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Riptide

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Most people don't know that the word riptide is a commonly misused one. One that shouldn't exist because riptides don't even exist. Most people don't realize that when they describe riptide they're often describing a rip current. Most people are stupid though and will continue to refer to them as riptide - even make songs about the incorrect term. Or worse confuse rip currents for undertows. You know, those scary as hell currents that literally drag a person down to the sea floor.

But that's one of humanity's fatal flaws - thinking that they know better. Ignorance isn't really bliss if you're dead.

In the case of rip currents, however, most people fall under two sides of the spectrums, both of which are equally deadly.

The first is underestimating the power of nature. It's as if an individual actually believes they are capable of resisting anything nature has to offer. Which, come on, is total bull shit.

Then of course there's the other side of the spectrum - panic. And fear has an irrevocable way of tainting one's judgment and mind. And you find yourself doing the one irrational thing that you cannot control.

It's okay though, if you're caught in one it's a rather easy process break free from. Rip currents are just very narrow currents that pulls a person further into the deep end.

The key is not to fight it. It's a futile attempt. You'll just end up exhausting yourself, or worse, drowning because of exhaustion. You kind of just have to relax. It may seem impossible. You know, in the way that Ron made it impossible to find his chill in the Devil's Snare in the first Harry Potter movie, and Hermione saved his stubborn ass. Except it's not Devil's Snare and you won't have a clever witch by your side to save you. Maybe a lifeguard, if you're lucky. But then if the idea of luck is brought into the picture you wouldn't be down the riptide now would you?

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Camila Cabello's fingers twist the ridged cap, popping it open. She swirls the bottle, watching the light blue pills collide with one another, before she tips it sideways and two unsuspecting capsules roll out. Camila closes her fist around the pills and drops the bottle next to the pill case her mother got her. The one she refuses to use because it makes her feel even worse for the daily ingestion of the grams. As if she isn't capable enough to remember to take them.

She fumbles for the half empty water bottle, only to realize that the rest of its contents must have fallen over the night before (if that dark stain on her carpet isn't an obvious indication). With a heavy sigh, Camila opens her fist, staring dully down at the blue pills. She brings the medication up to her mouth, pushing the pills to the back of her throat with her tongue and swallowing quickly, before she can so much as get a taste.

Camila is not really one for dry swallowing. She probably hates this more than the way the actual medication makes her feel. She remembers the rare occasions she had to take a pill as a child and what a hassle it was for her to just swallow it. It became such a crisis for a simple baby aspirin that her mother was reduced to crushing the pill and mixing it in with water so Camila could drink it.

Clearly this isn't the case anymore. The case itself is probably much more than a measly little headache. Though, speaking of headaches, Camila can already begin to feel the tell tale signs of the nauseating side effect creeping up on her.

She runs a hand through her hair, fingers getting stuck in the tangles. Her feet drag against the carpeted floor as she makes her way to the bathroom.

Camila lets the tap run, focusing upon the water stream beat against the sink. The noise is comforting and soothes the ache that pounds near her forehead. She opens the cabinet behind the mirror before she catches a glimpse of her reflection and grabs her toothbrush.

"Low key I don't know how you do that," a voice says behind her. Camila spits out her toothpaste and whips around.

Dinah Jane Hansen, stands before her, leaning against the doorframe of the bathroom entrance. Her arms are crossed and a little smirk plays at her lips, as she watches Camila. It's as if the atmosphere decides to mirror her best friend's smile. Camila's headache is a little more tolerable, and the thought of the day is a little more bearable.

"Do what?" Camila asks.

Dinah's smirk deepens. "Do that whole, pill popping thing without water. Hardcore, Walz."

Camila turns around and runs her toothbrush underneath the faucet. She can feel Dinah's amused gaze. If the mirror cabinet were closed, Camila's sure Dinah's reflection would reveal exactly that. But she doesn't close it.

"That can totally come off as offensive, Dinah," Camila rolls her eyes.

"Lighten up, I was kidding," Dinah laughs. "Why so serious?"

Camila turns back around and gives her a glare.

It's as if a lightbulb goes off in her friend's head, because in the next second Dinah's expression forms recognition.

"Ohhhhh today's the day, huh?"

"Like you really forgot it was your birthday. Don't even play dumb," Camila murmurs dubiously. She quickly puts her toothbrush back and heads back into her room. Her eyes fall to the closet, taking in the neat and organized way her clothes hang. A color coded, organized catastrophe that was a result of her mother's doing. She was just trying to help, Camila tries to rationalize. It doesn't mean it's any less annoying.

