d a m n a t i o n
For all disclaimers, refer to Part 1.
"Why did you keep evading Penny's questions?"
"Huh?" Flick diverted her attention from the tennis match on the big screen in the pub to look at Jean.
Met with a questioning curve of brow, Flick turned away and raised her beer mug to her lips, not intending to address the query. "Hah, told you Serena was gonna win," she said instead as she watched the younger Williams sister drop her racket upon victory.
When her comment was met with silence, she jerked her head at the stony looking Jean. "Wassup with you?"
Jean picked up her lighter from the table and toyed with it idly as she trained her eyes on her annoyingly nonchalant friend. "You act as if you didn't spend the whole of last night getting trashed and crying your eyes out, refuse to acknowledge the existence of Rei or anything related to her, and you didn't even stop your so-called best friend when she stomped off a minute ago."
She flicked the lighter towards Flick and crossed her arms over her chest. "And you ask what's up with me?"
Flick kept silent and reached for the lighter before it slid off the table. She shifted in her seat and stared unseeingly at it. After a few moments, she snapped out of her reverie and shrugged. "I have no idea what you're talking about. Penny was tired. She said so herself." She ignored the disbelieving look on Jean's face and proceeded to light a cigarette for herself.
In true fact, she was relieved that Penny had left. She hadn't wanted to exclude Penny but she just could not find the motivation to explain the entire situation to her -- not when she herself did not know what to make of it. It was just her way of handling things and she was taking it for granted that her best friend knew her well enough to leave things alone until she was ready to talk. She did feel a little guilty at how she must seem to be shutting Penny out but she didn't care enough for the moment to consider anyone else's feelings but her own.
"I just want to enjoy myself without having to think or talk about what happened," she said finally as she stubbed out her cigarette prematurely. "Is that so wrong?"
The thought of losing Rei was making her feel sick in the stomach and that by itself was making the warning bells go off in her head. When had she allowed herself to feel so much for another person that their departure from her life would turn it upside-down? Her concerns regarding the status of her relationship with Rei had shifted to something deeper and, in a way, more personal.
How could she trust Rei never to leave?
How could she believe in happy ever after when her only example of the perfect love ended in a tragedy?
How could she trust that Rei would never hurt her as much as her parents did by leaving her? Maybe the dreams she started having of her past ever since she went out with Rei were signs warning her against this relationship. Maybe she was destined to be alone. And maybe. . . Maybe the reason why she didn't want to consummate her love with Rei was because she unconsciously knew that it was not meant to be?
Flick squeezed her eyes shut in an attempt to quiet the sudden onslaught of thoughts; this was what she was trying to prevent. Fears that she had never consciously knew she had were surfacing and growing at an alarming rate. She had unknowingly jumped into a nightmare that she thought she had gotten out of and the knowledge was making her sick.
Such was the kind of irony she thought existed only in melodramatic theatrical scripts. It was perfectly ironical of life to remind her this way that life was a melodramatic theatrical script.
"Hey. . ." The sound of Jean's voice reminded her of where she was. Green eyes fluttered open slowly to rest on Jean's concerned features. "Look, forget what I said. Let's just get trashed tonight. Tomorrow, I'll wake up and bitch about how you never seem to get a hangover and you can laugh about how I need caffeine before I am human again. Tomorrow, we'll talk if you want to. All right?"
The watery smile that Flick bestowed on Jean made her shake her head and chuckle in relief. The pain that had appeared on Flick's face earlier had made her regret her reprimand; she was the last person to judge anyone. If that was the way Flick wanted to handle her problems, the least she could do was to stand by her.
"Sounds fuckin' A," Flick murmured, the bridge of her nose crinkling as she joined in Jean's soft laughter. She sculled the remnants of her beer and licked the foam from her upper lips, green eyes already sparkling with anticipation. "Bring it on. The night is young."
It was close to three in the morning when they made their way out of the pub. Public transport did not start for another two hours so their only option was to walk.
"Fuckin' weather," Jean grumbled, pulling her jacket closer around her body.
"Wuss," Flick snickered, feeling warm and giddy in her alcoholic haze.
Jean shot her friend a benign glare. "You watch your mouth, young lady," she warned teasingly. "Or you might find yourself shivering your arse off in the backyard with Corben's old bike."
Flick stuck her tongue out at the mock threat and yelped when quick fingers gave the pink muscle a small tug. "Agh!" When she got her tongue back, Flick had to blink a couple of times before she realized what had happened and ran after Jean who was trying half-heartedly to get away.
