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Wilted

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Dear Diary,

Long time no speak write? Actually, it hasn’t even been that long. Last time I wrote in here was a mini panic about Heather Duke’s bulimia, so… not very long ago.

Not the point.

The point is, fuck, I fucked up. I have made myself a bed with a mattress full of needles, and now I must lie in it and contemplate my fuck-up. Fuck me.

Actually, no. Don’t fuck me. All that’s caused is a fuck-ton of trouble. Fuck.

“Veronica.”

Veronica jerked her head up, immediately locking eyes with her English teacher.

“Mhmm?”

A small wave of laughter rippled through the classroom, and she felt the heat rush to her skin in realising she missed something.

“I said, what is the definition of an asymmetric conversation?”

Veronica stared back at her blankly, the cogs in her brain feeling stiff as they attempted to turn.

“I… um,” she stammered, while she internally screamed, “you know this, you literally looked over this the other night, you absolute dumbass-!”

“No? Okay then,” she was cut off by the disappointed sigh of her teacher, who then scanned the rest of the class . “Hmm… Heather?”

Veronica cocked her head over to Heather, who barely made the effort to look up at her.

“Could you help Veronica out, please?”

Heather gave a scoff. “I don’t know, can I?”

Another drowned out chorus of laughter, the only difference being that Heather could find some amusement in this situation.

“Heather, focus please,” Mrs Wilson scolded. Heather barely flinched. “Do you know what an asymmetrical conversation is?”

“A conversation that is not symmetrical,” she replied dryly. Mrs Wilson groaned.

More specific , please.”

Heather fell silent, before giving a shrug.

“Right,” she muttered. “See me after class, please.”

Yay ,” she whispered in a hoarse voice, though Veronica clearly heard it. Of course she did. Her attention had been glued to Heather for the past hour or so.

First things first, she scribbled down into her diary, talk to Heather.

Perhaps if she hadn’t overslept and had to dash to school with about thirty seconds to spare before the first bell, she would have done that by now. She would have been able to pull her over and interrogate her about what the fuck happened yesterday.

The sharp sound of the bell ringing interrupted her thoughts, and she could have sighed with relief in lunchtime finally beginning. Finally a chance to find out what was going on.

“Remember to keep studying for the test next week!” she heard Mrs Wilson call over the sounds of chairs scraping across the floor as students eagerly stood up to dart out of the classroom to likely try and snatch the first few places in the queue for lunch. Her, on the other hand, shoved her notes and her diary into her bag, threw the strap on her shoulder, and slowly stood up. The world became a little blurry as she did so, as if running on about three hours of sleep was taking effect on her. Fuck .

She, as well as Heather, were the last two remaining in the room. She stumbled around the desks, catching Heather’s gaze as she passed her, only for Heather to tear her gaze away. Veronica let out a sigh as she neared the door.

“Oh, Veronica?”

She bit back a frustrated groan as she turned back around and looked at Mrs Wilson.

Yes? ” she responded in the most faux peppy tone she could muster.

“Are you feeling okay today?” she asked. “You seem quite out of it.”

Fine ,” she snapped, only to feel a tickle in her throat following the raised voice. She covered her mouth and let out a cough, letting herself out of the classroom as she did so. She let her back flop onto the wall next to the door, resting her head against the cold surface as she waited for Heather to follow her. On the other side of the wall, she heard muffled scolding, but what the exact words were, she couldn’t say for sure. Her brain was too foggy to create any sort of coherent thought or understandable language.

By the time the door opened again, she had completely zoned out, so seeing any sudden movement or hearing any unexpected creaking of the door was bound to make her jump. She glanced to her side, and she saw Heather stepping into the corridor and letting out along, exasperated sigh.

“Hey,” Veronica grunted. Heather flinched and whipped her head over to her, clearly not expecting to see her standing there.

“You didn’t have to wait,” she muttered, crossing her arms and letting her side fall onto the wall so that she was leaning inches away from Veronica.

“I disagree,” she said, turning onto her side to face her directly. Heather arched a brow in curiosity. “I need to talk to you.”

Heather gave a sigh. “What about?” she mumbled, though by how flat her tone was, Veronica could guess that she already knew what was coming.

“About what happened after you dropped me off yesterday,” she replied. Heather raised her brows.

“Nothing you should worry about,” she said, shrugging. Veronica gave an indignant scoff.

“I think it’s a bit too fucking late for that,” she retorted. “It’s not like I’ve been worrying about it all night or anything.”

Heather rolled her eyes. “Is that what you were doing instead of sleeping?” she asked. “Because no offence, but you look like shit.” She gestured to the whole of Veronica, who just slowly nodded.

“Yeah. Thanks for that,” she said, before blowing some loose hair out of her face. “I got ready in less than ten minutes.”

Heather let out an amused snort.

“It really shows,” she commented. “You didn’t even fasten this fucking button.” She latched onto the top button of her shirt and began to fix it up, as well as the ruffled collar around her neck. Veronica just glared at her, ignoring how her heart lit up each time her fingers would graze bare skin.

“Yeah, that’s not the issue here,” she said, pushing her hands away from her neck, though keeping hold of one. “The issue is what we’re going to talk about now .”

She didn’t even give Heather a chance to respond before grasping onto her wrist and dragging her off towards the direction of the stairs.

“Is there any fucking need?” she heard Heather bark from behind her, her voice becoming more harsh and threatening. Veronica glanced at her when she felt Heather slip her wrist free from her grip and hold onto it with her own hand, shielding it from Veronica, who stopped in her tracks.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean for it to hurt,” she murmured apologetically.

“It didn’t,” Heather snapped, stalking past her. “Look, if you want to know what happened so badly, then ask Heather,” she sneered. “I’m not telling you shit.”

Veronica just stared after her as she began making her way over to the stairs, before growling.

“I can’t !” she called after her, while scampering over to her. Heather paused to look back at her. “I tried calling her last night, and no one picked up!”

“She tends to do that,” Heather grunted.

“I mean, eventually her dad picked up, but he said that she wasn’t interested in talking to anyone right now.”

She spotted a glint of emotion in Heather’s gaze that she couldn’t name, perhaps because it was only present for a brief moment.

“Well then go talk to her now!” she told her, gesturing to the stairs. Veronica frowned.

“She isn’t in,” Veronica said. “She wasn’t in psychology.”

Heather’s hand dropped to her side lifelessly. Veronica sighed and stepped closer to her.

“Look, can you just tell me what happened? Please?”

Heather’s gaze darkened.

“No,” she hissed. Veronica opened her mouth to protest, but Heather cut her off. “Whatever happened between us yesterday stays between us.” Her voice grew less angry, becoming more distant. Veronica couldn’t tell if it was better or worse. “It’s just unfortunate that what happened between you didn’t.” Her expression grew a little more smug, and Veronica winced.

“It was supposed to!” she lamented. “I told you it was a bad idea to-”

Sshhh! ” she hissed through gritted teeth, holding up to fingers out towards her to silence her. “God, do you want what’s happened between us to get out too?” she spat. “We’re already on thin fucking ice! It’s isn’t exactly a secret anymore.”

Veronica furrowed her brow in confusion. “What?”

Heather glanced around her to check that they were alone. “Granted, it helped me out in discovering your little secret, but I don’t know how okay with it I am.”

“Wait, wait, wait, what ?” she stepped even closer and grabbed her by the shoulders. “What are you talking about?”

Heather calmly stepped out of Veronica’s hold.

“Ask your vampire friend,” she said in a matter-of-fact way, before spinning around and continuing her journey towards the stairs. She was about to take her first step down, when it clicked in her brain what - or who - she was referring to.

“You’re kidding me!” she exclaimed, and began her march towards and down the stairs, darting past Heather as she did so. From behind her, she heard Heather call,

“Have fun!”

Veronica just grumbled some curse words under her breath as her feet picked up the pace down the spiral of stairs.

 


 

Jason!

Heather watched in amusement as Veronica made her presence known to what she had come to know as the ‘loser table’, and stifled a cackle as JD whipped his head around at the sound of his name. She could see Veronica’s mouth moving, though with the distance she was keeping between herself and the table, she heard none of what she said. A shame, but she could just interrogate her about the details later. She might as well find as much entertainment in this mess as she could.

“Oh, God, what the fuck’s happening with V’s loser group?”

Chandler flinched in surprise in hearing Heather Duke’s voice from beside her.

“Who knows,” she lied, before letting out a cackle as she watched Veronica grab JD by the wrist, yank him off the bench and drag him across the cafeteria and towards the double doors, soon out of sight. She could only assume she was going to give him a royal scolding, and as hilarious as that would be to see, she doubted she’d be able to get away with spying on her in a less crowded area.

“I feel weirdly unnerved by Veronica being mad at her other friends instead of us,” Duke commented as she watched them go. Chandler bit her lip.

“I wouldn’t quite say that,” she muttered. Duke glanced up at her curiously, and she cleared her throat. “Nothing,” she said louder. Duke arched a brow.

“Uh-huh,” she grunted. “Well, I guess we’re back to three,” she then sang, turning around towards their table, currently empty. “Though, speaking of which, where’s M?”

Chandler bit back a wince at the sound of that name, brain flashing back to yesterday and cursing her with the blend of guilt and anger that made her stomach churn.

“Hey. Heather Jessica Chandler, are you home?”

Snapping fingers blocking her view of the cafeteria broke her out of her trance, and she scrunched her nose up and swatted Duke’s hand away.

“No, I’m at school,” she retorted, before beginning to stalk towards their table.