"Hey, I don't need that attitude, you want me to give you the poly beat down...because I will," Dinah warns. Camila ignores her, eyes roaming across the neglected articles of clothing. It's been a while since she's actively looked for an outfit. "Besides, hello, it's my birthday. I should be the one bossing you around what the hell. And now that I mention it, you're late - to my party."

That part is true. Camila is late and not even in the fashionable sense. The party started about an hour ago. She's sure if her mother hadn't come into her room and reminded her about the party, she'd still be in bed dreading the start of a new day. Well half a day, considering it was well past one in the afternoon

(But isn't that what unmotivated teenagers are supposed to do during summer vacation?)

And yet here she is contemplating a 'going out' outfit, something she's felt she hasn't done in eighty-four years (though it's probably only been about a few months).

"Go for the flannel," Dinah chimes in, coming to stand beside her. "I'm getting those hella crazy Sapphic vibes from you today."

Camila grimaces. "You know if I got a quarter for everything offensive you say I'd be-"

"-dead ass poor. Okay come on, just wear the plaid. We both know you were eyeing it anyway."

Camila makes a few incoherent mumbles under her breath, but ultimately reaches for the top.

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She doesn't take very long to get ready, spending a few minutes trying to hide the dark rings beneath her eyes (and trying to block out Dinah's criticizing of her poor blending skills). When Camila makes it down the hallway and into the kitchen, she finds her mother at the sink and her younger sister Sofi at the kitchen table eating a sandwich. They both look at her as she stands by the doorway. And it's probably the first thing that immediately strikes her as she nervously leans against the doorway.

There wasn't anything inherently wrong with the way her family treated her. They fulfilled the basic requirements. Her parents fed her, made sure she was taken care of. Sofi learned not to disturb her in her room anymore. They all made sure not to mention the unmentionable.

But despite the unmentionable, over the past six months, Camila began noticing that they all had developed an obnoxious habit of staring at her like she was going to burst into tears at any moment, like she was this fragile little teacup that had to be held precariously in firm hands.

Yet, at the moment, the way Sofi and her mother stare at her now is different. It's not the routinely sad look that she's used to. It's one that sends an unmistakable chill down her spine.

And she hates it - the way they look at her. As if they've seen a ghost

"Are you ready?" Her mother stops the water and promptly breaks the tense spell over the kitchen. She wipes her hands on her apron. "I'll drive you."

Her mother apparently doesn't trust her enough to walk the short couple of blocks to Dinah's house. Camila doesn't really expect anything less. It's not like she goes out much now. In fact, she rarely ever leaves her room.

The morning she walked up and announced she was going to Dinah's house for her best friend's birthday, her parents were in a perpetual state of shock. A type of shock that made her uneasy and a little annoyed because it was almost downright comical the way her father's mouth fell open. Her mother's eyes had crinkled and Camila bolted back upstairs before anything was said.

She wasn't sure which was worse, seeing the sympathy or those little flashes of hope in her mother's eyes.

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Camila lets her mother fuss over her for a good ten minutes in Dinah's driveway, before she calmly reassures her that she's fine. It takes another three, before her mother finally allows her to get out of the car and walk up to the front porch. And then another five, before her mother thinks it's safe enough to drive off ...at a snail's pace.

The nerves slowly creep up on her, as she stands outside Dinah's door. Something that the pills she took this morning helped calm down a little. It's stupid how suddenly the dread washes over her as she studies the familiar off white of the front door and the bleach white molding around it. One side is chipped and Camila distinctly remembers the time she and Dinah scuffed that when they were nine and had the brilliant idea of dragging a grocery store shopping cart home with them (because apparently they needed a foundation for their space shuttle). This of course was before grocery stores started putting those locks on the basket.

"I still can't believe you're doing this," Dinah admits.

"I find your lack of faith disturbing," Camila cites deeply, cupping a hand over her mouth to muffle her voice.

"Wha?"

"That was my Darth Vader impression," Camila responds matter-of-factly. If it's possible, Dinah looks even more puzzled. Camila sighs. "Star Wars, Dinah."

"Right. Hey look I know we've been friends for like years but girl when you start bringing out that nerdy stuff I have to draw the line."

"I listen to your Beyonce stuff."

"Are you seriously trying to compare Bey to Star trek right now?"

Camila rolls her eyes. She's realized that whenever Beyonce is brought into it the conversation gets completely lost.

