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Her yellow-tinted sunglasses changed the world every time she opened her eyes. She hid her yawning mouth behind her hand as she turned to look outside the car window, the sound of Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline playing in her ears. For such an important day she sure was tired. She hadn't been able to sleep last night due to stress and adrenaline, and by the time she began feeling sleepy it was already light out and the first alarm of ten she had set went off. She had wanted to cry of frustration, and almost did, but she told herself that she had to learn to be strong for what was to come and swallowed back her tears.

The feeling of weight moving next to her caused her to shift her eyes in its direction and she saw her sister leaning her shins against the passenger's seat as she scrolled through her iPod; presumably to look for a new song to play. Ah, the era of iPods. Apart from the whole being-reborn-into-a-fictional-world thing, the older technology was definitely the most difficult thing for Catherine Harmon to acclimate to. That and the music. She didn't listen to modern pop very often in her old life anyway, but sometimes a girl just wanted to lip-sync to Ariana Grande, dammit.

"How much longer?" her sister asked. Not whined. A 15-year-old definitely does not whine. Cat took out one earphone so she could better hear her.

"Until the apocalypse? Give it nine years," she replied, grinning when her sister turned to look at her like she was insane.

"You're not funny," she said, although Cat knew that she secretly enjoyed her “weird” sense of humor.

"We're almost there, Vi," Ben, her father, said and she could hear the smile in his voice.

Violet groaned and settled back into her seat. Cat plugged her earphone back in and took a sip of her second iced coffee of the day. Comfortable silence filled the car once more.

…Until approximately thirty minutes later, when Violet spoke up again. "How much longer?" This time she dragged out her words even more, and it was impossible for Cat to not hear her. She took out the same earphone.

"We're almost there," their father responded once more, and Violet audibly huffed.

"Would you shut up? Asking every five minutes won't change anything," Cat said. She received a death glare in return and tried not to laugh.

"The light is different out here. It's softer," her mother gently remarked.

"It's called smog," Violet said grumpily.

"You should be excited, Vi. You can stop sneaking cigarettes and just start taking deep breaths," her father teased.

Violet huffed loudly. "I need to go to the bathroom."

"We're almost there," her father repeated.

"I need to go," Violet tried again.

"Vi, it's a freeway. Really, where do you want me to pull over? Maybe the Honda next to us has a bathroom or something."

"Bet if the baby had to shit you'd find somewhere."

Her mother looked over, "Really? Violet, I hate that word... Unless I'm saying it."

"I'm really glad we named you Violet, instead of our second choice," her father said.

"Which was?" Violet asked.

"Secondfavorite?" Catherine suggested. She received another death glare from her sister, though she could see a smile playing at the corner of her mouth.

"Sunshine," her mother responded, and the sound of chuckles filled the car.

Cat plugged in her earphone and hoped to every god that they really were almost there. Unlike her sister, she actually did need to go.

Lo and behold, twenty-five minutes later they arrived at the house. The house.

It looks so… real.

Though Catherine knew that the inexplicable (she refused to use the word "supernatural;" they were just as natural as humans) existed ever since she realized which family she'd been re-born into, she'd never actually experienced anything herself. Well, after going through reincarnation of course. Knowing what lurked inside of the beautiful house she was in front of? Knowing what could happen to her and her family? The goosebumps she could feel break out on her skin definitely weren't due to the warm summer air.

Her father turned their car off as she and Violet finished storing their iPods back into their backpacks.

Her mother turned to look at them, "Are you guys ready?"

Cat finished zipping up her backpack and chirped out a "Yup!"

Violet responded with a far less enthusiastic "Yeah," and they all eventually exited the car.

They made their way over to the front door. Catherine could hear her family talking to each other in the background as she looked up at each visible window, wondering if somebody was watching them. We're fresh meat. Of course we're being watched. She looked back down in front of her and took a deep breath to try and calm her sleep-deprived, over-caffeinated, and anxious self. Unsurprisingly, it did next to nothing.

Her dad rung the doorbell and turned his head to look at her mom, "I love it. Don't you love it, hon? I mean, it looks even better than it did online."

"Yeah, it's… interesting," Mom said as she looked over the front of the house.

Violet crossed her arms and let out a breath, "Great. So we're the Addams Family now."

"Doo-doo-doo-doo," Catherine quietly sung, looking over at Violet when she heard two finger snaps. They shared a grin.

"Oh come on you two, look at this place. Isn't it amazing?" her father's enthusiasm had evidently not diminished at all.

Violet opened her mouth to say something Cat was sure would be super duper deep and insightful, but the door swung open and her sister shut her mouth.

The woman who opened it looked exactly how Catherine remembered her looking. Pasty, middle-aged, with a hairdo that screamed "conservative suburban mom," and an outfit that screamed “dear god, why did somebody design me?” Her over-the-top practiced smile made Cat want to sneer and judging by the look on Violet's face, she wasn't alone in her desire.

"Welcome! Please, come in," Marcy said, and politely ushered them in through the door before closing it. "I hope your drive here was pleasant?"

"It was certainly… Different. So many new things to looks at," Vivien responded with a slightly forced smile.

"Ah, I imagine things are a bit different over on the East Coast. I wouldn't know. I've never left the state, you see!" Marcy exclaimed and laughed like a politician.

Her mom was clearly unsure as to how to respond, so her dad decided to intervene with a smile. "So, what can you tell us about the house?"

Marcy muttered a "right" and began her real-estate agent spiel. "Well, this house is a beautiful classic L.A. Victorian. Built around 1920 by the doctor to the stars of the time, it's just fabulous. These are real Tiffany fixtures. As you can see, the previous owners really loved this place like a child. They restored everything."

"Gay?" her mom chimed in and Catherine looked at her pleadingly. She briefly grimaced at her, and mouthed a "sorry."

Marcy hummed smugly. "What do you think?"

Ben looked over at Catherine with an impressed smile and drawled out, "Tiffany. Wow." She rolled her eyes and smiled when he playfully jabbed her arm with his elbow.

Marcy was going on about the kitchen now, and Cat tuned the conversation out. She turned to Violet who was looking around the library and asked, "Wanna come check the place out with me?"

Violet gave a half-smile and nodded.

"Hey, Dad?" Cat said quietly, and he turned to look at her, "Me and Vi are gonna go upstairs and explore."

"What? Getting bored?" he teasingly asked with a smile and raised eyebrow.

"Yes," they spoke simultaneously.

He chuckled and nodded. "Go on then. We'll call you down if you're not back by the time we come to a decision."

Cat perked up and turned to Violet. "Come on! There has to be a bathroom somewhere, right?"

Violet snorted. "I don't actually have to go. You know that, right?"

They began walking up the stairs as Catherine responded. "Well, unlike yourself, some people have had two full cups of coffee and have a bladder the size of a squirrel. And yes, I know. You're a terrible liar, remember?"

"Am not!" she said indignantly.

"Are too!" Cat sing-songed.

"Am not!"

"Are too."

Violet sighed and mumbled "I hate you when you've had caffeine."

"I thought you always hated me."

Violet smiled small. "Then too."

A door in front of the stairwell caught Cat's attention, and she began walking towards it. She turned to her sister. "Do you wanna split up, or explore things together?"

Violet looked down the hallway. "Uhhh, let's split up. I wanna see what's over there."

Cat nodded with a smile. "Alright, well, guess that means I can jump out and scare the shit out of you."

"As if." Violet snorted and started walking down the hallway. Catherine turned the doorknob and entered into what looked to be a bedroom.