Strong arms wrapped around Jean's body from behind her, making her shriek uncharacteristically. "Gotcha!" Flick crowed, her breath warm against Jean's neck. Jean was about to break free from the surprisingly firm grip when loud honking froze their actions.
"You lesbians?" came the shout, backed up by hoots of laughter. Taken aback, Flick quickly let go of Jean. Headlights flashed and the honking continued when Flick and Jean ignored them and started walking away. "How about some company?"
Flick cast a nervous look at Jean and saw that her friend's jaw was clenched. Bowing her head slightly, she matched Jean's quickening pace and hoped that the jerks would leave them alone when they got bored with the lack of response.
"Hey, we're talking to you, cunts! You bitches need a lesson in manners?"
Flick flinched at the crude remark and was starting to feel uneasy.
"Go fuck yourself, prick!" Flick swallowed hard when Jean snarled, her low, menacing voice cutting through the cold, dry air. "That's the only way you'll get any!"
Flick swore under her breath, panic rising rapidly in her chest. The jerks were hardly going to leave them in peace now. She turned to see the car screech to a halt and gasped out loud when Jean suddenly pulled her forward into a sprint.
The loud cussing from behind them spurred them on as they ran along the seemingly deserted street. "C'mon!" Jean squeezed Flick's hand as they rounded a corner. Flick blindly followed her friend's lead, not knowing where Jean was taking them as they entered a small alleyway. Her heart was beating wildly and blood was rushing to her head. All she could concentrate on was her own breathing and the motions of running.
After going through numerous twists and turns, the footsteps behind them ceased and the shouting faded. Flick threw another anxious glance behind them to affirm that there was no one there and began to slow down. It had been eons since she had been this winded up and it hurt to breath.
"Hurry," Jean urged from a few paces before Flick, motioning with her hand for Flick to catch up.
"What for? They're gone." Flick panted, trying to slow down her breathing. "Whatever possessed you to provoke them, anyway? Fuck, do you know what could have happened to us?" Flick's fear turned into anger and she directed it at Jean. She was quite sober now and the implications of what might have happened to them if they hadn't gotten away hit her like a ton of bricks. She felt angry for feeling helpless and scared.
Jean was silent as she led them out of the alleyway into the main street. "Hey!" Flick poked her friend, annoyed that she was being ignored. Her eyes rounded when she realized that they were back to where their pursuers' car was. "Wha-" she started, flabbergasted. It was evident that Jean had known where they were going all along and had planned for them to return to the car.
When a Swiss Army knife appeared in her friend's hand, Flick's anger and fear subsided and her eyes began to gleam. Jean turned and winked at Flick before dropping to her knees and digging the knife into the belly of the tyre. The sound of puncture made them grin evilly simultaneously.
"Here." Jean straightened after slashing three of the tyres, handing Flick the knife. At the confused glance, Jean smiled. "Saved one for ya'." Flick took the weapon from Jean and knelt down quickly. The weight of the knife felt good in her palm, and the knowledge of their damage filled her with glee. The sweetness of revenge filled her mouth.
"Feels darn good doesn't it?" Snapping out of her reverie, Flick looked up at Jean and nodded breathlessly.
The air between them was charged with anticipation, fear of capture, and triumph. They held each other's gaze for one intense moment, their bond strangely strengthened by what had just happened. A loud shout broke their connection.
"Uh oh," Jean murmured under her breath. The jerks were back and they had been spotted.
"Let's go." Flick grinned wildly as she took Jean's hand in her own and they sped off.
Rei glanced to the silent phone and groused, annoyed and worried that she hadn't been able to contact Flick. She had contemplated going round to Flick's place but pride stopped her. She wasn't going to go where she was evidently not wanted.
The elation that she had felt at Lisha's tiny step towards accepting her relationship with Flick had long since faded into the background, replaced by a fearful, insecure feeling. It was something she had yet to feel with such intensity and frequency before and it unsettled her.
With Frank, she had always known where she stood, even from the start. It was almost as though they were made for each other, so in tune were they with each other's feelings. Even though they had their fair share of problems, there was never really a point where she felt as though she might lose him. Their love was strong despite it all, and they grew with each obstacle they had to overcome together.
Vince, on the other hand, had always loved her more than she loved him. He was more of a father figure for Lisha then a lover to her. She cared for him deeply but she never had to fear that she would lose him. Even though they had broken up, she knew that Lisha would always tie them to each other.
But Flick. . . Flick was a totally different matter.
She had fallen head over heels in love with this girl. No matter how much time they spent with each other, the times spent apart would leave her aching. When too long a time passed without hearing Flick's voice or being in her presence, she would start worrying that maybe Flick's feelings had changed. It sounded silly but that knowledge did not change the way she felt.
