs of every major US city by the time I was thirteen. And while I regretted my decisions, I doubted Eugene and Katrina could come up with a more exciting trip than the one I’d already been on.
“That’d be nice,” I smiled.
“Really? You wouldn’t mind going?”
“No. It sounds like fun.”
“Well. That’s great. Would that be alright with you Eliza?”
She nodded, picking up her cup of orange juice in rehearsed two-handed care.
We sat in silence for about five minutes. I knew my parents were looking for something to say, but it was hard to find topics that wouldn’t lead back to someone who’d died, or Jules being pregnant, or the riot we watched on the news last night, hearts pounding, palms sweating.
“Does anyone have any exciting plans for the summer?”
This felt like a rhetorical question. We all knew what we were going to do. I was going to work myself into the ground trying to make money and be a dad before graduating high school. Eugene was going to work even harder at Whit’s End until he had a mental breakdown and felt like he was a failure as a father and a husband. Eliza was going to go to day-care every day Eugene worked just to come home to her depressed mom, who’ll ask if she'd made many friends, just to be disappointed by the answer.
How did we get here?
“I um. I think I’m going to start tutoring again. Maybe go back to the high school next year,” Katrina said, trying to smile about it.
“You are?” Eugene set down his fork. “Are you sure that’s a prudent idea? You haven’t-”
“I’m sure. I need to work.”
He stared at her for a moment, before swallowing and going back to his food.
“I got some of a chorus written last night. It could turn into something.”
“That’s good.”
More silence.
“Katrina, may I go lie down? I don’t feel good,” Elizabeth kept her eyes on the table as she asked this.
My mom stammered for a moment, visibly off-put before giving her permission. Our meal was finished in deeper silence.

“Eliza?” I tapped my knuckle on her door before going in. She was sitting on her bed, organizing her stuffed animals at the end of it.
“Are you okay?”
“Can I sit down?”
She nodded.
I climbed onto her bed and crossed my legs.
“You can hold Winks,” she said, handing me a stuffed blue Beanie Baby.
I turned the elephant over in my hands, its soft skin bringing a temporary sense of comfort to the confrontational situation I found myself in.
“You called Mom Katrina today,” I said numbly.
She didn’t say anything.
“That’s her name.”
“Okay… yeah but you usually call her mom- or mum.”
“I know.”
“So, why’d you call her Katrina today? I think it might have hurt her feelings.”
I stared at the stuffed animal and its flappy ears between my fingers for a moment, waiting for an answer. None came.
“Eliza?” I turned to see my sister asleep, her head on top of her pile of stuffed animals. No. Wait is that-
I couldn’t get to the door fast enough.

Through burning eyes, I tried to read the document in front of me.
“Eugene it’s so much.”
“I know. I know,” I tried to steady my voice as Katrina’s hand fell into mine.
I shook my head.
“I’m not sure yet. I’ll figure it out.”
Doctor Graham walked in as Buck began to stir in the chair next to me. He was awake by the time she started explaining.
“So, Elizabeth is doing a lot better now. She’s young so that was a concern at one point, but it’s better that we caught this now. And I know that paper has a lot of numbers on it, but I promise it’ll be worth it to keep her healthy.”
I nodded.
“But I am sorry. With everything you’ve had to go through. I wish there was some way I could help money-wise at least. I might be able to pull some strings.”
“Thank you.”
“Can we take her home now?” I asked.
“You can tonight, but we want to make sure she’s as healthy. You’ll also need to stay for a short class on how to take care of her and everything.”
“Very well. Thank you, Doctor Graham.”
She left, and we sat there in silence for a few minutes, taking it all in. Buck finally stood up.
“Um. It’s two,” he looked to Katrina, “Jules was gonna come over at three.”
“That’s fine.”
“Okay. So, you’ll be back at around seven?”
She looked at me and nodded.
I watched as my son walked down the hall and stepped into the elevator. I turned to my wife. She shrugged.
“What do you want me to do? You really think it’s a good plan to keep them from seeing each other?”
“I- I don’t like the thought of it.”
“They might live together anyway, and what are you afraid of? She’s already pregnant.”
“Yes but- I don’t believe it’s healthy.”
“I… disagree.”
“Well I’ve been thinking about it, and I think if they’re going to raise a kid together, their relationship should be as strong as possible. This isn’t going to be easy. I’m probably wrong, but in my mind, it makes sense. I think it might- help.”
“I can see your perspective. It’s just strange. It’s new.”
“I know. But so are a lot of things these days,” she took a breath, “How are we going to pay for it all?”
And I had no answers.