It was definitely larger than her old room but didn't seem to be the master bedroom. The floors were a light wood, and the walls were a creamy off-white. In the middle of the ceiling hung a gorgeous antique chandelier and an equally as old white wardrobe was to the right of the door. A comfortable-looking wooden double bed was pressed between the left wall and a glass bedside table, beneath one of two windows. A beige, rectangular rug could be seen coming out from the bottom of the bed. A dresser was pressed against the wall a few feet next to it, underneath a large square mirror. On it was a small stereo and potted cactus. A desk and office chair could be seen below the second window, its right side pressed against the right wall, and on it was what seemed to be a welcome card of some sort.

Catherine moved further into the room and to the desk. She could read the front of the card now, and it read:

"WELCOME HOME

Important Numbers

Marcy Eastbrook: xxx-xxx-xxxx"

Curious, she looked inside and noticed that it contained, true to its word, important phone numbers. Police, fire department, abuse hotlines, and more that she couldn't be bothered to read fully. She still needed to go after all. Now inside the room, she noticed a bookcase tucked into the southeastern corner of the room and a door next to it. She could only assume it lead to a bathroom, so after setting the card back down she walked over and opened it.

Unsurprisingly, the bathroom was no less beautiful than the bedroom. Damn, I can't wait to get in that shower. After briefly looking the room over, she closed the door, walked over to the toilet, lifted the lid, and paused as a chill ran down her spine. Somebody could be watching me. No, not somebody. I'm sure of only one person here who would violate a girl's privacy like that. But she really had to go. She sighed. Hopefully he's distracted by Violet. She pulled down her comfortable floral jumpsuit and did her business as quickly as she possibly could.

After exiting the bathroom and closing the door again, she gave the room another quick once-over and moved back out into the hallway. She saw another, larger door at the end of it. It looks like it leads to the master bedroom. The door was closed, though Catherine was almost certain that Violet had gone in there already. She could be hiding to try and scare me. Squinting her eyes, she slowly made her way over towards it. The sound of her yellow heels clacking on the wooden floor was almost deafening and she could feel her heart rate pick up from anticipation. She noticed a broom closet to her left and her heart jumped. She could be hiding in there. Bracing herself, she quickly opened the door and thought she saw Violet, though it was only a trick of her mind.

"BOO!"

Later, Cat would vehemently deny that she jumped and shrieked like a little girl when her sister popped out from behind her, but for now, she absolutely did just that. She quickly turned around, almost losing her balance in the process, and placed her hand over her racing heart as she saw Violet double over while cackling. That bitch!

"You bitch!" Catherine exclaimed, breathless.

"I-hahaha, I did sa-y as if." Violet managed to get out, before leaning against the wall and calming herself.

"Where were you even hiding?" she asked incredulously.

"Behind the archway. I finished snooping around and was gonna go check out the room you were in," she responded with mirth still present in her eyes.

Cat did notice that there was an archway in front of the broom closet, but she didn't realize there was enough room behind it for anybody to hide; not even her sister who was even more petite than she was.

"Ugh, alright. Though if we do end up getting this house, I'm calling dibs on that room."

Violet shrugged, "I liked the room behind the archway anyway." she said as she began moving back towards the stairwell.

After taking a few breaths to calm herself, Cat opened the large door and confirmed her suspicions. That's a master bedroom if I've ever seen one. From her now foggy memory of what the room looked like in her previous life, she could say with confidence that it was near- (if not completely) identical. And much more modern than the previous room. Too modern. She wrinkled her nose. She never was a fan of modernism, even if this room wasn't the worst offender she'd seen. The bed looked comfortable at least. Her nose wrinkled even further at the thought of what her parents would do on that bed.

"Oookayy, time to move on," she said to herself as she closed the door and walked into the only other room she could see. Violet's room.

Opening the door she saw a bedroom that seemed to suit her sister's taste well enough. She could clearly see how it would look when Violet unpacked all her stuff. It was attractive, she supposed. I wonder if we'll have sleepovers again. She and her sister used to sleep over at each other’s room all the time after hours of watching movies, listening to music, reading, and eating food that made them break out the next day. For the last year, however, Violet seemed to prefer being alone and always made vague plans for any slumber party request Cat made but never came through. Maybe it's a teen thing. Catherine might have been 18 in body, but in mind she was 58 and found it more and more difficult every day to remember what it was like to be 15.

She spotted the door to the bathroom and stopped moving. She remembered that part well. Her sister dying, a dead boy sobbing as he held her, the water pouring down on them both. She turned the doorknob and immediately saw the bathtub. It was as though she could see it playing out in front of her. She closed her eyes to try and stop it, but the scene kept playing no matter how much she tried to block it out. She opened her eyes and swore to herself that she wouldn't let her sister die. She would do anything to prevent it, even if it caused Violet to hate her, or even if she herself died. She speed-walked over to the stairs and saw her sister exiting the bedroom. She wanted to kiss the top of her head, but she knew it'd be odd so instead she settled for a smile.

"Hey. You finished?" Violet asked.

"Yeah. It's a really pretty house."

"I wouldn't call it pretty. Outside's cool though."

"Hey, you never know. It could be haunted or something. Would you think that was cool?" Cat tried not to smile too wide.

Violet snorted. "Only if Johnny Ramone was one of the ghosts," she said, causing Cat to chuckle.

"We should head back downstairs. Mom and Dad might want our opinion on the house."

"When have they ever wanted our opinion?" Violet asked and crossed her arms.

Catherine frowned. "They ask for my opinion all the time. When it comes to artsy shit at least."

Her sister looked at her indignantly. "What? Really?" She huffed loudly. "Of course they do. You're the golden child."

Cat picked up a strand of her dark, curly hair and tried to defuse the situation by saying, "Looks pretty brown to me."

Violet rolled her eyes with a smile. "Well at least your humor sucks."

Cat grinned. "We really should go back down though."

"Fine," Violet said, and they both started down the stairs.

They immediately saw Hallie, their dog, running past the base of the stairwell. The distant voice of their mom spoke. "Shoot. I should go get her before she pees on the floor or something."

"It's fine, Viv. You trained her yourself, she's well-behaved," their dad responded.

"We'll go get her, Mom, it's fine," Cat called out, loud enough for her mom to hear.

"Oh. Thanks, honey." If Catherine wasn’t mistaken, she sounded disappointed. Probably trying to escape Marcy. Oops.

Cat and Violet looked at each other, realized that they came to the same conclusion in regards to Marcy, and walked in the direction they saw Hallie go. They saw her barking furiously at a closed door.

"What are you yapping at?" Violet asked, as Catherine picked the dog up and tried to calm her.

"Looks spooky," she remarked, having a pretty good idea as to where the door lead to.

Of course, this only spurred Violet on as she tried to open the door to no avail.

"It's probably locked, Vi." She tried to sound casual and not as nervous as she was feeling.

Her sister didn't listen though, and with a particularly rough shove, she finally got the door to open. She turned to her with a raised eyebrow (that she totally learned from her, by the way) and a smug expression on her face.

Cat rolled her eyes. "Oh shut up."

Violet smirked even wider and started walking down the stairs that lead to the basement, leaving her sister no choice but to follow. The very moment Catherine stepped foot beyond the door she could sense that something was wrong. It was a heavy feeling. Not just in her body, but in the air around her. It felt like it was about to rain, but instead of water it would be boulders; harming her and trapping her against the floor, and she had to seek shelter before it was too late. She had to be there for Violet though, so she swallowed heavily and followed her further into the belly of the beast. She couldn’t stop her heart from racing, though.

Her sister started scanning the area with her eyes, but soon turned back to her and uttered a "come on," moving towards the exit and to a place that felt much safer. Though there is no safety here, is there? Not unless you're dead.

"The dead have nothing to fear." She remembered writing that in a high school essay, but only now realized how wrong she was. I'm dead. And I'm terrified. I should have tried harder. I should have persuaded Mom that coming out here was a mistake. I should have done something more. Why am I so useless? Why am I still so useless? She could feel herself beginning to relapse, so she quickly followed her sister back up the stairs and out of that hell-hole of a room.

