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Re: Jules, Connecticut: Parkview Apartments

on Wed Nov 07, 2018 1:06 am
Jake blinks.

Did she just say she's never sucked dick?

He intentionally puts his drink down, snorting. The only one possibly, maybe qualified for this one was Winter. And the girl looked half asleep at this point. Jake chuckles and looks at the twins. Tobi, he expected. He was with Noelle, so it made sense. but Agnes? Never? His brain started whirring. MAybe she was just waiting?

Didn't seem like her.

God, she looked hot with the slight flush to her skin, a path from ear to ear. Jake felt his own VERY Irish face starting to redden. Looks like it was the fashion tonight.

He smiles, shaking his head "Gotta try harder if you wanna get us to where you're heading,"
______
“Noe, puhlease. Yuh know I wouldn’ ask unless it twas an emergency. I can’ jus’ leave huh a’ home, it twould be bedlam. Yuh know it. I have no clue where else I can turn.”

Noelle was sitting against the brick wall next to the door back inside. Her eyes are fixed on a hanging plant, it’s vines stretching over and beneath the pot. The leves were small, twin blades on either side of the stem. Even in the dark, she could tell they were lush and green and well taken care of. It seemed that their owner was at least a little responsible. She found herself watching them sway in the wind, fixing her gaze on something naturalistic, trying to calm her racing heart. Her mother was frantic on the other end. Something Noelle had never been used to. She was always calm, the one that kept the insanity that was their lives in an organized chaos.

But here was Karen Scott. Struggling. Pleading. Begging.

“Mom… I can’t come home right now. I have so much I need to do before Thanksgiving Break, I have these new lessons I’m taking I have-“

Noelle breaks off, the hand on her knees tightening. No. This wasn’t the time to reveal her little problem. To tell her mother that her daughter had lost control of something. Of anything. She took a deep breath, re-centering herself. “I can see if I can come up this weekend, okay? Maybe leave tonight and-“

“That tain’t gonna work. She’s suspended startin Monday. And she’s off the week. And I can’ miss any more work less we wan’ workin heat roun’ here. Aun’ Susan is ou’ and Cousin Nel ain’ speakin’ to me again. All the res’ are too fah away and aren’ gonna come. Not like Gran gonna walk ou’ her grave. Sweethauh’, you know I ain’ askin’ less it was an emergency. Pulease, jus’ this once. I need yuh, Noe. I can’ do this-“

“Stop!”

It was louder than she meant it. The word rang out in the night as it escaped her. Tears stung in her eyes, her knees tightening to her chin. She couldn’t leave all of next week- not only her commitments to Dr. McKay and his lessons but her own school work. This wasn’t like fall break and midterms. If this became a habit, her career could be on the line. Academic and elsewhere. At least, that was at the forefront of her mind. She placed her forehead on her knees, letting out a shaky breath. On the other line, her mother was silent for a moment. Taking in that word.

And then.

“I’m… I’m sorry Noe. Yuh righ’. I can’ ask yuh fuh this. I’ll… I’ll figure somethin’ ou’. Okay? Don’ worry. Maybe one o’ the library volunteers could hel’. Or I coul’ take Joy to the Library. She don’ like it as much as yuh, bu’ she migh’ have ta deal. It’s… It’s fine. Alrigh’ ? I’m.. I’m sorry.”

Noelle wanted to ignore it, but her mother’s words were clipped. Not in anger, but not wanting to reveal their sadness. Their anxiety. This was a woman who, at her mother’s funeral, had graciously helped everyone who came far and wide. Made them laugh. Celebrate life instead of mourning it. A woman who, when her husband left, did not cry. Noelle could not remember seeing a tear leave her eye. She was the one who held it together, the glue to their tiny family. And here she was- Noelle made this woman, a woman of strength and fortitude, show a weakness of emotion. Of things being less than manageable.

Noelle thought of Dr. McKay. Their talk about failure. Yet, Noelle could not see how this could be something to learn from.

Learn how to be a better daughter? Someone who didn’t let her own mother down?

“Mom, I-“

“No, it’s fine! I promise! It’s all gon’ be fine. She’s fine. We’re fine.”