Haha , funny,” Duke said in a low, sarcastic tone as she followed close behind. “And did you hear my question?”

Chandler swallowed the urge to groan in frustration. “No, I didn’t.” She dropped onto the bench, head landing onto her hands. Duke settled opposite her.

“I asked if you’d seen M today,” she said. “She’s usually here by now.”

Chandler let out a quiet groan into her palm as she tried to think up some sort of way to avoid mentioning what happened last night.

“I don’t think she’s in today,” she said dryly. Duke raised her brows.

“Oh? How come?”

Chandler snorted. “Beats me.” And while her voice sounded indifferent, perhaps even bitter, internally her head was yelling “fuck!” on repeat as her mind thought up of what could have - no, must have happened after she had left Heather’s house in a fit of rage. Each “fuck” was different in tone, too. One would sound guilty, as if she were lamenting to herself in some sort of sulk-fest. Another would sound angered, voicing her urge to just yell at everything after what had happened. Another would sound… stunned. As if she thought that maybe, just maybe, Heather had spoken some truth.

“I’m sorry?” Duke’s eyes widened a little from surprise. Chandler’s head cocked up to meet her green gaze.

“What?”

Beats me? ” she echoed, eyeing her suspiciously. “Since when do you not worry about Heather’s whereabouts?”

Chandler felt her throat dry up, and she swallowed in an attempt to sound casual.

“Who says I wasn’t?” she shot back.

“You didn’t sound like you were,” Duke said. Chandler just gave an indignant huff, rolling her eyes.

“I’m sure she’s fine,” she hissed through gritted teeth, not believing a word that left her mouth. “She’s probably just got a cold.”

“Right,” Duke replied, her utterance slowed down by uncertainty. “Well, in that case, we can see how she’s doing later. Anything to avoid my parents for as long as possible-”

“Ahah- no no, no need,” Chandler cut in with a stammer. Duke paused and stared at her, confused.

“Heather?” she then asked.

“Mhmm?” Chandler squeaked.

“The fuck is happening?”

Though there was no venom in her eyes, only curiosity, Chandler still felt as if Duke’s gaze was burning into her skull like some sort of cruel punishment. It was a stupid feeling. She knew for a fact that it was irrational, so where this guilt was coming from, she had no idea.

Regardless, she had no choice but to give in, and let out a pained sigh.

“I need a favour from you.”

“Depends what it is.”

Chandler chewed on her lip as she stared back at her.

“Please check up on Heather for me,” she said. “I think she had a shutdown last night.”

Duke blinked at her, clearly having not expected that answer from her.

“I mean…” Duke began to speak, though as she did, Chandler suddenly remembered an unfortunate fact.

“Wait, shit,” she interrupted with a groan. “You’re grounded.”

Duke shot her an odd look, scoffing at her statement.

“You think I give a shit?” she jeered. “I’ll happily pay Emmy a visit if it means getting home late.” Her prideful grin then drooped. “Though, I don’t see why it has to be me. You’re way better at handling shutdowns than I am.”

Chandler nips the skin on her lip, threatening to tear the skin off as her face slowly sank into her palm shamefully. She dared to peek at Duke, who seemed to be picking apart her sheepish undertone.

“Heather, what did you do?” she eventually sighed. Chandler straightened herself up defensively.

“Me? Nothing! I did nothing,” she replied with a miffed tone. “Why would you accuse me of doing anything?”

Duke arched a brow. “Because you and I both know that Emmy would prefer you to comfort her in a shutdown.”

Chandler’s gaze dropped to her lap, and she watched her leg frantically bob up and down under the table.

“Heather-” Duke spoke again, only for Chandler to cut her off with a groan.

“Look, can you just do it?” She jerked her head back up to face her. “ Please?

Duke bit the inside of her cheek.

“Okay, I know I just said I didn’t care about my parents grounding me, and I don’t .” She inhaled deeply. “ But I feel like I should .”

Any hope that Chandler had was snatched from her weak grip and thrown in a shredder, followed by the strips being flung at her just to taunt her more. She let out a long whine into her hands, not caring if she was smudging any of her makeup as her palms smushed over her face.

“I’m sorry?” Duke said with uncertainty. “Again, I still don’t know why you can’t do it yourself, but whatev-”

God , Heather, we had an argument!” Chandler barked. “Is it that hard to figure out?”

A silence fell on them both, the two of them holding each other’s gazes. Duke blinked at her, looking stunned.

Yes , actually,” she eventually fired back. “Definitely wasn’t the first thing that came to mind.”

Chandler’s mouth twitched. “And why’s that? Friends will argue.”

Duke let out a sharp gasp, widened her eyes and covered her mouth in shock. “They do ?”

Chandler deadpanned at her obvious mockery, while Duke let out a cackle.

“You’re not funny, Heather.”

“I know. I’m Heather.”

Chandler frowned, while Duke simply batted her lashes at her and smiled.

“Case in point,” she jeered at her. Duke pouted in response.

“Meanie,” she whined. Chandler snorted.

“I prefer ‘bitch’, personally.”

“And I prefer ‘cunt’,” Duke said. “But back on track-”

“I much preferred the conversation we were having-”

“-You know exactly what I meant,” she cut her off with ease, completely disregarding her protests. “When was it you two had a proper argument?”

Chandler pursed her lips as she began to dig through her memories, searching for the last disagreement she and McNamara had had.

“Last month?” she suggested. “When I got mad at her.”

Duke rolled her eyes. “That wasn’t an argument. That was you being a bitch.”

Chandler frowned at her, but said no more. Instead, she focused on trying to find some other instance of an argument. She scrambled a little further back in her memories, until she found yet another one.

“We had a fair few in junior year,” she muttered, only hovering over the memories rather than diving too deep into them. And of course, she couldn’t revisit junior year without giving a middle finger to it in her head, nor could she hold back the curling of her lip, threatening to become a snarl.

Did you though?” Duke questioned, her voice growing softer. “A lot of junior year was you being-”

“Can we stop talking about junior year?” she mumbled, staring at her fingers as they rippled along the surface of the table. She didn’t bother looking up to see if Duke nodded in response, she only continued to speak. “I get it. The last proper argument we had was the whole Ram incident in sophomore year.” Her heart clenched as she thought back to that time, despite it being so long ago.

“Mhmm,” Duke replied. “Must’ve been something pretty bad, then?” She heard her shift in her seat, and from the corner of her eye, Chandler could see her leaning forward. “What’s went down?”

Chandler let out a groan. “Nothing.”

“I highly doubt that.”

Her head snapped up to glare at her. “It’s not something I want to talk about right now, Heather .”

Duke sat back in her seat, backing away from her in hearing the underlying venom in her tone. She looked away and glowered. Chandler could have sworn she saw her mouth “of course you don’t” , but she could never be sure with a muted voice. She didn’t pry into it, instead just stared blankly at her when she turned back towards her.

“She’ll probably be in tomorrow, okay?” she said calmly. “I can see how she’s doing then.”

Chandler widened her eyes a little in hearing no sarcastic retort from her, rather some reassurance. She hardly noticed the corner of her mouth subtly quirk up.

“Thanks, Heather,” she murmured, finally allowing her eyes to travel elsewhere. They landed on the queue, one that had calmed a little since the beginning of lunch, and it reminded her that she was hungry .

“Do you want to get lunch?” she then asked, turning back to Duke, who just blinked at her a few times. It took Chandler a good few seconds until she realised why she was being given such an odd look. “Oh.”

“Yeah.”

Chandler shrugged. “I mean, you’re trying to get better and all,” she said sheepishly. “Maybe I was just making sure that you didn’t want to-”

“It has been less than a week since my doctor appointment, I think lunch is a pretty big fucking leap forward, don’t you think?”

Chandler pursed her lips into a tight, embarrassed line, and Duke just gave an amused huff.

“I’ll come with you, though,” she added with a more cheerful tone, standing up and tilting her head towards the queue. “And if you’re lucky, maybe I can convince myself to steal one of your fries.”

Chandler gave a brief cackle as she stood up too. “What, to try and ease yourself back onto a healthy diet or to piss me off?”

“To piss you off,” Duke said with a brash grin. Chandler couldn’t help but feel surprised that she didn’t want to slap the cocky smirk off, but laugh along with it.

“Asshole,” she said with a chuckle.

 


 

“Wh-uh awe we going?”

Mac heard Chandler ask a question from behind her. She didn’t respond, only continued to drag her by the hand across the playground, keeping near the edge where few children lingered. She had her eyes fixed on her destination - a small area of the playground full of flowers neatly planted in rows. She had always been aware of them, though yesterday she had decided to snatch a closer look, and to her delight, had spotted a flower of great importance to her. And if it was important to her, it had to be important to Heather too.

“Mac?”

She finally made it to the garden, and let go of Heather’s hand. Heather stopped next to her, and was staring at the garden in front of them.

“What did you bwing me he-uh for?”

Mac looked at Heather and grinned, excited to show her the discovery she had made. She signed to her, “Come here,” before scurrying over to a group of long, purple flowers, ones she had been quick to recognize. She glanced behind her to make sure Heather was still there, and saw that she was following close behind, brow raised. Mac smiled and pointed to the flowers, then looked back at her to see her reaction. She had expected it to match her own - that one of recognition and excitement, however that isn’t what she was met with. Chandler simply stared at the flowers blankly, nothing in her expression implying any sort of enthusiasm, to her disappointment.

“I don’t get it,” Chandler stated dryly. “You wanted to th-ow me the ga-wden?”