Even though Flick claimed that she loved her, she always had a niggling doubt that Flick could do without her. That had always been the way Flick was; so vulnerable at times but so independent at others. She could almost believe that Flick needed no one -- she might want certain people to be in her life, but she needed no one.
Rei growled aloud and picked up the phone for the umpteenth time. She hit the 'redial' button and hoped for a voice at the end of the line.
"Um, no. Who's this calling?" Penny asked, suspecting that the caller was Rei but wanting to be sure.
"It's Rei. Um. . . who's this?"
"Hi! It's Penny here. I arrived this morning. How are you?" Penny settled herself on the carpet beside a snoozing Terror.
"Hey. . . I'm good, thanks. . . Is Flick there?"
"'Fraid not." Penny was still a little miffed at Flick's behaviour that day but she suspected that there might be trouble in paradise. Now all she had to do was to wait for her friend to reveal the problem. "I left her and Jean at the pub not too long ago," she reported, feeling the same stab of jealousy that she felt all day long. She had felt like an intruder while hanging out with Flick and Jean; they just seemed so comfortable together.
Rei sounded so disappointed that Penny felt bad for her. As much as it itched her to ask what the problem was, she knew that it wasn't in her position to pry. "I'll let her know that you called?" she said instead.
"Okay. Thanks, Penny. Um. . . I'll let you go then. Was nice talking to you."
"Yeah. You take care, Rei."
Rei hung up the phone with an aching in her chest. She wanted to see Flick so bad right now that it hurt. It was all she could do to refrain herself from asking which pub Flick and Jean were at; maybe what Flick needed right now was someone other than herself to talk to. Then why isn't Penny with them? She's her best friend! her inner voice asked. Maybe there's something going on between Flick and Jean?
"No!" Rei frowned. "I can't believe I'm thinking this," she mumbled to herself. "You'll see her soon and everything will be fine."
Taking the stairs two at a time, she went by Lisha's room and saw that her daughter was fast asleep. Smiling for the first time that day, Rei smoothed sandy brown hair from Lisha's face and leaned down to plant a kiss on her head. "I love you, baby," she said softly.
She stood there staring at her slumbering daughter for a long moment, wondering where the years had gone. It seemed as though it was just yesterday that Lisha was a baby. Sighing wistfully, Rei let herself out of the room.
When she crossed the hallway, Rei stopped at Kezia's door, wondering if she was home. Kezia hadn't been around much these days and it was beginning to worry her. Even though she knew that Kezia was old enough to take care of herself, she felt that her sister-in-law had been rather distant recently. Making up her mind to have a chat with Kezia the next time they crossed paths, Rei retreated to her room, wondering at how dreary everything seemed suddenly.
Terror sniffed at the carpet around the main door fervently. He paced around in circles and finally sat down by the door, whining. Penny cracked open an eye and watched the cocker spaniel with bored amusement. She peered at the clock by the bed and saw with a start that it was already nine in the morning.
As the seconds ticked by, Terror got more and more excited and his whining accelerated to half-hearted barks. He jumped against the door the moment Penny heard a curse on the other side of the door and the knob started rattling. Not feeling very charitable at the moment as she was admittedly still annoyed with Flick, Penny stayed put between the sheets on her inflatable bed and waited for Flick to get the right key.
Finally, a disheveled looking Flick entered the apartment. Penny heard her greet Terror softly and briefly before tottering to the bathroom. She made a quick decision and got out of bed, shivering slightly when the cool air hit her body.
By the time she let herself into the bathroom, Flick was already in the shower stall. "Flick?" she called out, letting her presence be known.
"Argh!" came the reply and the sliding door of the shower stall opened slightly. A shampooed head poked out angrily. "You scared the shit outta me!"
Penny started giggling but stopped herself immediately when she saw that Flick was not amused. "What do you want?" Stiffening slightly at Flick's tone, Penny was prepared to walk out of the bathroom when Flick sighed. "I'm sorry about earlier," she offered gruffly as she disappeared into the stall again.
"Rei called earlier," Penny said in a way of reply, hoping that Flick would tell her what was going on. A long silence hung between them after that. Penny was about to give up talking to her friend when the water stopped running.
"Can you hand me the towel?" Penny reached for a blue towel on the rack and put it in the hand that was sticking out of the stall. A steaming Flick with slicked back hair stepped out of the stall, her eyes downcast. "Um, what did she say?"
"Nothing much. I told her I'd let you know she called." Penny frowned when Flick kept silent. "You gonna call her back?" When she still got no answer from Flick, Penny's temper flared. "Hey I'm talking to you!"