Though she exited the basement, the oppressive feeling was still there. But it was lighter somehow. Less like she would be crushed at any second and more like somebody was watching her. She didn't know if that was better. She felt her skin crawl at the thought.

"…you quit?" she could make out the end of what Marcy said as she and Violet started walking over to their parents.

Her mother barely let her finish her sentence before saying, "This wallpaper is peeling over here. Looks like maybe there's a mural underneath it."

"The last owners probably covered it up. They were modernists." Ugh. "Speaking of the last owners, full disclosure requires that I tell you about what happened to them."

"Oh, God… They didn't die in here or anything did they?"

"Yes, actually, both of them. Murder-suicide. I sold them the house, too. They were just the sweetest couple. You never know, I suppose."

"That explains why it's half the price of every other house in the neighborhood, I guess," their father chimed in just as she and Violet made it back to their parents and Marcy.

"I do have a very nice mid-century ranch, but it's in the Valley and you're going to get a third of the house for twice the price."

Her father sighed. "Right."

"Where did it happen?" Violet questioned, and Catherine looked at her while biting her lip.

"The basement," Marcy responded.

Catherine could see an excited gleam in her sister's eye as she smiled and said, "We'll take it."

Even though she knew this would happen, I'm such a moron, she had to actively restrain herself from screaming in frustration. She put her pleasant mask on and turned to look at her parents who were gently smiling at each other.

Marcy did the same, and asked, "Will we?"

Her mother turned back to look at her two daughters and shifted her gaze onto the real-estate agent. "We will."

"Excellent!" she chirped. "If you'll come this way, I have a few papers you two need to sign before I can hand you the keys."

As Marcy began walking back towards the kitchen with their parents, Catherine shifted her eyes towards Violet.

"I'm gonna go get my stuff," she said excitedly.

Catherine did her best to smile genuinely and responded with an "alright," before her sister disappeared through the front door. Only then did she let the mask slip as she let Hallie down and moved into the living room. She turned the TV on to try and calm down and turned to what looked to be a liquor cabinet.

"Yay, alcohol." she mumbled to herself as she took a glass and poured some whiskey into it. She could hear the sound of a commercial about cereal ending behind her as she closed the cabinet and moved to sit down on the couch. She quickly drank some of her whiskey, feeling it burn her throat as she hung her head down and tried her best to convince herself that she was sitting in a perfectly normal house.

Her fantasy was shattered and her heart plummeted, however, when she heard an all-too-familiar song coming from the TV. She quickly looked up with wide eyes as she saw a commercial about a girl playing with a dollhouse.

I know

You belong to somebody new

But tonight you belong to me

The girl transformed into a doll and entered the house.

Way down by the stream

How sweet it will seem

Once more just to dream

In the moonlight

With a childish, awe-struck expression on her face, the girl explored the house. Much like I was doing. Catherine felt sick.

My honey I know

With the dawn

That you will be gone

But tonight you belong to me

The girl fell asleep in a comfortable-looking bed and in the morning she began preparing a brand-name pancake mix.

Way down, way down along the stream

How very, very sweet it will seem

Once more just to dream in the silvery moonlight

A man was speaking over the commercial, promoting the pancake mix, but Catherine was thinking too quickly to pay attention to his words. It's only a coincidence. Stop being silly, it’s a nice song, it's only a coincidence.

My honey I know

With the dawn, that you will be gone

But tonight you belong to me

The girl looked into the camera and smiled as she took a bite of her pancake. The music cut off as her hand paused with the fork in her mouth. Her eyes seemed to gain a new intensity. She's looking at me, she realized. The girl grinned too wide and stared at her until Catherine began to shake. know she's looking at me. The music resumed.

Just to little old me

The girl's eyes became normal and her smile became innocent instead of unsettling. The commercial ended.

Catherine felt herself shaking as she tried to turn the TV off but only changed the channel because her hand wasn't steady enough. She took a big breath and held it until she finally managed to turn it off. With her other trembling hand, she lifted the glass up to her lips and downed the rest of the whiskey all at once. She put it down onto the coffee table as gently as she could and breathed out. And breathed out again. And again, and again, and again, until she was laughing. She covered her mouth to quiet herself, but that didn't prevent the tears from streaming down her cheeks. I’m so screwed.

She didn't know how long she sat there, but it couldn't have been too long since her parents were still in the kitchen and her sister had only just come back through the front door and up to her room. The feeling of being watched was still there, and she now knew what it was. It wasn't Tate or Nora or Charles or any of the other ghosts that frequented the basement. She wasn't that lucky. If she was, she would have remained dead. It was Evil. Pure Evil was watching over her like an angel of death and misfortune.

She needed a plan, and she needed one now. Maybe she could go to Louisiana for a week, visit Robichaux's. They might be able to help her. Or keep me there forever because I hold too much knowledge. She sighed heavily and decided to think about it when her head was clearer. For now, though, only one thing was for certain: she was never, ever, going back to that basement.

Chapter Text

That night she lay awake staring at the ceiling. She tried to sleep, but every time she started drifting off she felt something pulling her back. Wariness, most likely. If I’m vulnerable I’m an easy target. She turned onto her side and rubbed her eyes. I’m an easy target either way, though. We all are. She thought about what she knew about the house. It seemed to enjoy toying with its residents first instead of immediately killing them. I might be safe for now… But that girl. Every time she thought about the commercial she felt a pit of dread in her stomach, and this time it was so strong it bordered on painful. I’ve been toyed with already.

A crash sounded from downstairs, causing her to startle. She forced herself to go back to lying still and focused the ear not pressing against her pillow to try and discern what could have caused the noise. A few seconds later she heard a “shit,” and what sounded like glass being moved around. Someone probably just broke something. It’s fine. She felt her heart slowing back down to a more normal tempo and decided to go downstairs and see what happened. The moonlight shining through her windows and reflecting off the light-colored walls illuminated her room enough to where she didn’t have to turn any lights on to successfully make her way to the door. She went to open it but thought that if there was broken glass on the floor downstairs, she should probably put on some slippers. After doing so, she finally made her way out of her room and down the stairs.

She tracked the sound of running water to the kitchen, and when she turned the corner to enter it, she saw her sister leaning against the running sink with a slight grimace on her face and her hand held under the water. Catherine moved her eyes down to the floor and saw what appeared to be shards of a broken glass by Violet’s feet, along with a few drops of blood. She calmed down immediately.

“Hey,” Catherine said to get her sister’s attention.

She turned her head to look at her.

“You keep doing that, let me go grab you some gauze,” she waited for Violet to give her a nod of agreement and made her way over to the downstairs bathroom. Rummaging around the cabinets for a few seconds, she found an unopened box of gauze inside a first aid kit, and after quickly fixing her messy bun, went back over to the kitchen. She carefully side-stepped the glass on the floor and stood next to Violet.

“I’m guessing this is exactly what it looks like?” she asked with a small smile on her face, which her sister reciprocated.

“No, the glass attacked me,” she responded, making them both chuckle. As Catherine started patching her up, Violet furrowed her eyebrows and looked at her. “I didn’t realize I was loud enough to wake you up.”

Cat glanced back at her. “Light sleeper,” she said, forcing herself to yawn. “You probably didn’t wake up Mom and Dad though, don’t worry.”

Violet sighed. “Good. They were tired enough from unpacking all that shit today.”

Catherine gave a hum of acknowledgment and scrunched up her nose. “More shit where that came from.”

Her sister groaned. “Don’t remind me. Did we really need to bring over my fourth grade science project?”

She laughed as she finished working on Violet’s hand. “But of course! How else will you be regularly reminded that little miss Patty Blackwood barfed all over your shoes that day?”

Weak stomach my ass,” Violet grumbled with a barely-concealed grin, “she had it out for me since we were eight.”

