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i don't need your hands to touch me

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The car ride was quiet. Neither of them were exceptionally talkative, but Angela couldn’t remember a time Jasper had been this quiet. She had tried to come up with things to say, things to ask, but as much as she wanted to break the silence she enjoyed not having to force it. It was just so quiet. It was eerie, and she felt more and more restless for every passing second. Soon after they pulled up to the parking lot of the high school. Jasper turned off the ignition and they sat there for a moment. Angela stared at him. She didn’t say anything to him, she didn’t break the silence they had sat in for the past 20 minutes. Soon after he had turned off the ignition, when the moment had passed, he got out of the car and Angela followed.

Even from the parking lot, a hundred meters or so, you could hear the buzzing of the school yard. First day of school would always be like that. People had things to talk about, things to tell their friends about. Angela guessed she was one of the few people actually looking forward to class. In class she knew what she was doing. Right before the rounded they corner of the building Jasper reached out and took her hand. The heat of the late summer quickly made her hand sweat and when they were close enough to their friend group to hear them talk she took back her hand and discreetly dried it on her shorts before hugging them all. Gina, Alex, and Cain. The only three friends she had known the passed two years. She knew, in the back of her head, that it was because the boys where the three biggest bullies of the school. None of them acknowledged it. Gina and Angela would played it off as annoying boys in the cases where Gina wasn’t involved  too in the bullying they would too often mask as “pranks”.

“How was your summer? I’m so sad we couldn’t hang out more! But you know, between travelling through Spain for three weeks and visiting family in Mexico for two weeks, there wasn’t much time left for friends. I had to rest up too for whatever shit is going down this year.” Angela smiled at the right times, and laughed at the right times, as Gina mostly tried to make an opportunity to talk about her trip to Spain. Angela felt like she had been on that trip with Gina because Gina had posted so many clips and images from it throughout the three weeks. Angela had gotten a few private messages about it. Anecdotal behind the scenes of whatever she posted. Mostly it was about the guys she had met and how they all seemed to adore her. She didn’t know whether to believe it or not. In truth, Gina was… hot, so she wouldn’t be surprised if it was true. On the other hand, she had caught Gina in several similar lies without calling her out on it. There was no point to it.

“It wasn’t as fun as yours obviously.” Angela replied, Gina laughed a little too hard. She stopped abruptly and let out a shriek as the boys squirted water on her with a small water pistols. Angela got her fair share of water too. That too stopped abruptly when she shot a look at Jasper, the only one that had fired at her. She dried of her face as good as possible without completely messing up her makeup as the shrieking moved further and further away when Alex and Cain started chasing Gina with the water pistols. Jasper stayed, she frowned at him when he squirted the water into his mouth. She sat down. It all got so quiet again. The buzzing of the school yard was just that — buzzing. It wasn’t her conversation, and she didn’t know anyone well enough to make herself a part of it.

On the other side of the the school yard she spotted a familiar face. Fareeha Amari. She noticed the long black hair had been chopped down to barely shoulder length. One side of it had been shaved off. She marveled at how Fareeha and the rest of her group could stand wearing black leather jackets in the heat that still lingered despite autumn creeping around the corner. Fareeha laughed at something. Angela wanted to laugh too. She wanted to make herself part of the conversation. It was many years too late. After all, it had been Angela’s fault that they were on their own ends of the yard and not together.

“We should head in.” Angela told Jasper as she stood up and started walking. He followed her. He reached for and took her hand. The bright light outside turned the darkness of the school building darker. Her eyes turned the sad fluorescent light green. She always wondered why that happened but always forgot to look it up. She would forget this time too. They walked through the long corridor that stretched through the entire main part of the school, over to the other side where the reception was located. She had hoped that them being a little later than expected to the school, and then hanging out in the yard for a short while, would have rendered the queue if not completely gone at least a little bit shorter. Alas, the queue was as long as it always would be. She walked them over to the end of the queue that stretched through half the corridor to the right of the main one. A shorter corridor, sure, but it was still half a corridor.

“Alex told me Gina hooked up with like, a ton of guys during the summer.” Jasper told Angela with a grin on his face. Angela frowned and tilted her head, crossing her arms over her chest. They followed the queue a few steps.

“What else did he tell you?” She asked.

“Apparently, Jessica told him that Gina had told her, in confidence of course but you know Jessica, that Gina had almost been thrown out of her house when her mother found a pregnancy test in the bin. Like, she wasn’t even pregnant but her mom still got insanely mad.” Another few steps.

“That’s a lie. Jessica is a liar.”

“I don’t know.” He shrugged. They were getting closer to the reception fast, faster than expected for such a long queue, which eased the stress Angela had developed about possibly being late for their first class.

“Let’s be honest Angie, Gina is kind of a slut.” He told her, again with the grin. She stared at him, her jaw had dropped. Maybe Gina wasn’t the best of friends, and she did mostly care about herself, at least as far as she showed anyone. But at the end of the day she was still their friend. That Jasper, and probably Alex and Cain she figured, would talk shit and call Gina a slut or anything for that matter behind her back because of some rumors lying Jessica had started sparked a feeling Angela didn’t know she could feel towards Jasper. She had to keep her arms crossed over her chest to not punch him in the nuts.

“You—” She began, “No, you know what, forget it.” She sighed. They were finally in the reception, with only three people before them.

“And it’s not Angie , it’s never Angie . You know this, we’ve been together for two years.” She told him, her voice calm trying to not let the nut punching rage that still lingered seeth through.

“Two years?” He frowned at her. The moment that they stared at each other his face softened, but the softened overlapped quickly to wide eyes. She clenched and unclenched her jaw twice, turned around, and smiled at the receptionist.

“Angela Ziegler. Junior.”

“Here you go.” The receptionist smiled back at her as she handed Angela the small piece of paper with her locker number and the combination on it. She took it and quickly left the room. Locker number 46. That was close by. She started to walk away. She didn’t get far until Jasper catched up.

“78, you?” He asked her.

“46.”

“Aw, I liked it when we had next to each other last year.”

“We were taking the same classes last year, we’re taking like… two classes together this year.”

“So?”

“So, they go by classes. I pretty much only have classes in Green, you have all your classes in Blue.” She told him, referring to two of the four blocks of the school by their colour coding. It had apparently been the same when the school first opened 40 years back, only different colours. She saw him nod in the corner of her eye.

She walked to her locker, Jasper following her. She opened it to find nothing. Some people would get small notes from friends who had looked up which locker they had, notes with nice messages. Some would get the same notes only from the previous owner of the locker. This locker was just a big nothing. She closed the locker again before checking the time. 20 minutes to class.

“I’ll see you later, I have to go.” She told him, offering him a smile. He quickly gave her a peck on the cheek while she was already leaving.

She could love him. Sometimes a wave of warmth and giddiness would wash over her just by looking at him and she would think ‘Is this what being in love feels like?’, and she wanted to scream ‘Yes, it is! You’re in love with Jasper, he’s the one’. Yet, there was a part of her, an annoying nagging part of her that laughed at her anytime it would happen, saying ‘In love with Jasper? As if he could get us’. She silenced that part of her and moved on.

When she left Jasper, she walked back down to the end of the smaller bathroom where a washroom was located. Deep in thought, she jumped when she heard loud laughter by the sinks when she opened the door. Quickly relief came to her when she saw that it wasn’t anyone she knew. She stopped by the sink closest to the door and regarded herself. While it wasn’t a miracle, merely the right makeup and more knowledge of how to use it, it was still clear that her acne had gotten much better over the summer.

The two laughing girls soon left the washroom. All alone in the washroom, Angela continued to stare at her own face. Whenever she would do it for a long enough her face would become someone else’s. In the same way your name would sound alien if you said it enough times, her face would become alien. She had tried it with other things, it hadn’t worked. Once she stared at her hands for 20 minutes to see if, eventually, she would find the concept of hands strange or have to count her own fingers to make sure there was in fact the exact amount of ten fingers in total.

She checked the the time again. Another five minutes until class. She frowned at the clock, not comprehending how she had been standing there for almost fifteen minutes. She didn’t question it, only guessed that perhaps it was the effect she was looking for, only time warped not her face, or perhaps time really does fly sometimes. She pushed open the door, slightly leaning into it. The door opened half way before something on the other side stopped it and she heard a loud and shocked “Fuck!” on the other side.

“Shit, sorry!” She apologized instinctively. On the other side, Fareeha pulled open the door the rest of the way. Angela’s mouth opened to say something but she quickly closed it and just offered a smile and slipped passed the taller girl. She had no memory of Fareeha ever being that tall. Then again, they hadn’t been that close, physically or mentally, in a very long time. The door to the washroom never closed. She didn’t want to turn around and look, it felt too much like the thing dumb people in a horror film would do before they get attacked. No, that was a lie. The urge to look around was a strong, but she stopped herself.

She walked to her first class, coming just in time. She found Gina in the back and sat down next to her.

“You never told me you’d be taking international relations?” Angela asked Gina who smiled at her.

“No? Perhaps it’s because this is photography.”


 

Angela’s classes passed smoothly after the morning class incident. After her last class she walked back to her locker to put unload all the books and notepads they had gotten throughout the day. Usually she would’ve done that throughout the day, but whenever she had time off between classes someone wanted to talk and she never managed to pull them with her to the locker. She rolled her shoulders and shook her arms a couple of times.

“Hey, good looking.” Jasper greeted her, leaning against the locker beside hers. “I can’t drive you home.”

“What, why?” She snapped her at him. As much as she enjoyed walking, the walking distance home from school was an almost two hour long walk. If she took the bus it would be a total of an hour.

“I don’t know. My mom called and told me to pick up Carl from daycare. Both her and mama got stuck at work, some hickup in the something, I don’t know.” He shrugged. The tension in Angela’s shoulders refused to go away.

“Well, can you at least drive me to the bus station?”

“Nah, that’s like… way in the wrong direction. Sorry.”

“It’s ten minutes!” She exclaimed.

“In the wrong the direction. Anyway, I got to go pick him up. I’ll talk to later, okay?” He gave her a peck on the cheek and left before she had the time to figure something out. She picked up her phone and texted Gina.

‘Can I get a ride home with you?’

‘Going to Alex’s. What about Jasper?’

Fucking Jasper.

‘He had to pick up Carl, he had to hurry.’

‘Sorry, you’re on your own hun.’

She clenched and unclenched her jaw, fighting the urge to hit the lockers as ’You’re on your own’ hit her too fast, and Gina and no idea how close she was to the truth Angela felt in her heart as she started walking. Through the long corridor, out into the yard. She looked around, only to face the same reality she had earlier. The reality that she knew none of these people even slightly well enough to ask if they could give her a ride. So she continued walking, through the yard in the direction to the bus station. There was no other choice. She picked up her phone from her pocket as she walked to see which was the likeliest bus she could take. If she hurried and cut down the hour long walk to 50 minutes, which wasn’t all that unlikely if she tried, she could catch the line 47 bus at 4.30. It certainly didn’t stop as close to her house as line 78 did but it was just another 20 minute walking, and she would still be home earlier than if she waited for the “right” bus. She pocketed her phone again and picked up her pace.

When she thought about, this wasn’t the first time Jasper had done something like this. He hadn’t really just left her at school and refused to drive her even though there was no other good way for her to get back home whenever he picked her up, but he had shown… disregard for her before. Because when she thought about it hard enough she knew it was disregard. She didn’t know if he meant it or not, if it was payback for something she had done, her “sometimes bitchy attitude” as he had put it. They fought about it, and he promised to not use that word around her again if she promised to not act like one around him. That was four months ago. She never asked if he had always thought she was a bitch or if that was Alex and Cain’s influence, because she knew Alex didn’t like her and Cain wanted her. That wasn’t herself indulgence talking as much as she could hear Jasper in the back of her tell her it was, that was a very drunk Cain and Gina’s 18th birthday last year telling her. He had tried to kiss her but she had pushed him off, grossed out by the mere thought of kissing someone but Jasper while with him and also because she had just helped Cain find something in the cabinet to help with the taste of vomit in his mouth. Her phone chimed, she picked it up.