There was a sound in the background. A voice, a tired, small voice. It was way past that voice’s bedtime, Noelle knew. She knew that there wasn’t much time to make this better. “I just-“

“I gotta go, sweethauht. She’s outta bed and she gotta get sleep fuh tomorrow. Send the twins my love. And thuh res’ o’ yuh friends. I’m sorry fuh botherin’ ya. Call me tomorrow. G’night Noe.”

“Wait, I-“

Click.

Noelle sat there, her head to her knees, huddled up. Her fingers were wet. Formless. Numb. The tingles had left, leaving… nothing. But the hole in her chest made up for it. It was as if someone ripped out her heart with their bare hands. Emptiness filled her. Shame filled her. Disappointment. Hopelessness.

Just as such, she found herself swirling into a vortex of negativity. She let a shudder out, shaking her thin frame quickly. Why couldn’t things just… be good? For a little while? Long enough for her to truly enjoy it? It was getting to a point where she just wanted to lay in bed, with her cat, and not do anything but write and read. Not even that. Just… Cease from existing.

But for now, she slumped over herself. Two minutes. Two minutes and she'd go back.
____________________
Jake had heard the first loud word. A raised voice. Noelle's voice. It was a short word, but still. The tone sounded serious.

He frowned.

Sounded as if the learning about his new friends had ended. Something was going on.

Eyes flick to Tobi and then to the two girls. He keeps his smile but his eyes flash with a little worry “Um, it’s getting kinda late guys. Not that I’m against you staying- I have the room. But, uh, if you’re planning on going home… Agnes, maybe you can make sure Winter gets back okay. Or, you know. Stay. Whatever you need.”

The bravado is gone, although there is a shadow of it in the smile. Instead, it was replaced with the voice of someone who wanted to help everyone, who wanted to make this as easy and painless for the girl outside. Something private. He would make himself scarce if Tobi stepped out. He was teetering on the edge of sleep- Probably would be out soon.

He makes eye contact with Tobi again, leaning over the edge of the couch and pulling up another fleece blanket, this one with yellow and blue ladybugs on its pattern. It was cold outside, and the girl was wearing that breezy dress. She was probably freezing. It was the least he could do if he wasn’t going to reach out. And he wasn't. Something told him that Noelle wouldn't really appreciate his presence right now. No matter what she was dealing with. So he'd wait. Be the entertainment when she came back.


Last edited by Cantaclarac on Wed Nov 07, 2018 1:28 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Jules, Connecticut: Parkview Apartments

on Wed Nov 07, 2018 1:21 am
Winter smiled and hummed to herself as she waited once more for the next question to be asked. She smiled at the saying. Girl had a point. She couldn't argue with logic. She smiled and stretched a bit before settling once more into the couch.

She watched everything Agnes did. From the way that she drank her rumchata to how her cheeks flushed much like her own. She was beautiful. Her freckles were adorable. The way the redness creeped up onto her ears... She loved it. The rumbling of her voice as her drawl thickened. She continued to hum, so very content.

Then Agnes really started to contemplate. It seemed to take forever. She even tried to get Tobi to help her out but he was no use. She repeated the prompt as if the ending would finish itself. Eventually it did.

And Winter looked right at Agnes and took a drink. She smiled and giggled. "Matthew Graham... Sophomore year." She explained. "Did it on a dare and hated it. His thing was like three inches long." She smirked. "Billy Hazel was much better. That was senior year. My ex. Broke up cause he was an ass." She grinned and took another sip. "Probably for the best that I like girls too." It surprised her that Agnes had never sucked a dick maybe... She then realized why. Agnes only liked girls. That had to be it.

Winter was about to start her turn when she heard Noelle. She turned and looked to the door. Was she yelling at her Mom? That didn't sound right. Noelle really doesn't yell. She looked to Tobi. Jake seemed to have the same idea. Maybe he could help Noelle?

Then Jake started speaking as if he was ending the party. He was ending it! He even asked Agnes to help her home! Granted, that was her plan in the first place but this was sudden. Jake was worried about Noelle. But knowing her, she would not want everyone hanging out trying to comfort bed.