As her laughter died down, Cat glanced over at the glass and said, “You sit on the counter. I’m gonna get a broom and clean this mess up.”

“Yes, mom,” Violet drawled as Catherine moved around the kitchen and to where she knew the laundry area to be.

As much as she disliked the prospect of housework, once she actually got around to doing it, she found it to be quite calming. She worked in comfortable silence and found herself growing sleepy when Violet spoke up again.

“It’s gonna be the same, isn’t it?”

She looked over at her and saw a blank look on her face. “What do you mean?”

Violet focused her eyes on her. “School. The girls. The teachers not giving a shit. There’s always gonna be a Patty Blackwood, isn’t there? No matter where I go or how old I get.”

Sometimes Cat forgot how young her sister really was. She was always incredibly smart, even at a young age. She could always keep up with her in a conversation, even though Catherine was technically 25 years older than her. It made it easy to forget that a lot of the issues she had were those of someone so fresh to the ways of the world.

She felt her eyes soften. “You’re right. There’s always gonna be a Patty Blackwood, but at the end of the day Patty Blackwood’s gonna be a sour little brat and Violet Harmon’s gonna be a smart, beautiful, and talented young woman.”

Violet huffed and swung her legs back and forth. “That sounds like what you think you’re supposed to say.”

“Maybe so, but it’s no less true. The more time that passes, the more miserable people like that become if they choose to stay the same. People like us, though, tend to improve. Time is on your side, Vi,” she said and tried to believe that it truly would be this time.

After that, she kept working in silence and when enough glass had been swept aside Violet hopped off the counter, causing Catherine to look at her.

Her sister gave her a short-lived smile. “Think I’m gonna go to bed. I’m tired as hell and should probably get some rest before we go back to unpacking tomorrow.”

“Alright. I’ll probably come upstairs soon too.”

“Thanks for… listening to me tonight,” Violet said somewhat awkwardly.

“I’ll always listen to you, Vi, you know that,” Catherine said as she stopped sweeping.

Violet looked off to the side and half-smiled shyly. “Yeah, yeah,” she looked back at her, “Nighty night, sis,” she said and started walking out of the kitchen.

“Hey, wait!” Catherine called after her, causing her to stop walking and turn back around. She pointedly leaned the side of her head towards her, until Violet rolled her eyes and quickly moved back towards her. She gave her a drawn out and slobbery kiss on the cheek, causing Catherine to adopt a look of pure disgust.

“Happy?” Violet asked, smirking.

“Very,” Cat deadpanned. “Nighty night, sis.” she heard her snicker and footsteps leading out of the kitchen.

Catherine sighed, “right,” and set to work on gathering the shards of glass into the dustpan, until finally dumping its contents into the garbage bin.

In the peace and quiet of solitude, she contemplated drinking some more alcohol to help her fall asleep, but decided that she wanted to minimize any risks she could, and clouding her mind would more than likely do the opposite. She settled on a cup of chamomile tea instead, and hoped the second day in the house would be less… eventful.

Chapter Text

The sound of her blaring alarm clock shattering as she chucked it at the wall, she suspected, was what caused the black lab down the street to begin barking. Catherine turned onto her side and covered her head with her pillow to mute the new persistent sound.

Three. That was how many times she had pressed (more like clumsily slammed) the snooze button. The caffeine high she was on the previous day had come crashing down once she’d woken up and left her severely grumpy. Not to mention still sleep-deprived. She was seriously considering taunting the spirits of the house to kill her just so she could get 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep for once in her goddamn life, why will that dog not shut the hell up??

The door just about slammed open. “Hey,” she heard her dad say and she whimpered in frustration, throwing her pillow at him.

“Shut. Up.” she groaned as she slowly brought herself to sit against the headboard.

“Maybe we should’ve named you Sunshine instead,” he said, humor clear in his voice, but she only shot him a glare that would surely cause a 3-year-old to shake in its boots.

She rubbed her face with her hands and groaned once more. “Just gimme, like, 20 minutes.”

If she looked up she probably would have seen him shake his head, she was sure, as she heard him grumble “You and your mom always take so long.” And after feeling the thump of the pillow hitting the bed, she heard him leave.

“It takes work to look this good, you caveman,” she mumbled, though he could no longer hear her. Bringing her hands down to rest in her lap, she stared blankly ahead of her as she contemplated how to go about getting up. She looked at her pillow. It would be so tempting. She closed her eyes and lightly huffed. It is so tempting. She snapped her eyes open, furrowing her eyebrows in the process. No. You can take a nap later. She softly slapped her face. Get it together, girl. She sighed long and loud. She slowly began getting up, quietly whining all the while.

Thirty-five minutes later she was clean (the shower was just as heavenly as she’d imagined), made-up, and dressed for success as she descended the stairs and headed straight for the kitchen. She contemplated chugging some more coffee but decided against it as that much caffeine in her sleep-deprived system would probably just lead to an adrenaline-induced meltdown. As opposed to a Satanically-induced meltdown. She couldn’t help but let out a laugh at the absurdity of it all. She opted for a tall glass of freezing cold water instead.

Apart from breakfast and the pizza they had for lunch, most of the day was spent unpacking, though she made sure to take plenty of 10-minute breaks in order to pet the shit out of Hallie. That dog was a cuddle-bug if she’d ever met one and Catherine wasn’t complaining one bit.

At around 5:20 in the afternoon she was in the process of putting away her books when she heard the sound of something hitting the house. She turned her head in its direction, and heard another light thunk. She made her way over to her window and peered out at the front lawn, scanning for the source of the noise. There she saw a girl wearing a yellow sundress picking up small rocks from the ground and throwing them at seemingly random targets. Catherine furrowed her eyebrows and made her way down to the foyer in order to confront her.

She grabbed her keys, opened the front door, and after closing it walked closer to the girl who couldn’t have been over five feet tall. “Hey!” she called out to her. The girl was visibly surprised as her body startled and she let the pebbles in her hand quickly fall to the ground. As she turned towards her, Catherine noticed, and mentally profusely apologized if this wasn’t the case, that the girl looked to have Down syndrome. She hesitantly inferred that this might have been a certain neighbor’s daughter.

“What are you doing here?” Catherine asked, not unkindly, as she crossed her arms.

The girl, or rather, woman who might’ve been Addie smiled small and spoke. “The rocks in this lawn are pretty. I used to come here and collect them before you arrived. Look at this one, it’s grey and red and green.” she bent back down and picked up a pebble, holding out her hand for her to see.

I don’t remember this being a thing. Catherine walked over to her and looked down at it. The woman was right. She had never paid much attention to rocks before but this one, while not an extraordinary sight, was still quite beautiful.

“Huh, so it is,” Cat looked back up at her and smiled. She held out her right hand. “I’m Catherine Harmon. What’s your name?”

“Adelaide Langdon,” she beamed at the taller woman and shook her hand.

This is surreal, she thought, but kept smiling. “Nice to meet you, Adelaide. Do you live nearby?” she asked, though she already knew the answer.

“Yup! Right there,” Addie said and pointed to the house next to theirs. “I like it better here though.”

“Oh wow, I guess we’ll be seeing a lot of each other then,” Catherine noted with an easy expression. Adelaide’s positive energy was almost alarmingly contagious. “Here,” she said as she scooped up a handful of pebbles, “you can keep these to remember our first meeting,” she carefully placed the small rocks into Addie’s now cupped hands and waited for her to respond.

Addie looked down at them with a surprisingly scrutinizing look on her face, and looked back up at Cat with a frown on her face. “These are no good. You can’t just pick up any old rocks you see in front of you, you have to look for the ones that stand out,” she said as she dumped them all back onto the ground. She grabbed her arm and started walking further into the lawn, leaving her no real choice but to follow. “Come on, let me show you how the pros do it!” Addie exclaimed, and Cat couldn’t help but let out a giggle of genuine joy. From what she remembered, Adelaide Langdon might have been a bit unaware of personal boundaries, but she seemed nice and at the moment she felt like the purest thing in her life. She was sure she wanted to befriend her.

