“To weed out the people they don’t want,” Jessica sighed. “I really don’t miss applying for places. It’s one of the reasons I haven’t changed jobs in years.”
Summer sighed and scrolled up and down the long page. Short and long answer questions stared back at her, waiting to be filled. She was applying to the mentorship that Uma had told her about. Her piece of writing was already done and edited – that had been the easy part – but now she had to say why she thought she deserved the place and why she liked writing. All things she could answer well enough face to face, but having to type them out seemed exhausting and not nearly as genuine.
“Start with the easy ones. Do it section by section and take a break if you need to. This will be an amazing opportunity so you just need to make sure the you that loves writing comes across.”
Summer nodded, glad for her mother’s guidance.
While James had always been the silly and fun parent, Jessica was the one that any of them went to for true dilemmas (Loxley excluded, since he never seemed to have such a problem). She had a capability of understanding their situations (and teenage brains) much better than James, and with a roll of her eyes had always reasoned it was because James had always been an adult.
(James responded by sticking his tongue out each time, of course).
“No one will read it but the people making the decision,” Jessica assured her. “What did you write about?”
Summer hid her face in her hands. “…How I see this girl. When she’s not aware that anyone is looking at her, and the light hits her just right, and how – how beautiful she is.”
Jessica made a sympathetic hum. “Sweetheart, you wrote about your crush. Just explain how you feel about her and why you wrote it. Your passion will come across.”
Summer grumbled under her breath and rested her chin on her hands, staring above her laptop screen and at the plain blue wall in front of her. The knowledge that she didn’t have to move out to take part in this mentorship had encouraged her to take it; she wasn’t as adventurous as Skye was becoming, and she wasn’t as blasé about everything as Loxley. Her parents had been happy to learn she was aiming to stick around for a bit longer after it seemed everyone else was hurrying to fly the nest.
“I wonder if Uma is staying here,” Summer said aloud, voice quiet, eyes faraway. In a (not-so) secret part of her heart, she imagined confessing her love to the girl when there was no school, no judgemental peers, and living happily after with Uma by her side, finally with no walls between them. Still, she was deluding herself, and she knew it. Uma was probably straight, with no interest in Summer even if she did like girls.
But what she would give to have Uma think that way about her…
“Why don’t you ask her?” Jessica prompted.
“She doesn’t know yet,” Summer replied, glumly. “I don’t think I’d be so lucky.”
Jessica reached forward and squeezed her shoulder. “You don’t know that yet.”
“I hate to remind you, sweetheart, but it was your impeccable taste that led us down this route.”
“You could have vetoed the idea,” she groaned.
“And not have a pretty girl pressed into my side? Why, it would be foolish of me not to – AAAH!” James jumped, Jessica’s nails digging into his skin as she, too, squeaked with fright. “I’m not sure this is good for my heart, on second thoughts.”
“Turn it off?” Jessica asked hopefully.
“Definitely,” James agreed.
Jessica got up to fetch the remote and turn the screen dark, breathing a sigh of relief when there were no more horrors to be seen. She turned around and found that James had taken her spot and was stretching out on the sofa. He looked at her innocently.
“Oi,” she muttered, poking his chest and then his cheek when he didn’t move. He swatted her hand away. “I thought you wanted a pretty girl pressed against your side.”
“You cheeky sod. Fine then! I suppose we’re destined to have a boring night in with all the kids out and about.”
Suddenly, James was interested. His eyebrows shot up and he circled her wrist with his fingers. “Oh, they’re not back until later?”
“Nope, but I’m not your type…” Jessica trailed off, her tone light and teasing, as she wandered into the bedroom.
“I can make an exception, sweetheart!” James shouted after her. “Flash me your knickers again, for old time’s sake?”
“Of course not. I’ll have it engraved on your tombstone somehow.”
“Who says I’m dying first?”
“Well, I can charm my way out of the reaper’s clutches, obviously.”
Jessica pushed her bottom lip out. “…I do feel older than you sometimes. And all the kids are growing up and leaving…” Her sad thoughts were interrupted when James held her hands and leaned forward, planting kisses along the exposed skin of her neck.
“Luckily for you, you’ve aged well. I guess you are my type after all.”
“You really know how to impress the ladies, huh?” Jessica said with a roll of her eyes.
“Well, there’s only ever been one lady I’ve wanted to impress.” He paused, planting a kiss on her lips. “And that’s Nigella Lawson. But I guess you’re my close second.”