Winter looked to Agnes as she set down her bottle. "Okay. .. just... Make sure that Noelle gets back safe too. Okay?" She said softly. Something was wrong but the alcohol prevented her from truly seeing what is wrong.
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Re: Jules, Connecticut: Parkview Apartments

on Wed Nov 07, 2018 11:34 am
Agnes looks towards Jake. It takes a moment for his words to sink in, but they do. She shrugs out of her blanket and sets the Rumchata on the floor with its cap sealed tightly. She can tell what’s going down, can tell that Noelle might not want everyone around when she comes back in. Despite the flush on her cheeks, her keen eyes lock with her twin’s, flicking between him and the door.

Dark eyes blink back slow. There’s a long pause, a long moment between the two of them before a small smile breaks across Tobi’s face. There’s a mess of emotions there: worry, resignation, a certain sibling playfulness. A calloused hand runs through his hair as he stands heavy from the armchair; he wraps the blanket tighter around himself as his head jerks towards the door, eyes moving between it and Agnes.


‘Git gone,’ the eyes say.


‘Have some fun.’ The quiet smile says.


Agnes’s mohawk bobs as she nods back.  “C’mon, girlie. Let’s get y’all back.” Winter’s next words are concern for her friend, girl wants to make sure she gets home safe. Agnes has her doubts that Noelle’s going back to her dorm tonight, but the concern’s sweet. Warms her just the right way. Even as out as Winter probably was, she was still concerned about her friend.

“Tobi’ll take’a her, don’ you worry.” Her eyes soften as she loops a thick arm around Winter to drag her off the couch. “C’mon, y’all got y’shit?” she says low to the girl. Her mind flutters over her own mental checklist: keys, phone, wallet, knife. All on her person. She turns to Tobi, now standing next to Jake. His one hand is clutched around the yellow and blue blanket. Posture slouched, eyes drooped and tired, hair a mess, blanket wrapped tight around him; kid looks a mess. The blanket is exchanged, and Tobi is on his way towards the door. With her brother gone, it leaves only Jake fidgeting softly next to the couch.

“We goin’.” She tells him. Pale grey eyes catch Jake’s, deadly serious despite the messy hair and flush in her cheeks. She knows these kids, knows the shit that her brother and his friends have gotten mixed up in. If she can’t drag him back into the woods with her, this is the next best thing. “Shit goes south an’ anythin’ happens, call me.” Her eyes move towards the kitchen table where Tobi left his phone. It’s an old thing with the screen cracked something fierce, but he don’t use it for anything more than texts, calls, and the calendar. “It’s unlocked. Jus’” she pauses, sighs. “I’d ratha’ not get a call, but don’ hesitate. ‘Aight?”


“Be safe,” she calls behind her as she walks out the door with Winter in tow.


‘For once,’ she mumbles under her breath. The door closes solid behind them.


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Tobi’s feet take him to the door to the balcony. The pleasantly colored blanket he had grabbed from Jake has been wrapped around his neck, and the blanket he had gotten earlier from Karen is tied loose around his neck in a sort of cloak that swishes against the carpet and settles light around his feet when he stops at the door. He had the sense to leave the bottle of rum next to the empty vodka and beer bottles at the base of his armchair, freeing his hands to talk. Or not. Whichever she prefers.

He can see Noelle through the glass, just sitting there, head on her knees. He doesn’t know what could’ve gone on in that phone call to get her like this, but he supposes it doesn’t matter. It happened, she’s here now, and he’s got two blankets. Blankets can at least solve the cold. Girl’s sitting on tile against metal bars; that couldn’t be comfortable.

Glass doors slide open with a soft ‘swish’. He stands there in the opening.

‘Y’all got room f’one more?’ he signs.
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Re: Jules, Connecticut: Parkview Apartments

on Wed Nov 07, 2018 1:57 pm
Jake meets Agnes’ eyes, blinking blearily. He needed to focus, to make sure he knew what she was saying. Unfortunately, that meant staring at her lips. Which was even more distracting.

Focus, McKinley.