It was three hours after she finished hanging out with Addie, and Catherine was more than ready to cuddle up in her bed with a cup of tea and her copy of the newly-published A Dance with Dragons. Oh my god, I could totally freak dad out with my “theory” on how the show will end. She hadn’t noticed she’d physically stopped moving until her mother spoke to her.

“Hey, everything okay?” she asked with a raised eyebrow and Catherine turned her head to look at her.

“What?” she said before processing what her mother asked. “Oh. Yeah. Fine,” she giggled, hoping to ease her worries, “Just thought of something silly,” she noticed her mother relax and continued speaking, “Umm, I’m gonna go to bed early. I’m super tired.”

“Oh. Alright. I was gonna ask you and your sister if you wanted to watch a movie with me and your dad. Maybe tomorrow night?” her motherly smile made it virtually impossible for Catherine to refuse, and so she didn’t.

“Sure! We should squeeze in as much family time as we can before Vi starts school and is always not in the mood,” she said with a roll of the eyes that betrayed how much her sister’s sentiment frustrated her. She wouldn’t have had an issue with it if they were living a normal life, but now that their lives might were in danger she wanted to spend as much time with her family as possible.

Her mom’s smile became wry. “That’s teenagers for you. Holed up in their rooms all day,” her smile then turned surprisingly mischievous. “You should know. You were one once upon a time in a land far, far away, no?”

Catherine’s heart stopped. “What?” she breathed out. Two nights in a row? There’s no way, right?

Vivien’s expression became concerned as she said, “Hey, I’m just kidding. You’re just really mature sometimes.” She smiled and raised an eyebrow, “You still look as youthful and beautiful as ever.”

Her heart started beating again and she had to actively prevent herself from sighing in relief. She huffed a laugh instead. “Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. Sorry, I’m just… super out of it right now,” she gave her mother a kiss on the cheek and started moving away from her. “Goodnight.”

“’Night!” Vivien called out as Catherine made her way up to her bedroom with her cup of apple cinnamon tea, where she spent the rest of the night calming herself down enough to sleep by reading and listening to classical music.

Thankfully she had no dreams.

The next morning she woke up on her own, surprisingly enough. She turned her head towards her bedside table to check the time, but when met with no clock remembered that she’d broken it. Adjusting herself to lean on her elbow, she reached over to check the clock on her iPhone 4 instead (truly the peak of technology) and was surprised by how early it was. Only 6:24 AM. She sat up against the headboard, rubbing her eyes and letting out a yawn so long her eyes watered.

She turned around and looked out the window, cherishing the grey early morning light that never failed to make her feel safe and comfortable. The sidewalk was mainly deserted, save for the odd jogger or dog-walker, and she felt an urge to go out and join them. Ah what the hell. She got up and moved towards the bathroom to brush her teeth and fix her curly hair into a ponytail, after which she rummaged through her closet for anything that might be considered appropriate sportswear. She finally settled on a pair of dark blue leggings, a pastel pink sports bra, a sheer grey tank top, and a bubblegum pink jacket so that she could have somewhere to store her cell phone and keys.

After toasting and eating two slices of bread so she wouldn’t collapse from exhaustion, she grabbed a sticky note, placed it upon the kitchen counter, and on it wrote what she was up to in case a member of her family woke up before she returned and thought she’d been kidnapped. This wasn’t something she did very often, after all.

She quietly unlocked the front door, and after exiting the house relocked it just as quietly. She jogged in place for a few seconds to get her blood pumping, and then started down the block. Seeing as she was terrible with directions, she decided to run a four-blocks-by-four-blocks square in hopes of ending up back at her house with no mild panicking or –god forbid – asking for directions.

When she passed by Constance’s house however, she made sure to get a good look at it. Mainly out of curiosity, but also to see if it looked as familiar to her as the “Murder House” did. It did not and she wasn’t even sure if the exterior was ever shown in the show, but on the other hand everything familiar to her was slightly changed. She was almost positive that the Murder House of her previous universe had a slightly different layout, with no third bedroom and the bathrooms being in different places. The people she recognized were also different. Celebrities she knew had slightly different faces. Her mother, father, sister, the real estate agent, and now Adelaide all looked slightly different from what she remembered as well. It was almost as though somebody described their basic features to an artist who had no idea what they looked like. It was jarring but also comforting in a way. More jarring in regards to the celebrities and more comforting in regards to the people unique to the universe she was in. Staring into the faces of Taissa Farmiga, Connie Britton, and Dylan McDermott for 18 years straight would have made her feel even more bizarre for being in the situation she was in. Three actors who all existed in this universe, funnily enough, though she hadn’t been able to find anything on Ryan Murphy.

By the time she reached her fifth block, she felt a bit out of breath and judging by how warm her cheeks felt, she was sure they were well on their way to becoming bright pink. By the time she reached her tenth block, she was almost completely out of breath and decided to stop for a short break. I seriously need to get into shape. She walked towards the small park across the street to sit down on a bench. Relief spread through her legs as soon as she rested her body, but her mind was a different story. What the hell am I supposed to do now? She’d thought about convincing her family to travel to Florida and move in with aunt Jo, but she had yet to think of a way to actually convince them without sounding insane. It was no secret that she loved that woman, but Cat was an adult now. Saying “I want to live with aunt Jo” might get Vi on board to come with her, but wouldn’t automatically bring her parents along. Other than that, she knew her family. Trying to convince them that ghosts existed or that what might have been the devil spoke to her would only cause her parents to make her see a therapist, and though her sister might believe her it’d only make her want to seek out ghouls and ghosties more. Not to mention what might happen if the house caught wind of the fact that she was trying to escape. Constance and the people she surrounded herself with were the only people she knew had lived there and left alive. Or left at all, I suppose. Maybe she’s my best bet. There was always Fiona Goode, of course, but she was still afraid of opening that can of worms. However scary Fiona was there was no way Constance would be scarier, right? At least Constance can’t make people spontaneously combust. Probably. A dog loudly playing with his owner broke her train of thought and made her realize that she’d been sitting there too long. Her thighs protested when she got up, but she ignored them and started jogging back home, trying to think of nothing.

Chapter Text

“Well I’ll be damned.”

Catherine had come home to find her mother standing by the door, sticky note in hand.

“What?” she panted out.

“When I read this thing,” she waved the note around, “I thought you were using it as an alibi to go do something else, but you really do look like you went out jogging.”

“Oh please, I’m glowing.” she flashed her a smile and went about emptying her jacket of its contents. “Wait, what do you mean ‘something else’? What else would I be doing?” She set her keys down on the console table.

Vivien folded the sticky note up. “Oh, I don’t know.” she bit her lip the way she did when she was trying not to smile. “Thought that maybe you met someone cute when you were out last afternoon.”

Technically I did, but not in that kind of… Catherine widened her eyes in realization. “Wait, wait, wait. You thought I snuck out at 6 AM of all ungodly hours to…” she raised an eyebrow. “You know…?”

She could see her mom’s cheeks become a bit more vibrant as she caught onto what she was implying. She spoke rapidly. “Go out with that girl. For breakfast. At an IHOP or something. Not to, um…”

She wanted to say “mom, that ‘girl’ is a 30-something-year-old straight woman,” or “mom, she’s a Langdon; do you have any idea how much trouble they are?” but she was so weirded out at the idea of something like that happening between her and someone she was already beginning to think of as a sister that she couldn’t form words.

Vivien spoke up, still visibly flustered. “You know what? Since you’re up, why don’t you help me with breakfast? I was thinking French toast. Yeah? French toast is good. You like French toast.” she didn’t even wait for a response as she headed straight for the kitchen.