Jules’ pocket buzzed against my hand.
“Hm,” our lips broke apart, “Hold on.”
“What is it?”
I sat up.
“It’s just… an email. Wow.”
She handed me her phone. The email’s title was, ‘New Laws Applying to Registered Christians of the United States.’
“Can you read it, please?” Her voice shook.
I nodded, and with a low brow proceeded to read aloud every rule we’d be forced to follow, starting at the beginning of next month. It was surreal. It was scary. It was hopeless. I took in a heavy breath after reading the last point.
“What was that one- um- about businesses?”
“Yeah… basically it says if a private facility doesn’t want us in there, they can tell us to leave. And it’s ‘recommended’ the establishment post a sign communicating who they’ll let in.”
“That’s- inhuman,” she sniffed. I looked up to see my girlfriend push away a tear. Her other hand was on her stomach. I wove my fingers through hers, trying to find a comforting phrase. I went with honesty.
“Jules, I’m really scared.”
She nodded, then looked to the other end of my bedroom.
“I want an abortion.”
I had to keep my hand from letting go of hers.
For a minute she just kept her eyes on the wall, breathing, tears flowing down her cheeks.
“You- can’t understand what it’s like. The way people look at me. The way Connie looks at me sometimes. Whit hasn’t talked to me in weeks. I know he’s avoiding me. I work for him and he won’t talk to me.”
Those sentences piled out between sobs and made my head spin. She searched my eyes.
“I want it to stop. I don’t want to bring a person into a world that will hate it.”
My heart was pounding. Honestly, I was terrified. I hadn’t told her, but I wanted a child. I wanted to be a dad. I wanted to move my tiny family into a tiny apartment and love them until- until what?
She squeezed my hand.
“Hey, I love you.”
“Please don’t do this.”
“Buck I’m not doing anything,” she half-smiled through tears, “I could never go through with that, but you need to understand how much I want it to stop.”
“It’s my fault.”
“It’s not your fault.”
“You were drunk, I shouldn’t have even suggested it. I manipulated you, and I hate myself for that.”
“No. Buck, look at me. You did not manipulate me. You were drunk. We consensually made a bad choice. This is not your fault. Can you please believe that?”
I took a breath.
She sat up with me and put her head on my shoulder. I kissed it. We sat in silence for a few minutes, her black hair running between my fingers, her hand on my knee. She let out a long sigh.
“I think I’m ready to tell everyone.”
Silence is one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced. Pressing his sweatshirt into my chest, his phone beneath my thigh, I looked at the time for the thousandth time that day.
I closed my eyes. And that time there were no bullets to make my ears hurt. They were inside my friends. There was no Alex to ask scary questions. He was in the ground. There was no blond teacher to ask for my help. She was wheelchair-bound. There was just silence. A silence that hurt more than the hole in my leg or the slits in my wrists. A silence that screamed, he’s not laughing. He’s not crying into my shoulder. He’ll never do either again. So, I cried for him. Home alone, drowning in my loneliness, I cried for hours into the armrest of the living room couch. I cried until I slept.
I woke up to someone knocked on the front door. Keeping the sweatshirt close to me, I walked to the door and opened it slowly. Grady stood there, deep pity and a lack of sleep glistening against his eyes. Without a word, I gestured for him to come inside. Once we were back in the living room, I turned to him and he pulled me into a long hug. Physical contact felt so good.
“I’m so sorry,” he said softly before letting me go.
“Can we please go somewhere?”
He nodded.
Dissociation haunted our drive to the flower shop. It plagued my vision as I bought a dozen white tulips. It wasn’t until we pulled into the cemetery parking lot that my surroundings felt real again. We walked between rows of graves until we reached his. It was a dark marble cross that stood atop a pedestal that read, ‘Jacob Christopher Smouse. Sleeping at last.’
“That’s beautiful.”
I nodded, then sat down on the new grass in front of it. Grady joined me.
“I haven’t been here since the funeral,” I said, my hand flattened against the cold ground. Grady sighed.
“I can’t believe it’s been six months.”
I nodded, setting the flowers at the base of the cross.
“I miss him.”
“I know.”
I stood up and put my hand on the grave for another minute, trying to understand it all. I released my touch.
“I didn’t tell you enough that I loved you,” I quietly apologized to the ground, “I didn’t tell you how valuable you were.”
I turned to Grady. He stood there, staring at the grave of my dead boyfriend, holding himself.
“I’m ready now,” I said when I caught his eyes.
“You’re sure?”
I nodded, then put my hand inside of his.