‘Won’t make it to dinner, lunchboxes in the garage freezer’

Scrolled up a bit into the text conversation between her dad and her. For the past three years the most repetitive text wasn’t a running joke, it was him telling he wouldn’t make it home and where she could find food. Mostly it was in the freezer in the garage, sometimes it was in the form of money on the for anything she could call to the door. She missed it when her mom was still living with them. Her cooking was magnificent, and more importantly her dad never missed a dinner. After they split up and her mother went back to Switzerland her dad changed. She supposed he was just… sad. She didn’t blame him. She was too. She checked the time before pocketing the phone again. 40 minutes to go.

From out of nowhere there she was again. Not physically, but as a much too tall girl in Angela’s head. Fareeha Amari. A smile spread across her face and quickly faltered again. Memories of growing up together would play as a film in her head sometimes and she would feel a strange mix of sentimentality and anger. Those memories were her childhood memories and she loved them. She had loved Fareeha with every beat of her heart. But the anger that Fareeha ruined those memories was overwhelming. If the memories were just of her it would be much less complicated, Fareeha was the only issue. She knew friends grew apart, it was a natural thing that all your childhood friends weren’t there for the rest of your life. But she doubted all childhood friendships fell apart as hard as they had. Crashing in due to the ignored fire and flames raging uncontrollably by the time you decide to face them. They had faced them much too late and it turned into what they were now. Familiar faces on the other side of the yard. A girl you hit in the face with doors without showing acknowledgement that that is the girl you grew up with, the girl you told you never wanted to see again, the girl you told was disgusting and a freak.

God, maybe Jasper was right after all. She still objected to the word bitch ever being used, but anything closely related that lacked the misogyny would do. But that was four years ago. She had matured in the four years between thirteen and nineteen and everytime she thought about those memories she regretted every word she had said. But she reminded herself that it was too late to apologize now, it was too late the second she said them. She had murdered what little was left of them after the months of abuse their friendship had taken.

The last 25 minutes until the bus turned into a slow jog she managed to do in 15 minutes. She sat down, on the bench to wait for the bus, her sweat too noticeable to just be due to the late summer heat. She put her feet up on the bench, hugging her legs and letting her head rest on her knees. She looked at the scene playing in front of her on the porch on the other side of the road. Two kids playing a little too rough and she waited for a parent to tell them to stop, or for either one to get hurt. In the 15 minutes she followed them playing neither of those things happened. When the bus came, she climbed unboard only to realize…

“Damn it.” She whispered to herself. She didn’t have her wallet, and the bus was one of the older models without QR readers for phone tickets.

“I’m sorry Miss, but you’re going to have to get off if you can’t pay.” The driver smiled sympathetically at her. Her heart dropped.

“Please, I live over at Green’s Wine, I really need to take this bus.”

“Sorry, if you can’t pay I can’t let you come unboard.” She sighed, standing there for another couple of seconds in disbelief before getting off. She watched the bus drive off into the distance and round a corner.

“Fuck.” She said right out to no one, to everything, to herself, she asked the entire universe to go fuck itself.

“Need a ride?” She heard a familiar voice say behind her. She turned around to find Fareeha Amari leaning on the handle of her bike. The stared at each other. Angela thought she could see a hint of a smile, or mean smirk perhaps, on Fareeha’s lips. She had no choice she told herself. She either walked an hour or so more and got home way later than she was comfortable with on the roads she was taking or se took the… “ride” on Fareeha’s bike. Angela walked over to her and sat down on the carrier on the back of the bike.

“Hold on.” Fareeha told her as she got up some speed to start pedaling. Angela tried to help her get her balance, not sure if she was actually helping or just making it harder. A soon as she got up the speed the ride was much more smooth than those first hard seconds. A bike ride wouldn’t be as fast as the bus, but it beat walking. The distance between the bus stop and where the pavement stopped and turned into gravel and dirt would have surely taken Angela 30 minutes to walk, a distance Angela guessed only took Fareeha 15 minutes. The question of how fast this girl was on a bike when Angela wasn’t on it too hit her. The bike ride slowed down though as soon as the pavement turned into a much bumpier and unsafe ground. Something Angela, and especially her butt, was thankful for.

For the back of the ride, Angela turned her focus from being tired, and the sundown, to the girl in front of her. Her hair seemed a bit longer up close than from across the yard, yet the buzzed off right side seemed more buzzed. The haircut struck Angela as neat, too neat. Ana, Fareeha’s mother, had always been the one to cut Fareeha’s hair, and as neat as Ana was, she wasn’t good enough at cutting hair to show it. From the memories she had of Ana, she doubted she wouldn’t even let Fareeha shave of any part of her head whatsoever to begin with. No, this was newly cut, and by someone who knew what they were doing. Angela shifted her focus from the hair to the jacked. The had details she hadn’t noticed from afar. Small patches and logos, names of what she guessed was bands, that she had never heard or seen before. Bikini Kill, Dolores Haze, The Runaways. She stared at the patched trying her hardest to recognize any of the names.

“So, uh…” She started. “What—What’s Bikini Kill?” She asked. A moment’s silence passed without Fareeha as much acknowledging the question, and Angela started to wonder if she had spoken to quiet, or if perhaps Fareeha was just ignoring her. She wouldn’t blame her.

“It’s a band.” Fareeha answered finally.

“Oh. I’ve never heard of them. What do they play?”

“Of course you haven’t. They uh… they played punk, in the 90’s. So like, it’s no wonder you haven’t heard them. Do you and your gang listen to anything pre-your own conception?” The question hit her hard. Logically, she knew Fareeha had all the right in the world to be mean to Angela, and she didn't want to be hurt. But she was. It wasn’t that she wanted to prove that she did listen to other things than what was popular right now, it was that this wasn’t new behaviour. This had always been Fareeha. When they were friends it was just a laughing matter, but the point still remained and was made stronger by their broken bond. That it wasn’t about the music (or whatever they would discuss in a previous life when they were friends), it was about how shallow she could make Angela seem.

“It’s music older than our parents, you’re going to be very disappointed if you believe anyone listens to that.” She heard huff in front of her, but she didn’t retaliate. The rest of the way to Angela’s home they sat in silence. The sound of gravel under the bike tires calmed her, and the silence didn’t seem as thick.

“Thanks.” She smiled at Fareeha as she climbed off the back of the bike. Everything immediately felt much easier now that she knew that her home was just another few steps away. Fareeha didn’t offer anything, not a single twitch of a muscle in reply. Angela waited for another heartbeat before turning around and walking away, towards the house slowly. Behind her, she wanted so badly to hear the tires of the bike roll against the gravel. But the soothing sound never came. She stopped and turned around, to find Fareeha still there looking at her.

“Why do you do that?” She asked.

“Do what?”

“You did it by the washroom too today. You linger. You stare at me. Why?” Fareeha stayed silent, looking around the yard.

“I don’t know” She shrugged. Angela huffed.

“That’s not an answer.” But she settled, she wouldn’t force it out, because perhaps Fareeha really didn’t know. Before she could have the time to turn around and walk away she heard a loud growl from Fareeha, and it took her a second to register that Fareeha didn’t growl at her, but Fareeha’s stomach. Her jaw dropped, be she closed it quickly trying to let out a laugh.

“Come in and have some dinner. You’re going to be dying by the time you get home if you don’t eat something.” Fareeha hesitated but got off the back and laid it down against the ground.

Angela brought them through the garage to pick up the boxes from the freezer. She told Fareeha to just take whatever looked appealing, because she had no idea what was really in the boxes. They walked into the house and heated the boxes in a few seconds in the microwave, then sat down at the dinner table. Fareeha ate half of her food before Angela could barely even start eating. They ate their food in silence. Angela didn’t mind it. She knew it could potentially be some short of “awkward silence” but for now she was just happy to have someone there at all. Fareeha put all her focus on the food, and Angela put all her focus on Fareeha, studying her like the stranger she felt. She darted her eyes away when Fareeha glance up at her.

“Who’s staring now.” Fareeha laughed. Angela felt her heartbeat quicken. Shit .

“I’m not staring.”

“Yeah, you are. It’s creepy.” Fareeha still smiled, and Angela couldn’t help but to smile too.

“Maybe I am. You’re just so… different.”

“Well, not all of us stayed the same.

“I’m not the same, Fareeah.” She defended herself.

“Oh yeah?” Fareeha’s smile died and she raised an eyebrow. “Take away the makeup, and the not as all over the place fashion, who are you? You’re the same four years ago.” Fareeha’s voice got harsher with every word, and if Angela hadn’t been affected by that she would be affected by the truth of the words. Of course parts of her had changed but by large she was still the same, she had just… played a part, for someone else.

“I’m sorry.” Angela mumbled. Fareeha frowned, another moment of silence passed.

“For what?”

“I didn’t mean to stare.” Angela explained. Fareeha’s face went blank, and Angela could swear her eyes got darker and glossier. As if the soul inside slipped away deeper into her and she disappeared somewhere else for a moment.

“That’s seriously what you’re apologizing for?” Fareeha asked, her voice not quite a whisper but it’s regular power either.

“What else could I apologize for?”

“Oh, I don’t know, like calling your friend a sick freak who you never wanted to see again! I’d say that’s a pretty good one to apologize for.” Fareeha swallowed, pushing back her and tied it up in a knot. Angela was hit with the realization that both the sides of her head were shaved.

“This is stupid,”  She whispered, “I shouldn’t have come here.” She stood up, and started walking towards the door.

“No, please, I’m sorry for that too. I am.” Fareeha hesitated, slowed down, then stopped. Angela tried to get eye contact, but Fareeha darted her eyes elsewhere.

“I— I got scared, okay? I mean, it freaked me out. When you were talking about how you felt. I recognized too much of what you were saying and it freak me out. I didn’t want to be… you know, feeling that, and it haunts me that I said those things to you. I tried to apologize, I really wanted to. But you disappeared and then when I started seeing you again I thought it was too late to matter anymore.” Angela spoke quickly. Only partly realizing that she had in her apology wrapped as an explanation effectively told Fareeha the same thing Fareeha had told her that last night.

“You’re right. It is too late. I don’t need, or want, to hear you’re tragic fucking backstory. Grow up and stop thinking your pain some way makes up for the hurt you caused.” Fareeha raised her voice more and more the further through the sentence she got.

“But I did, Fareeha! I grew up, and I faced the truth, but that didn’t change that you shut me out. You didn’t let me apologize when I still thought it mattered. I know now that of course it would have mattered whenever, but you didn’t let me! And really, nothing of that had even happened if you had just talked to me.” Angela’s voice raised too.

“I did!

“No, you told me you thought you might like girls and then kissed and told me it was a test. Yes, my reaction was bad , like really bad, but we were kids. Yes, I said really shitty stuff and I will not disagree with your right to still feel hurt because of them, but can’t still hold me accountable for my actions after when I’m telling you I tried .” They stared at each other. Angela only realized she had been shouting when she felt her heart beat faster, and that she had to catch her breath again. Fareeha swallowed, and Angela could swear she could see something melt in her.

“I’m leaving.” Fareeha said.

“Please don’t.” Fareeha stopped again. She sighed, throwing her head back before walking away. Angela could feel her eyes burning as much as her entire body did. The urge to punch a hole in the wall overtook her. She through her fist down against the table, and she could feel the impact all the way to her elbow, the clinking of the metal cutlery against the glass lunch boxes were like knives shoved into her ears. When Fareeha had agreed to come inside she really thought that this was it, this was when they healed. She couldn’t have been more wrong.

Chapter Text

Hey! Wait! I’ve got a new complaint!

“Shut up!” She slammed her hand against the alarm. The song of the alarm had been carefully picked. It started, in comparison to other parts of the song, easy, calmly. The chorus was harsh, screaming and distorted guitars. Hand picked to be an extra push so if the sound of the alarm didn’t wake her up instantly, at least the harsher parts would.

Fareeha groaned. She felt as if every vein in her brain had popped, and tried to push out of her temples. She propped herself up on her elbows, trying to open her eyes. The sunshine that managed to get through the curtains made it harder. She could see enough to locate her glass of water. She grabbed it and took one, two, three, big gulps before placing it back down.

The clock on her bedside table showed 7.01. She had known the risk with sneaking out at night, she knew what would wait in the morning. She wasn’t all that scared of her mother catching her. That could always be salvaged. Regardless of how tough her mother played Fareeha always managed to sneak out the same evening anyways. No, the bigger risk, and the larger problem was always the headaches that the lack of sleep gave her. She quickly counted the hours to about four, perhaps five. She was unsure of when she had actually gotten back home. Noah had dropped her off at the end of the block at about two, but she remembered that they had been sitting in her car way longer than Fareeha had planned. She smiled at the memory. She always had a hard time saying goodbye to Noah.