With an odd expression still on her face she called out, “Just let me shower first. I have ten people’s sweat on me.”

Her mom poked her head out from the kitchen, looking thoroughly amused. “Oh, ten? Well that does sounds like a physically demanding morning.”

Catherine’s eyes went wide and her mouth dropped open. Vivien disappeared from sight.

“Mom!” she exclaimed incredulously. If she was my first mother I’d know for sure where I got my dirty mind from, good lord.

A distant “go shower!” was the only response she got.

She hated cooking. It wasn’t that she was bad at it, she was fairly decent. She just hated having to constantly smell the delicious food and have it be right in front of her before she could have even a bite of it. Thankfully this recipe was a quick and easy one, and the food was ready before her stomach could get to growling.

“Well something sure smells good in here.” her dad greeted them with a smile.

“Hm, must be that new conditioner I bought.” her mom said dryly.

Her dad moved close to her mom and embraced her from behind, burying his face in her hair. He breathed in deep. “Mhm, that does smell good.”

Her mother smiled gently.

She scrunched her nose up at their flirting and let out a soft “ew”, though she couldn’t help but feel a bit of warmth bloom in her chest. At least they aren’t at each other’s throats.

Her dad turned to her, still smiling. “What are you doing here already?”

She opened her mouth to speak, but her mom beat her to it.

“She went out jogging this morning. Can you believe that? Jogging.” she moved away from Ben and started making coffee. “Our little girl is growing up.”

Catherine could feel herself beginning to blush from embarrassment as she filled up a glass with orange juice. “I thought I already was grown up. Why are you making such a big deal out of it anyway?”

Her father got a plate from one of the cabinets and started piling food on top of it. “Hey now, exercise is important. So is working on your drawings and stuff of course, but a balance between the two is important in order to be happy. Besides, the human brain doesn’t fully develop until it’s around 25 years old, so technically you aren’t grown up yet.”

She rolled her eyes and stacked two pieces of French toast onto her plate. “Yes, Professor Dr. Harmon, sir.”

Her parents chuckled.

“Speaking of Professor Dr. Harmon sir.” Vivien started, swallowing a bite of food. “When is he going to start seeing patients again?”

Ben looked up at the ceiling as he thought. “Well, the office is pretty much ready. Just have to make sure everything’s in order.” He looked back down at Vivien. “Tomorrow’s Monday. Vi all set to go to school?”

Vivien nodded and wiped her mouth with a napkin. “Yeah. School said they’ll have her textbooks ready tomorrow. She can just drop them off at her locker.”

A distant creak caught Catherine’s attention.

“I’ll start seeing patients tomorrow then. We’re in L.A, there’s bound to be a couple of kooks in need of therapy nearby here, right?”

She ate the last bite of her toast and got up.

“Ben!” Vivien exclaimed in a scolding tone.

“Whaaat?” Cat could hear him chuckle as she followed the noise. “You know it’s true.”

Her parents’ voices were distant now, and she found herself walking into the foyer.

Ah, shit. The front door was open. Probably just Vi sneaking out to smoke or something, nothing to worry about.

Before she could go outside to see if her sister was there, she spotted her walking down the stairs.

“Morning.” Violet greeted her. “You’re up early.”

Ah, shit. “Yeah, um… I woke up at, like, six for some unknown reason. Hey, uh, by the way, the door just opened? Like, all by itself.”

Violet looked at the door in silence. She looked back at Catherine, gazing at her intently for an oddly long time. She rolled her eyes and snorted. “Pft. Nice try.” she walked past her and towards the dining room. “I scared the absolute shit out of you two days ago, you’re gonna have to do better than that.”

Her mouth was left hanging open as she stared at her sister’s retreating form. What the actual hell, dude. She glanced back at the door and decided to give the front lawn a once-over anyway, just in case somebody was there. Nobody was. She closed and locked the front door.

Another creak was heard, this time from somewhere behind her. It sounded like another door. Her heart was pumping quickly as she turned around and warily began following the sound. She couldn’t help but silently curse herself the entire time.

I know you’ve done some dumb shit before, Catherine, but this is on a whole other level of dumb shit. No, seriously. This is how every other na ïve, conventionally attractive white girl dies in every single slasher flick. “Oh I know, she’ll hear a spooky noise and follow it and then when there’s nothing there, she’ll hear another spooky noise but this time it’ll be from behind her! Yeah, yeah! And then the killer pops out from his hiding spot and stabs her through the eye! Hey! Jim! Where ya goin’? This is some top notch script writin’ I got here!” God, this is stupid, this is stupid, this is stupid, this is so, so stupid.

To add to her wariness, it ended up being the basement door that she heard creak open. She stopped by it, adopting a look of intense skepticism and discomfort.

 “Yeahhhhhh, okay. That’s not happening. This is where I draw the line. Nope.” She turned around and went to rejoin her family when she heard a different noise come from the door. This time, it sounded distinctly human.

“Psssst.”

She furrowed her eyebrows.

“Pssssssssst!”

She slowly turned around, her long, manicured nails at her sides and ready to attack just in case. A somewhat pathetic defense mechanism, but it was the only one she had at the moment.

An oblong face, accompanied by golden brown hair, could be seen poking out from the basement.

“Addie?” she whisper-yelled in disbelief.

Adelaide’s face broke out in a smile and she beckoned Catherine closer. Hesitantly, she complied, though she stopped a good few feet away from the door.

Catherine crossed her arms and looked around her to make sure no one was listening. “What in the world are you doing here? Did you come in through the front door?”

“I just wanted to say hi to my friends!” she spoke in a chipper, but thankfully quiet voice. “I have some down there too.” She pointed down the basement stairs.

Catherine felt goosebumps rise on her skin at the thought of going back down there, but was thankfully wearing a loose cardigan that covered her arms. She didn’t want Addie to question the reaction.

“Do you, now?” she asked as nonchalantly as she could, trying to channel a bit of her mom. “What are their names?”

Adelaide just looked at her and giggled. Cat looked around her again to see if anyone heard. She was laughing for a good long time. The goosebumps persisted.

“Well I can’t tell you that!” Addie spoke. “They’ll wanna introduce themselves.” How very comforting.

She raised an eyebrow, trying to keep up the casual façade. “Alrighty, then.” She smiled like she would have if she knew nothing of her invisible housemates. She looked around her once more. “I was gonna go upstairs and put some makeup on. Do you wanna come help me, or would you like to stay with your other friends?”

Addie’s face lit up and she stepped out into the hallway excitedly. “I love makeup!” she said a bit too loud and Catherine had to hush her.

“Alright, how about this?” Catherine spoke quietly as she gently put her hand on Adelaide’s shoulder and walked up the stairs with her. “I’m terrible at lining my lips and doing winged eyeliner unless I’m constantly taking pictures to see how even everything looks. How ‘bout you help tell me when something looks off?”

“Can I put lipstick on you, too?” Addie asked eagerly when they entered Cat’s room. “I love lipstick.”

“Of course!” Catherine smiled and sat at her desk, taking out her mirror and makeup supplies. “What color lipstick is your favorite?”

Adelaide brought her hand up to her chin and hummed contemplatively. Her eyes brightened when she made her decision. “Red! It’s a classic for a reason.”

Catherine was pleasantly surprised. She was planning on doing a 1940s inspired look and wearing pink or purple lipstick would have ruined it.

She turned around in her chair to look at Adelaide, who was perched on the bed, and grinned.

“You have good taste! Red lipstick’s my favorite too. It looks amazing on pretty much everyone, regardless of skin tone or hair color.” She finished setting everything up and started applying a moisturizer onto her face. “We’ll decide on the exact shade when everything else is finished. What do you think?” She looked at her from the corner of her eye.