“Asshole!” Jessica laughed.
James pulled her back onto the bed, both of them giggling like they were young and in uni again, not growing old with various parts of their bodies starting to ache and click worryingly. Still, they were young at heart, and James maintained that was what mattered.
Jessica sat on his lap, gazing at the man she had been so scared to spend the rest of her life with. “I guess I made a good choice, after all,” she said.
“Stop talking,” Jessica ordered, trying to smother her laughter. “Just kiss me.”
“As the lady wants, so the lady shall get.”
“Why are you being so annoying?” Skye groaned, ducking away from Felix as she tried to figure out his new coffee machine. His parents were outside tending to the campsite, having a teasing and good natured argument over the pond. Skye loved his parents, and they loved her. The perks of this was access to their new coffee machine despite the expensive products. The downside of this was that they had requested her help trying to figure the damn thing out…
“I’m boooored. Come outside, identify some butterflies with me.”
“Only boring people get bored,” Skye quipped, repeated one of the mantras she often heard Felix and his mother say.
“It’s a nice day, and you’re stuck inside.”
Felix leaned over and skimmed the booklet. He began to read the Dutch instructions aloud.
“You know what that means?”
“Nope. I was hoping I’d be able to figure it out. Would probably have a better chance with the French ones.”
“Or… you know… the English ones? It may be translated poorly but it’s not an entirely different language.”
“Go away then!” Skye snapped. “I’m trying to focus and you’re annoying me. And stop trying to tickle me!”
Felix pouted and remained where he was, resting his chin on her shoulder while he continued to read. “I think that’s the on button,” he said, pointing to the very obvious black circle on the top of the machine, which was about the only thing Skye had managed to work out.
“Very good, Sherlock,” she muttered.
“C’mon, let’s leave this for later. Why don’t we go snorkelling?”
“…It’s November, Felix, what’s wrong with you?”
“Oh! Yeah, good point. Wind surfing, then!”
She folded her arms over her chest, trying to maintain her scowl while looking at his bright expression. “I need to figure this out. And I’m not doing anything which involves getting near cold water in November.”
“Right. Warmth, then. Erm… Oh! Let’s have a bonfire. I think my parents would be up for that. We should get some fireworks.”
“Okay!” Felix agreed, not at all perturbed by her bad mood. “I’ll come save you from the boredom of the coffee machine later, when we have the fire going.”
Skye shook her head and watched him scamper off, wondering if he was really serious about a bonfire and fireworks. You never could tell with Felix, which was part of the fun (and irritation) of spending time with him.
Still, at least it was never boring with him.
Faye stared at herself in the mirror, her face devoid of all make-up. She hadn’t had any on all day – a first for her in years. It had been an experiment, of sorts, although she didn’t know what she was testing except to see how people reacted.
Most of the comments had been asking if she was ill. A couple of her friends had looked her up and down with obvious shock, but had said nothing about it. Faye couldn’t pretend she wasn’t disappointed about that – why had none of them actually asked her about it? Weren’t they curious why she hadn’t put anything on that day?
All it had made her realise was how distant her friend group were becoming. Several of them made their own plans without her, sometimes even “forgetting” to invite her to things she had expressed interest in. It felt all too much like the end of primary school, where she had been so desperate to fit in and be liked, where each social move was a political quagmire, and calculated to show the person they weren’t as good or as wanted as the others, and therefore not pretty enough, or interesting enough, or just… not enough.
Faye had felt “not enough” her entire life, but this was the first time in years she was forced to confront it.
She wandered back to her bedroom and wondered where her sisters were. Uma was probably hanging out with Summer, talking about books or something, and Faye wondered why her sisters were always preferred over her. It was that niggling thought in the back of her mind that was growing ever louder – her parents and siblings didn’t care about her, and her friends at school had grown bored of her, so she really must be worth about as much as a pile of crap.
Faye stared out of the window. Rain was running down, soaking the part of her bedsheets that were pressed up against the glass. She pulled them away and tried not to cry. Nothing was going her way today, was it?
She looked at her phone, forgotten on the floor. No one had texted her first in days. Weeks. It occurred to her that if she wasn’t the one organising things, no one thought of her at all.
She picked at her nails and blinked hastily. Faye couldn’t recall the last time she felt alone. Had she ever felt accepted by anyone? Was she really so worthless that people dropped her without a moment’s hesitation when someone better came along?