Fareeha got out of bed and walked straight out of her room and into the bathroom. Taking off her four day old t-shirt that smelled like the cheap beer she had spilt on it the night before and put it in the laundry basket to the side of the shower. She hurried to stepped into the shower and turn on the hot water. She realized as soon as she put her hands to her newly cut, and shaved, hair that she had taken too much shampoo. Even though she had had shorter hair for a few years, having the sides of her head shaved really did lessen the amount of hair, and in turn the needed amount of shampoo, significantly. She cleaned herself up, got out of the shower and went back to her room wrapped in a towel.

7.23. She still had another forty minutes or so before Noah would pick her up. She opened the t-shirt drawer and picked one at random. She considered picking another one when she looked at the plain black t-shirt but settled for it and put it on. She continued getting dressed. Ripped black jeans that hadn’t been washed for a week (or two), and the necklace, a thin golden chain, that her mother had given her for her birthday two years ago. She brushed her hair and let it fall to one side. 7.29. She sighed. Time never passed quick enough when you needed it to. She put her phone in her pocket and walked downstairs.

“Good morning.” Her mother, who was leaning against the kitchen counter eating a bowl of cereal, greeted her.

“Morning.” Fareeha greeted. She opened the fridge to grab the yoghurt and placed it on the table behind her, then grabbed a bowl from the cupboard right beside her mother. She sat down, and her mother placed the cereal in front of here.

“You know just yoghurt isn’t going to cut it, Fareeha.” Her mother told her, a smile on her lips.

“Yeah, yeah, but I eat plenty to make up for it though.” She poured the yoghurt into the bowl, realizing she had forgotten a spoon she stretch towards the drawer just to left.

“How much is plenty?”

“I don’t know. Enough? I mean, I eat… six times a day? I don’t think cereal or no cereal is going to be what tips the scale.” She laughed. Her mother shrugged.

“Alright, but you asked for my advice, I’m just giving it to you.”

“I know, mama.” Ana turned on the radio on the counter and turned the volume to something barely audible but comforting before she sat down at the table in the chair opposite Fareeha.

“How are you getting to school today?”

“Bike.”

“And when will you be home?”

“I don’t remember when school finishes, so I don’t really know. Kirsty and I thought about maybe going to the mall to get school supplies.” Ana nodded. Fareeha could hear the crunching of the cereal in her mouth.

“And uh— Noah?” Fareeha stopped mid motion of putting the spoonful of yoghurt into her mouth. A second passed before she finally put it in her mouth, hoping she could come up with something in the time she had with the yoghurt in her mouth.

“What about her?” Fareeha asked, begging this to not become another ugly fight.

“Well, you tell me. Are you sticking to our rules?” Ana asked. Fareeha sighed. The rules . The rules that included not hanging out with Noah because ‘ She’s not good for you Fareeha, people like her die in the back of a car in the middle of nowhere with needles in their arms’ . Fareeha knew Noah was smarter than that.

“Do I have a choice?” Fareeha stared at Ana. Keeping eye contact even though she wished so badly she hadn’t just said that. She was begging for no fight, yet she was picking it. Ana didn’t answer. Perhaps she had learnt to not choose these battles. The battles neither of them could win. Fareeha’s heart was beating fast as she shovelled the last three spoons of yoghurt into her mouth and leaving the table, the bowl still on the table.

“Fareeha, bowl!” Ana yelled after her. She put the black leather jacket on and picked up her backpack before heading out. She took her bike that was laying in the grass from the day before and biked down to the end of the block where Noah was waiting in her car. A pick up, which fit perfect with Fareeha having to take her bike not to arouse any suspicion of how she was getting to school.

“Am I late?” She asked when she climbed into the car.

“Nope. It just got crazy at home so I left early.” Fareeha nodded, adding an understanding smile before leaning in and kissing Noah. She started driving and Fareeha put on the radio. The car was ancient. It was a miracle they had got it running, but they had in the renovation from petrol system to electric one managed to have the time to fix a new radio. One that wasn’t just buttons and wheels to get right station, but that allowed you to actually use the internet to search for songs you wanted. The radio they had switched to was technology as old as their parents, which gave them a hint as to just how old the car was when they found it.

“Oh, Fareeha please no!” Noah laughed, feign hatred for the song she had put on. The distorted guitar riff that was played throughout the song made it easy to tell which song it was just from the intro.

“Don’t play, I know you secretly love this song.” Fareeha laughed too.

Just as she finished the sentence they both shouted out loud together with the singer. And continued singing (or well screaming) the rest of the lyrics.

I can't stand it, I know you planned it
I'm gonna set it straight, this Watergate

Fareeha couldn’t help but to start slightly headbanging, but tried to control herself knowing that of she really started going she wouldn’t stop and she would get motion sick. Their singing continued through the song until the next, and the next, and the next, all the way to school. They parked next to another ancient rusty pick up where four people were sitting in the back of it. They all greeted each other when Fareeha and Noah got out of the car and jumped up into the back of the pick up with the rest.

“Have you heard the good word?” Kirsty asked directed to Fareeha and Noah. Kirsty was the only one in the gang that didn’t sport all black all the time, or ever for that matter. That didn’t make her the odd one out though, they all knew that. Kirsty was the one who introduced them to new music. She was one who played the drums until she was drenched in sweat. She was the one who started the mosh pits. They all joked that having parents who were hippies would do wonders to the colour schemes of a wardrobe, but it probably wasn’t all that far from the truth.

“What?” Fareeha asked, feigning shock, “Jesus has finally come back to save our sinful teen hearts?” The gang laughed.

“Almost, Buffster are playing Gargantuan!” Fareeha’s feign shock turned to real shock. She had no doubt in her mind that Kirsty had planned the layout for how to tell her the news. Buffster was after all Fareeha’s favourite band and no one in the group had missed it.

“No way! Seriously?” Kirsty nodded.

“Holy fuck, we got to go! When is it?”

“Next Friday.” Fareeha couldn’t stop smiling.

“Traditional dumbass spotting anyone?” She questioned the gang. All of them got out to walk to the yard for their traditional first day of school dumbass spotting. A tradition they had had for three years, which was mostly them making fun of the popular kids of the school. Fareeha knew it was… cliché, and in a sense hypocritical of them to say they were better than the bullies when they were the bullies when no one could hear. But the sense of healing when you could verbally take down the biggest guys in school without risking being beaten up was beyond compare. Then again, Fareeha had no doubt in her mind that she could take them all down easily if they ever tried anything.

They sat down at an empty bench, Fareeha placed herself on the back part of the bench above Noah who rested her head against Fareeha’s leg. She scanned the yard. Most of the people in it she had never talked to or even knew the names off. Those kids were mostly off-limits from dumbass spotting. However, they weren’t off-limits to comment on. The comments weren’t necessarily mean, they were more observations on someone style of clothing or the unfortunate new haircut. No, dumbass spotting was more often not reserved for the group of five people on the other side of the yard. From a distance Fareeha couldn’t spot much change to Angela’s appearance except that she aged. She had never really told anyone in the group except Noah about Angela.

“God, those five never get any less annoying do they?” Jake, the only guy in the friend group, asked no one in particular when the loud screams of Angela and Gina alerted the entire yard (some laughed and some asked themselves the same question as Jake).

“What I find so strange is that they don’t realize everyone hates them.” Asta, who sat next to Fareeha, said.

Fareeha followed Angela as she and Jasper headed into the building. No, those five never got any less annoying, but her loathing for Angela’s four friends were certainly different from her hatred towards her.

She scanned the yard again. Yeah, they were definitely still in high school. She wasn’t immune, she knew she didn’t know everything and that at the end of the day she wasn’t immune to looking back when she was older and regret so many things. But at least she wasn’t Roger C who had shown up to first day of school with a white shirt dyed pink and jeans with a giant while in the crotch area. He wasn’t dumbass material, she was just noting that maybe this wasn’t his best day. Or Roger’s friend Hank who had definitely turned up in a shirt with anti-omnic propaganda on it. She wasn’t sure he actually knew it was anti-omnic propaganda.  

Noah lit a cigarette, took a couple of drags before handing it too Fareeha. She took it and passed it to Asta. Fareeha was the only one in the group who wasn’t a smoker. She would admit that it was partly because of the horrendous taste, but she wouldn’t admit that it was partly because it definitely would ruin all of her hard training. She wasn’t going to keep her sub-40 10k’s with a pack of smokes everyday. It wasn’t that the others would make fun of her, it was just that they didn’t really get her dedication to running.

“I have some shit to get done, catch you later?” Fareeha directed towards Noah.

“Yeah, we’ll wait for you by the car.” Noah replied.

Fareeha got up and walked towards the building. When she opened the door and walked in she was greeted by several loud noises all at the same time. She took a deep breath. She was okay. She was gonna be okay. She took a right, walked through a filled corridor and took a left. She headed straight down the corridor towards the washrooms. She walked slowly, trying to take her time so she wouldn’t have to stand in line for the locker combinations. She didn’t mind being late for class if it meant not having to queue. She grabbed the door when she reached it. In the same second she grabbed it and was about to open it, a force on the other side pushed it into her and into her forehead.

“Fuck!”

“Shit! Sorry!” She heard a familiar voice apologize as she pulled open the door. The force on the other side was Angela. She couldn’t remember her being this much shorter than her. Angela gave her a smile and walked away. Fareeha’s mouth hung open as she stared at her. Move Fareeha.


 

Fareeha walked out of the building when her last class ended and headed towards the parking lot. Noah and Kirsty were blasting Neuer Schwarz latest single when she reached the car. Kirsty scooted closer to Noah to make room for Fareeha.

“Guys, I’m all out of energy so you should just go without me.” She told them, both of their smiles fell.

“Seriously?” They exclaimed at the same time.

“We waited for 40 minutes for you!” Kirsty told Fareeha.

“Is that my problem?” Fareeha smirked. Noah gave her the finger and a smile. Fareeha moved to the back of the car where she got her bike and waved them off. She put on her headphones and told the phone assistant to shuffle her favorite playlist. She got on her bike and started pedaling fast. She wasn’t sure where to, because she wasn’t going home. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to go home, it was just that home didn’t feel like the right place to be.

The direction was meaningless at this point. There was not destination at the end of it. She was just going fast somewhere, anywhere.. She slowed down when she rounded a corner and slowed down almost to a halt when she saw the bus. She had been in sever almost-accidents with buses when she had gone passed them in high speed and for once she learned from her mistakes.

She slowed down to a halt as a person backed out of the bus and it left without her. She killed the oncoming smile when Angela exclaimed an annoyed ‘Fuck’. Somehow she still hadn’t realized Fareeha was there.

“Need a ride?”

Fareeha was screaming at herself internally. The look on Angela’s face mixed with the sheer power of being the one to ask made the internal screaming easy to mask. She tried to not smile though, she didn’t want to let anything on. They stared at each other for a couple of seconds, and the internal screaming got louder when Angela moved towards her and she realized she had fucked up monumentally. She didn’t want to give Angela a ride, at least not really. The part of her that felt bad for her was so incredibly small that the decision to ask her couldn’t be seen as anything other than an impulse. Angela sat down behind her on the bike. She couldn't back out now.

“Hold on.” She told Angela as she started pedaling, soon enough she got up enough speed to keep her balance. She was sure that the wind probably blew all of her hair in Angela’s face and while it felt like a small victory to at least have that she understood how pathetic it was to be so petty.

The sound of the wheels against the gravel pierced through their silence. Her heart skipped a beat when Angela started talking.

“So, uh…” Fuck, FUCK, FUCK. “What—What’s Bikini Kill?” Angela asked. FUCK, was the only thing going through Fareeha’s head.

“It’s a band.” She answered, hoping Angela couldn’t hear her voice shaking.

“Oh. I’ve never heard of them. What do they play?” Fareeha was surprised Angela hadn’t heard of them. While Fareeha had discovered the 1980’s and 1990’s punk and Riot Grrrl music years after their catastrophic falling out, the music they would listen to together wasn’t that far from that style. She knew Angela liked or at least used to like that music.