Camila fidgets with the balloons tied around her wrist - her little sister's idea (because she was convinced Camila wouldn't be able to carry them on the way to Dinah's house). The balloons, dinosaurs (another choice made by her younger sister), bump into each other making an obnoxious plastic-against-plastic rubbing sound. And as if her short walk to Dinah's house couldn't get even more irritating, she has to listen to her best friend complain.

"So you're late," Dinah mumbles beside her.

"Yeah, I'm aware captain obvious," Camila snaps, pulling the balloons away from one another.

"If you hadn't overslept..."

"You're one to talk!"

Dinah smirks.

"Besides, it's not like this is a surprise party or anything," Camila says.

"It's my birthday! I should be more pissed off that you're not even ready," Dinah comments.

"Hey, I brought prehistoric themed balloons," Camila defends, thrusting her tied wrist in Dinah's face. The T-Rex bumps heads with the Triceratops.

She's beginning to regret this.

Camila takes a deep breath, before she knocks against the door. There's muffled noises behind the wooden surface. The door flies open and a small girl about Sofi's age stares up at her. It takes her a moment to realize it's Regina, Dinah's little sister.

"You're late," she says bluntly, staring up at her with dark blank eyes.

"That's what I said!" Dinah exclaims.

"Uh," Camila swallows thickly, picking at the cheap plastic ribbon tied around her wrist. "I'm sorry-"

"Gina!" A hiss comes from behind the small girl and soon Dinah's mother comes into view. "Oh, Camila, you're late."

"Jeez it runs in the Hansen genes or something," Dinah murmurs under her breath, as she slips past her mother and enters the house. Camila follows suit, hyper aware of the moment her foot steps over the threshold. She really tries hard not to be so sensitive to the environment. She tries to get the thought out of her head that this is the first time she's stepped into Dinah's home since -

"It's alright. You're mom let me know you were going to be running a bit late," Milika assures, placing a hand on Camila's shoulder. Camila tries not to visibly flinch. "Everyone's in the kitchen."

Milika guides her down the hallway. The walls are painfully familiar, pictures hanging along the beige surface. Pictures Camila refuses to look at. Though, that doesn't really stop Dinah from making any comments along the way.

"Ugh I told her to get rid of this one," Dinah grumbles, glaring at frame to Camila's left. "My eyebrows were so not on fleek that day. And it's so typical she used this one for the fun..." Dinah's voice trails off and Camila focuses on the ribbon tied around her wrist again.

As they pass the living room, Camila glances up and sees all of Dinah's younger siblings circled around the TV. A loud and bright game, one that suspiciously sounds like the one she and Dinah used to play and angrily chuck controllers at when they lost, is displayed across the screen. Childish laughter filters throughout the bright room, muffling the grunts of the fighting characters in the game. Camila spots Regina in the mix, attempting to steal the main controller. A thieving trait probably picked up from Dinah.

Camila's eyes promptly tear away from the scene. A lump in her throat grows, making each swallow thicker and that much harder to push down. She feels her hands tremble at her sides.

"It's really nice of you to come, Camila," Milika says. "It means a lot to us. To see you."

"She sounds more excited about you coming than me," Dinah pouts.

They walk into the kitchen and Camila is met with Dinah's older family members. Her father, uncles and aunts that Camila vaguely remembers. There's a cake sitting in the middle of the table, with a few unlit candles stuck in it. It hasn't been touched and Camila thinks it's such a shame because it's a pretty cake.

Her eyes flicker to the faces of Dinah's family members; they return the gaze.

And Camila registers the look on their faces. One that is incredibly similar to the stranger that sometimes stares at her in the mirror. Like there's something lacking the dark depths. Like there's some part that comes up short of complete within their blank expressions.

Some offer weak smiles and that somehow makes it worse because it reminds her of those obligatory polite smile people give upon painfully awkward first meetings. It makes her feel small.

Her heart pounds as she tries to ignore the staring. In a pitiful attempt to distract herself from Dinah's family members, she turns to Milika and offers her the balloons tied around her wrist. Dinah's mother looks perturbed for a moment and then seems to realize why Camila is struggling with her wrist.

"Here, let me." Milika does not wait for Camila's response, instead gently pulling the ribbons apart. If the empty eyes on her didn't make her feel incompetent, it's definitely Milika's hands that do.

Irritation floods her body upon the sight of Milika's fingers easily untangling the strings. Her eyes glance back towards Dinah's family, gauging their reaction.