They were leaving. Winter was pretty much draped over Agnes, who was helping her out safely. Agnes indicated Tobi’s phone. Call her? In case of trouble? That’s what she was saying. Got it. He could do that. Any excuse to call her really was great… Jake couldn’t see anything that could go wrong. There wasn’t any shitty ex-boyfriends or racist families or powers going out of control. It would be fine.

Still.

“Yeah… You got it… I’ll call if there’s trouble. Hope ya make it back safe. Happy Birthday… Oh, and don’t forget the soup. And Pie. And Bread. And anything else you wanna help yourself too.”

With that, he turned his head back, laying back, his legs falling over one of the arms of the couch again. His eyes are fixed on the door, blinking slowly. With his face smushed against the couch and his tired eyes, he looked like a droopy bloodhound.

He was going to have to turn on the TV to keep him awake.
--
Noelle’s head shoots up at the sound of the door opening, tense and alert. But, when she sees it’s Tobi, she leans back against the wall, relaxing. But she still wiped her nose from the cold, and then her eyes from the unfallen tears. She stares at him for a moment, tracking his signs with still eyes. He was wondering if he could join her.

At her little pity party.

Guilt washed over her. This was supposed to be his party. His birthday. She spent so much time getting everything perfect, everything just right. Her dress, the food, the pie, the present. But all of that was gone. Or would be gone. Because she had to answer her phone and talk to her mom. She looks at Tobi and sighs, nodding. She felt that if she opened her mouth, everything would pour out. Her mom, Joy, the suspensions, the ink, Tamara, and all the other things that she had been keeping to herself.

But, she also knew she had to talk about it. It was an unsaid agreement that they both had after the Dining Hall. They needed to talk about these things instead of letting them fester and rot and consume her. And him.

After a long minute of silence and cold, she shivered and opened her mouth. She didn’t take a blanket or reach for one, although she wanted too. She was frozen in place, but a small voice escapes her lips. “My mom called… She told me that Joy got suspended. For getting into a fight with a boy in her class that resulted in her punching him in the face and puncturing him with three of her quills. The kid was fine but with everything that's happened... Well... You know.”

Noelle pauses again, removing her eyes from Tobi “My mom can’t really afford a sitter for a week. And Joy can’t really be on her own for the time. And my mom can’t get off work. So, she called to see if I could come home. And help out. But… I can’t. I have-“

Voice breaking, she tightens herself into a ball, staring at her knees. Her hands are taut, the gloves tight. Unbeknownst to her, the ink from her fingertips had started to trickle down to her wrist, dripping in small splats on the floor. But her gaze is fixed, her lips trembling. “Why do I keep ruining things? I get to experience and see all of these really great things, I get to be happy for more than five minutes. I feel an actual sense of belonging. And something always happens. And it’s my fault. Each time. And I don’t know if I should talk about it? Because whenever I want to talk about it-“

She tilts her head against the wall, looking out “I don’t know who to talk to. My mom is dealing with bullshit at home. Joy doesn’t understand. Jake and Winter are sweet but I don’t think they’ll understand. And you?” Noelle avoids his eyes but tightens even more. More splats hit the ground, creating a make-do Rorschach test on the balcony floor. “You’re dealing with your own stuff. And you’re stressed and I just want you to not be so wound up, but then I get so freaked out by all of this. Like, last week? When I came over to study? And you were dealing with the advisory board stuff? Well I wanted to tell you that my roommate, Tamara, she stole and emptied everything out of bathroom caddy. AND she put a dead toad under my pillow. And when I told the RA, she denied it and blamed it on those frat boys who have been harassing everyone in the Immersion program since the dining hall. But I didn’t tell anyone. I wanted to. But I didn’t. And this-“

In a swift movement, she pulls out a glove, ink spilling onto the ground in a quick wave. Without the form of the glove, her middle and index finger are no longer flesh, but a black melded bob. It drips to her palm. To her wrist. And her pink and ring finger aren’t that far off from that amorphous figure, either. She stares at them, bitterly, silently. Then, finally “And I don’t know what to do. Or how it works. Because it comes and goes randomly. Sometimes with how I’m feeling, other times I am completely fine and I just start leaking. My toes too. And I can usually….”