“Of course you haven’t.” she answered, acting cold. They continued back and forth for a little before falling back into their silence. The tires against the gravel calmed Fareeha’s internal screaming that flared up again when Angela had started talking. They finally reached Green’s Wine and Angela’s house.

“Thanks.” Angela smiled at Fareeha and started walking towards her house.

Move Fareeha. Stop looking. Move. But she couldn’t. Not this time either. She quickly looked down at the ground for a second when Angela looked at her and then back up at her. She had definitely been caught staring.

“Why do you do that?” Angela asked.

“Do what?”

“You did it by the washroom too today. You linger. You stare at me. Why?”

‘Because you’re different and it’s strange. Because you’re different and it intrigues me. Because I think I’ve tricked myself into continue hating you because not hating you doesn’t feel like an option.’

“I don’t know” She answered.

Fareeha got herself invited to dinner when her stomach growled louder than it had in days. No, just cereal wouldn’t last when you don’t have decent lunch. She could feel Angela stare at her as she hunched over the lunchbox and shovelled food into her mouth. She asked who’s staring now and when she does she accidentally picked a fight.

“I’m sorry.” Angela told her.

“For what?”

“I didn’t mean to stare.” Her face fell. Maybe she didn’t completely trick herself into hating Angela. Maybe it was just Angela’s complete lack of understanding of Fareeha.

“That’s seriously what you’re apologizing for?” She asked.

“What else could I apologize for?”

“Oh, I don’t know, like calling your friend a sick freak who you never wanted to see again! I’d say that’s a pretty good one to apologize for.”

Eventually she got up and left even to Angela half-heartedly begged her stay. Only when she finally closed the last door behind her she lets herself cry.

She dried the tears she couldn’t stop from running down her cheek. She got on her bike and went as fast as she could all the way home. The distance that would in her normal pace take 30 minutes took her 15 minutes.

She carefully opened the front door. It wasn’t late, and her mother hadn’t called her, so she figured sneaking in wasn’t something she had to do. Mostly it was a habit. She poked her head in and listened before walking in. Her mother wasn’t home, which was probably why she hadn't called. She ran up the stairs and into her room. She took off her jacket and let it drop to the floor before throwing herself into her bed face down. Turning her face from the pillows to look at the small hints of streetlight that peaked in.

Need a ride?

How could she have been dumb enough to even ask that, to put herself in that position. Angela wasn’t wrong though, she had avoided her ever since that last night, and she couldn’t understand how she was dumb enough to stop avoiding her. The bathroom encounter was enough contact for the next five years. In the back of her mind she knew why she did it - because she needed to try it. Fareeha was (mostly) over it. The fight she had picked with Angela was for the same reason she would pick fights with her mother, her teachers, with Noah, with anyone. She couldn’t help herself. So, while she wasn’t fully over what had happened, it wasn’t worth starting another fight over and she knew it. She just couldn’t… stop herself.

She laid in her bed. She read through old texts from the gang, but still the tears running down her face wouldn’t stop or turn into happier kinds of tears.

She put on her headphones and put the only song she knew in the moment on repeat and cranked it up to max. She didn’t care about sleep tonight either. She only cared about not feeling, she only cared about feeling less, she only cared about feeling something else. She put on her running shorts and let the music be at its max when she sneaked out of her window, not caring if her mother heard her or not. The grass cold and wet from the dew against her feet. She started running without a direction in mind.


Listen all y'all, it's a sabotage.

She ran as fast as she could, not caring about the asphalt chafing against her soles.

Listen all y'all, it's a sabotage.

She ran as fast as she could, not caring about her body being on fire.

Listen all y'all, it's a sabotage.

She ran as fast as she could, not caring about the tears making her vision blurry.

Listen all y'all, it's a sabotage.

She ran as fast as she could, and fell down on someone's lawn when she couldn’t do it anymore. She couldn’t take it anymore, and she never knew how to deal with that. And that’s exactly how she dealt. By not dealing. By letting other feelings take its place so she would forget the real problem and not have to face it. She walked home. The same song repeating on max volume.



Chapter Text

The first three weeks of school Angela finds herself having to kickstart her brain with coffee several times every day. She had had times in previous semesters when she had to make an effort to take in the information. Times when she had to concentrate on concentrating. But she hadn’t had times when her energy was so low, and her focus in such a wildly different place, that she couldn’t even concentrate on concentrating. In a few weeks the first test would start dropping in from teachers, and she was nowhere near the mindset of studying for anything. No, her head was elsewhere. Her head had been elsewhere for three weeks.

She had ran into Fareeha twice over those three weeks. They hadn’t talked, of course they hadn’t. Neither of them had made an effort to. Angela didn’t blame her, and she knew if they were to talk again it would be up to her to seek that connection. She wanted to, and for once she would admit that she just didn’t have the guts.

“When do you want me to pick you up tonight?” Jasper asked her. They were sitting at a table in one of the quieter corridors of the school. She had been staring at the same paragraph in her biology textbook for five minutes yet not reading a single word of it. She looked up at him, frowning.

“What’s tonight?”

“Jessica’s party.”

“I thought you didn’t like Jessica?” She asked him.

“I don’t, but I do like parties and Jessica’s parties are the good ones.”

She looked back down at her textbook, a heavy sigh leaving her. Yeah, he liked parties. Angela enjoyed it too, mostly at least. The parties were fun, Jasper wasn’t. He would always get too drunk and she would always be there to pick him up. She rarely even tasted anything she was offered at the parties because she knew that he would never be the one driving them home.

“I don’t know, I think I’ll just stay, I really have to deal with this biology homework.” She told him, he’s ever present hint-of-a-smile fell to something much colder. It would do that sometimes. He stood up, and picked up his backpack from off the ground beside the table.

“I’ll pick you up at eight.” He told her and kissed her cheek before leaving.

She kept looking at him as he walked away and out of the exit on the corner. A sudden nausea came over her and she scrambled to collect all of her things —her books, notepads, and pens— and threw them into her backpack. She headed for the closest exit that wasn’t the one he had gone through and took a deep breath as soon as the crispy cold air hit her face. She was okay. She wasn’t going to throw up. She was okay.

The awaited, much belated, autumn weather had quickly come upon the passed week. The familiar summer heat and turned into the kind of cold Angela liked more than any other type of weather. When a shirt would let the cold seep in through the fabric and onto her skin, yet was just enough to keep you warm. She took a deep breath again. Held it. Let it go. Took a breath. Held it. Let it go. Yeah, she was going to okay. While she walked from the exit to the bikes she fished out her keys from her pocket. She had stopped taking rides with Jasper, at least until the snow started settling on the ground. The yard was not completely empty but as the cold had washed upon them people had quickly started migrating to the mall, or the school gym, instead of the school yard. She unlocked her bike and started going home. If she had to be done by eight she had to be quick.

A few kilometers from home, when the smooth asphalt turned to gravel, the memories of sitting behind Fareeha on the back of her bike hit her. She knew she had to talk to her. If not for her or for the both of them, at least for her herself. She needed some sort of closure, but the idea of not getting it and only making things worse made her back out anytime she was going to talk to Fareeha. She was going to text her, call her, go up to her, and nothing seemed good enough. The feeling of drowning, and seeing her hands shake uncontrollably every time she was ready to call or talk or text was warning enough to not do it. But she had to. She knew that. If she never talked to her she would commit the same mistake that had separated them for too long already.

She leaned her bike against the house wall and locked it when she got home.

“Hello?” She yelled as she walked through the door at home. No answer. She usually didn’t get an answer anymore. She didn’t blame her father. He wasn’t allowed to tell her exactly what he was working on, but he was allowed to tell her that it was something big. Something that would take a lot of hard work, and hard work meant a lot of time. He tried his best though, and she allowed him to do what he loved.

On the way to her room she detoured in the the bathroom and turned on the faucet to the bathtub. She left and went to her bedroom as she waited for it too fill up, throwing her bag and her clothes on her bed. She brought her phone and bathrobe back to the bathroom. The tub was filled enough for her to sink into it and not have to touch the cold metal with her back if she sank far enough into it.

You going to Jessica’s tonight? She texted Gina.

Duh. Need a ride?

No, going with Jasper .

She put her phone on the small table beside the bathtub. She turned off the faucet when the bathtub was almost completely full. She sank lower into the heat, letting the water consume her whole chest and neck. Letting it consume the back of her head and ears. She stared at the ceiling for a few seconds before closing her eyes. The heat of the water worked its way up to her face, making it tingly and warm.

She listened to the sound of nothing, the sound of water, as she drifted further into her own mind. The weird sensation in her chest that she had felt before, and that had been more frequent the passed month was still there. It wasn’t pain, and it didn’t really scare her. It was just… heavy, in a not scary heart attack related way, but heavy in a recovering from not being able to breathe way. She sat up when she couldn’t hear the sound of the water anymore, when her thoughts made themself known loud and clear. She washed herself and got up. Putting on her bathrobe and putting her hair in a towel turban.

The next two and a half hours passed slowly. She had dinner and got ready, and every second felt like an eternity.  Jasper picked her up at nine instead of eight.


 

“Jasper! Angie!” She heard Gina’s voice shout at that when they passed the front door of the house. She ran up to them and hugged them. Angie . They had been friends for long enough that Angela thought Gina knew by now that it was never Angie.

The party was loud, louder than she thought she could handle. It wasn’t louder than any other party, it was just too loud right now, and all she wanted to go back home, watch a documentary about endangered species and maybe cry about it while eating the last of the snacks her dad a bought for her on his last business trip to some world class laboratorium.

“Here you go.” Gina gave her a drink. Angela tasted it and winced. The strong aftertaste of nail polish wasn’t the worst part, it was the taste of massive amounts of sugar. Angela loved candy and sugar as much as the next person, but there was a limit, and her limit was about two liters of sugar before whatever sugar content was in this drink. She held onto it so not to be handed another drink or have to make up a lie about why she isn’t drinking.

She had lost track of Jasper for the few seconds she paid attention to Gina, only to find him again doing shots, several of them in a row, only to suggest playing beer pong right after. She swallowed and put on a smile.

All she wanted was to go home.


 

She stroked his back when he bent over again and threw up. He started digging in his pocket for the car keys when he was finished. Angela reached for them and he retracted his arm.

“My car, I drive.” He told her.

“Jasper.” She sighed. She reached for the keys again, and he retracted his arm again. This time, however, his other hand quickly made it to her face. A slap. She drew a quick breath, putting her own hand over her right cheek where he had slapped her. He put the same hand over hers.

“Aw, Angie.” He faked an over dramatic pout. “If you stop trying to control things, people might actually start liking you.” He smiled at her. She took a quick step back, stepping right into the car. His hand followed hers, trying to dry the tears that had started running down her face.

“Don’t cry. There’s nothing to cry about, let’s go home.” He started fumbling around with the key chain, trying to find his car key. She stared at him trying to find the right key. When she tasted the salt of her tears she felt her lip quiver. Without thinking she grabbed his keys and threw them away as quickly as she could. He tried to catch them, but in the darkness, only slightly lit up the lights coming from the windows of the house, he might not even have been able to quickly locate them even if he was sober.

“Fuck!” He shouted as he started walking towards the general direction she had thrown the keys. He didn’t walk more than four or five steps before he quickly turned around and walked the same steps back to her. He didn’t stop until they were standing body to body, his pushing hers further back into the car.

“Who do you think you are?” He shouted in her face. “Huh? Who the fuck do you think you are?” She tried to push herself even further back.

“I’m sorry.” She cried.

“I don’t fucking care that you’re sorry, bitch! You’re always sorry, instead of just fucking thinking for once.” He voice lowered the longer he spoke.

“What’s going on?” Angela saw Jessica running down from the house to them. Jasper backed away and laughed.

“Nothing. We were just having a moment.” He answered.

“Are you okay?” Jessica asked Angela, putting her hand on her shoulder.

“Oh, yea, I’m- I’m fine. We just had a moment.” Angela answered, putting on a smile.

“A moment?” Jessica asked, looking at Jasper.

“Yeah, just a good moment.” He answered.

“Are you going home?” Jessica asked.

“Well, I seem to have lost my keys so…” Jasper replied, staring at Angela but putting up a smile for Jessica.

“Oh, well call a cab and you can come back tomorrow or another day and we can all look for them.” Jessica told him.