Adelaide had stood up from the bed and was sitting next to her now, on a stool she had taken from in front of Cat’s bookcase.

“Sounds like a plan!”

Catherine giggled and started applying foundation. The rest of the makeup session went similarly, with Cat asking about Addie’s opinion on various aspects of makeup and teaching her a few techniques, such as applying a concealer a few shades darker than your skin tone on your dark circles in order to cover them better and how to contour properly.

She enjoyed Adelaide’s company, and if she wasn’t mistaken, the feeling was mutual. By the end, Cat’s eyes and lips were as symmetrical as possible. Addie ended up picking a bright blood orange lipstick that made Catherine’s white and light blue outfit look even more vibrant.

They had settled into a comfortable silence, Addie going through all the makeup products, when Catherine discreetly looked at the clock on her phone. It read 11:37 AM. Damn, if time doesn’t fly. She took a deep breath. Am I really gonna try to do this? She bit her lip. What she was considering felt dirty somehow, like she would be using her new friend. I’m not using her though, she tried to tell herself. I genuinely like her. She looked back at Addie and quietly sighed. Drastic times, I suppose. She went over to her earring organizer and looked at all the options. What would she wear? She remembered that in the show she said something about her husband buying her diamonds. She didn’t have any real diamonds though.

She stood up and opened the bathroom door to access the full-length mirror. Adelaide was too distracted to comment on it. Or perhaps she simply didn’t see a reason to.

Pearl earrings would look good, she thought. Those she did have. She was considering adorning her hands with some rings as well, but thought that it might seem a bit over-the-top to the likes of her. She fixed her hair into a classy yet not overly formal updo and put on the pearl earrings. She wiped invisible dust off of her clothes and turned to look at Adelaide.

“Hey, what time is it?” she asked in a casual tone.

Addie’s head snapped up to look at her. “Let’s see…” She looked back down and pressed Catherine’s phone’s home button. “Eleven… fifty-two!” She looked back up at her.

Catherine furrowed her eyebrows. “Maybe you should go home. I was planning on checking out that diner a few blocks from here at around noon and, well, that’s now.”

Adelaide cocked her head to the side and then lifted it back up. “Alright!” she grinned. “I had fun today! Maybe I could help you with makeup again!”

Catherine have her a bright, toothy smile. “I’d love that! Sorry I took you away from your other friends. They’re important too.”

Addie got up from the desk and waved her hand dismissively. “Oh, please. I see them all the time. I’ll just come back tomorrow!” She began walking towards the door.

“Oh, Addie?” She adopted a concerned look on her face. “Um… I’d feel really impolite if I didn’t escort you back home.” She looked down and fidgeted with her hands. “I know it’s right next door, but I have good manners to kind of a fault, so…” She looked back up at Addie with a hopeful expression.

For a moment Adelaide looked scared. Like she wanted to keep their friendship secret or didn’t want Catherine to have to deal with her mother. Her eyes looked over to the side.

“Um…” She gave Cat a quick once-over. “Okay. I guess.” She suddenly went back to being the smiley woman she usually was around her, but it felt a bit forced. “Yeah! You can come over.”

Catherine gave her another bright smile. “Awesome!” I feel like a monster. “Let me just get my purse ready so I can go to that diner right after.”

Adelaide rocked on her heels while Catherine moved all of her necessities from the black purse over to the one that was similar to her earrings in color.

“Alright!” Catherine smiled. “Let’s go.”

They snuck down to the front door and Cat ushered Adelaide through, telling her to wait outside for a minute, before going back inside to find a member of her family. She found her dad in his office, going through his files and making notes in a notebook. She rapped her knuckles on the open door and he looked up at her with a soft smirk.

“Hey, kiddo.”

“Hey! I’m, uh, gonna go out for a bit. Explore the neighborhood and probably eat at this diner I saw while on my jog this morning.”

He blinked. “Alright. Sure. I’ll be sure to tell your mom when she asks.”

She flashed him a smile. “Thanks! See you later.” And with that, she was out the door.

“What were you doing?” Adelaide asked.

“Oh, just making sure Dad knows that I’m gonna go to that diner.” She looked over at her and gestured with her arm for her to lead the way.

“What’s the diner’s name?”

“Oh, umm… I think it was called Darling’s Diner. Looked like a proper 50s themed one.”

Adelaide hummed affirmatively.

They had nearly reached the front lawn now. “Sooo, do you live alone?”

Addie hesitated for a second but then spoke. “No. I live with my mom. And her boy toy.”

A startled laugh escaped her. “Her boy toy?” She looked over at her walking companion. “Is that her term or yours?”

Adelaide grinned. “I’ll never tell!”

Their mirth died down as soon as they arrived at the front porch. Cat looked over at Addie, silently asking whether or not to knock. Addie rolled her eyes, sighed, and knocked firmly. Barely five seconds had passed before the door was yanked open

She was everything she imagined and more. Short, natural nails gripped the side of the door. An old-fashioned blonde updo framed a face that, while attractive, at the moment was distorted in distress. She was the type of woman that you look at and just know she used to be absolutely stunning when she was young. Even now, she wasn’t badly-kept at all, but the fine lines and slight sagging were difficult to hide. Her dark, hazel eyes were wide and gleaming with worry; and anger. They flicked back and forth between her and Adelaide. Something inside of them made Catherine feel intimidated. ‘Make one wrong move and I’ll kill you’ they seemed to say.

Constance straightened up and let go of the door. Her face relaxed into a soft, easy expression. Yet her eyes are still as hard as those diamonds she covets. A smile appeared on her face and she chose to look at Catherine.

“Well,” she said with a short, airy laugh, “this is certainly a surprise.”  She elegantly adjusted a strand of hair that flew into her face when she opened the door.

She looked back at her daughter. “Where have you been all this time, Adelaide?” she was smiling, but Catherine knew that expression well by now, having had two mothers. It said ‘don’t worry, kid, I’ll be sure to yell at you thoroughly when we’re finally alone.’ Or in Constance’s case, she was more likely to lock her in a closet for a couple of hours.

Addie seemed to know that expression well too, because she meekly looked down and remained silent. Catherine decided to speak up.

She made sure to smile with both her mouth and her eyes. “My name is Catherine Harmon.” Constance’s eyes snapped to her. She continued, gently placing a hand onto Addie’s shoulder, an action that definitely did not go unnoticed by her mother. “Adelaide introduced herself to me yesterday, and helped me find pebbles for my ever-expanding collection.” She slid her hand off of Addie, remembering that Constance had once snapped at Vivien for touching her. “I spotted her again today and invited her over to talk.” She made her smile turn warmer. “She has excellent taste, if I do say so myself.” She briefly looked at Addie. “She gave priceless advice in regards to my makeup.” Her expression turned more neutral, though her eyes were still smiling. “You must be her mother. She did tell me you were beautiful.”

Constance blinked, perhaps not expecting such a positive report on her daughter’s behavior, and for a moment the hardness in her eyes was gone. It returned in the next moment however, though her eyes felt less like diamonds and more like quartz. A good sign, I hope.

Constance smiled. “Well aren’t you a dear?” She opened the door wider. “Please. Come on in. Us neighbors should get to know one another.”

She looked down at Addie and once again gestured for her to go first. She was being unnaturally quiet, never having uttered even a word while in her mother’s presence.

“I’m terribly sorry for the mess,” Constance’s southern accent came from behind her, having closed the door once the girls entered the house. “I’ve simply been worried out of my mind since Adelaide left the house without a word.” Her voice turned pointed at the end, and Catherine could see Addie shrink into herself even more.

“Oh, please, Mrs. Langdon, your house is wonderful.” And incredibly drab. “Very inviting, I think.”