At that, Flick gave her an annoyed look. "What's your problem?"
Penny looked as though she was about to explode. "You're my problem!" she huffed. "Don't you know that you shouldn't aggravate pregnant women?" she shouted before stomping out of the bathroom, leaving a gaping Flick in her wake.
Flick threw on her bathrobe in record time and rushed out of the bathroom after her friend. "What? Omigod, who, what, how, where. . .?" At Penny's glare, she shook her head. "Um, okay, you don't have to explain how. Uh. . . omigod, what are you gonna do? Are you sure? Shit, why didn't you say something the whole day? What are you gonna do?" she rambled on, pacing worriedly around her friend.
When Penny didn't say anything, Flick stood right before her and shook her arms. "Hey, you all right?" she asked worriedly.
"What do you care?" Penny climbed onto the bed and threw a pillow over her face.
"Shit," Flick muttered under her breath. "Of course I care. Is that why you came here?" She scrambled onto the bed beside Penny and poked her side gently. Terror hopped onto the bed as well and sniffed inquisitively at the pillow blocking Penny's face. "Hey."
Cautious eyes peeked from behind the pillow. "Sucks doesn't it?" Penny asked, her voice slightly muffled.
"Yeah. . . I mean, well, it depends. . . You gonna have the baby?"
Penny's face came into view and a happy Terror went over to give her face a lick. "Ew. . ." She pushed Terror away and wiped her face with the sleeve of her nightshirt. "No, I meant, it sucks when you know that there's something wrong and I refuse to elaborate, doesn't it?"
Flick thought about it and nodded slowly, knowing what Penny was on about. "Kinda. Aw, c'mon. You know the way I am. I'd tell you about it eventually."
"Does Jean know?" Penny bit her lip, trying not to sound overly jealous. Flick nodded again. "Why can you tell her but not me?" She felt like she was in first grade, demanding to know why her friend didn't tell her the secret.
"Well, I-" Flick started and then stopped. "Hey, don't change the subject. What about the baby?" Terror climbed into her lap and rested his face on his paws, watching the exchange idly.
Penny sat up on the bed. "What baby?"
Flick rolled her eyes. "The baby! You said you're pregnant? What are you-" She stopped in mid-sentence when she saw Penny's sheepish grin. "Aw, you bitch," she grumbled good-naturedly, leaning over to slap Penny's arm playfully. "Fuck, you're not really pregnant, are ya'?" Flick asked, just to be sure.
Penny grinned. "Nope. So you gonna tell me what happened or do I have to fake terminal ailment to get it out of you?"
Sighing at Penny's antics, Flick turned herself onto her stomach and tried to find a comfortable position. She wasn't really in the mood for a deep and meaningful conversation at this point and felt slightly annoyed that Penny was pushing her for one. "I'm tired, Penn. Can this wait?"
Penny bit her lower lip, feeling foolish and angry with herself for even bothering in the first place. "Don't bother," she said curtly, knowing that she was behaving childishly but was not able to help herself. She climbed out of bed and went straight to the bathroom, ignoring Flick's disbelieving grunt.
"I don't believe this," the blonde muttered to herself as she crawled out of bed. She did not have to take this crap from anyone -- least of all, her best friend. Not wanting to be there when Penny came out of the bathroom, Flick quickly put on some decent clothing, leashed up her dog, and exited the apartment.
Her vision was a shade of red as she lay on the grass, with her eyes shut. The sun was out, and its warmth felt good on her face. Even though she could not see Terror, she knew that he was running around somewhere, investigating the bushes and expanding his social circle. Her lips curled up somewhat at the thought of the little devil that had wormed his way into her heart.
People said that animals could sense things that humans could not. Maybe that was what Terror did the day he wandered into her life and refused to leave her alone. She had often wondered why the little spaniel had followed her. Now she wondered what he saw when he looked at her. Did he know that she needed someone? Did he know the loss in her life? Did he see what she had been trying to hide?
Her smile wavered slightly and became bittersweet when she thought of Rei. Why was she not returning Rei's call, anyway? She wanted to see Rei so much that it hurt. "But that's the point," she began to say out loud before trailing off. Could she afford to lose someone that she loved again? How did she let that happen?
Falling in love with Rei was something that had happened without warning or choice, and she had allowed herself to relish in it without thinking of the consequences. "You stopped thinking, that's what's happened." She scratched a cheek and sighed, wishing that she could fall asleep and never wake up. "Or better still, let me wake up to find my parents alive." Her parents' faces flashed before her and she grimaced. It had been a while since she last thought of them consciously, she realized with a start.