When Jessica left Jasper called a cab and started walking away towards the big street where the cab was estimated to be in thirty minutes. Angela’s breath still hitched once every few breaths. He had been aggressive before but never violent. She had been scared before but never this scared. She could still feel the sting of his slap on her cheek.

“Are you coming or what?” He asked her, his voice harsh. She looked down at her feet and then at the house. She couldn’t tell them. Either they wouldn’t believe her, or they would and he would get in trouble which would make things even worse. Jasper turned around again and kept walking when she followed him. They waited forty minutes before the cab came and took them home. Not a long ride, but certainly expensive, something he made sure she knew.

They got ready for bed in silence. Something they usually did when she spent the night at each others after a party. The silence was out of necessity to not wake anyone. Tonight his house was empty though, and the usual comfortable silence had been corrupted into a much more eerie silence reminiscent of a haunted house in the middle of nowhere.

When they crawled into bed he spared no seconds until he snuggled up to her and started touching her. First her stomach. Then stroking her naked legs. Then her face, her hair, her neck. She could feel him against her, warm and rock hard. She threw herself out of bed and ran to the bathroom when he started moving his hands down to her crotch. She threw up.


 

When she woke up in Jaspers bed it was empty and still dark outside. She picked up her phone on his nightstand — 5.40. She let her head fall back down, the comfort of the pillow drawing her back into sleep quickly but her mind started asking questions even quicker. She tried to listen for sounds, any sounds. A toilet flushing, footsteps outside, a fridge door closing. There were no sounds, and she was left hanging with the complete lack of anything to go with. The room was pitch black, and the house was as silent as it had been when she fell asleep. She’d never been afraid of the dark, yet she felt her heart beating faster at the thought of being alone in Jasper’s house at night. It wasn’t in the middle of scary nowhere like her own house was, it was just… big, and empty, and devoid of any sort of love put into it. And when she closed her eyes and hoped that the pillow would take her back she heard it. Whispers.

She listened again and the whispering continued. She got out of the bed and tip toed over to the door and put her ear close the small gap between the door and the frame, hoping it would help her pick up words.

“I’m trying… I will… I miss you.”

Something clicked in her and as much as she wanted to rip open the door and find him to ask what was going on she didn’t. She went back to bed. If Jasper was cheating on her, which she usually thought was an odd term to use in a high school relationship until now, he would never tell her the truth. No, she would have to play the long game. Or no game at all. But she remembered what happened the last time she had suggested they break up.

Chapter Text

She couldn’t help a smile from forming when they kissed. A smile that she could feel spread from top to toe. And even though they had kissed a hundred times it always, always , felt like the first time they kissed; tipsy on beer and filled with adrenaline. Fareeha hadn’t slept a second that night. 

Fareeha had told her mother she was staying at Kirsty’s, the one friend her mother didn’t have anything against. She wouldn’t say she actually lied to her mother, they had been at Kirsty’s, and they had stayed for several hours, she just wasn’t spending the night. No, the night she spent with Noah, sleeping on a thin air mattresses in the pick-up of the car. A big yet also thin blanket to protect them from the cold. When they laid close together, body against body, that thin blanket was enough to insulate their shared body heat. 

She was unused to autumn once again after the summer, but she guessed that despite the limited sunlight that it wasn’t as early as it looked. They stayed there, laying still, just looking at each other. Fareeha could lay there looking at Noah for forever, and she would’ve stayed there for longer if Noah hadn’t sat up, dragging the blanket with her, exposing Fareeha to the cold outside that seeped into her big hoodie and sweatpants too quickly for her to handle. Fareeha sat up too, hugging Noah, trying to leech off her body heat as long as possible. 

They had parked the car at a lake on the outskirts of town. The lake was surrounded by a forest, as was much of town. Where the asphalt stopped, gravel began, and so too did the forest. The green had slowly started to turn, and now Fareeha saw more orange, more yellow, more red, than she saw green. A light layer of mist had settled over the calm water, only disturbed by the rare wind  that passed by. Fareeha took a deep breath, leaning her head on Noah’s shoulder, just trying to take in the serenity of it all. 

”We should go skinny dipping.” Noah said, still looking out at the lake. The calm, misty, and probably freezing lake. 

“What?” Fareeha asked, sitting up straight to look at Noah, who turned her head to look at Fareeha.

“Seriously, it’s gonna be great.”

Fareeha thought about it, and then agreed with a smile and a nod. They got out of the pick-up and both hurried to undress. With every layer of clothing she took off, Fareeha regretted it. They finished at the same time and walked down to the lake. Noah dove in without hesitation and Fareeha regretted dipping her feet first. It made the rest of the experience harder. But when Noah resurfaced, beckoning her into the lake, she braced herself and jumped in, instantly thinking she was going to drown from the sheer pain forcing her lungs to contract. When she broke the surface she took a big gulp of air, and quickly let it out again. She tried to fight the hyperventilation, the harder she tried, the more painful it got. 

“Deep breaths. Deep breaths.” Noah told her, and she tried and failed until Noah swam to shore with her, grabbing their clothes and towels and the big blanket. When they had gotten dressed Noah wrapped them in the blanket, bringing Fareeha closer to her. Body to body Fareeha stole Noah’s heat again. 

“How are you not freezing?” Fareeha asked

“I am freezing. I just do this a lot, the freezing doesn’t bother me. Mind over matter and all that.”

“Mind over matter?” Fareeha scoffed. “I think you’re just insane.” 

“Look, you’ve seen me run. When my legs start cramping up and the lactic acid hits me harder than a train, I give up. You, however, push on. You almost run faster when you’re in pain. Because you’ve decided that the pain isn’t enough to make you stop running. I just do that but I decide the cold isn’t enough to make me get up until I have to or want to.” Noah explained.

“To be honest with you, all I’m hearing is that we’re both insane.” 

“I’m not going to disagree with that.” Noah agreed, dragging herself out from Fareeha’s grip. 

“We need to get going.” She told Fareeha. 

“We could just skip.” Fareeha proposed. 

“No, we can’t. You get anxious.”

Fareeha hated that Noah was right. She sighed. Still wrapped in the blanket she jumped into the passenger seat and waited for Noah to drive them off to school. 


 

Two periods passed of boring information she forced herself to write down. She dragged herself to her locker, just wishing lunch would come quicker. She stopped close to her locker and stared down the hallway. 

Fareeha watched the blond ponytail swing from side to side as Angela walked down the hall. She had come from on of the side corridors, walking with her friend Gina as they probably came from their class. 

“Are you waiting for someone?” Kirsty asked. Fareeha’s attention shifted slowly. 

“No, just daydreaming I guess.” Fareeha offered a smile. She put back her books in her locker before closing it and turning around to lean against it. 

“Oh? Anything fun?” 

“You, me, maybe the rest of the gang, and a bottle of like… something very strong.” Fareeha suggested. Kirsty huffed, her brows furrowing. 

“You don’t drink.” It wasn’t a question. 

“It’s... situational.” 

“What’s the situation?” Kirst asked, her face more serious. Fareeha looked at her as she kept fixing in her locker. 

“Do you… Have you ever met someone again after a long time and you like… you have this idea of why you’re not friends anymore but then…” She took a deep breath, crossing her arms over her chest and looking down at her old dirty shoes, “then you’re told their side of the story and you’re not so sure anymore?” She looked back up at Kirsty who closed her locker. Her chest out, straight back, and hint of a smile. 

“No. But it does sound like quite the situation. I’m alone tonight, so if you want to come over, come over. We can drink something strong.” Kirsty started walking, Fareeha followed. 

“And Reeha, if you want to talk about it, you know I’m all ears and shoulders whenever you need it. We all are.” Fareeha couldn’t help but smile. 

“I know, I appreciate it.” 

And as they kept walking she could feel warmth spread through her body. She loved Kirsty with every bone in her body, every cell of her being. She loved Kristy in a way she had never loved any of her friends before. They were all close, and they all meant a lot to her, and she didn’t doubt she meant a lot to them too. But Kirsty, Kirsty was a shock to her system. Kirsty was the one who had picked up Fareeha from having been mostly alone, and always lonely for a year after Angela. Kirsty was... unconditional. Kirsty was that one person in her life she knew would be there regardless of the world around them for a very long time. 

“See you.” Kirsty said as she turned into one of the classrooms. Fareeha continued down the hall to the last room on the right and sat in the back where Noah had already taken a seat. Their teacher, Ms. Jensen, hadn’t shown up yet. 

“I’m going to a party tonight, are you coming?” Noah asked.

“A party? Who’s party?” 

“I’m not entirely sure to be completely honest. Jake invited me so must be someone cool.” Fareeha looked from Noah to the front where Ms. Jensen was now standing placing her things on the table. 

“I’ll think about.” she sighed. She could feel Noah staring at her. It wasn’t that it was unlike her to turn down a party, but she had been turning down a lot of them the past few weeks. She used to at least show up for an hour or two. She had to show up. She let the feeling of being stared at go and paid full attention to Ms. Jensen. 


 

“You didn’t tell the others, did you?” Kirsty asked, half a smile showing. Fareeha sighed, taking a swig from her cup filled with unknown ingredients. 

“No,” she sighed, “I couldn’t get myself to do it. I didn’t feel like… I wanted to talk about my situation and be sad and be angry about it and maybe destroy something but I can’t. Not with Noah around.” 

“Why?”

“Because I think she cares too much when I have those feelings.”

“Dude, she’s your girlfriend. How can she care too much ?” 

Fareeha stared down at her cup. Maybe she didn’t mean those exact words but they were the only words that she could find that fit what she felt. She didn’t want to lose Noah. It was out of the question to lose Noah. But Fareeha knew herself well enough that when things got complicated, she didn’t face them head on. She fled to save herself from the shrapnel that would undoubtedly come flying her way. And Angela would complicate everything. She had already complicated things. If she was open with Noah about it, it would be a whole new layer of issues. 

“Because I know she cares, but I can’t let her care about this. I need to handle this myself.”

“By drinking? Come on Amari, you don’t do that. You most certainly do not look it but seriously you’re more straight edge than I am and we all know that isn’t all because of your mom, it has a lot to do with you too.”

“Well, I do now.” She said and took a swig. “And I’m not that straight edge.” She added.

“Just talk to me, okay? You know nothing gets passed me. It’s not my life to deal with or too ruin. But I am nosy as fuck.” Kirsty laughed. Fareeha laughed too. 

“I knew Angela Ziegler once. Noah knows this, but I haven’t really told any of you that. I haven’t hidden it necessarily but you never asked and I figured I didn’t have to tell.” She started. Kirsty looked at her. Her face was stone cold, no emotion shown, no muscle twitching. 

“And that’s because things ended very badly. Not ‘ended’ as in a relationship ending, but we were best friends, better than best friends. And I fucked that up. I got feelings and I kissed her and… She said a lot of vile things to me and about me.” She took a deep breath, her eyes burning, “She told me I was disgusting. I stuck with that story. The story where she was the villain. But then I ran into her a couple of weeks ago. She had to get home and I helped her, and I ended up having dinner there. It was cool for awhile but we started fighting about it. And this story I had in my head, where she’s the villain. It wasn’t all wrong but it really isn’t all true either. She told me her side of it and she basically told me that in her story I’m the villain. Or at least I wouldn’t let her redeem herself.

“And you know, I kept wondering how the fuck she could’ve gotten it so royally messed up in her head. But I think that I might’ve been the one who got it wrong. And I keep seeing her in the halls and I get these… waves of anger and sadness and… feelings. I keep thinking how it would’ve been if I had just accepted that she fucked up and forgiven her.” She stopped and took a drink from her cup.

“We can’t do that though, can we? We can’t go back. All we can do is accept the past and deal with the hand we have. A great move can turn out shit but we can’t know until we try.”

“But I could’ve guessed!”

“No, Reeha you couldn’t. Unless she had implied earlier that she didn’t want that to happen or that she did want that to happen, you couldn’t have known. You played the hand you were dealt and blew up. It happens.”

“Please stop it with the cards. This isn’t a game. I have to deal with the fact that I apparently seem to be pining over some girl I barely know anymore who thinks I’m a freak while I have a girlfriend somewhere out there who wants me to go do awesome shit and I can’t because I’m too busy lying about having to do other things so I can avoid her.”

“Hmm, yeah, that isn’t great.” Kirsty nodded. 