Mac shook her head, then signed to her,

“No, I wanted to show you the heathers!”

She gazed hopefully at Chandler, who just stared back at her blankly.

“Huh?”

Mac frowned in realising she had no idea what she was saying. That wasn’t new - in the past couple of weeks of hanging out with each other, Mac had tried and failed many times to communicate with Chandler. It was frustrating, at best.

She just sighed and pointed towards the flowers. That seemed to work when she needed to draw attention something, right?

“Flow-uhs?” Chandler asked slowly. Mac wasn’t sure how to respond. It wasn’t quite the answer she was looking for.

Not just any flowers! she wanted to say. We were named after them!

She’d come to realise that if she were to attempt to sign either one of those sentences, Chandler would not pick up on either of them. She had to stand still for a moment, looking back and forth between the flowers and Heather, trying to think of a way to convey what she wanted to say.

Eventually, she decided to just poked the flower, making sure Chandler saw, and proceeded to spell out her name. She’d done that enough for Chandler to have memorised it, but she didn’t receive the usual recognition from her, and she wondered if she had forgotten already.

“Why awe you th-pelling your name?” she asked. Mac’s hands dropped to her sides and she groaned to herself. This wasn’t going to work.

“What?” Chandler questioned, apparently having heard her. Mac bit back a sigh, realising she wanted her to explain herself anyway, and so she repeated the gesture. Chandler’s reply let her know the message wasn’t getting across.

“Um…”

Mac sighed, and attempted to sign her name one last time.

“Heath-uh?” Chandler guessed. Or asked. She wasn’t quite sure. “Why awe you th-pelling your name? Or my name?”

It’s the flower’s name! she thought as she nudged the flowers again.

Chandler then chuckled. “Awe you twying to th-ay that it-th the flower’th name too?”

Mac let out an audible gasp and nodded her head. Chandler’s eyes widened slightly.

“Oh, weally?”

Mac beamed, then dropped onto the grass, next to the heathers. Chandler walked over to where she was sitting, and settled just opposite her.

“I didn’t know there were flower-th called heather-th,” she said looking up and down at the purple petals. “We th-are a name with flower-th too!”

Mac signed a “Yes, we do,” before her hand latched around one of the heather’s stems. She ran her thumb over the tiny buds, the texture light on her skin.

“They’re vewy pwetty!” Chandler said, leaning closer to them and batting a finger at some of the petals. “It weally th-uit-th you ath a name.”

Mac fluttered her lashes in realising that she had just been called pretty , as pretty as the flower she was named after. She let out a sheepish giggle, burying her face between her shoulders and hiding it with her brown hair which swooped over her eye. As much as she appreciated the compliment, she couldn't deny that she’d always doubted that idea. Not when there were so many other girls in her class who could be considered much more prettier than her. There were so many who were taller, had better hair, more brighter clothing. And she knew the sound of all of their voices.

Hell, Heather herself was even prettier. She had sparkling blue eyes, alongside her bright, curly red hair. Red hair that she had actually named her sign name after, she thought it was so eye-catching. Not to mention how rare it was to see the complimentary colours of blue eyes and red hair together. And the numerous freckles scattered along her cheeks and the bridge of her nose only added to her beauty.

Still gingerly smiling at her, she leaned over and touched her lightly on the nose, as to bring all attention back onto her.

“Me?” she squeaked.

Mac signed a “Yes,” along with a nod. Chandler seemed to melt into a fit of giggles as she cradled her cheeks.

“Mac!” she squealed. “That’th vewy thweet of you to th-ay.”

Mac grinned at the compliment, then looked back at the heathers, and then back at Heather.

And suddenly, an idea came to mind.

She looked back at the flowers, and then grabbed the stem again, this time tightly, before yanking it out of the soil. When she did, she heard a sharp gasp from Heather, and she looked back at her, alerted.

“Awe you allowed to do that?” she asked, pointing at the heather flower which now had roots sprouting out of the bottom of the stem. Mac looked back at it and arched a brow.

They’re flowers… people pick flowers all the time.

Though, there was no use trying to get such a long sentence across to her, so she just nodded her head while giving a light knocking moment. Chandler pursed her lips.

“Okay, if you th-ay th-o.”

Mac smiled as she tore off most of the stem, leaving the flower as mostly purple buds. Chandler was tilting her head at her, seemingly curious to what it was she was doing. Mac shuffled a little closer to her, before placing the flower on her head, pinching both ends so that it would stay in a halo-shape.

Heather blinked up at it.

“What awe you doing?”

Mac was about to point to the crown that she had made for her, but realised that she couldn’t actually see it like she could. So instead, she took the flower and placed it on her own head like a flower crown, in clear view of Heather, who raised her brows.

“Oh! Flower cwown!” she exclaimed, grinning, holding out her hand. Mac looked at it confusion, wondering if she was trying to point at it. “Gimme it for a second,” Chandler then clarified, and Mac handed it to her.

“How do we make it th-o it th-tay in thi-th th-ape?” she asked, crossing over the end of the stem and the flower. “Do we tie it?”

Mac giggled warmly, before taking hold of it again. She already knew how to make daisy chains, so this should be no different. Though, when she tried to dig her nails into the stem, Chandler hovering over her shoulder, watching her intently, she ended up mushing the stem together rather than making a neat slit like her dad did. She frowned.

“Oh, awe you twying to make a hole?” Chandler asked. Mac nodded. “Lemme twy!”

Mac handed it to her, and Chandler began to mimic her actions, only with her, she actually had nails to show. This made it so that she was able to perfect making a neat slit into the stem, one much better than her own attempt.

“Now what?” Chandler asked, handing the heather back to her. Mac pinched the ending of the flower and scooped the last few buds off the end, then poked the exposed stem through the hole, where she tied a loose knot, one just about strong enough to hold it in place. She smiled gleefully, then placed it on Heather’s head, where it sank into her wild curls so that only the petals were visible.

“Doe-th it look okay?” Chandler asked, looking up at it. Mac nodded her head, and signed,

“Amazing!”

She wasn’t sure if Chandler could understand that part, but at least she knew it looked good.

“We have to make one for you!” Chandler then declared, picking another heather. Mac was a little taken aback - she hadn’t expected her to return any favours. Regardless, she went along with it, and the whole process was repeated, with them going back and forth between who did what.

Just as Mac was about to tie the knot, a sudden voice directed at them both made her jolt in shock, and she turned around to face them.

Awww! I’m telling!” a tall boy said, before running off. She was pretty sure she shared a class with him, but not seeing him within the same setting as the classroom made it difficult to pin down what his name was. Luckily for her, Chandler was able to do that for her.

“Kurt, no!” she yelled after him. By her reaction, she guessed that what he had said was something bad, but she still couldn’t tell what he had meant by ‘telling’.

“Telling what?” she couldn’t help signing. When she looked back at Chandler, she was grimacing and squirming in her place. Mac frowned, then looked back over to try and spot Kurt on the playground. She eventually spotted him returning with a teacher following him.

“Heather, Heather!” the teacher yelled in a harsh tone, causing Mac to realise that she was probably in trouble.

“Yeth, Mith Pawker?” Chandler whimpered.

“Care to tell me why you’re picking flowers from the garden?” Miss Parker questioned.

“Flower crowns,” Mac signed to her, and had there been a way to sign “duh”, she would have done it.

“Well?” she prompted them to reply, completely disregarding her answer. Mac let her hands drop in disappointment.

“Um… we were making flower cwowns…” Heather mumbled, her head head hanging.

“Get up. Both of you.”

Chandler was the first to scramble onto her feet, then held out a hand for Mac to grab, and helped her up too. Mac sank under her glare, beginning to feel herself burn with shame.

“Those flowers are not for picking, they’re for decoration,” she scolded. “The school spent time and effort on that garden. It was not for you two to rip it apart.”

I only ripped the roots apart, Mac thought to herself.

“Thowwy, we didn’t know,” Chandler murmured, staring at the ground.

“I ought to tell your parents about this,” Miss Parker said. “They won’t be happy.”

The idea was enough to strike fear in Mac. The thought of her mother finding out she got in trouble, and her raising her voice, loud enough to make her desperate to cover her ears.

“No, no!” Chandler exclaimed, staring up at her with widened eyes. “Pleath, don’t.”

Mac signed a “Yes!” to agree with her.

Miss Parker eyed them both.

“I will give you this warning,” she said, raising an index finger. “But you have lost your next recess. I’ll be telling your teacher about this.”

Chandler gave a weak nod, and Mac copied her.

“Thank you, Mith,” Chandler responded quietly. Miss Parker didn’t acknowledge her apology, which Mac could only find to be rude.

“And take the flowers out of your hair,” she hissed. “The petals are getting everywhere.” She finished her sentence with a quick swipe on both their hair, small purple buds flying off. “What are your teachers going to say when they see how messy you look?”

When Chandler took her flower crown off, Miss Parker finally turned around, and Mac could finally scowl at her after hearing that come out of her mouth. What she looked like with the flower crown, she had no idea, but she knew for a fact that Heather Chandler did not look messy at all. She looked beautiful!

So, with her back turned, no eyes watching her, she raised her hand and mimicked an action she had seen her mother do towards her father.

“Fuck you.”

She then heard a gasp, one that didn’t sound like Chandler’s voice so when she looked over to her side, she saw both Chandler and Kurt staring at her wide-eyed. She hadn’t even realised Kurt was there - he must have been standing out of her view.