"Do I call her or not? What the fuck am I doing? What the fuck should I do? What the fuck do I want? What the fuck am I bloody doing? What, Flick? What are you doing? You're such a shit. You're such a sad piece of crap. Sad. How sad? Very sad, that's how sad. Mega s-"
A rush of cool air came at her, and she shivered slightly. Wasn't the sun just out? She opened her eyes and saw that the sky was suddenly gray, and that the sun had retreated behind the angry looking clouds. A low rumble of thunder made her sit up and look around. Thunder spooked Terror, and she did not want him hiding in the bushes when it started pouring. Following the thunder, a loud screeching sound pierced the air. Picking herself up from the grass, Flick dusted her pants and started looking around for Terror, feeling slightly worried.
"Terror? Ror!" she shouted as she started walking off, expecting Terror to appear any moment. "Terror!" She spied a small crowd on the road and her heart started beating wildly. "Terror?!" she shouted again. When no spaniel came running to her, she sprinted towards where an accident had apparently occurred with her heart in her throat. "Terror, come here!" she shouted again. When she neared the small crowd and spied the black ball of fur on the ground, she swore she could hear her heart break. "Terror? Oh fuck. . . Terror. . ."
"Is this your dog, miss? I'm so sorry, it just came out of nowhere. . ."
How could she be so stupid? So careless? What the hell was she thinking about? How could she leave him alone? Suddenly her problems all seemed so insignificant. All she wanted was for the animal on the ground to not be Terror. She would give anything for the dog to not be Terror. . . Please God no, not him too. . . Nononononono!
"Terror?" Her voice broke and her throat constricted as she knelt on the ground. This was not fair. Why was this happening to her? Everyone and everything that ever meant anything to her had left her. What did she do to deserve this? What did she do to deserve any of it?
When the creature on the ground lifted its head, Flick could not help but burst into tears. He had not left her. He was injured but at least he did not leave her. "Please. . ." She looked up at the man who knocked her dog down. "Please, will you take me to the vet?" Terror was alive and that was all that mattered.
Rei was certain that the weather reflected her dour mood. The sky was overcast and the wind chilled you to your bones. Her world was a swirling mass of gray right now, cold and barren without Flick's warmth in it, and all she wanted to do was to see Flick and talk things through.
She needed to know what was going on; she needed to feel Flick's warm body against hers, letting her know that everything was okay; but most of all, she needed Flick's presence -- to see her smile, hear her laughter, smell the blueberry scent that always hung about her. . . She needed Flick with such an intensity that it scared but thrilled her, and nothing -- not even the bad weather -- was going to stop her trek to Flick's apartment.
Crossing the hallway, Rei was about to knock on Lisha's door when she heard voices downstairs. Raising a brow slightly, Rei surmised that Kezia was home, and that they were talking in the lounge room. She went back into her room, pulled on a jacket, and made her way down.
"Lish. . ." Her daughter's name died on her lips when she descended from the stairs. "What are you doing here?" Her back stiffened and her tone was cool. Even though she knew that Vince was still going to be a part of her life, she wasn't in the mood to listen to his nonsense about Flick and herself again. Neither did she want him saying things to Lisha, not when her daughter had just taken a small step towards accepting Flick and her relationship. She pushed the niggling thought that there might not be a relationship for Lisha to accept anymore aside and strode into the lounge room.
"Rei, there's something I need to. . ." Vince started but got rudely interrupted by his impatient hostess.
"I don't have time for your crap, Vince," she said in a dismissive tone, ignoring the surprised look on Lisha's face. "If you're going to tell me how abnormal my relationship with Flick is and how it's going to affect Lisha, then I advice you to leave right now before I do something we might both regret." What she said was probably a little harsh, but she was not in the best of moods right now.
Rei could see a change in Vince's dark eyes, and her heart skipped a beat at the possibility that he might hurt Lisha and herself. "No need for threats, Rei," he said through clenched teeth. "I'm here to speak with you about Kezia, but if I'm so unwelcome in this house, I'll go."
Rei knew she should just show him the door, but she needed to know what he was talking about. "What about Kezia?" she asked suspiciously.
"She's in the hospital."
"What?" Both Rei and Lisha shouted out almost simultaneously. Rei whipped her head around at her daughter, having forgotten that Lisha was in the room with them. Vince looked almost ashamed that he had said that in front of the girl.
"Is she okay? What happened to Aunt Kezia? Why is she in the hospital, Vince?" Lisha cried out, aghast.