“No, it’s not fucking great.”

“So what are you going to do about it?” She asked. Fareeha frowned and looked up at Kirsty.

“If I knew, I would be doing it but I don’t. I really don’t.” 

Fareeha stared down into her cup. Kirsty was right. She didn’t drown her sorrows. She had barely even had anything stronger than one of those beers that taste like water. Right now she suspected Noah was already knee deep in an eventual black out. It wasn’t that it happened often, but it happened when she wasn’t there to carry her home. Or in the case that she was sober - drive them home. 

“So…” Kirsty broke the small silence that had settled between them, a deep frown on her face “You have feelings for her? Ziegler?”

Fareeha took a deep, long, breath, and for the duration of that inhale she thought about it and made a decision. 

“Yeah,” she exhaled, “I don’t think I really ever stopped having feelings for her. They were just in slumber. I don’t think I could still have been as angry as I’ve been if I didn’t.” She took a sip. 

“Or well, she said some really vile things and that isn’t something someone just forgets but, I have never held a grudge before because I don’t really care. Now I cared. Now I still care. And I’m not going to do anything about it because I would just be making everything worse.” Another sip. 

“And I can’t hurt Noah. I love all of you but Noah… It’s not just that I love her. With her I feel good in a way I very rarely do otherwise. This small beacon of hope that maybe everything is temporary and if I live another day I will eventually feel good about it. Maybe even great one day.”  

Kirsty nodded. A warm smile growing over time. 

“Maybe we should stop wallowing in your sorrow and just go to that party. If we’re gonna drink we might as well have fun.” Kirsty said and chugged the last of her beer.

Fareeha nodded. Answering Kirsty’s smile with her own grin. 


 

Fareeha had never talked to Jessica. They had gone to the same schools since first grade and yet the occasion had never risen. Neither had avoided it, at least Fareeha didn’t think so, but as far as Fareeha could tell they would have zero things in common. 

“Hi!” Jessica greeted with a wide smile on her face, a slight flush on her cheeks, as she embraced Kirsty and then Fareeha.

“It’s so cool you could come,” She standing back a little while they took off their jackets, trying to find a last space to cram it into where someone wouldn’t accidentally take it, “booze is in the kitchen, naturally, and uh— I think there are some games going on in the living room. Bathrooms are down the hall and right on the left up the stairs.” She told them. Fareeha just smiled and nodded. Kirsty thanked her and then looked at Fareeah. 

“Booze?” Kirsy proposed. 

“How did she know we had even come I could barely hear her talk?” Kirsty laughed and started walking to the kitchen, ignoring Fareeha’s neglect to answer her question. 

The kitchen was packed with people. Some just talking. Some just drinking. Some talking and drinking. Fareeha stood by and looked while Kirsty started mixing a diabolical cocktail of almost equal parts beer and vodka. Though, Fareeha was sure, it wasn’t supposed to be almost equal parts. She put it aside and made another of the same mix, turned around and handed it to Fareeha. With a furrowed brow she smelled the contents of the cup. The strong scent of acetone burned her nose down to her throat. If she had had a cold it would’ve undoubtedly cleared her sinuses. 

“Yeah, I’m not drinking that.” Fareeha laughed. Kirsty rolled her eyes and turned around again. She poured a cup half full of orange soda, and then topped up the cup Fareeha was holding with the same soda. 

“Chug it.” Kirsty told her, a small smile on her lips. Fareeha wanted to ask her if she was absolutely insane. She started her for a few seconds. But she didn’t ask. This was exactly what she had asked for, the exact thing she had in a sense been longing for forever. The same feeling she would feel when she got into fights with guys at concerts. The same feeling she would feel when they started landing punches on her. The feeling of complete and utter loss of control, but especially the loss of control of her destiny for a few hours. She trusted Kirsty to not be an ass about it, and to take care of her if she needed it. So, she chugged it. The half parts vodka made itself cleared as it burned her insides from the tip of her tongue down to her stomach. The orange soda hadn’t masked it whatsoever, it only made the concoction taste a touch sweeter. She coughed a little, and made a mock gag sound. Kirsty laughed. 

“Yeah, I know it’s fucking terrible but it gets the job done. Now drink the soda at your own pace and don’t spike it. I will know.”

They walked out of the kitchen and into the living room. Somehow, in the midst of the chaos of the living room, even more packed with loud people, they found Jake and Noah. They were sitting on a couch, talking to two girls from the LGBT student group Fareeha had never bothered to care about. She admired Jake and Noah’s dedication to it, and Fareeha wouldn’t mind attending at some point but there was always something . Something more important, something less important but more interesting. She wouldn’t mind if it didn’t happen either. 

“Hey! I didn’t think you would come.” Noah told them. 

“Well, we’re here.” Fareeha said as she sat down, squeezing in between Noah and the armrest. Noah put her arm around Fareeha’s neck, and pulled them closer together. Closer into a kiss. The feeling of falling through the floor, that feeling of your insides going in weird places when you go down the big drops on roller coasters, it was always the same. For a brief second or two she wasn’t actually sure that her insides weren’t actually going in weird places, like a stomach turning inside out. But the feeling slowly faded as Noah broke away from the kiss. As the feeling faded so did the smile that had spread across her face. Fareeha’s eyes darted towards Kirsty. Fuck, fuck, fuck . One way or another she would hurt someone, and it was either Noah or herself. She wasn’t sure which was the worst option. 

“Okay, so…” Noah started, taking back her arm as she turned slightly towards Jake, “How exactly do you know Jessica?” 

“I have so many little dirty secrets you don’t know about me honey. This one is especially dirty.” Jake grinned. 

“You’ve slept with Jessica?” Kirsty almost shouted, getting the attention of some nearby small talkers. 

“Ew, no, we’re cousins!” Jake defended himself. Kirsty let out a breath and laughed. 

“To be fair, that doesn’t stop some people.” Fareeha added. 

“I’m gonna go smoke.” Noah said after a few breaths of silence. As she stood up and walked away Jake and Fareeha followed. Fareeha wasn’t sure why exactly she followed. The smell always got stuck in her hair and her mother would interrogate her, which was almost as annoying as the smell itself. The backyard was endless, or at least it seemed endless as she looked out into the forest. In her brain, that had started to react to the quick intake of alcohol, it seemed highly riskful to have a party by a forest. It was bound to end in a search party instead of the good kind of a party. But there it was again. As she stared at the forest, the sound of the lighter beside her ignited that… longing in her. She wanted the search party. She wanted to lose all control.

“I need one.” Fareeha told Noah, who glanced at Jake. She gave her cigarette to Fareeha and took out a new one for herself. Fareeha took a drag. She had smoked several times before. She always hated it. She took another drag. And another. And another. The three of them stood silent together. Jake and Noah rarely talked when they smoked even if the whole group were around them having several conversations at the same time. Half-way through the cigarette Fareeha put it to her lips again to take another drag. As her mouth filled with smoke, she instantly let it out and dropped the cigarette to the concrete floored patio. The nicotine started to take its toll and made her dizzier and dizzier for every second, and she remembered just why she hated smoking. 

“Are you okay?” Jake asked with a furrowed brow, holding on to her shoulder firmly. Fareeha swallowed, forcing a smile to her face. She held it there the mere seconds it took before everything took its toll and she ran to the bushes before everything came up. She felt a hand on her back. Her eyes filled with tears and the cramping in her stomach was excruciating. When she was done she stood up straight, dried her eyes, and forced a smile to her face when she turned around to see Noah’s concerned face. 

A few steps behind Noah a guy with a beer stood looking at them, half in disgust and half just laughing. She walked over to him, gave him a quick laugh, patted his shoulder and took his beer. She gulped down the rest of it, maybe half of the whole can or so. She handed him the empty can and walked away, passing Jake and Noah on the way. 

Inside, the heat of the living room went straight to her face. She went to the couch where Kirsty was still sitting, and sat down next to her. She was talking to one of the other girls and Fareeha decided to just listen while watching the rest of the room. The same groups were still talking and the same guys were still playing games she couldn’t figure out the rules of. Perhaps the point was no rules. The longer she sat there, the less loud the music seemed, and less loud people around her seemed. Her attention snapped to Jessica’s voice by the door again, excited to greet another person to her party (that was bound to get out of hand). Everything got so loud, so quickly. She got off the couch and made her way outside as fast as she could without attracting curious eyes. 

This wasn’t what she wanted with loss of control. She wanted to feel invincible, like she could let go and still wake up okay tomorrow. She didn’t mean having the one thing she was avoiding thrust upon her. 

“I wanna go.” She told Noah. 

“Now?” Noah frowned.

“Yeah, now.” Fareeha nodded.

“Are you okay?” No . Fareeha nodded again. 

“Are you sure?” No. Fareeha nodded. She could see that Noah wasn’t buying it, and the time and place to deal with it might have been exactly where they were but she wasn’t ready. She wasn’t ready. 

After Noah had said goodbye to everyone they made their way to the pick-up. As she took hold of the door handle she stopped herself.

“Haven’t you been drinking?” Fareeha asked. 

“No, I figured I’d have to drive Jake home.” 

“Oh. Well, who is driving Jake home?” 

“He said he’d be fine with taking a cab. I said I’d chip in.” Noah told her and got into the driver's seat. Fareeha got into the passenger seat. When Noah started the car it quickly became warm. Not hot like the living room, just warm enough that it almost felt cozy. She leaned her head against Noah’s shoulder, looking out on the dark road ahead of them.

“I don’t want to go home.” She whispered. A moment passed. 

“Me neither.” said Noah. 

Without more words shared between them Noah took a right at the intersection where she should’ve taken left. A right into more darkness, instead of left into the street light that was the first sign of a city. After a ten minute drive they were back at the lake they had slept at the prior night. They got out of the car and up into the back. They grabbed all their gear from the box they had fixed in place for these moments. The unplanned moments when they didn’t know they needed blankets and thicker clothes. 

“What happened at the party?” Noah asked when they had finished setting themselves up and laid down. 

“Nothing happened.” 

“I know something happened. But let’s say nothing happened. Something has been going on for a while. I’m just worried, Reeha. Okay? You’ve had bad periods before and I just want you to be open with me if it’s another bad period. I need to know what gear to put my brain in.” 

“I’ve just been tired, Noah. I’ll tell you if there’s more to it.” Fareeha said, kissing Noah. 

She wasn’t gonna tell Noah. She couldn’t. She wasn’t ready. 


 

They sat in the car a block away from her house. They were silent, and she could feel Noah looking at her as she looked down at her hands in her lap. 

“She’s going to kill me.” Fareeha finally spoke.

“She’s not going to kill you.”

“She’s definitely going to kill me.” Fareeha looked up at Noah.

“You still have to go in.”

“Yeah.” Fareeha sighed. She got out of the car and started walking. A few steps away, she turned around and walked back. She opened the door to the driver’s side. 

“Come.”

“What?”

“Come!” Fareeha ordered. 

“Alright.” Noah got out of the car, locking the door before following Fareeha. They stopped outside the door to her house.

“Okay, she’s going to kill you.” Noah told Fareeha.

“Yeah, that’s why I need you here. Try to make me do the less stupid choices.” Noah raised an eyebrow.

“Starting the second we pass the door. Not starting now.” She took a deep breath and walked in. She listened carefully. Her mother was in the kitchen. She turned around and put a finger to her lips. She closed the door as silently as she could and they snuck their way up to her room. She filled a backpack with her things. An emergency backpack for the worst case scenario. She flung it over her shoulder before they walked down, again as silently as they could. 

“If you are trying to sneak out right after you came I’d reconsider.” Ana shouted from the kitchen. Fareeha looked at Noah, motioning to her to follow to the kitchen. 

“I wasn’t sneaking out.” She told her mother, whose face fell when she saw Noah. 

“Hello Noah, see yourself out please.” Noah’s mouth hung open, ready to say something before Fareeha cut her off. 

“No, Noah stays.” 

“This is not a discussion.” Ana told her, no emotion in her voice. 

“You’re right. It isn’t a discussion.” Fareeha straightened her back. A few moments of silence passed. 

“How long has this been going on?” Ana asked. 

“It never stopped.” Fareeha answered. 

“I told you, you’re not allowed to see Noah, because she’s not the type of person you want in your life and you completely ignore me.” Ana spoke softly.

“It’s my decision to make.” Fareeha defended herself. 