Together again. With Tamika to my right and Buck to my left, I glanced over the circle of people I could call my family. Trent, Mandy, Jules, Dion, now Grady, beautiful. Each one. A whiteboard stood at the back of the room. We sat in silence, being was enough.
“Can we worship?” Jules asked, looking at the ground. A few of us nodded and went to retrieve our instruments. I opened the recorder app on my phone.

It was effortless. We fell back into our harmonies seamlessly, without hesitation. What we realized too; is how long it’d been since we just worshiped. No recording studios. No uncomfortable church services. Just worship. Just praising Jesus together.

I’ve tried so many times to explain what happened next, but it’s so hard. It’s complicated. It was supernatural. We were standing there singing, I was at the piano when this phrase came to mind. I left my piano, walked over to the whiteboard and wrote it down. And more came from that. Jules noticed me and joined in. Everyone added to it. Everyone wrote out their feelings. The grief, the anger, the irritation, the joys. Everything. We were vulnerable. We were able to collectively break down our walls and create something beautiful from the bricks left behind. Over the next month, we met nearly every day and had a fifteen-song album written by the time our restrictions as Christians were put in place. We recorded it in a week.

“Okay. Okay. We’re live now. Hello everyone!”
“WE JUST RECORDED AN ALBUM!” Vance shouted, pouring himself a cup of sparkling juice.
Buck threw his cup into the trash can across the room and missed.
“Are you ten?” Jules asked, throwing away the plastic for him.
“Guys! Shut up!” I laughed as Trent came up behind me and kissed my cheek.
“Hi everybody. I just need to say to the world real quick that my stunning girlfriend right here is singing in our new album and her voice is unbelievable!”
“Okay but so is he and he actually sang and played the cello at the same time. It was amazing.”
“Is it interview time?” Dion asked from behind the counter.
“Yup. But there’s just one question. Trent, what’s one word you’d use to describe the new album?”
“Um. Raw.”
“That’s good. Vance?”
He’d moved into the shot, already refilling his cup.
“Hm. Buck?”
He thought a moment, taking a drink.
“Grady? Any words from the sporty new kid?”
“It’s beautiful. I can’t get over how talented my boyfriend is.”
“Oh… Boyfriend? Dion, care to elaborate?”
He smiled.
“Yes, we are officially a couple.”
“Couple name: Gradiony. Oh, and he’s not the only one with good news. Jules?”