She trails off, staring at her fingers, willing with every fiber of her being to draw that ink back into her. After a couple of moments, it recedes back into her skin, leaving stained splotches. She takes a deep breath, and turns her eyes back to him .”And now I’ve ruined your Birthday. And I fucked it up and I wish I could just… fix everything. But I don’t know what to do.”

Noelle is shaking now, whether it was from the cold or from the overwhelming feeling of loss and anger that filled her, she wasn't sure. Her once perfectly straight hair was mussed by the brick she’s leaning against, her nose and cheeks still red from the cold. Her fingers slowly begin to well up again, but she doesn’t seem to notice. Or care. She just stares at Tobi, radiating the desire for someone to throw her a life preserver. Tobi. Her Tobi. The kind, sweet strength that was always there. And she needed it. She needed him to say something, to show her that this was temporary, that everything was okay.

She felt a soft smile almost reach her lips, looking at the makeshift cape that her mother had made him, how it hung long and around his wide frame. How he was wearing her sweater, something she spent so much time and energy. How, even in silence, he stared at her with kind eyes that were darker than the night surrounding her. And how he looked a little swept away himself. Whatever they did inside while she was out, it must have involved alcohol. She's sad she missed it. She needed a laugh.
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Re: Jules, Connecticut: Parkview Apartments

on Thu Nov 08, 2018 1:19 am
Tobi steps carefully over the threshold of the sliding glass door. His blanket slides with a soft ‘swish’ across the floor. Hands give his soft cape a little tug as he steps outside fully to make sure it’s not stuck in the door before closing the door. His knees bend before he flops gracelessly next to her, his heavy weight hitting the tile with a thud. Legs spread out in front of him as his head leans against the wall behind him. He carefully unwraps the bright blanket around his neck and plops it onto her lap.

She looked so stressed, he thinks. Seems to be the look this season. Coming into the school year, he had been expecting finals and labs and maybe the occasional short lived crush to take up most of the space in his mind. Instead, he’s sitting here with eyes pitch as sin, nerves that look like some sort of still bright lightning scar. He’s punched the teeth out of a kid, destroyed a building. It ain’t even Christmas yet; hell, it ain’t even thanksgiving yet.


Busy year. Feels like high school.


He listens as she starts to speak. An eyebrow raises as she tells him Joy got suspended but when she tells him why, he can’t help it: he giggles. Little laughs, all strung together and spurred out of his throat by the tired, soft edge the alcohol gives him when he’s in this deep. Kid jus’, he thinks as the giggles spill out of him. Kid jus’, lawd that sounds like Agnes. The quills might’a been a touch much, solid punch done right should’a done it. He dips his head into his knees and just lets his shoulders shake with silent laughter.

He’s not laughing at her problems, he’s not laughing at the situation. It’s just, these couple of weeks have been a mess. He’s tired, he’s stressed, he’s a mess; imagining little Joy giving the business to some snot that was trouble was just enough to send him into a little fit. He stops after a long moment, giggles fading out as he leans his head back against the wall.

One arm reaches out as she finishes. It sneaks behind her to wrap around her shoulders. With a gentle tug, he pulls her closer towards him and settles her into his side. His head turns and he presses rough lips to her crown in a fond kiss. His own attempt at a comforting word.

She ain't ruined nothin’, he thinks. Ain’t ruined a damn thing. She planned this party, had known his food preferences, had planned every bit and gotten him the most thoughtful present he’s gotten in his life. She’s trying so hard to hit a bar she can’t reach, one she set for herself just always an inch too far away. She can’t be everywhere at once, can’t go to college and watch her sister. Can’t live her life and help someone hundreds of miles away. Can’t make every single person happy. She’s seeing failures in impossibilities; damn if he don’t love her, but she needs a break.


Should’ve joined them for the drinking. He still has a bit of rum inside.


‘Not ruined,’ he manages to sign. ‘Not a problem.’ He stares down at her fingers, thinks of how two of them were just… gone a moment ago. That seems like a problem. Seems like a big problem, but he knows he’s not in a good place right now to address it. Morning, he reminds himself. Morning, they’ll talk about it. He presses another kiss to her head to help ease his worries.