“How kind of you to say,” she drawled out pleasantly. “Please, come to the kitchen. I’ll make you some tea.” A smile towards her and a pointed look towards Addie. “I believe Adelaide still has some chores to do. You haven’t cleaned your room yet, remember?”

Addie meekly shook her head.

Constance smiled, eyes still hard. “Why don’t you go do that and let me properly thank miss – er –  Catherine here for her kindness and hospitality, hmm?”

Addie finally spoke. “Okay.” She looked at Catherine. “Thank you for today.” A simple sentiment, though it felt more like she was talking about how she defended her against her mother rather than for letting her help with makeup.

Catherine smiled, genuinely this time. “Of course, Addie. It’s always a pleasure.”

Her friend left the room and she was left alone with Constance. Constance Langdon. This was bizarre. I’m about to have tea with Constance fucking Langdon.

“So,” the woman said as she moved to a cabinet. “Oh, please, sit.” She gestured towards a chair. Catherine sat.

“What kind of tea would you like?”

She moved her purse so it was hanging off the chair. “What kind of tea do you have, Mrs. Langdon?”

“Please, call me Constance.” she flashed her a smile, and Catherine returned it. Constance retrieved two teacups from a cupboard.

“You have a beautiful name, Constance. There’s a sense of security in things that are unchanging, I think. They’re firm, unwavering, and you can always count on them.” She gently shook her head. “Forgive me. I didn’t mean to be forward. I’m still unsure as to how much of your name bleeds into your personality, of course.”

Constance let out an airy laugh. “My, my, you’re an eloquent little thing, aren’t you?” She looked back at her. “Such a rare trait these days.” She started taking small boxes of tea down and onto the counter. “I have chamomile, jasmine, oolong, and earl grey.”

“I’d love a cup of jasmine.” She smiled.

“Of course.” She turned on the kettle and placed a teabag into each cup. She sat down in front of her, leaning forward. “So,” she began, “am I correct in assuming that you live in that old Victorian monstrosity right next door? It’s the only place I know of that was for sale.”

She smiled. “You are correct in assuming that, yes. Though I don’t live alone. My parents and younger sister also live there.”

“I see.” She crossed her legs. “And what is it you do, exactly?” Her eyes quickly scanned her face. “You look young. Are you still in school?” The kettle automatically turned off and she went to fill the two cups up with its water.

She gave a light huff of laughter. “I know it’s a bit cliché, considering this is Los Angeles and all – thank you,” she gently accepted her cup, “but I’m actually an aspiring actress.” Keep this shit up, and you’ll win an Oscar in no time. She lightly blew into the cup, watching for Constance’s reaction. An eyebrow twitch was all she had to go on.

“An actress, hmm?” she pursed her lips into a smile, and reached for the cigarette pack that was on the table.

Catherine looked off into the distance, making her eyes glaze over. “I’ve just… always felt something more than myself whenever I’ve been on stage.” She fixed her eyes back onto Constance. “I feel more free, more confident, more happy.” She took a careful sip of the tea. It tasted as good as it smelled. “I just feel… more.” Liar, liar, pants on fire.

Constance drank some of her own tea. She smiled at her, eyes now more like calcite. That is a good sign, right? She let out a soft breath. “How wonderful.”

Catherine smiled bashfully and adjusted a strand of her hair. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to talk about myself so much.”

“Oh, no, please.” She lit the cigarette. “You’re delightful.” She took a drag.

“What is it you do, Constance?” She asked as innocently as she could, hoping she wasn’t pushing too far.

Surprisingly enough, she laughed. Not one of her controlled, meaningless laughs like the ones she’d been letting out before, but one that sounded genuine. She exhaled smoke up into the air.

“Oh, sugar, you’re very kind, but I doubt you can’t tell.”

Catherine furrowed her eyebrows. What’s that supposed to mean?

Deciding she’d been in silent confusion for too long, Constance sighed. “I’m… retired.”She motioned around the room with the hand that held her cigarette. “I take care of the house and such.” She took a drag. “And I take care of Adelaide.” Smoke punctuated her words.

Oh. “I see.” She adopted a look of mild concern. “How is that for you?”

Constance smiled like she was trying to hold back a bitter sentiment. “A mother’s work is never finished.” She took a sip. “You’ll discover that for yourself someday.”

There was no more tea left for Cat to drink. Constance continued with a smile.

“Enjoy your days of freedom while they last. And your days on the stage.” Her smile turned wistful. “There’s nothing quite like people cheering for you after you’ve given a scene your all.”

Thank you for that, Constance. She jumped at the opportunity. “You sound like you speak from experience.” She tried not to look too eager.

Constance breathed out through her nose, bitter humor evident on her face. “I do.” She tapped her cigarette on the edge of the ashtray and brought it back to her mouth. “I was an actress too, once. Things on the stage were easy.” She was looking somewhere behind Catherine, eyes glazed over. “It was when I decided to ‘move on up’ to the silver screen that things became… complicated.” Her tone changed when she said those three words to one of biting sarcasm.

She was resting her chin on her interlocked fingers, leaning forward on the chair. “What happened?” she asked, voice full of concern.

Constance stared at her. “My morals got in the way.” She stubbed out the cigarette and gave a bitter laugh. “You’d think it was a whorehouse instead of a respectable, American industry.” Oh dear, here we go. “I refused to become corrupted by the debauchery that was manufactured in that… devil’s playground.” She sneered.

“I see.” She continued looking concerned. “Maybe I should just stick to the stage, then?”

Constance’s eyes stared at her again, long and hard. Like diamonds. “If you know what’s good for you.”

There was somebody at the door. The sound of keys jingling drew her attention away from Constance and towards the living room.

“Who’s that?” she asked.

Constance moaned and rubbed her head, looking tired. “That would be Travis,” she smiled, “my beau. He wants to be an actor, too.”

“I brought home those groceries you wanted!” a male voice could be heard from the front door, which shut closed. “They didn’t have any pineapple juice in stock, so I just bought the-”

“Yes, dear, we have company, so why don’t you just-“

“-pineapples.”

“-put the groceries on the counter?”

An attractive, well-built man appeared in the kitchen archway, looking somewhat like a deer in headlights when he saw that they were, indeed, not alone.

“Oh, uhhh…” he smiled beautifully at her. “Hi.” He quickly put the grocery bag down onto the counter.

“Hello,” she responded with an amused smile.

“This here’s Catherine Harmon: one of our new next-door neighbors.” Constance got up from the table and put their cups in the sink. “She’s an actress, too.” An amused noise. “What are the odds.”

Catherine stood up gracefully and held out her hand. She gave him one her bright smiles. “Nice to meet you. Travis, was it?”

He took a second to respond, and just stared at her. “Oh, uh…” he took her hand and shook it, along with his head. “Yeah, Travis Wanderly.” He huffed a laugh. “Nice to meet you, too.”

Wait, is he attracted to…? Isn’t he supposed to be in love with…? She quickly cleared her head of those thoughts. There would be plenty of time to visit them later.

She kept smiling as she turned to look at Constance. “Thank you for the tea and the wonderful conversation, Constance, but I must be going. I wanted to go explore the neighborhood a bit. Familiarize myself with all the shops and such.” She gently swung her purse back onto her shoulder.

“Yes, there is quite a bit to do around here.” Constance was leaning her lower back against the counter. “There’s a beach, too, if you’ve yet to visit it.” Her eyes glazed over again but she tried to distract her with a smile. “I hear it’s quite lovely.”

Catherine smiled. “I’ll make sure to keep that in mind.” She looked at them both. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Constance, Travis. Please make sure to tell Adelaide that I enjoyed her company very much.”

“Of course.” Constance followed her out the kitchen and to the front door. She opened it smoothly.

Catherine walked out of the house and onto the porch.

“It really was a pleasure getting to know you, sugar. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of each other,” she smiled at her, “now that we’re such close neighbors.”

Her eyes were gold.