Mandy turned the camera to me. I could feel the thousands of eyes on me. People who were going to judge me. People were would hate me, love me, think I was making a bad decision. But Mandy knew what she was doing. She called it ‘good news.’ It didn’t feel like that. Not to me. Not to Buck. Not to anyone in the band. But if we could play it off that way, there’d be a greater chance of support. We all knew it. I smiled as genuinely as I could.
“Well, the rumors are true. I am pregnant.”
“Yay! We can finally stop trying to cover your stomach in our Instagram stories.”
“Woo hoo.”
“Yes, I’m the father,” Buck laughed, reading a comment.
“Consider this a warning though, kids. Don’t be having the sexy times until you’re married.”
“And if you must, use bloody protection already,” Dion added. We laughed.
“Oh. Guys, it’s eight-thirty,” Mandy said, making the room go silent.
Buck nodded and began stacking cups. I took a deep breath. And saying very little, we headed home. What were we supposed to do? We weren’t about to break the law. Indoors by nine. We didn’t have a choice.

“How did that make you feel?”
“I think I was angry. Kind of scared. It was just- weird. Sad. I mean, we were teenagers. It felt like they were robbing from us.”
“I’d like to argue they were.”
I glanced up from my bowl of soup into my husband’s eyes. They flickered with pity.
“I’m sorry.”
I shook my head but broke eye contact.
“I’m okay.”
“You’re sure?”
“Yeah. Hey,” I took his hand, “I am.”
He gave me a tight smile.
“I should have talked to a manager.”
“I don’t think that would’ve made a difference.”
“I would’ve been willing to try, though.”
“I know, and I appreciate that.”
Silence stood between us for a minute. Out of some anxious habit, I started picking at the tire of my wheelchair. I tried to think of a memory to bring up. Twelve years. There had to be something. A waiter came over and awkwardly refilled our glasses. We both thanked him, and he got out of our corner as quickly as possible. Eugene took a breath. That’s when I realized it. We hadn’t tried to have a conversation since the shooting. We’d talked of course, but not like we used to. We’d gotten overtaken by work and recovery and diabetes.
“Eliza wasn’t particularly happy about getting her shot this morning,” Eugene said, stabbing his fork into an olive.
“Yeah, I’m sure.”
“She’ll get used to it.”
I nodded. We sat in silence for a little longer, eating, barely looking at each other. I finally put down my spoon.
“Why is this so hard?” I nearly laughed. “You’re my husband, why can’t I talk to you?”
He obviously unexpected by my direct questions, but he understood.
“I don’t want to put pressure on you. You’re still getting better.”
“Yeah, but you’re supposed to help me with that. Eugene?”
“I’m so angry.”
I wasn’t expecting that.
“Someone hurt you, and I hate that. And I am afraid that if we move on with life as if nothing occurred, it would diminish the severity of your situation.”
I thought for a minute.
“You don’t deserve what’s happened to you. I should be in that chair,” he continued.
What was I supposed to say?
“Yes. Nothing about this is- is just.”
Again, I had no answers.
“Nothing- about our life now is just.”
And that brought on more silence. We were thinking the same thing. We knew what we needed. But I think I was scared.
“It’s um. It’s been a few months since we visited Pastor Nelson,” he said quietly.
“I think that’s been too long.”
He nodded.
“Does this mean we’ve failed?”
“No. No, I think it means we’re fighting for something.”
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse
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Peach Cobbler
Posts: 1303
Joined: July 2016
Location: Tatsumi Port Island


This is good.
That's literally all I can say.
I love darker fanfics, so this was really interesting. Not my all time favorite: Here's the link to that story: ... s/40757666
This story is still really good. Good job Penny.
I'm Monty Whittaker's greatest fan. member of the K.R.E
:mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
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Fudge Marble
Posts: 903
Joined: May 2016


Thanks! Oh, and I finally made an Archive of Our Own account, so I'll start posting on there soon and post the link as soon as I do!
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse
User avatar
Peach Cobbler
Posts: 1303
Joined: July 2016
Location: Tatsumi Port Island


(also please read the fanfic I linked, it is amazing and deserves readers.)
I'm Monty Whittaker's greatest fan. member of the K.R.E
:mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
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