“I am your mother!” Fareeha’s whole body jumped when Ana’s voice raised, “Under my roof it is not a decision I will allow. As long as you’re under my roof you do not go against specific order to not see her.”

“Order…”

“Fareeha, I am not the villain you want me to be. I am not your enemy. But I am your mother, and I have your best interest in mind. This girl,” Ana says, shooting a quick glance at Noah, “she’s not in your best interest.” 

Fareeha dug her nails into the palm of her hands. Her chest tightened and the urge to hit something and the urge to cry were equally as strong. Noah stretched out her hand to take hers. She let her nails out of the holes they had dug to open her hand to let Noah hold it. 

“Reeha, it’s okay, I can just go.” Noah told her, and Fareeha let out the last breath she had taken with imminent relief. 

“No. No, it really isn’t.” She mumbled. 

“You ask me to listen to you. To obey you. But you’re not listening to me. You’re not even willing to listen to me. So you don’t have to worry about ordering me around anymore, or worry about me not obeying your orders, Captain .” She told her mother through gritted teeth, her voice raising, “Because I can’t stay here anymore.” 

“Fareeha!” Noah and Ana exclaimed at the same time. She looked from one to the other. Her mother's cold expression slowly turning into confusion, and Noah’s furrowed brow and head shaking. Both telling her to reconsider, and reconsider fast. Fareeha didn’t reconsider. She acted. She always acted much quicker than her mind could catch up with her actions. She turned on her heel and started walking towards the door, grabbing her bag on the way. 

“Fareeha!” Ana yelled at after her. “If you walk away from this, you’re not welcome back.” Fareeha lingered at the door, her hand on the handle. Noah paced slowly over to her and the door. They looked at each other. The furrowed brow and the shaking head were still there. Reconsider, reconsider fast. But Fareeha never reconsidered. She always just acted. She opened the door left.

Chapter Text

Angela wasn’t jealous. She knew that she was certainly not the only one at the school who found Jasper attractive, and in a way she even liked when she saw other girls swoon over him. Because Jasper was hers. She had nothing to worry about, because she knew that Jasper wouldn’t do anything to hurt her. At least, she had known that to be true at some point. She wasn’t as certain anymore. She wasn’t certain at all. In fact, her very empirical research told her that she wasn’t the only girl in Jasper’s life. 

The bright screen pierced the darkness around her. She was curled up on her chair, one hand on the mouse and one tucked into her sweatshirt. Angela wasn’t jealous. Or, more accurately, she wasn’t the jealous type . So, to her, looking at Jasper’s pictures from parties and events to find any evidence of who he was seeing was not only uncharacteristic - it was insane. It was behaviour she didn’t condone in the slightest. Yet, there she was. She had done this practically every night over the course of the two weeks since she first heard him talk to someone on the phone that night of the party. 

“I’m trying… I will… I miss you.” 

Sometimes she would sit there for hours. 

“I’m trying… I will… I miss you.”

She had looked through his phone when he had gone to the bathroom. There was nothing there. No dirty texts, no nudes (except the gross ones he had sent her that she instantly deleted from the conversation), no weird numbers with weird contact names. There was nothing. 

“I’m trying… I will… I miss you.” 

She didn’t know who it was. She wasn’t sure she would even figure it out herself. But,

“I’m trying… I will… I miss you.” 

She knew. In a way, it was so fucking easy to know. She pushed it to the back of her mind when there was a knock on her door. She pushed back the hood of her hoodie from her head. 

“Yeah?” She half shouted. Her dad opened the door. 

“Hey, didn’t you hear me yelling from downstairs?” He asked. She shook her head. She had seen and heard the car pull on the driveway, so she knew he had been home a while. But she wasn’t lying, she hadn’t heard him downstairs. 

“Oh, well. I bought pizza.” he smiled, “One of those really big ones that we can never finish. I think I need some help.” 

“Give me a minute and I’ll be down.” She said, turning back to the screen. He lingered in the doorway for a few more seconds before leaving, closing the door behind him. 

Even if she did know, if she had solid proof to confirm what her feeling told her, it would blow her life again. A grain of her wanted it to blow up, because it would, in a strange way, be the easier way out. If she didn’t have a choice but to be without him, it would be easier. If he said he didn’t want this anymore, it would be easier. If she blew it up, nuked her entire life to pieces, it would still be the easier way out. Too bad, she thought, the easier way out would still be the hardest way out. She closed down the browser and turned on her desk lamp before leaving her desk and going down stairs to the kitchen where her dad had already started eating. 

“It’s getting colder by the second.” He told her, his mouth full of pizza. 

She grabbed a slice and took a bite. It was lukewarm at best but she didn’t mind. She didn’t mind most things today. Or yesterday. Or the day before that. Or the past two weeks in general. It was a strange mix of, what she could only describe as, panic and apathy. Equal parts panic and apathy. Panic that her life is going to hell, and apathy that her life is going to hell. The pizza wasn’t bad though, and at least that was one thing in her life that wasn’t bad. 

“Where are you?” Her dad asked her. She kept staring at the pizza.

“Levitation.” She told him. 

“What about it?”

“Mathematically it makes my brain tired. But my lizard brain says levitation cool, let’s invest copious amounts of energy into it.”

“I thought you said physics wasn’t for you.” She looked up from the pizza at him.

“It really isn’t.” She smiled. 

“So, what is for you? What are you going to do with your life, kid?” He joked. 

Blow it up, she thought.

“Well, the world could always use more doctors right?”

“Right!” her dad exclaimed, “I remember you’ve said that a couple of times.” 

They stayed silent for a while, stuffing their mouths with pizza. Until eventually, surprisingly, they had finished all of it. Angela got out of the chair to put away her glass and throw away the paper towel she had occasionally dried her hands and face on. As she was about to walk out of the kitchen, and back to her room, her dad made a sound to get her attention.

“Sit.” He told her. She frowned but sat down. He sighed as he put the things in front of him to the side, and propped his elbows on the table. 

“I want you to know, that I know, that I’m not… I’m not the greatest, most attentive father.” he began, and she wanted to interrupted before he continued, “but we’ve talked about that before so I’m going to spare you.

“But I’m also not stupid. I have a heart, and I have feelings, and I remember what it’s like being your age. I’ve always thought that you were very self-sufficient and strong. I had built this illusion that I wouldn’t really go through the feeling of… well, feeling like I’m losing you a little as you grow up. But, the older you get, I have to take that back. I’m very much feeling like I’m about to lose you, not forever, and not for real. However, at the end of the day, I know this feeling is partly because I am your father, and partly because I spend a lot of time away from home. You’ve had to be very self-sufficient because you haven’t had another choice. And I want that to be different. So, I asked for, and have been granted, a transfer. Still in the same lab, but a different… a different project. Not as intense or hectic. And I’ll be home a lot more.” He stopped, a breath escaping him as they stared at each other. 

“Okay.” She said. Not sure what else to say. She saw his face fall a little, and with it so did a piece of her heart. 

“I’m glad. I have wanted to spend more time with you.” She added, hoping it would make the situation better. He smiled at her.

She stood up again and walked away, back to her bedroom. 


 

Angela woke up by her phone buzzing on the bedside table. She picked up, and tried to read the bright screen through her blurry vision. 

There in 5’ 

“Shit.” She whispered to herself and proceeded to not do anything but close her eyes again. She was exhausted. The dread of the day after had sat itself comfortable in her stomach, and anytime she thought she was close to sleep, it made itself known with feelings of nausea, and guilt, and fear. She stopped bothering to look at the time at around 3.48. She almost stopped bothering to try to sleep, but she supposed she didn’t have enough power over that. She sat up when she felt herself starting to fall asleep again. 

She didn’t rush, the longer it took her to get ready, the longer it would take her to get to school, and the longer it would take until she had to face reality. She put on the same shirt as yesterday, and a dark blue hoodie over it. She brushed her hair and tied it back in a ponytail. Out of habit she put on mascara even though she wasn’t entirely sure it would do anything but bring more attention to her red puffy eyes. She flung her backpack over her shoulder and went downstairs. Her dad was sitting at the kitchen table with a paper and a cup of something steaming. 

“Good morning.” He smiled at her. She smiled back, but offering no good mornings. She took an apple, put in her backpack, and then took some gum and started chewing. 

“Sorry, I got to run, I overslept.” She told him as she put on her shoes and left. Not registering the words he was shouting to her. Probably just good byes. By the time she had walked down to the bigger road, Jasper seemed to have just turned up. She took out the gum and threw it on the side of the road before jumping into his car. When she got in she leaned over to his seat to kiss him and he flinched away, and then kissed her cheek. 

“Did you study all night or something?” He laughed, and started driving. 

“Yeah, or something.” She laughed with him.

Everything was happening before her, everything was playing out as a film, too quickly, and she could stop it. All she could do was shout at the screen between her and herself to take some control. But she couldn’t. She had no control. She leaned her head against the window but looked over at him as he concentrated on the road. Nothing was going to be normal again. Whatever was happening, he wasn’t going to tell her. She was sure of it. Just as she was sure that she wasn’t going to be able to leave either. She was going to be the one left standing, no matter how long she had to just leave him to whoever he was truly with. 

“Do you want to come to my place after school?” She asked him.

“Uh, today?” He asked.

“Mhm.”

“Uh, yeah, uhm… that— that should probably work. I need to check with my moms first.” He told her.

She closed her eyes hard. Her dad would tell her to look at it as a scientist, and as a scientist, it didn’t tell her anything that he was unsure if he could come. But as a person, as just Angela, she knew that Jasper had never said no before. He had always said yes, or told her later that he couldn’t and then asked her to just come home with him instead. To just-Angela, this was some backwards proof that Jasper wasn’t Jasper anymore, and she would have to face the very real reality that she either let him destroy her, or she did it herself. 

They parked and walked together to the school building, separating with a kiss at the entrance to go get their things from the lockers and then go to class. 

Angela was on autopilot from the second they separated. The longer she could stay that way the less she had to think about anything. The less she was thinking about anything, even in class, the less her brain would haywire and start spiraling into worst case scenarios. 

She had had a grace period of a year or two where the worst case scenarios thinking wasn’t as prevalent. Where she would only spiral during especially tense study periods. Ever since the party that grace period had all but vanished. She was a walking spiral, every thought was a risk for spiraling. 

She got in almost last to her class, and sat down at the back. Trying to rid herself of all the thoughts and redirect all the energy to her teacher. Having to do this for another five classes was going to be excruciating. 


 

She barely had the energy to lift her feet as she left her last class. She had briefly debated whether skipping classes for once might be worth it, telling a teacher she had very quickly come down with a deadly disease that would spread to everyone if she didn’t get to go home. Her world seemed to simultaneously work in slow-motion and in fast forward. Everything around her was going by quickly, and people talked and walked faster than ever. While her brain and her body felt stuck. 

When she rounded the corner closest to her class, she saw her. The world wasn’t a mix anymore. She was stuck in place as adrenaline rushed through her body, and her world was if she had suddenly taken speed. Everything was extremely fast, and she had to make decisions now. Her heart was beating fast, and hard. She walked up to Fareeha before she could change her mind and she instantly regretted it when she greeted her and the tall girl beside her. 

“Hi.” Angela said, a smile on her lips even though she tried to kill it. Fareeha frowned at her and the girl next to her stared at her. She recognized her as one of Fareeha’s friends but she didn’t know anything more than that. 

“We haven’t met, I’m Angela.” She directed towards the other girl.

“I know.” She told Angela. Angela’s mouth hung upon. She didn’t know how to respond to that. There was no good way this girl had learned about Angela. She knew nothing but bad things about Angela.

“Do you want something?” Fareeha asked as she closed her locker. 

“Yes. I want to talk.” 

“You’re talking, congratulations.” Fareeha started walking. Angela decided to grab her arm just as Fareeha passed her. She looked at Angela, her head tilted, and were about to start talking when Angela started talking. 

“Will you please let me talk to you?” Fareeha yanked her arm back, and looked Angela up and down with what she could only describe as a disgust and started walking again. She felt that familiar feeling of nauseous creeping up and her body went cold with it. 

“If you won’t let me talk to you, you can’t blame me for not apologizing again Fareeha.” She half-shouted. She wasn’t far away enough to have to be yelled after but certainly far enough that she might not hear Angela. Fareeha stopped. She looked at Noah and said something Angela couldn’t hear over her heartbeat thumping in her ears. The other girl left as Fareeha walked back over to Angela.