Morning.
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Re: Jules, Connecticut: Parkview Apartments

on Thu Nov 08, 2018 2:41 pm
The blanket falls in her lap and she quickly covered herself with it, doing her best with one gloved hand to not stain it beyond recognition. It wasn’t as soft as her knitted ones or as warm, for that matter, but it was enough to fight the crisp cool air. Instinctively, as he sits down, she places her head on Tobi’s shoulder. Immediately, she began to feel better.

As he began to laugh, she paused, looking at him. It was shock and confusion. She watches as his head dips down and his thick frame is shaking with silent laughter. And she couldn’t help it: Noelle gives a small smile, which gets a little wider as his giggles continued. Something between a laugh and a wheeze is squeezed out of her lungs as she shakes her head. This was ridiculous. Life was ridiculous. Here she was, in college, something she always strived and worked for despite having no money and no prospect. And she expected that somehow when she was here, things would be smoothed out. That there would be no more jagged edges to her life.

Ridiculous.

Tobi’s head leans back, his laughter tapering out into the silence of the night, but she is still shaking with small giggles and laughter. She’s coiled up tightly, purling herself tightly to him, an effort that is made easier as his thick arm pulls her close, lips meeting her hair. She closes her eyes, taking a deep breath, focusing on keeping the hysteria she was teetering on in check. After a couple breaths, she looked at Tobi, who was looking back at her. With so much love. Which made her smile grow even more.

She was still tense, still slightly hunched over. Her eyes follow his signs “You mean it? You swear I haven’t ruined anything?”

The words hang in the air before the giggling starts again. Noelle is shaking head, looking at her lap “I’m being ridiculous, aren’t I? You just said it. That I didn’t.” Another chuckle leaves her as her face pressed against his arm, giving a soft kiss to the equally soft sweater "I'm sorry. That I'm like this, that I get so lost in everything and so caught up in... But... Somehow, you make my mind just... stop. I feel like I can breathe when you're with me."

Noelle curls her now bare hand, flexing and unflexing, watching the ink blot and recede on her palm. She sits up, fixing her eyes until it disappeared again, willing it to stay in her. As if she read his mind, her head hits his arm again “But it is a problem. That this is happening. And I can’t control it. And I’m scared it might…”

She began to remember the pulling. The black mass at her feet making her sink into it. Consuming. How it wasn’t like she was caught in quicksand, her feet dangling, kicking. It was more like… nothing. A void. She had no idea how to describe it besides nothingness as if her feet were never there in the first place. She pulls the blanket up more. Neither of them was ready to talk about this, she decided. Tomorrow. It was a new day and she decided, right then, that nothing bad would happen until tomorrow.

“My mom says hello. And Happy Birthday. And that she hoped you enjoyed her gift And to pass the same to Agnes.”

Noelle says this with a nonchalant attitude that only comes after months of crisis and constant breakdowns. From everything that has gone on, she finally felt as if she was letting go. At least a little bit. A soft smile plays on her lips, a smile of contentment to leave things where they are. And not worry. If Tobi wasn’t worried, why should she be?
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Re: Jules, Connecticut: Parkview Apartments

Yesterday at 1:04 am
The hand pulling her close smacks her shoulder gently as she doubts his words. Really now, when has he ever lied to her?

His head still leans against the balcony wall, listening to her lingering giggles, feeling her shake with them against his broad frame. His thick arms are settled heavy where they’re slung around her shoulders. It’s a grounding pressure that pulls her to him, pulls her away from the edge she’d been teetering on. He’s glad he’s able to give her a moment’s pause. He doesn’t quite know what it is about him that gives her a chance to breathe, but he’s glad that he does. Glad that he can help.

Dark eyes watch darker ink as it forms and dissipates into the palm of her hand. Now that, that he doesn’t like. He knows he’s going to talk with her about it in the morning, knows that they’ll get this all figured out sooner rather than later, but right now, he’s a little bit curious. Tobi wants to know when, wants to know why. He can’t remember a time where this was an issue, nor can he remember a sort of breaking point. He knows exactly two things about her problem: jack and shit.