It's not until her gaze falls on the two people she hadn't initially noticed that her irritation jolts into an unpleasant shock.

"No fucking way," Dinah exclaims, from over Camila's shoulder.

No fucking way indeed, Camila thinks sourly, as Ally Brooke Hernandez and Normani Kordei Hamilton both shift in discomfort in their seats. They're sitting at the far end of the table (which probably explains why she didn't notice them at first) looking just about as grim and uncomfortable as she feels. Normani waves, while Ally tries to smile but it all comes out as a grimace.

"It's Mani and Ally, what the hell, best birthday ever," Dinah says cheerfully. "Did you know this was gonna happen Walz? Please tell me you knew this was going to happen!"

Camila doesn't formulate a reply. She's not sure if she just doesn't have any time or she just simply can't. Because in the next second, someone walks into the cramped tense kitchen. A specific someone that makes the blood drain from her face and a very thick layer of frost envelope her insides.

"Camz."

Camila recognizes the voice before she realizes the familiarity of the nickname. It's the voice that makes a dreadful drop in her gut. Chills her skin over. Makes her want to crawl under a rock at the bottom of the sea and do something completely uncharacteristic like befriend an annoying talking sponge.

It's not necessarily the nickname that sets her on edge(though it probably is a contributing factor considering no one else really calls her that), it's the person who's said it. The person she hasn't really spoken to in nearly a year. One that she really never considered being in a position of conversing, because, well, Camila pretty much wanted nothing to do with her.

But Lauren Jauregui always had an irritating habit of catching her off guard - despite the fact that the two haven't so much as exchanged an awkward hello at the end of her Junior year.

Camila feels an embarrassing sense of mortification hit her in the chest because she begins to notice the eyes fall on her. The eyes of Dinah's family (and that's like a shit ton of people), plus the eyes of the girl she's spent the past minute or two avoiding.

She trains her gaze on Milika, who's still holding onto the balloons.

"What is she doing here?" Camila demands.

"Camz-" Lauren begins, but Camila fully turns away from her and faces Milika. The accusations are on her tongue before she can so much as process what exactly she's angry about.

"Why is she here? Did you tell her to come?"

"It's Dinah's birthday," she hears Lauren state from behind her. Such an obvious answer, Camila almost expects a sarcastic 'duh' to follow Lauren's statement. But it doesn't come. Lauren was always so sarcastic and the fact that its presence is absent only seems to irritate her even more.

"I invited her, Mila," Milika murmurs. "I invited the rest of the girls too."

Milika finally lets go of the balloons and Camila watches as the dinosaurs rise and crash into the ceiling. Camila almost wishes she never even gave the balloons to Dinah's mother. She could've really used something to hide her flushed face right about now.

The girls. God. How Milika even manages to refer to them with such a tone of familiarity is beyond Camila. What business did they even have here? They were long gone. None of them had spoken to Camila and Dinah since -

"Why would you do that?" Camila snaps. She almost wants to say that they don't get to be here, they don't deserve it. Lauren, especially, doesn't deserve to be here.

"Oooh, shit just hit the fan," Dinah snickers beside her. Camila nearly elbows her to shut up.

A flash of hurt passes over Milika's face. It's not particularly unusual to see on Dinah's mother's face these past months. It was a look Camila became accustomed to seeing frequently. But this was different. It was directed at her. She felt the direct sympathy from Milika's expression focusing upon her in a way that suddenly made Camila nauseous.

"We thought it would be nice," Milika begins, approaching Camila as if she were approaching a skittish animal. "I thought it would be good to have Dinah's friends together again - good for you."

Milika's expression shifts, as if she notices the way Camila's feelings shift. Worry seeps into the prominent creases in Milika's face and anger bubbles in Camila's chest.

"Good for all of us," Milika tries to correct.

It all sort of goes crashing downhill from there. Camila's cornered. The walls are closing in on her. There's an ache in her chest that develops and presses down unbearably against her lungs, capsizing them against her ribs. Flattening every bit of breathe she can muster. The tears build and fall and repeat in a shameful never ending process.

She's not crying. No. She'll be damned if she cries in front of Lauren Jauregui.

"I need...I..." She chokes out, wringing her flannel sleeve tightly in her coiled hand. "I can't...I need...to leave...I can't, I can't be here."

She feels the panicked spell fall over the entire room. Everyone scrambles around trying to placate her. She even feels Lauren's hand at one point, but nearly jumps away. A blurred over image of Dinah's mother comes before her.