“Miss!” Kurt exclaimed, catching her attention just before she walked off. “Heather swore!”

Chandler was quick to shove her middle finger back down, along with her hand so that it would be at her side.

“I have ears, Kurt,” she muttered. “I didn’t hear anything.”

“But-” he attempted to protest, only to be cut off.

“Go on and play, Kurt. Recess is almost over.”

She then proceeded to stalk off, leaving Kurt standing there pouting. He then looked back at Mac, who smiled innocently at him, though internally, she felt very smug at having gotten away with such severe misbehaviour.

They both waiting until he had walked off, and when he did, Chandler turned to Mac and let out a laugh.

“Mac!” she exclaimed. “You juth-t th-wore at a teacher!”

Mac nodded her head. Yep.

She suddenly found herself embraced in a warm, tight hug.

“You’re ama-thing, you know that?” Chandler said, and Mac felt herself heat up with joy. And in that moment, she felt sorry that she couldn’t reply with words.

No, you are.

 


 

“Where exactly are we going?"

Veronica didn’t bother looking back at JD as she dragged him around yet another turn and down the corridor.

“Somewhere quiet,” she grunted.

“So you can yell at me?” he asked. Veronica let out an exasperated sigh.

“Yeah, kinda!” she snapped. “There’s quite a lot to yell about.”

“Well, you can just do it here.” She felt a weight pull her backwards, resulting in her stopping in her tracks and turning back around to see JD holding her wrist in place, forcing her to stand still in the middle of an empty hallway. She arched a brow at him.

“The things I wanna talk about are a little too private to talk about in the middle of a school hallway,” she argued. “I was thinking more along the lines of the disabled toilets.”

JD shot her an odd look. “People will just think we’re fucking if they see a guy and a girl go in there together,” he said. Veronica curled her lip at the statement. “And quite frankly, I don’t want any such thing getting back around to Heather after what happened yesterday.”

Veronica raised a brow at him, though came to realise that he had a point. She quickly thought up some of her other options, and just grabbed the first one that came to mind.

“Okay, plan B then,” she announced tiredly, grasping onto his wrist again and dragging him off to their destination. The two of them speed-walked in silence, up until they finally arrived to Veronica’s go-to place whenever she needed to either escape the Heathers’ wrath, or just some sort of an escape from the rest of the shitshow that was Westerburg High. That being, the area that, after months, still needed some re-painting and cleaning. Maybe someone should change that flickering light bulb, too. Already it was threatening to make her headache even worse than it already was.

“So let me guess,” JD was the one to begin, to Veronica’s surprise. “I said something I shouldn’t have, didn’t I?”

“Apparently you fucking did!” Veronica spat as she span around to face him. “What the hell did you say to Heather?”

JD grimaced. “I should give the context first. Perhaps it’ll make me look a little more credible.”

Veronica arched her brow and folded her arms. “Go on.”

“Okay, so what happened is this,” he began. “She pins me up against the wall and starts interrogating me about leaving hickeys on you.”

Not even ten seconds in, and already Veronica could feel her face flush in embarrassment.

“Obviously I did not do that. I have a shit memory, but I am sure that didn’t happen.”

“No, it didn’t,” Veronica muttered, massaging the bridge of her nose.

“Well that’s something,” JD said, some form of hope audible in his voice. “She didn’t exactly believe me when I denied it though.” He crossed his arms and leaned against the wall, his weight likely causing long-term damage to the aging pain that was already cracked and peeling. “The only reason why the topic changed is because she kinda revealed that she’d been fucking you.”

As he said those words, the corners of his lips began to curl up into a grin, and he bit his lip to stifle a laugh. Veronica glared at him.

“It’s not funny!”

JD cleared his throat and gave a nod. “That part kind of is.”

“Is not!”

“Is too.”

“It is not !”

“Is too.” He created the tiniest gap between his finger and thumb. “Just a little bit.”

Veronica pouted at him, letting out a disgruntled “hmph.”

“Oh come on,” he continued. “As much as we were rooting for you, we didn’t actually think you’d end up with any of them.”

Veronica let out an offended gasp, gaping at him.

“Excuse me?”

He just shrugged. “What? We didn’t think you were that close to any of them.” He gave a dismissive gesture a flick of his wrist. “And even if you were, we didn’t expect Heather Chandler to be gay. Or Heather Duke, for that matter.”

Veronica blinked at him in confusion. “What about Heather McNamara?”

“I haven’t got them mixed up, have I?” he asked. “She’s the yellow one, right?”

She let out an exasperated sigh. “ Yes .”

“Oh, no, we can tell she’s probably gay.”

“Wh-” Veronica stuttered, feeling so baffled that she had to massage her temples. “What gives you that impression?”

“Literally everything,” he stated dryly. “Look, Betty can sense other lesbians from a mile away. I’m only going off of her perspective, which I trust very much.”

Veronica was officially lost for words, but whether that was because of the discovery that her friends were speculating which one of her friends were gay, or if it was because Betty’s predictions were one hundred percent true.

“We actually started making bets about each Heather’s sexualities,” JD then added, which caught Veronica off guard yet again .

“Obviously, not confirmed if Heather Mac is a lesbian, but we’ve all just come to a mutual agreement about that, so we didn’t bother placing bets on her.” Mara was counted on one finger that he held up. “Now, Betty predicted that Heather Chandler was a full on lipstick lesbian, but honestly I thought that was stereotyping a little. So I put forward that I thought she was probably pansexual, because I’m pretty sure she doesn’t care who she fucks.” He then grimaced, and his hand dropped. “But then Betty said that that was stereotyping pansexual people, which I mean, fair , but she just gives me those vibes, that’s all!” He then grinned ecstatically. “So I thought I might as well ask her whilst I have the chance, and she said that she just didn’t care.” He clapped his hands. “I think I am onto something-”

“Jason, what the fuck ,” Veronica cut in, feeling completely and utterly stumped.

JD became quiet, burying his enthusiasm with poise.

“I did not come here to talk about the Heathers’ sexualities!” she scolded. “Besides, that’s their fucking business, Jesus Christ!”

“I mean, yeah,” JD mumbled. “But it’s still funny.”

Veronica let out a long groan. “Again, it really isn’t.” She glowered at him bitterly. “And what’s even more unamusing is the fact that, thanks to you, Heather is mad at me.” She grimaced. “And Heather, for that matter.”

“Which one?”

“The- hmm , no, I can’t tell you that,” Veronica sighed. “Because that Heather is the one I slept with.”

“You mean, the other one you slept with?”

Veronica felt her blood rush to her cheeks, and she let out a flustered grunt as she lightly hit JD on the arm, repeating the action as she hissed through gritted teeth,

Yes , I slept with two Heathers! You don’t need to keep reminding me!”

JD let out a snicker as Veronica’s fist landed on his arm a few more times.

“You’re out here achieving the impossible,” he said, smirking teasingly. “When you finally fuck the unholy trinity, let me know.” He snapped his fingers at her. “I’ll give you a pat on the back.”

Veronica let out a squeak, followed by a disgusted groan at the imagine that popped into her head.

“Under no circumstance am I fucking Heather Du-”

She realised her mistake half a second too late, and despite the name having already left her tongue, she clamped both of her hands over her mouth, begging for the words to return to her. Alas, it was no use, because JD had heard her loud and clear.

“So… the yellow one is a lesbian?” he murmured sheepishly. Veronica hardly heard him, instead just let out a noise that sounded like an odd, defeated blend of a groan and a whine, and let herself stumble backwards until she hit the wall behind her. As her spine came into contact with the cold, rough surface, she slid down until she was slumped onto the floor, hearing flakes of old paint breaking off as the fabric of her blazer latched onto them on its way down.

“Okay, I’ll take that as a cue to stop making jokes about this,” she heard JD say, followed by footsteps moving closer to her. She didn’t bother looking up at him, she just kept her head resting on her knees and her arms shielding her from external light. She could hear some shuffling next to her, and she could assume that JD had sat down on the floor next to her. “You okay?”

Veronica finally looked up, the dim light being enough to temporarily blind her, causing her to squint.

“No,” she replied flatly. “I fucked up by fucking two of my best friends, who also happen to be best friends with each other.” She frowned and fell back against the wall. “One of them isn’t even in today. I can only assume she didn’t want to face Heather.”

She eventually looked over to JD, who had lost any joy that had been in his expression.

“I’ll be honest,” he eventually said. “I am the absolute worst person to come to with relationship advice.” His lip quirked up into a simper momentarily. “I’m not exactly a romantic. Far from it.”

Veronica let out a huff. “Luckily for you, this isn’t romantic.”

JD arched a brow at her. “You sure?” he asked. “Because there seems to be a lot of jealousy involved with this.

“Well, yes , but-” Veronica bit her lip as she tried to think up the rest of her response. “But that doesn’t mean it’s romantic.” She peered at JD doubtfully. “Is it?”

JD just shrugged. “You tell me. They’re your friends, and you seem to see something in them that no one else can.” He stared off into the distance. “Probably because none of them let anyone else see them as likeable human beings, because in order to be likeable, you have to be flawed.” A weak huff of laughter left his lips. “Why be liked when you can be adored , right?”

Veronica’s lips slowly crawled into a smile as he continued to speak.

“So you must be something special to them if they’re letting you see past the big ‘love me’ wall they’ve each built for themselves.” He faintly smiled at her. “I’ve never seen anyone able to do that. I’d imagine their relationships would be built on a desire to be wanted, in the same way we all want that one expensive shiny thing that will always be out of reach because we’re all poor and will never be able to save up enough money because our labour is exploited and we don’t get the pay we deserve.”