Faye wiped away a tear, stubbornly refusing to give into the crying. The downside about sharing a room with your siblings was that there was no privacy. Faye spent most of her time in the shower letting the water run over her face, allowing herself to cry, telling herself this was her allotted time to feel what she always felt, and when she got out she went back to trying to believe that everything was okay and, more importantly, that she was okay.
“You give me the most romantic nicknames.”
“What’s not romantic about calling you a bawheid?” Finn asked, tightening his grip for a brief hug before stepping back and dumping his bag on the chair. He’d come home from school late, after a meeting with a career’s teacher, and had promised to come by later. Liam knew he couldn’t put it off much longer; even after Christmas and the holidays, even after weeks of Serenity giving them the cold shoulder, he couldn’t deny his feelings for her.
A shadow passed over Finn’s face. “No,” he said, uncharacteristic emotion swelling his voice. “I don’t get it. I don’t get why she’s unhappy about us.”
Liam knew exactly why, of course, but part of him felt like he was betraying Ser by explaining it.
Taking his silence as a sign to change the conversation, Finn stepped forward and pressed himself against Liam, hands on his hips. “If you kiss me I’ll give you the answers to the English homework?” Finn offered, his grin intoxicating. Liam almost – almost – gave in, but instead placed his hands over Finn’s and moved them away. Finn frowned, waiting for Liam to explain.
“There’s something I need to talk about.”
“I really like you. I don’t really know how to word this, and it’s going to come out wrong no matter what I do, but I… I also really like Serenity. I know that’s – not fair, probably, but I have to be honest with you, right? I – I kind of thought my feelings for her would go away, but they haven’t…” Liam trailed off, unsure about what else he could say. Finn’s expression gave nothing away, as it so often did.
“No! Well… I don’t want to not be with you, to be with her, but I kind of like her just as much, and –“
“You’re not making much sense,” Finn muttered, looking at his nails and picking off old black polish. Liam trapped Finn’s hands under his own and waited for Finn to meet his gaze again. Dark eyes searched his blues.
“We’re in this weird love triangle,” Liam blurted. “You both like me, and I like both of you, and I don’t know what to do about it but I do know that I shouldn’t lie to either of you about how I feel.” He looked down. “That’s why Ser isn’t talking to us. Because she admitted to me that you both liked me, and I… at the time, I only realised I had feelings for her.”
“Say something other than ‘oh’, Finn.”
“Oh… you bawheid,” he said weakly. Liam sighed and sat back on his legs. “I mean… I’m not jealous. If that’s what you’re worried about? I don’t know I – I’m just happy to spend time with you. If… If you wanted to kiss Serenity too, and I knew that it didn’t mean you didn’t want me too, then I don’t think… I’d mind?”
“Yeah? I… That’s an open relationship, right? I mean, people can have relationships in a tonne of different ways that isn’t just a guy and a girl. A lot of them just don’t get talked about much. Maybe there’s one that can work for us?”
Liam shot up and wrapped his arms around Finn, hardly daring to believe that his confession had not only been accepted, but something of a solution for his confusing feelings might have been found. He kissed Finn, muffling whatever the other boy had been about to say, and pulled back only when he had run out of breath.
“There was something that Loxley said, not long ago,” Liam said slowly, fingers curling through the long hair at the nape of Finn’s neck. “About… poly stuff.”
“Like the pokemon?” Finn asked.
“No. Nerd. Poly… like, amory or something. And he got this book recently that talks about different relationships and sexualities. He said I could borrow it and it had this term in it that he came across.”
“The poly-like-amory thing?” Finn checked.
“Yeah. So maybe – I mean, if you really are okay with it… And Serenity too, obviously…”
“There’s nothing wrong with learning about it. If it doesn’t work then…” Finn shrugged. “You really… do like me, though, right? This isn’t just some weird plot to get rid of me because you can’t figure out how to break up?”
Liam leaned forward and kissed Finn instead of answering him, trying to throw all his passion into it, leaving them both breathless and flushed.
“Good answer,” Finn whispered.
A/N: Nigella Lawson is a British chef who is very decadent and many older men I know appreciate her being on screen 😛
I hope I’m introducing polyamory well enough, since it’s teenagers who don’t /really/ know what it entails or how to go about openly talking about it or doing it. They’re all just bumbling through.
I’m hoping to cast light on Faye’s actions these last few years. It doesn’t excuse them, and she’s being a bit dramatic, but like all teens she has hormones and low self esteem and this is what’s manifesting. She’s still being incredibly dense about it, but that’s Faye for you.