"Camila, hun, I'm going to call your mom. Everything's going to..."

But Camila isn't listening anymore. Everything is muffled against her hot ringing ears and before she knows it, she's bolting out the door.

She doesn't even quite remember the run back home. It's all a blur, yanking the front of her door, her mother and sister's worried faces, voices following her to her room, locking her door, the pounding from the other side. The cries and pleading. Everything all just meshes into one and she paces back and forth in a frenzy.

"Wow, way to be dramatic, Walz," Dinah murmurs as she plops down on Camila's disheveled bed. "You totally ruined my party by the way."

"They - they did this - they invited them - I'm just so - I walked right into that!" Camila yells.

"I mean, inviting our friends to my party shouldn't be something so unexpected..."

"They - are - not - our - friends!" Her voice rises as she rounds on Dinah.

"Whoa, chill, relax, breathe. Come on, do it with me. In," Dinah breathes in, gesturing for Camila to copy. She repeats the process, listening closely to Dinah's calming voice. "Okay now answer your door because your mom's hysterical crying is starting to freak me out."

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"She wants me to go see the doctor tomorrow morning," Camila murmurs, rewinding the video playing on her laptop. She and Dinah, lean against her headboard, eyes focuses on the computer screen.

An hour has passed since she came home from Dinah's party. An hour of trying to reassure her mother that she was fine. Which proved to be more than just exhausting. It took a lot of apologies and a promise to visit Dr. Abernathy to get her mother to finally relent.

"That's not so bad. Abernathy's cool. She's the homegirl," Dinah says.

"She makes me feel like those pictures you find in the coloring books. Those 'spot the difference' pages," Camila complains. "It's annoying. And besides, there's nothing wrong with me."

"Well..."

"Dinah!"

Dinah giggles, before sobering up immediately. "Wait, go back," she says, pointing to the video on the screen. Camila does as instructed, rewinding the video.

It's an old recording Camila took about a year ago of a surfing competition Dinah was entered in. The beach was packed with onlookers, and occasionally glimpses of Dinah's relatives were also caught in the crowd. It was an overcast day, something Camila was relieved about at the time because she had forgotten her sunglasses at home.

Camila watches with amusement as a far away Dinah figure appears on the screen, paddling on her surfboard.

"Them thunder thighs though," Dinah whines beside her. "Couldn't you have recorded this at a better angle, god, Mila?"

"Shut up," Camila mutters. Video recording Dinah approaches the wave and they both watch in silence as she comes to stand on the board. They've seen this same recording more times than one could count on both of their hands combined. And no matter how many times the video is viewed it always ends the same way - Dinah falling off her surfboard.

"Not that I don't appreciate all of the little fangirling you're doing, watching my old competitions every night, but are we going to talk about what happened today?" Dinah whispers, as Camila reaches towards the keyboard to rewind the video again.

"No," she answers shortly.

Today wasn't a good idea. In fact it had bad idea written all over it. What made her think that everything would be fine just showing up to Dinah's house, on Dinah's birthday?

"Hey no need to get all nasty. I just think it would be good to vent. Like the whole thing of Lauren being there."

Camila feels a small twinge of anger at the thought of her. Which is near silly because she hasn't spoken to Lauren Jauregui since the end of 11th grade. Or Dinah for that matter. When she had her falling out with Lauren, the green eyed girl distanced herself completely. Malika must have been aware of this. So why was she even -

"They ambushed me on purpose," Camila states suddenly.

"Okay hold on-"

"-And then they decide to bring in Lauren," Camila sits upright, pushing the laptop off of her. Dinah looks at her skeptically. "As if to - I don't know -fix me." A wave of nausea hits her as the confirmation she needed appears.

Camila rises from her seat on the bed, and began to pace around her room.

"They think I've been deprived!" She snaps.

It becomes clear. The fragile tea cup look has infinitely manifested into a patronizing rescue mission. Camila Cabello is a lot of things, but she is not a damn damsel in distress. And there isn't anything wrong with her.

Camila pacing becomes more frantic. She distinctly feeling Dinah's eyes following her brisk movement. A surge of anger filters into her body at the mere thought of the sympathy. She isn't a charity case. She's not even grieving, what the hell. "They don't know my life! I have friends. I do stuff." Her tone suddenly turns desperate as she turns to Dinah. "Right?"

"To be fair, your only friend is me, and I'm dead."