Veronica let out the first warm giggle she had been able to muster all day.

Somebody’s been listening in politics,” she joked. JD snorted.

“No, I already knew all of this from Betty.”

“Ah.” She nodded slowly. “Makes sense.”

“Yep.” He let out a light chuckle, as did Veronica.

“You know,” she then said. “You seem to know a lot about about popular girls for someone who spends most of his time avoiding them at all costs.”

“Yeah, well,” he mused. “I’ve spent years hopping from school to school, and every fucking time there’s a group with a title like the Heathers.” He rolled his eyes. “Same clique, different title. In one of the schools they were called the Dolls, then in another they were the the Predators.” He let out a huff of laughter, one that sounded empty. “Others had no names at all, but they were there. You can just tell by how everyone talks about them, worships them, kisses their asses.” He looked back at Veronica. “You took those last two things a bit too literally.”

It took her a moment, but it soon enough clicked what JD meant, and she gave an abashed squawk.

“Right- that is not true!” she barked. “I’ll have you know I came out on top with both of them!”

JD’s poised demeanor suddenly collapsed as he heard those words, and he burst out into a cackle, and Veronica bit back the urge to let herself melt into a fit of laughter along with him.

“Point- point being,” he eventually said, stumbling over his words as his last few giggles escaped him. “You begin to notice patterns after a while. It’s always the same thing.” He finally relaxed. “And to me and to the rest of the school, it’ll stay that way.”

Veronica’s amused grin turned into a smile of understanding.

“Yeah, I can imagine,” she said. “Because I still remember what it was like before I joined them.” Her smile dropped. “And that sucked.”

“How so?”

Veronica bit the inside of her cheek, her hands subconsciously crawling onto her arms.

“Same as everyone on the pecking order of this shithole,” she muttered. “Shit day after shit day.” She bit her lip, and let out an exhausted sigh. “And it seems today is one of them,” she muttered, before looking back at JD. “I’m sorry I got mad. I just-”

“No, it’s… it’s fair.” He shrugged. “I’m sorry I let the thing slip to Heather,” he then said. “It should’ve clicked that-”

“No, it’s fine,” Veronica cut in. “She shouldn’t have pinned you up against a wall and interrogated you.” She then gritted her teeth and hissed, “ Extra bitch .”

Despite it being quiet, JD still heard her, and gave a chuckle. “Very true.”  He then winced. “Still, though, I’m sorry if she’s mad at you.”

Veronica just exhaled loudly as she leaned her head against the wall behind her.

“It’s not me that I’m worried about,” she murmured. “It’s Mara. She-”

She was cut off by a snort.

Mara? ” JD echoed, laughing. “You’re giving them nicknames now?”

“Hey! What’s the harm in giving them nicknames?” she fired back. “Do you know how hard it is to have three friends called Heather? It’s good to narrow it down as much as I can!”

“Okay, okay, fair.”

“Anyway, like I was saying ,” Veronica then said firmly. “I’m more worried for her. She and Heather are good friends, but…” She frowned. “She’s not very good at defending herself against her.” She brought her nails up to her mouth and nibbled on them absentmindedly. “I can only dread what happened in their supposed argument yesterday.”

“Ah. Probably not great.”

“Nope.”

“Have you asked her?” he then questioned. Veronica shook her head.

“No. She isn’t in today,” she said grimly. “So I might just go and see her later to check up on her.”

JD gave her an odd look. “Why not just call her.”

“Tried that. Bunch of times. She didn’t pick up.”

“Oh, that’s not good,” JD said. “Isn’t she the nice one too?”

Veronica gave an amused huff and nodded. “That’s her.”

“Tell her I’m sorry for exposing her,” he then said. Veronica gave him a smile.

“I will,” she replied, and following came a long, drawn out silence. The light would occasionally flicker, breaking the silence with faint buzzing sound, but it was quiet enough to become background noise. That is, until rumbling of her stomach drowned it out. Veronica pursed her lips and hugged her abdomen, while JD looked over to her suspiciously.

“Have you eaten today?”

Veronica slowly shook her head, and JD sighed.

“Well, come on then,” he told her, standing up from the ground, quickly brushing off stray specs of dust and dirt off his clothes and holding out his hand. Veronica latched onto it and allowed him to pull her onto her feet, and she also quickly cleaned herself from any stains that had attached themselves to her clothes, and ended up in a mini coughing fit when some of them were inhaled.

“Thanks,” she said after her fit ended., beginning to walk alongside him down the corridor towards the cafeteria. As she moved, the thought of her coming into close radius of Heather Chandler hit her, and her heart clenched. “Hey, um, could I maybe sit with you guys today?” she then asked gingerly. “If that’s okay?”

JD gave an amused huff. “Of course it’s okay,” he said. Veronica couldn’t hold back a smile as he continued to speak. “We can arrange another movie night if you want.”

She beamed.

“That sounds very.”

 


 

“Hello?”

Veronica tried to peer through the small gap left for her in the doorway.

“Um, hi,” she began. “I was wondering if Heather was home?”

“Are you a friend of hers?” the man’s voice asked curiously. Veronica nodded, despite the fact that he likely couldn’t see her from wherever he was behind the door.

“Yes!”

The door finally opened fully, and revealed a dark-haired, short, middle-aged man with a few grey streaks in his neatly combed hair. He was formally dressed, which told Veronica that he had likely just come home from work, though despite the smart clothing, his tired dart brown eyes told a completely different story. His skin tone was a similar, if not slightly lighter than Mara’s, and he shared several facial features with her.

“You must be Mr. McNamara?” she asked with a polite smile, holding her hand out for him. He took a moment to stare at it, before cautiously accepting the gesture and shaking her hand.

“Yes,” he replied flatly. “We haven’t met”

“No,” Veronica said, taking back her hand. “My name’s Veronica. It’s nice to meet you.”

“You’re tall,” he stated bluntly, eyeing her up and down. Veronica looked down at him, pursing her lips.

“I- thanks. I get that a lot.”

“I’m sure you do.” He then stepped aside, leaving her room to enter the house. “My daughter’s in her room. I don’t know if she’s accepting visitors, but feel free to try.”

Veronica sheepishly smiled at him as she walked past. “Thanks, I’ll go and ask.”

He didn’t reply, instead just stood in place as he closed the door behind her, not taking his gaze off of her as she walked over to the stairs and began making her way up. She got to the top, and took a turn towards Mara’s room, treading lightly out of some sort of need to not surprise her with her presence.

She made it to her room at last, and lightly knocked.

No voice came for a few moments, so she gave two more knocks. Finally, she heard a muffled sigh from inside the room, followed by a tired-sounding,

No , dad! I don’t need anything!”

Veronica awkwardly smiled to herself. “Hey, Mara? It’s me.”

A pause.

“Um… hello,” she said in a softer voice.

“Can I come in?”

Another pause.

“Sure.”

Veronica felt her heart sink a little at how flat her tone sounded, but regardless, proceeded to open the door. She walked inside, and she saw the room was coloured in a light blue hue, from what she was quick to realise was the colour-changing lights. The curtains to the window was drawn, so none of what little daylight was outside was able to invade the room, and when Veronica turned to look at Mara herself, she saw her sitting in her bed, slumped against her headboard and holding a small pot and a spoon. Veronica couldn’t see what it was, all she knew is that it was edible.

“Hey,” she said, smiling. Mara looked up at her dully.

“Hi.”

The lack of light in her eyes was enough to make her frown.

“Am I okay to sit?” she asked. Mara shrugged as she shuffled over to the side a little, making more room for her. “Thanks.”

Mara just grunted in response, before taking another spoonful of what Veronica could now see was jelly, and by how it did not at all mix with the blue lighting, she could only assume it was orange-flavoured.

“So…” she began. Mara looked at her blankly, waiting for her to speak. “You doing okay?”

Mara blinked at her.

“No.”

Veronica winced.

“I… um…” She bit her tongue. “Were you ill today?”

Mara stared at her for a moment, her pupils subtly moving left to right as she thought up an answer.

“Sorta.” She left her spoon in her pot and shrugged. “Depends what you count as ‘ill’.”

“Like… vomiting, or getting a fever, or-”

“Okay, no, none of that,” she grunted. “Just… tired.” She had slightly turned away from Veronica, making it so that she was unable to catch her eye. Veronica leaned forward a little in a failed attempt to do so.

“So I’m right in assuming you two had an argument yesterday?”

Mara’s expression grew more solemn, and she placed her jelly pot on her bed stand. She didn’t reply, though in all honesty, she didn’t need to. That was a very obvious, “yes, and it sucked.”

“I’m sorry,” Veronica murmured, shifting more closer to her.

“What for?” she asked weakly.

“I don’t know, everything?” Veronica said apologetically. “This whole thing is a big mess. I just-”

“Shut up.”

Veronica stopped, widening her eyes in surprise.

“I’m sorry?”

Mara was just giving her a tired glare.

“I’m not accepting an apology I don’t even want,” she muttered. “It isn’t you I’m mad at.” She blinked. “Dumbass.”

Veronica raised her brows at her.

“I… okay,” she said quietly, nodding. Mara simply held her gaze as she reached for the jelly pot next to her and took another spoonful.

“This jelly isn’t even nice,” she then muttered, her mouth full. “But it’s all we had, and the texture is satisfying, so fuck it.”

The corner of Veronica’s mouth quirked up.