‘Tell ‘er thanks. From the both a us.’ He signs in front of her. The movements are a little slower and a lot sloppier. ‘Real nice f’her t’member.’ Karen really was something. She somehow put together gifts that she knew the both of them would enjoy. She didn’t have to, no one at this party had to do anything. They did though, and the thought makes something in his chest go a little fuzzy. ‘I jus’…’ he stops, leans his head over to rest against hers. There’s so much to unpack there.

How grateful he is for her, for one. HE hadn’t known that the girl he’d bumped into first day of the new year would lead him here, but he’s glad it did. The mess at homecoming, their first kiss, the cafeteria, the clearing on top of Jake’s van. Starlight and moonlight and cool autumn breezes he’s shared with her, and all of it he’s thankful for. ‘Tis the season.’ He thinks blearily. Everything’s still a mess, everything will continue to be a mess, but right now? They’re alright.
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Re: Jules, Connecticut: Parkview Apartments

Yesterday at 2:07 am
Noelle nestles herself into Tobi’s side, wishing away the cold and the dread that hung in the air. She’s feeling a little tired now and much calmer, the weight of his arms like a large quilt holding her in bed after a long day. After her little giggling episode, the hole in her chest had disappeared.

At least for now.

For now, she had a boy holding onto her, holding her to his body. The warmth that rippled off of Tobi at was trapped in her blanket made her body still and stay at peace. The gentle swat on her shoulder dashed her insecurities while also making her smile a soft, private grin. His head meets hers and she leans back, lazily. She watches his slow signs, giving a slow nod. She’d call her mother the next morning to apologize. She watches as his phrase hang and she curls up even closer. A small part of Noelle wanted to get where he was- a nice, deep buzz that just made everything feel better. But a bigger part knew if she starting drinking now, she wouldn’t stop until she fell asleep. And there were a couple things she wanted to do before then.

So, she started by turning her head to Tobi. His eyes are at her hand. With the rest of her willpower, she sucks in a sharp breath, any evidence of ink disappearing from her hands. They raise to his jaw, her thumb rubbing his cheek, caressing in a familiar and soothing motion. Her hands lay on his face as he had to her own so many times- an offering. In reverence. That small private smile turns even fonder, even brighter, her eyes burning with a soft ember. They flick subtly to his face, as they usually do when she has a chance to look at him this close: she memorizes each freckle, each line, each pore. And finally, her eyes meet his again. And she relaxes. And she tilts her head.

Lips meet in the soft breeze, Noelle’s fingers slowly snaking from his jaw to his hair, the kiss deepening every moment that it continues. Nails gently scratch his scalp, tracing patterns only known to her and now Tobi. She sighs into the kiss, her lips still in a slight smile. The wind sweeps her hair into her own face as her eyes closed and she settles into the moment, settles into him.

If only he could be by her side always. She felt a little guilty thinking that way, but she knew that if they could just stay together, stay near each other, she could really face anything. They would figure out the ink and her familial problems. Her insecurities. They may not be fixed to completion, but she could handle it with him there. Everything.

She breaks the kiss, opening her eyes to stare at him. Her hands lay in his curls, rubbing into his scalp in a comforting ease. Her head is at a slight tilt still, appraising him. Finally, she opens her mouth, and a soft murmur exits “Thank’s for loving me. With all of my imperfections. And Edges. I know I’m not… easy to be with. But thank you. For being here.”

And.

After a moment.

“I love you.”

The words had been said before. They had been said on a street after a kiss, signed during a battle of trees and locusts, uttered on a rooftop where their only witnesses were the stars and the trees. And each time, it grew in meaning. She looked at the boy before her, the one she had seen as a scruffy guide on the first day to school. The one that she had risked using her abilities to help. The first person she chose to share her story.

Young love is strange. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in labels and titles and words that mean nothing. But for Noelle, she knew something to be true: he was her one and only. Despite everything that had happened, despite the length of time of their relationship, despite their lack of dates, she knew that they were tethered with something much bigger than a crush, than a relationship that she saw play out in her books. This was true.

But most importantly.

This was real.
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