Vince knelt down before the anxious girl as Rei watched on, still in shock. "She's okay, pumpkin." He looked up at Rei and continued. "She's sick. She's been diagnosed with breast cancer and had just finished an operation." He gave Lisha a reassuring smile. "She's okay now. She just has to receive chemotherapy, but she'll be all right."
"How did you know? You don't work in the oncology department," Rei argued, not wanting to believe what Vince had just told them.
"What do I have to gain from lying to you about this?" Vince growled. "Look, if you don't believe me, I'll drive you down to the hospital and you can see for yourself." He paused at the indecisive expression on Rei's face and wondered at her hesitation.
"Mum?" Lisha was crying now and looking to Rei. What was she thinking? Of course they had to go see Kezia.
"Thanks for this, Vince," Rei said in a subdued tone. They were back at her place after a short visit with Kezia, leaving the woman to her much needed rest. "I can't believe she went through all the tests alone." She shook her head before putting a hand over her eyes. Had she been too self involved? She blamed herself for not seeing what was going on with Kezia.
"Hey, don't worry. Everything will be fine. I'm sure she just doesn't want you and Lisha to worry about her," Vince said comfortingly. Rei nodded tiredly. Even though it was only early afternoon, both Lisha and her were so emotionally drained that all she wanted right now was to fall into bed and sleep off the bad feeling. "Tell you what. I'll run out and grab some takeaway while you go take a bath or something? How does that sound?"
Rei was going to refuse the offer, not really comfortable with spending time alone with Vince just yet. But the look on his face. . . He was just concerned. And Lisha probably needed him there as well. He was a huge support for her daughter and she did not want to deny Lisha that. "Okay," she acquiesced.
"Okay." His face brightened at the prospect of seeing more of Rei and he got up quickly. "I'll be right back." He leaned over and gave Lisha a peck on her head.
Grabbing his jacket, Vince let himself out of Rei's place. He came to an abrupt stop when he saw Flick coming up the walkway. Anger welled up within him at the sight of the girl whom he attributed the blame of taking his happiness away from him. He saw with pleasure that her steps halted when she saw him.
"What do you want?" No wonder Rei was looking a bit upset that morning even before he broke the news of Kezia's illness to her. He hadn't taken much notice then, but now, looking at the same lost look on Flick's face, he put two and two together and arrived at the conclusion that there was trouble in paradise.
"I'm looking for Rei," Flick said in a cautious tone, surprised to see the surgeon there. She had come to a decision while the vet was looking at Terror -- she did not want to lose Rei. She would accept it if Rei told her that she did not want to be with her anymore because Lisha could not accept their relationship, but she was not going to give up without a fight, or walk away without knowing. She had run away from everything in her life -- her father, her home, Penny's questions, friendships. . . She did not want to look back and regret running away from Rei.
"Well, she doesn't want to see you." Vince knew he was taking a huge gamble by saying what he did, but he couldn't care less. He loved Rei; this girl had no right to take Rei and Lisha away from him. They were his. "You're not right for her, you sick freak. What can you give her? You have nothing. You're not even the right gender! Did you think it was going to last?" he mocked, enjoying the look of hurt that flashed across Flick's face. He hoped he hurt her as much as she did him. "Go home, little girl."
Flick ignored the pain in her chest and clenched her jaws. She really wanted to turn and run just then, but she stopped herself. "I want to see Rei. If that's what she feels, I want to hear it from her. Not you." Her voice was calmer than she felt, and she congratulated herself for standing firm.
When the door behind him opened, Vince's heart almost stopped. Was he going to lose Rei forever? Why couldn't things go his way just once? "Vince. . ." He turned around with a sigh of relief when he realized that it was Lisha, not Rei, who was behind him.
Lisha saw Flick standing there and blinked in surprise. "Oh. It's you," she said dumbly, not sure how to act. This was the first time she saw Flick after the day her mother told her about their relationship, and even though she had agreed to try and accept Flick, it was still a little awkward.
"I. . ." Flick started, also unsettled by the presence of Lisha. "I'm here to look for your mother," she said finally, feeling the same urge as she did on her first visit to the Conrad's, to dig her right foot into the ground she was standing on and circle it with her toes. Was this considered coming a full circle?
"She's um. . ." Lisha started, shooting a glance at Vince who had gone very silent. "She's taking a shower. I'll tell her you came," the girl offered. She did not know what else to do; she didn't want her mother to leave with Flick, and she suspected that was going to happen if she let Flick into the house.
To Flick, it seemed as though Lisha was just confirming what Vince had just told her. Dread seized her heart as she quickly came to the conclusion that Rei had decided that Vince was the right person for her. She should have known that Lisha would refuse to accept her; why should she?