“Okay, I lied, we have strawberry jelly,” Mac then said. “But I refuse to eat anything red.”

The corners dropped again.

“Was it that bad?” she squeaked. Mac snapped her head towards her.

“Are you kidding? It was awful !” She slammed her pot back on her nightstand. “I wouldn’t have stayed home today if it wasn’t!”

None of this was making Veronica feel any better about anything. It was only making her heart sink so far it might as well have drowned.

“That’s… not good,” she replied, trying her best to hide the shame. “Do you mind if I ask what happened?”

Mara blinked at her.

“We argued.”

“Yeah- I got that part,” Veronica said. “I mean, what did you both say?”

She lowered her gaze.

“A lot,” she began, her voice meek. “It started out as an argument about you, and she was saying, oh, how could you do this, Mac? You’re my best friend! ” Her voice became low and derisive to match Chandler’s more accurately. “So I was like, well, it’s not the first time we’ve both slept with the same guy!” She then paused to look down at her fluffy pajamas. “Ugh, I’m sweating in these. Hold on for a few minutes.”

“Alright,” Veronica responded as she flung her duvet off of her and slid out of bed. She heard her bones crack as she straightened herself out, and she had to wonder how long she had been sat in the same place for. She heard a few more clicks as she began to make her way over to the wardrobe.

“Mara?” she asked. Heather looked at her as she opened the wardrobe up, prompting her to continue. “Have you been in bed all day?” She then shuffled along the bed and let her legs hang over the edge.

“Yeah.” She began to go through her clothes, the rattling of the clothing hangers light and gentle. “Apart from to go to the bathroom, of course.” She took hold of a less thick pair of pajamas and shut the doors with her elbows. “Is it okay if I just get changed here?”

Veronica gave a chortle. “I’ve seen you naked.”

A ghost of a smile lingered on her lips for a moment, to Veronica’s delight, despite it being quick to fade.

“Well, as I was saying,” she then continued as she gripped the hem of her shirt. “It’s not like we’ve never slept with the same person before. And she knows that!” Her voice became muffled as she dragged the shirt off of her torso and over her head, revealing her toned, shimmering skin and the abs that rippled beneath-

No, Veronica! Stay on task!

She mentally slapped herself in the face and tuned back into what it was Mara was saying.

“And then she said that I was being a bad friend or whatever, so I was trying to tell her that I had the complete right to do that but she just wouldn’t listen!”

Veronica would give the occasional nod as she when on her tirade, but she just couldn’t stop her eyes from trailing a little further down, trying to stop the nagging need to rip her sports bra off so that she’d have an even better view. Or maybe that was for the best, since her abdomen was enough to distract her from what she was saying-

“Veronica, are you even listening?”

Veronica snapped out of her drooling session and cocked her head back to to Mara.

“Yep!”

Heather tilted her head and arched a brow, clearly not believing a word coming out of her mouth. She let her hands slide onto her cheeks in an attempt to hide a possible blush she could feel coming on.

“If I wasn’t tired, sad and angry right now, I would gladly seduce you,” she said, some underlying humour beneath the exasperated tone she held.

“Mhmm,” Veronica gave a flustered hum of agreement, still hiding most of her face with her hands.

She heard a brief, yet sweet giggle from Mara as she came and plopped next to her on the edge of the bed, resuming her quick change there instead.

“Sorry for ranting,” she murmured as she slipped into her new shirt. “The whole thing has just made me…” Her voice trailed off when she couldn’t think of the right word, while her hands continued to work in changing her pajama bottoms. Veronica had to guard her chin from looking down at her thigh muscles in order to not get distracted yet again, and instead decided to occupy herself with a guessing game.

“Upset? Exhausted?” she suggested. When Mara showed no signs of agreeing, she continued. “Defeated? Frustrated?”

“Pissed,” she suddenly stated. “ God , I just-” She dragged her fingers through her tattered blonde hair that she clearly hadn’t brushed. “She can just be so unreasonable!” she exclaimed, growing heated. “These days it’s as if she just doesn’t trust me anymore!” She grabbed her discarded shirt and threw it across the room, letting it land on a chair by a wall. It stayed on for a couple of seconds, but soon enough it slipped off onto the floor. Mara just sighed and rolled her eyes. “She’s just always getting angry and then never telling me or Heather what’s up, so I don’t know why I thought this time would be different.”

Veronica’s gaze saddened as Heather’s voice grew quieter, more deflated.

“If it makes you feel better, she’s mad at me too.”

Heather gave a doubtful look. “Even if she is, she’s nowhere as near as mad at you as she is at me.” She flopped backwards onto the bed, bouncing a little when she did so. Veronica swiveled around to face her.

“You sure?"

“Yes,” she grunted.

Veronica winced. “Is that why you stayed off today?” She sank into her shoulders. “Because you didn’t want to face Heather?”

Mara furrowed her brow.

“No, I stayed off because I had-” she suddenly stopped mid-sentence, staring up at the ceiling and biting her lip. Veronica tilted her head, while also feeling a yawn coming on, to her chagrin.

“I was just very tired out after it,” she eventually said. “I’m not used to yelling that much.”

“I mean, yeah,” Veronica replied after she finished yawning. “You’re not really one for yelling.”

“Nope,” she said, patting her hands on her stomach in no particular pattern. “And yet she expected me to argue.” She sat back up and hopped onto the floor, and Veronica watched her curiously as she sauntered over to her vanity.

“It’s odd,” she heard her murmur, and she leaned forward.

“What is?” she asked, before standing up herself and making her way over to her, letting out a cough as she did so. As she came closer behind her, she saw she was holding a picture frame, holding inside it an old photo of two young children. She’d seen them before already, on someone else’s vanity. Young Heather Chandler and Heather McNamara, looking up at the camera, both of them holding long flowers, though their colour was hard to make out when the whole room reflected a soft blue. Chandler held a big grin, showing two of her missing baby teeth, while McNamara was looking up with a ginger smile. Would have been funnier if it was Chandler with the ginger smile, but she could imagine that she wasn’t the shiest person around, even as a child, so that wasn’t going to happen.

“The fact that she used to understand me so well,” she muttered. “And yet these days she just… doesn’t.” She firmly placed it back on the vanity. Veronica frowned at the irritated gesture, and decided to shift the subject.

“What flowers are those?” she asked, pointing to the flowers in the picture. Mara blinked at her.

“They’re heathers.”

Veronica deadpanned at Mara, who seemed to be holding back a snicker.

“I meant the-”

“Yes, I know.” She chuckled. “We’re holding heathers.”

Veronica looked back at the photo, and she realised that those flowers did indeed match the description of a heather flower. She mouthed an “oh”.

“Whose parent made you do that for the picture?” she asked. Mara snorted.

“No one’s. It was my idea.” The faintest of smiled appeared on her lips again as she gazed back at it. “Though, I’m annoyed that it’s the greatest pun I ever made, and I made it when I was mute.”

“Oh,” Veronica huffed, interested, up until the last bit of what she said registered. “Wait, mute?”

Mara looked up at her in surprise. “Oh, did I never tell you?”

“No?” She blinked in surprise. “I mean, Heather once told me you were quiet as a child, but-”

Quiet is an understatement,” she said, scoffing. “Though, I did tell her to not tell anyone. Only I’m allowed to tell people.” She turned around and leaned the back of her waist on the vanity edge.

“That’s quite interesting,” Veronica commented, leaning on the vanity as well. “If you don’t mind me asking, how did you and Heather speak to each other if you didn’t?”

Mara looked up at her, then brought her hands to her chest, rolled her index fingers around one another, then made them part ways.

Veronica just stared at her, dumbfounded, until Heather giggled.

“Sign language,” she said. Veronica widened her eyes.

“You know sign language?” she gasped.

“We both do,” she replied. “We still use it, actually.”

Veronica squinted.

“I have noticed you two making odd gestures before.” She rested her chin on her index finger. “Are you telling me you were signing to each other the entire time?”

Mara nodded. “Don’t ever be suspicious of it. It is not a secret code.”

Veronica narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “Never said it was.”

“Mhmm. Point being- ” she suddenly said, stepping away from the vanity. Veronica arched a brow at her, but followed her back to the bed regardless. “If she could speak to me then, why not now?”

Veronica gave a pitiful frown as they both shuffled to the headboard.

“I don’t know, Heather.”

Heather gave a defeated sigh, her head falling onto Veronica’s shoulder. She, for now, pushed away the quickening beat of her heart, and simply rested her head on top of hers, blowing stray blonde strands away from her nose as to not trigger a sneeze. When she felt her nuzzle further into her neck, she felt an obligation to do more than simply lean on her. She squeezed her arm around the back of her and let her hand rest on her hip, and tugged her closer. Mara let out a light hum of contentment. And in feeling such a warmth pressed up against her, it was difficult for Veronica to not let her eyes close. But she wouldn’t let them, not before she murmured,

“I’ll talk to Heather for you.”

She felt Mara’s head shift, angling up slightly.

“You will?”

Veronica gave a breathy laugh, letting her lids fall over her eyes.

“Of course.”

A sweet giggle sounded from Heather.

“Good luck with that.”

 


 

“Thi-th i-th th-o h-aw-d!”

Chandler slammed her book onto the table, a harsh slapping noise splitting through the silent classroom, and she crossed her arms tightly and pouted.

“It’s okay, Heather. It’s supposed to be hard.” Mrs Dunnstock said from next to her. Chandler’s nose scrunched up and she averted her gaze, not wanting to risk seeing any disappointment in her expression.