“What do you want from me?” Fareeha hissed at her. Angela flinched.

“I want to say sorry.” She began, “I want to apologize for calling you horrible things, and I want to apologize for not trying harder to get you back after we stopped being friends. I want to apologize for not ever trying to get you back. But I’m trying now, okay? I really do miss you.” 

They stared at each other. Angela was too caught up in trying not to start crying that she couldn’t read Fareeha’s face. She wasn’t sure she even wanted to read her face. Fareeha shook her head as she let out a breath, and walked away.

Angela was left standing at Fareeha’s locker, not entirely sure what to do next. Not sure if she should try again later, or if she had to let it go and just hope that she had done all that she could do now. 

She picked up her phone from her pocket as it buzzed. Her heart stopped

Emergency in gym!’ Jasper had texted her. 

She ran from the place where her feet had grown roots to the gym. In the minute it took her to get there, she ran through every scenario she could think of. She supposed the most realistic one would be that Jasper had hurt himself, or someone else was hurt. Her brain hadn’t stopped there though, every scenario where Jasper was dying was as viable to her as the more realistic ones. The scenarios where he is a bloody mess, with weights crushed on top of him. 

When she got to the gym, all she could hear was the beating of her own heart and her rapid breathing. It was pitch black. She searched with her hand on the walls to find the switch for the lights, but before she could find it she shrieked as someone grabbed her from behind and pushed her into the dark room. 

“Stop! Jasper, this isn’t funny!” She shouted, not even remotely sure that the person behind her was Jasper. 

A few steps into the room the person stopped and let her go. A second later the lights in the gym turned on. In front of her was Jasper, Alex, and Cain. All three of them shirtless, their chests gleaming in the lights. She frowned. 

“What’s going on?” She asked. 

“You’re going to want to sit down for this.” The person behind her, Gina, told her as she brought Angela a chair. 

Cain walked over to a boombox and pressed play, then ran back to stan beside Alex. Both of them behind Jasper. As the song started, the three of them started dancing. She had heard the song before, and she hated it. At least, she had hated it before, and probably would continue to hate it later. But in that moment, she understood both the irony and the seriousness in the choice of that specific song. Throughout the, admittedly very sexy, song the three of them danced. Once in a while Jasper would come closer, half sitting on her, half doing something she guessed was supposed to be a sexy humping. When the song ended, the three of them posed. Jasper on his knees in front of her, Alex and Cain standing behind him. 

“Wanna dance with me at the… well, the dance ?” He asked her. 

“Of course, what kind of question is that?” She laughed. Jasper smiled and stood up again. Alex and Cain let out whoops and hurrays and Gina hugged her. Then hugged Jasper. Gina really hugged him, in a way Angela couldn’t remember she had every hugged her. A little too long, a little to hard. 

She let it go. She had to let it go. She couldn’t get stuck with this again and again. She was seeing things that weren’t there and she had to face that. She had become the jealous type. But Gina wouldn’t do that. Gina was her friend. A sometimes shitty, neglecting, friend. But a friend nonetheless, and Gina was good enough to know that you didn’t steal your friends boyfriend. Steal someone's boyfriend. The word sat heavy in Angela’s stomach, filling her to the brim. Jasper wasn’t hers to keep. He was is own. And no one could steal him. But it was the right word because he had promised her to just be hers. 

She continued to look at the four of them silently, offering a grin as they already started planning for the dance. She stared at Gina. She stared at Jasper. 

Maybe she couldn’t steal him. But Gina could let it happen, if he wanted to. That. That Gina would do. 

Angela joined in on the planning, trying to push everything to the back of her mind. Or at least trying to make everything seem alright. After a while the scattered, and Angela and Jasper made it to his car. 

“Did you like it?” He asked. 

“Your dance?” She asked. He nodded.

“I loved it.” 

It wasn’t a lie, but it certainly wasn’t the truth either. None of the three could really dance, and she would have rather he did something discrete or just asked her. He didn’t know that though. It was as obvious to her now has it had been for the past few months that he knew less about her than she had thought. She had thought it was just him being a cute dumbass, but as it turned out, it was just uncaring and uninvolved. It didn’t matter. She wasn’t, she cared so dearly for him, and it made it hurt even more. 

They jumped into his car, and the Jasper instantly turned on music. It was pop, and the first song he played was similar to the one they had played in the gym. And so was the next, and the one after that. She was sure he had made an entire playlist for this. The nature of the songs made the goal of the list obvious. But the few times they had actually had sex, where it wasn’t her letting him touch her so he wouldn’t get bored of her, they had never had any music, and certainly not this kind of music. 

The thought were there again. She wanted to bang her head on the window until the thoughts left her for good. She stared out of the window instead, trying to out herself in a world where none of this was happening. A reality where everything was just fine and she didn’t want to bang her head against a window. 

When they drove up to her house, the sound of the gravel under the tires comforted her. Jasper turned off the car and they sat looking at each other for a few seconds. 

“I am sorry for everything, Angie. I hope you know that. And that’s why I did this. I want to be better.” 

Angie. She sighed, and put on a smile. She couldn’t count on her hands how many times he had told her that. A part of her always wanted to believe it would be true this time, but it was never different. 

“So, could you come in?” She asked. His face fell.

“Oh, uh, no, I have to go grocery shopping with mom.” She smiled and nodded. Of course he was grocery shopping with his mom. That’s a thing people do Angela, she thought, they help their parents out. 

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” She told him, kissed his cheek and left the car. 

“Hey!” He yelled after her. She turned around to look at him sticking his head out of the car, her heartbeat racing. 

“I love you.” It was good. The yell was good. 

“Love you too.” she told him, before walking into her house. Locking the door behind her. 


Chapter Text

“I really do miss you.”

The words cut Fareeha like a knife. Her stomach was about to turn inside out when she turned around and left Angela standing there. As she stormed out from the school to the parking lot, she dried the tears that had forced its way down her cheeks, and in to the car. 

“Are you okay?” Noah asked softly. 

Fareeha closed her eyes and hid her face in her hands, biting her cheeks to help from crying even more. With a deep sigh she stared out the window, outside the warmth of the car lay a thick cold mist. 

“I’ll be okay.” She answered.

“Monty’s?” Noah asked as she started the car. Fareeha nodded. 

The drive to Monty’s was short enough that neither of them bothered to care about the radio station they had dialed in, even though it was certainly not their regular station or music. The parking lot at Monty’s was quiet as it usually was. It was a miracle the place was still open. They walked in and sat down at a booth. 

“Hi girls. The usual?” Catherine, the owner, asked them from where she stood behind the counter. They nodded to her at the same time. Shortly after they were given a cup of coffee and a plate of pancakes each.

“And one on the house.” Catherine told them as she placed a third plate of pancakes between them.

“Thank you, Cath.” Noah said was Catherine went back to the counter.

They had been regulars at Monty’s since they first got together. The small little cafe in the middle of town fit them well since few people cared to even look a second time at it. Since the day Ana told Fareeha to not come back, they had been coming to Monty’s almost every day. It wasn’t that they didn’t have anywhere else to go, they did, they had friends to crash at and friends to cook at. But they had started to burn the bridges. Sleeping at Kirsty’s was a first thought, but it only took three nights before her parents questioned if they should really stay another night. The same was true for the rest of the parents. It was always okay the first night, and the second night, but the third night in a row was always questioned. 

So, they went to Monty’s to eat, and then they sat there for as long as they could. Until Fareeha had to go to practice, or until Noah got too restless. Fareeha would get restless too, but not to the extent Noah would. Noah would shift in her own skin if they sat there too long, always scared that for every second more they sat there her dad would walk in. It never happened, of course, but Fareeha let her be. Let her choose to leave when she couldn’t handle it anymore. There was no point in arguing with Noah’s anxieties. 

Fareeha devoured the pancakes in the span of barely five minutes, and took her time with the coffee. It was a blend of not liking coffee as much as she said, but loving the warmth the cup as it warmed her cold fingers. 

“What did she want to talk about?” Noah asked, examining her pancakes. Fareeha took a sip of the coffee. It was black, it was hot, and it was quite frankly way too strong for someone who secretly use more milk than coffee and three packs of sugar. 

“It was nothing, I just want to forget about it.” Fareeha answered. 

“Are you sure?” Noah asked, looking up at Fareeha.

“What do you mean?” 

“She seemed pretty… adamant about talking to you. Didn’t seem like it was nothing.” 

“Okay.” Fareeha took another sip. “Then let’s just leave it at I don’t want to talk about it.” 

Noah nodded slowly, briefly looking out at the misty street. Fareeha could tell it wasn’t enough. Noah wanted more, something Fareeha couldn’t give her. She couldn’t begin to explain, it would unravel everything. She would have to tell her about everything. About how when she had stared Angela up and down, the urge to press her lips against hers was overwhelming. 

“Something’s eating you inside out, Fareeha, and I can only sit by and wait for so long before…” Noah swallowed, Fareeha didn’t want her to finish, “before it’s done with you. If you don’t let me help you.” 

Noah turned to look at Fareeha. As they sat there, just looking at each other in silence, Fareeha realized that this was as much a part of Noah as it was her. They were the same, and they cared too much about the other to just shut off. Fareeha had been good at that, though never with Noah, and before that never with Angela either. 

“Can we settle with that I will tell you, just not now?” Fareeha asked. She saw how Noah killed a smile as she nodded. 

As quick as they had gotten serious, they got back to normal. 


The silence in the car, were they had been sleeping the past weeks, was only broken by the chattering of teeth. Even curled up together, a blanket around them, and as much clothing as they could fit on them, the air around them was freezing. Both of them shivered.

“I don’t think we can go on like this for long.” Noah said, “It’s getting too cold.” 

“I know.” Fareeha acknowledged, reluctantly realizing that they had to go home. There was one shelter in town. They had stayed one night before they ruled it out, when they owners turned out to be not just strict but also homophobic. 

“I’m not worth this, Reeha.” Noah whispered, trying to push up against Fareeha ever so slightly more even though they were already so close that it would be futile to try. 

“Shut up.” Fareeha whispered back. 

“I’m serious. You have a home, you have a mom who cares and-” 

“Shut up!” Fareeha interrupted. “I hate that I agree with you. That we need to… go home. But I can’t let you think you’re not worth it, because you are worth it, okay?” She whispered. She thought she could see Noah nod, but in the darkness it was hard to tell. 

It felt like she was lying when she was telling Noah she was worth it. She had the same tight feeling in her chest as she would have when she would lie about something she really didn’t want to lie about. Or, like when she kept secrets. It wasn’t a lie though, she knew that. 

But that was what made it so hard to even begin to explain the mess she had put herself in with Angela. Because how do you make someone understand how loved they are when you’re also telling them you might be feeling something for someone else? 

And in the same moment it hit her. Fareeha took a deep breath. She would never find a good way to do it, because there wasn’t a good way to do it. 

“Could you hate me?” She asked. 

“No.” Noah answered without skipping a beat. 

“Are you sure?” 

“Without a doubt.” 

“I really hope you’re right.” Fareeha whispered. She could feel Noah tense up. The fear running through her was worse than any she had experienced before. 

“I’ve been feeling… something. For someone else. And it’s… stupid, because she’s not going to feel the same. But it’s there, and it’s making me feel like shit, because you’re worth so much better than that.” She swallowed. 

“It’s Angela, right?” 

Fareeha nodded.

“You hate her.”

“I know.”

“Fareeha… please.” 

“I am so sorry.” Fareeha told Noah. 

“I don’t understand.”

“I don’t either, but it’s… you were right earlier, it’s eating me alive. Whatever I do it’s going to hurt. And you’re going to hate me. And I can’t live with the thought of you hating me.”

“You’re hurting me right now.” Noah said, a hint of her voice wavered the last few words, “And that’s why I really hate you for being right.” Noah said, her crying became more clear for every second that passed.

“I don’t want us to break up.” Fareeha whispered. Noah was quiet, until she let out a sob that caught Fareeha off guard. She held Noah tighter, feeling a sob of her own coming closer and closer. 

They cried together for what felt like hours, but was probably closer to just one hour.

“I don’t want to break up either.” Noah whispered. 

“Then we shouldn’t.”