"It's okay," she choked out, wanting to bolt before she started crying in front of Vince and Lisha. The smirk on Vince's face made her feel even worse. "Tell her. . ." She looked at Lisha's face and rolled her eyes inwardly -- as though the girl would relay her message? Oh, what the hell. . . "Tell her I love her." She bit back her tears, turned, and walked off as quickly as she could.
Oh Rei. . .
When Flick got back to her apartment, she noted with some surprise that Penny and all her things were gone. Pissed off and heartbroken at the way things have turned out, the blonde flung herself face down onto her bed and cried.
She missed Terror. Now, more than ever, she needed to feel that somebody still loved her. Even though Terror merely fractured his hind leg, the vet wanted him to stay overnight for observation, in case he suffered from internal injuries.
She could not believe that this was it; she had lost Rei just like that. Was she foolish to think that it would last forever? It hurt so bad. . . was it going to be this way each time she let someone in her heart?
"Oh mum. . ." she whispered brokenly, "I miss you so much. . ."
Flick felt as though she was cocooned in cotton wool. Her senses were dulled, her vision was blurry, and her mouth tasted awful. The banging in the background sounded far away, like a small drum ratatating in a distance. She wanted to get up, but her limbs did not obey her. So she opted to close her eyes and drift off again, hoping that the pain would go and the emptiness would leave her.
"Flick! Flick, get up!" An insistent voice kept calling her, not allowing her to sleep. Annoyed, she reached out a hand to brush the voice away. "Flick! What happened?"
"Go away," she slurred. "Leave me alone."
She felt as though she was being dragged, but she was too tired to resist. Alcohol was good. Sleep was good. Oblivion was good. In her dreams, she was still with Rei. If she didn't wake up, she would feel no pain.
Something cold hit her head and washed down her body, shocking her into wakefulness'. "What the fuck!?" she shouted, wiping a hand down her face and trying to move away from the attacking force. Her vision cleared and she saw Jean bearing down on her with a determined and worried look on her face. She realized that she was sitting on the floor of the shower stall, and the something cold was water coming out from the showerhead. She sputtered indignantly. "Turn that thing off right now!"
Jean turned the water off and glared at her drenched friend angrily.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" Flick shouted. "And how the hell did you get in here?" She just wanted to be left alone. Everyone seemed to love doing that, anyway, so why was Jean here?
Without speaking, Jean snatched a towel off the rack and handed it to Flick. She continued glaring at her friend until Flick used to towel to wipe her face dry.
Flick ignored Jean's hand and got up from the floor without assistance. She swayed slightly, frowned, and brushed past Jean to get out of the bathroom. The sight and smell that hit her almost made her run back to the bathroom and empty her stomach. Her apartment floor was scattered with empty beer and liquor bottles, cigarette packs, and vomit.
"Here," Jean's voice came from behind her. "Change your clothes. I'll make you some coff-" Remembering that Flick did not drink coffee, Jean corrected herself as she handed dry clothing to her friend. "-hot chocolate."
Flick stared at the steaming mug that was thrust at her, feeling and looking like a drenched dog. Jean sighed, placed the mug on the coffee table, and settled down beside Flick. "Hey," she started softly, worried at the state Flick was in.
She had tried calling Flick the day after their big night out, but the phone had rung off the hook every single time. Thinking that maybe Flick was sorting things out with Rei, she had wanted to leave her friend be. However, when she tried calling the next day, there was no answer again, and that worried Jean because she knew that Penny should be there even if Flick wasn't. That was when she went over to Flick's place. The lack of sniffling sound behind the door worried her even more; where was Terror?
Jean had acted on the bad feeling in her chest and gotten a locksmith to open the door to Flick's apartment. She couldn't care less if her friend got mad at her for invading her privacy; she trusted her intuition and it was telling her that Flick was in trouble. When she saw Flick amidst all that mess, her body still, the first thought that had come to her mind was that Flick was dead. Her heart had hammered painfully in her chest as she turned her friend over, relieved beyond belief to find that Flick was still alive.
"How did you get in?" Flick sounded so tired and hollow.
"I, uh. . . I got someone to break in." Jean sounded contrite. At Flick's disbelieving glance, she felt a need to defend her actions. "I was worried! I called and I came by and there was no Terror, no Penny. . . I had a bad feeling so I. . ." she trailed off. "And thank God I broke in! What if something happened to you? What if you choked on your own puke or something? That was mega stupid, getting drunk and falling asleep like that with no one taking care of you! I have a good mind to call your mother right now so that she can see you in this mess!" Jean unleashed her worry-generated anger on Flick.