“No it-th not,” she mumbled. “My other clathmate-th can wead it.” She glanced at the book from the corner of her eye, and she could only think of how easy it was to read to everyone. Everyone but her .

“Everyone works at different speeds, Heather-”

“But I can’t th-ay or wead it!” she yelled in anguish, feeling her throat tighten as she spoke.

“Heather, lower your voice for me, okay?” Mrs Dunnstock hushed. “The others are trying to work.”

Heather sniffed and lowered her eyes even further to hide the possibility of tears welling up, before giving a small nod.

“I know it’s hard, hun,” Mrs Dunnstock cooed. “But you’ll get better over time, okay? You just have to be patient.” She picked up the book off the table and opened it up after it fell in on itself. “And you’ll have to work hard.”

“Why do I have to wo-wk ha-wder than others?” she whimpered. “It not fair.” She buried her hand into her sleeve and dragged it across her eyes and nose, wet stains sinking into the dark pink fabric.

“I know,” Mrs Dunnstock sighed. “But just think. Maybe one day you’ll be the smartest girl in your class. Perhaps you’ll be in the top set of English in high school.”

Chandler glimpsed up at her skeptically.

“How?”

“Well, it’ll take some work, but I’m sure you can get there.” She moved the book a little closer to her. “And once you do, you can boast about how much work you put into it than everyone did. You can make everyone jealous!”

She could tell that it was supposed to be uplifting, but she had already started to think about how her parents didn’t even let her go to kindergarten, she was that bad at reading and writing. No, they thought it would be best if she stayed at home. She wasn’t exactly sure why - whenever she had asked them, they had just told her,

“Other children won’t understand you.”

She had been desperate to prove them wrong when she came to elementary. But in the past couple of months of special learning class , as everyone seemed to call it, she’d begun to wonder if she’d ever be able to do such a thing.

“Do you want to keep reading?” Mrs Dunnstock’s voice broke her out of her thoughts. Heather took one glance at the book, looked at the words and how they mushed together in a blurry pulp, then tore her gaze away and shook her head.

“That’s okay,” she said softly. “We can try finishing it later.”

Heather didn’t bother responding, only listened to her as she placed the book back in the red basket. Of course the basket had to be red. Red was the lowest reading level, and any low-level books would be placed with that colour.

“Do you want a colouring sheet to do until break?”

Chandler looked up and saw that Mrs Dunnstock was holding out a colouring sheet of a rabbit, and while she would usually love to - rabbits were her favourite animal after all - she just couldn’t bring herself to. She just wanted to sit there and think about all the things she kept doing wrong and why . She shook her head again.

“Is there anything you want to do?” Mrs Dunnstock then asked. Once again, she shook her head. Mrs Dunnstock let out a hum of disappointment. “Well, I don’t want you sitting there doing nothing.”

Well I do! she wanted to yell back, especially since those were some of the few words she could actually say.

“Perhaps you could go and sit with Heather and see if she needs any help?”

At the sound of her friend’s name, she lifted her head and looked over to Mac, who was sitting on the bigger table in the middle of the classroom. She thought that maybe she’d be a good distraction, so she nodded.

“Alright! Just make sure you let her figure the answers out by herself, okay?”

Heather didn’t respond, only hopped up from her chair and scurried over to the empty seat next to the brunette. When she sat down, Mac looked up from her worksheet over in her direction, made eye contact, and then returned to whatever it was she was doing. The brief interaction made Heather panic - she didn’t greet her in any way. What if she didn’t want her there.

She shook the thought away, and leaned over her shoulder to look at the sheet of paper.

“What’re you doing?” she asked her, hoping her voice didn’t sound too hoarse after cramping up before.

Mac stopped writing for a moment, and moved her arm away from the page so she had a better view of it. Heather looked at it, and while she could make out that there were printed words with Mac’s written answers beneath them, she couldn’t be sure what they all said. Some she could figure out; star? Easy. Fire? Fine. Book? Just about. To her it looked a lot more like ‘bok’ though she had recently learned that her eyes tended to not register double letters. And she was pretty sure she knew how ‘book’ was spelt, so that had to be it, right?

“Um, what i-th it?” she had to ask. It was a little harder to understand Mac’s handwriting then the print.

Mac dropped her pen, turned to her, and began to sign. Heather could only stare at her, having no idea what it meant.

“Uh…”

Mac dropped her hands when she heard that, frowning. Darn it, she can’t even understand her own friend!

Mac then put her hand on the paper, and dragged her finger along one of her hand-written answers. Chandler could make out a few odd letters, but she just couldn’t make out any legible words. She bit her lip.

“Um…” She squinted and edged a little closer to the sheet of paper. “Fuh… I…”  No matter how hard she tried, the black against the white only compressed into a jumbled mess, and she couldn’t recognize enough syllables to make out a full word, no matter how hard she tried. Feeling hot with shame, she glimpsed back at Mac, who was staring at her blankly, as she usually did with everyone. It was always so unreadable, all up for subjective interpretation to what she could be feeling or thinking. Like a blank canvas you were supposed to project onto.

And in this case, Heather couldn’t help but project her embarrassment onto her.

“I know. I’m dumb,” she mumbled, face scrunching up as she leaned back in her chair. “You don’t need to look at me like that.”

She dared to peek back at Mac, who had tilted her head slightly. Her expression, however, remained unchanged.

“Th-top looking at me like that!” she barked, making Mac flinch. Chandler hardly noticed though, with her vision growing more blurry, as if she were looking through water. “Why don’t you ju-th-t tell me I’m th-tupid?”

Mac, for a moment, opened her mouth. No sounds escaped, of course, though her expression did change. Her eyes flickered from left to right, and her hands guarded her chest as she shrank in on herself, while Chandler straightened herself up, seemingly growing taller.

“Of cour-th you can’t tell me. You can’t tell me anything!” she yelled, her voice breaking. “But I don’t know why! Maybe you can’t under-thand a word I’m th-aying-”

“Heather,” she heard Mrs Dunnstock say her name sternly, but she ignored it.

“Or maybe you don’t even want to be my friend!” She sniffed, feeling her cheeks growing wet as Mac stared back at her with wide brown eyes.

“Heather.”

Chandler whipped her head around to face Mrs Dunnstock, who was staring down at her with a disappointed glare. She bit back a whimper as she shrank under her gaze.

“That’s enough,” she said firmly. “Go sit in the play corner until you calm down.” She lifted a hand and gestured towards the far corner of the room, where boxes full of toys were stashed on and under tables, yet to be touched. Chandler sat still for a moment, just staring over at the empty corner, until Mrs Dunnstock spoke again, a little louder this time.

Now.

Chandler winced, before scrambling off the chair, trying her best to dry her face with her sleeve which was already beginning to soak up far too much moisture to handle, and she lowered her head to avoid any prying stares from Dennis or Garrett. At one point, she stumbled over a leg of a chair that she hadn’t seen coming, and let out a grown of frustration.

Once she arrived at the corner, she didn’t bother even sparing a glance towards the boxes full of toys, all available for her. She simply dropped onto the scratchy red and yellow patterned carpet, folded her arms tightly and crossed her legs. She let her head hang, and the drops of tears in her eyes fell onto her pink dress. She watched as each drop soaked into the fabric, becoming a darker colour. Elsewhere in the room, she could Mrs Dunnstock murmuring words she couldn’t hear, or didn’t process. When she looked up for a brief moment out of curiosity, she saw she was speaking to Mac, whose face was hidden by her long brown hair.

When she finished speaking to her, she heard her walk around the room, then stop to speak again. She didn’t bother keeping her head up for that long, but she could guess that she was talking to Garrett and Dennis.

Of course she’d prefer to speak to them anyway. They were all still head-down, doing their work. As usual, they’d actually complete it, while she yet again had put the book down, unable to reach the end and complete a full story. Even though many of the books the school had to offer weren’t all that intriguing, she still wanted to be able to say that she finished one. That she read it all the way through without having to go back to the beginning of the page, or had to stare at a jumble of words she’d never seen before. Perhaps then she’d be able to find something to be proud of. Something she could run up to her parents with at the end of the day, hopping up and down ecstatically as she told them all about the book she read. It didn’t even have to be an interesting book, it just had to be something other than,

“I didn’t finish it.”

Or even worse,

“I don’t remember the story.”

At least it sounded like she’d gotten through a few pages with the first one, if not much. But if she dared say the second one, she’d get the response,

“You didn’t even bother reading it this time?”

Because she could never understand why, despite her insisting that she had read it, her parents just wouldn’t believe her. Apparently it was her fault that she couldn’t recall the words she had read, and as a result, causing the story itself to become a blur.

She’d always take their word for it. They were her parents, and they knew better than her. Heck, anyone knew better than her. She was six years old, and yet reading and saying the most simplest things was a difficult task.

The sharp sound of the bell splitting through the silence of the room made her jump, and she glanced up to see her other three classmates standing up, ready for recess. She, however, stayed put, letting her face rest in her palm while her free hand remained on the floor, fingers gliding over the rough texture of the carpet.

“Have a good rest of the day, class!” she heard Mrs Dunnstock call. “And have fun on your break.”

Heather knew she should be getting up and following the others outside. That was the rule. But the idea of leaving this room and walking out onto the playground full of screaming kids just didn’t sound appealing right now. She felt as if she were being weighed to the ground, stuck in place.

“Heather?”

She didn’t look up.

“Aren’t you going out to play?”

Heather didn’t react for a moment, then shook her head slowly.

“Are you sure? Fresh air is always good for you.”