"I have no mother!" Flick all but shouted at Jean. "My mother is dead. My father is dead. Terror. . ." She paused for a moment, to Jean's alarm.
"Where's Terror? Is he okay?" she asked hurriedly, a sickening feeling spreading in her stomach. Was this why Flick was dead drunk? "Your parents are dead?" she said belatedly.
"What day is it today?" Flick asked hurriedly as she scrambled off her bed.
"Um. . . Thursday. Why?" Jean shadowed Flick's actions and placed her mug on the kitchen counter. When Flick did not answer her, she prodded again, bewildered at her friend's behaviour, worried about the little smut which she had reluctantly taken a liking to, and stunned at Flick's revelation of her parents' demise. "Why? What's wrong?"
"Terror's at the vet," said a decently clothed Flick. "I was supposed to pick him up the day before. Can you gimme a ride there?" she said in a rush, hoping that the vet did not think that she had abandoned her baby and gave him to the animal shelter or something. The possibility that he might have been put down by the animal shelter did not seem too bizarre to her right now.
"Yeah. Let's go." The questions would have to wait, Jean decided as Flick and her made their way to her bike. She gave a sidelong glance at Flick and her heart did a little flip. Not wanting to dwell too much on what she was feeling, Jean forced herself to look away.
As Rei approached Flick's apartment, she was surprised and nervous to see light coming out from the slightly open door. Lisha and she had stayed by Kezia's side the past few days. Even though she felt tired and grimy, she decided that she could not put off seeing Flick any longer and had hopped into her car the moment they settled Kezia into bed, leaving Lisha in the care of Vince.
Hearing voices coming from within, Rei paused by the doorway. She pushed open the door slowly, took one look at Flick and Jean kissing, and felt the world around her crumble. Feeling betrayed, devastated and pain, Rei fled with tears streaming down her face.
How could she? was the first thought that came to mind. Her fears were not unfounded; Flick was indeed with Jean. Feeling like a fool that she was, Rei drove off into the night.
Shock numbed her reactions for a moment before she hastily pushed away from Jean. "What did you do that for?" Flick asked in a nervous tone as she averted her eyes.
Jean and she had rushed to the vet's and found to her relief that Terror was still there. She knew that the vet disapproved of her irresponsible behaviour, but it did not matter. All that mattered was that Terror was alive and well and ecstatic to see her despite his injury.
By the time they got back to her apartment, Terror was fast asleep due to the painkillers that the vet had prescribed for him. Flick found herself in Jean's scrutiny after they finished cleaning up the apartment and launched into the tale of her parents' deaths.
She did not know why she did not feel the same resentment towards Jean as she did towards Penny when Penny wanted to know what was going on. Perhaps it was because Jean, too, had lost her mother. Perhaps it was because she felt guilty that she wasn't truthful to Jean, not even after Jean had opened up about her own loss.
What she wasn't ready for was the intensity in Jean's gaze after she finished her account. Jean had cradled her face between her hands wordlessly and touched their lips together.
"Don't you feel it too, Flick?" Jean's voice was serious and Flick found herself staring into her own reflection. Jean knew exactly what she was going through; they both lost dearly and knew how it felt to be left alone in this world. Jean always understood her and stood by her, never pushing, never asking anything from her. Jean saw the myriad of expressions crossing Flick's face and her lips tipped up in a faint smile. "You do, don't you?"
Flick looked away, her thoughts in a jumble. "Feel what?" she asked stupidly, feeling confused and lost.
"This connection between us," Jean elaborated. She stroke Flick's cheek softly. "Didn't I tell you that I always felt this connection with you? Even from the first time we met? I never knew what it was. . . I never thought much about it. . . but now, I know." Flick looked at Jean curiously. "You are my rock, Flick. As I am yours. We are meant to be together -- you and me. Only you can give me the understanding that I need. Only I can give you the support that you need. Don't you see?"
Flick stared at Jean for a long moment, digesting what her friend had just said. She shook her head sadly. "I love Rei." Her tone was flat and Jean's heart fell. "I care for you, Jean. . ." Her eyes flickered onto Jean's face. "But only as a friend. Right now, there's no place for anyone in here. . ." she tapped her chest, "but Rei. Until I get over her. . ." she paused when she saw the hope on Jean's face, "if I get over her," she corrected herself hastily, "only then will I entertain the thought of being with someone else."
Jean nodded gravely. "I'll wait, you know," she said softly. "Ssh. . ." She placed a finger to Flick's lips, silencing what she was going to say. "It's okay. You don't have to say anything. Just know that I'll be here. Okay?" She lifted a brow and only smiled when Flick nodded.