Irritation bubbling in her chest, Heather scowled and twisted her body away from Mrs Dunnstock.

“Well, if you’re not going to go, I’ll stay here.”

For a moment, she dreaded the idea of her having to spend even more time under the crushing pressure of sitting next to an adult, but when she glanced over her shoulder, she could see in her peripheral vision that she had pulled out the chair of her desk, and had chosen to sit on the other side of the room. She could have sighed with relief, but she wasn’t in the mood to show any positivity right now.

“You’ll have to go after recess though, okay?” she heard her say. “There’s another class who will need this room, and you have your own class to go to.”

Heather didn’t respond.

A few more moments of silence passed, and she figured that Mrs Dunnstock had finished speaking at last. She finally decided to lift her head up, and her eyes landed on the first box she saw, sitting not too far away from her. At first, she just stared at it. But eventually, curiosity got the best of her, and she shuffled over to it. She pulled it out from under the table and peered inside, and spotted an orange toy truck, flames painted on the sides. Seeing this made it so she was quick to realise that this was a box full of toys that boys would play with, and usually she’d just go along with it and grab a doll or a hairbrush. That’s what her parents would always tell her to do in preschool. But no one was around to tell her to do otherwise, so she might as well, right?

She hesitantly picked the truck out of the box. It was fairly big, but quite light. She set it on the ground in front of her and pushed it back and forth, finding that the wheels rolled smoothly over the carpet. It felt as though an underlying smile was trying to lift up the corners of her mouth, but the lingering misery kept them down.

Her hands seemed to gain a mind of their own as they began to push the truck back and forth between them, passing it to one another. She lazily followed the toy with her eyes, feeling herself becoming detached from the world with each shove.

Then, in a moment of apathy, she pushed the truck again, only this time it rolled right past her other hand, and was free to roam across the carpet to the other side of the room. She stared at it helplessly as it made its journey across the room, waiting for it to collide with one of the drawers in its path. Only, before it could reach them, a tanned hand was held out in front of it, and the front landed in its palm. Heather blinked at it, then looked up to see that Heather Mac was sitting there, a fair distance from where she was sitting. In the hand that didn’t hold the truck, she held a piece of cream-coloured paper and a black crayon. She assumed she had it for colouring reasons, so she wondered why she was sitting on the carpet with her.

Before she could even think of any questions, though, Mac pushed the truck back in her direction, and Chandler caught it in her hands. She stared down at it for a moment, then re-traced the truck’s path back across the floor, and concluded that the longer the distance, the more exciting. Avoiding all eye contact with Mac, she lightly pushed the truck back towards her, but the nudge was too light to reach her. Mac smiled considerability, before shuffling a little closer to reach it, where she shoved it back in Chandler’s direction.

This time, Chandler was more ready for it, and she latched onto it with both hands. She also looked up for a second, making sure her path was straight towards Mac. When satisfied, she launched it forward with much more force, and the wheels were so fast that it almost crashed into Mac’s folded legs, had her arm not shot forward to stop it. Chandler looked up again, and saw a warm smile blooming on her face. It was hard to not mimic it.

Mac propelled the truck back over to Chandler, and she once again caught it with ease, only this time she didn’t send it back straight away. Instead, she paused, looked back down at the truck that had been returned to her out of what seemed to be a genuine act of kindness, or a want to spend time playing with her.

In fact, Mac should have gone outside to play, not stayed in here.

Had she stayed for her?

She looked back at her uneasily, though Mac continued to offer her a friendly smile. Chandler pursed her lips, then began to shuffle closer. Mac blinked at her a few times.

“Why don’t you th-peak?” she asked, her voice quiet. Mac’s brows knitted, and her head lowered a little. She then slowly shook her head, and her shoulders shrugged. Chandler frowned.

“I-th it because you don’t like me?”

Mac looked up again, her hand shooting up with two fingers raised. In a quick motion, those fingers fell back down, and she shook her head.

“No?” Chandler guessed with uncertainty. Mac shook her head again, and Chandler’s heart sank.

“You don’t like me?”

Mac’s eyes widened, and she repeated the gesture, this time even quicker.

“I-th that a no?”

Mac’s fingers then folded into a loose fist, and her hand made a knocking motion as she nodded.

“Ye-th?” Chandler was growing less concerned and much more puzzled. “Wait, th-o, you don’t like me or you do?”

Mac froze for a moment, seemingly to think up an answer. She then repeated the knocking motion.

“Y...yeah?” Chandler asked. Mac repeated it with a curt nod. Relief flooded through Chandler at her reply, finally finding some reassurance, though she soon returned to her original question.

“Then why don’t you th-peak?”

Mac’s hand fell back onto her lap, and she frowned. Chandler tilted her head curiously as she lifted the hand holding the sheet of paper, unfolding it and placing the black crayon beside her. She gingerly looked at her as she offered it towards her. Chandler hesitated, confused as to what it was she was being given. She took hold of it, flipping it around onto a side that wasn’t blank. The cream colour was easy on her eyes, so the messy black crayon scribbles weren’t so difficult to make out.

“I… I’m…” She sounded to herself, squinting. I’m… th-oh-wy?”

She looked over it a few more times, and realised that it was a misspelling of ‘sorry’. She was pretty sure there was another ‘r’ in there than Mac had missed out.

“I’m th-owwy,” she said again at a normal pace, before moving onto the next word. “I’m th-owwy I… can’t?” She glanced up at Mac for reassurance, and she made the knocking motion again, telling her ‘yes. Good, she was right. “I can’t… tak? Take?”

Mac made another gesture, gesturing both her index fingers towards and away from her mouth.

“Talk?” she guessed. Mac signed ‘yes’ again, so she resumed.

“Talk… like… you,” she said slowly. Each time Mac would sign her yes to tell her she was right. The corner of her mouth picked up each time she did. “It-th… uh…” She moved closer to the paper. “Ee… ee-thy.” Ah. Misspelling of easy. That didn’t have two of the same letter in it, she was pretty sure. “Ea-thy!”

Mac signed yes.

“It-th ea-thy… to… talk like… me.”

She scanned over it again.

“I’m th-owwy I can’t talk like you,” she said at a more sped-up pace. “It-th ea-thy to talk like me.”

She also took note of a little doodle at the bottom of the sentence, made out of yellow and red crayons, of two little hearts. They were oddly well-drawn, considering the handwriting wasn’t the neatest thing in the world.

Chandler then let the piece of paper fall on her lap, and was met with an apologetic gaze. She frowned, suddenly feeling bad for losing it with her before. She may not know what it was holding her from back from speaking, but perhaps she’d find out one day?

“Well, I’m th-owwy for yelling at you,” she sighed, handing her the sheet of paper back. Mac took it and placed it next to her crayon. “It i-th-n’t your fault.”

A smile formed on Mac’s face, to her relief. Chandler couldn’t help but smile back. Mac then made another gesture, but it wasn’t one she understood, and the corners of her mouth dropped.

“I don’t know why you want to be friend-th with me, though,” she murmured. “I mean, you can do all your wo-wk here, I can’t.” She stared down at her hands as she twiddled her thumbs. “You don’t even have to talk to do well.” She brushed some of her ginger curls out of her face. “I’m not getting better at all.” She glanced at the piece of paper and sighed. “And it-th not like you can talk to me anyway. You can’t even w-ite to me, becau-th I can’t wead it!”

She glimpsed up at her, and saw that she was signing “yes” again, followed her pointing at her, to which she assumed was “you” and finished with two loose fists being flicked forward. That part she didn’t get, however there were few things that “yes, you-” ended with. The only two things she could think of on the spot were “are,” which made little sense in this context, and “can,” which did.

“Ye-th, you can, did you ju-th-t thay?” she asked doubtfully, though to her surprise, Mac’s eyes lit up and she nodded enthusiastically. Chandler furrowed her brow in confusion, though soon realised what Mac was referring to when she picked up the sheet of paper and pointed to the words. She understood that she was pointing out the fact that she had just read out the messily-written words on the paper, and she gave a grateful smile.

“I mean, yeah,” she said. “But you can’t always w-ite to me.” She frowned again. “And I ju-th-t feel weally bad making you put up with me not knowing what you’re thaying.”

Mac tilted her head, before signing, “you can” again. Chandler rolled her eyes.

“No I can’t! I don’t know why you think I can under-thand-”

She paused.

She held Mac’s gaze.

And she gasped.

“Oh!” She jittered in excitement. “Oh, I ju-th-t did!”

Mac beamed and signed a gleeful, “Yes!”

And the fact that Chandler picked up on that fact so quickly made her even more effervescent.

“I’m lea-w-ning !” she exclaimed, grabbing Mac’s wrists and flipping onto her knees. “I can under-thand you!”

A quiet giggle rippled from Mac, and Chandler became overjoyed. Her feet kicked up and down behind her as she launched herself onto her in a tight hug.

“I’m gonna lea-w-n evewything!” she declared, parting from the hug but still gripping her by the shoulders. “Then you can talk to me about all your favouwite flow-uhs and play game-th and…” She paused to think up more. “Uh… other thing-th…”

Another laugh erupted from Mac, and Chandler smiled warmly.

“And I’m glad we can,” she said softly. “Becau-th I do weally like hanging with you.”

Mac grinned up at her, then signed “You,” followed by her folding her three middle fingers and rocking her hand from side to side. She wasn’t sure what that meant, however through a process of elimination as well as the shared emotion of joy, she could take a guess that Mac had replied with,

“You too.”