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Shitty couldn’t even begin to describe Stephanie’s day so far. Not only had Miles’ babysitter canceled out on her at the last minute, and not only did her mother decide to pay a surprise visit, but it was Monday and Stephanie had forgotten to get this upcoming weeks groceries.

Again.

Stephanie ran her fingers through her disheveled ponytail as she parked her Subaru at the entrance to a run-down supermarket at least ten miles away from her home. The tired brunette reasoned that her excursion was a fair one, considering that she never had a spare moment for herself and that the closer store reminded her too much of both Davis and Chris.


She sighed audibly and allowed herself a satisfying headbang on her steering wheel to snap herself out of her grief. She had groceries to get, a little boy to feed, and blog materials to purchase. Stephanie grabbed hold of her purse, locked her car, and grabbed a cart from an annoying mother of three just as the rain came pouring down. The other woman, just as a brunette as she with a haggard expression and dull eyes, glared at her with a surprising fierceness.

Stephanie had never been good at talking to other moms. She didn’t feel as if there was any reason to start now.


They walked in together, the disjointed, single family going first when a sultry, deadpan voice sounded from above over the speaker system.


“Welcome to Massey Mart, thanks for bringing your fucking kids.”


The other brunette looked astonishingly offended, but Stephanie wanted to laugh, a dark chuckle blooming up from the depths of her chest. The scuffle over the system between the speaker and a different woman only made Stephanie’s smile grow twice as wide.


“How many times do I have to tell you not to screw with the microphone?”


“But, Stace-”


“Don’t you dare, “but, Stace,” me-”


“It was fucking hilar-”


And that was where the conversation ended; with the receiver hung up clumsily and an echo of raucous laughter peeling through the aisles. Stephanie was shaken out of her stupor by a very impatient old man cursing at her to move so he could get to his prunes. The brunette hadn’t even noticed the other family’s absence until this moment and forced herself to snap out of her daze. Maybe those martinis were a bad decision last night, Stephanie groaned inwardly.


The fresh vegetable aisle was indeed lacking, and the brunette found herself wishing she had suffered through her grief to get ripe tomatoes. Just as she was sifting through what she assumed was halfway decent romaine lettuce, she heard an argument between a very familiar voice and an unnaturally, high-pitched, male tone.


“Do we look like a fucking Whole Foods to you?”


It was that woman again. Her low, husky timbre sent shivers up Stephanie’s spine. And it didn’t help that she was spouting profanities all over the place. God, I really need to get laid, Stephanie reflected miserably. She didn’t think that her bi side would ever make its way back to the forefront after her marriage. But Davis was dead, Chris dead in the ground beside him, and she a single widow. Apparently, her body wanted to remind her that she always had a number of options before her.


For now, she opted to discreetly inspect wretched broccoli stalks while eavesdropping on the conversation between the mystery woman and her high strung customer.


“Your assistant manager specifically said that they were located here, at this very spot!”

Ah, so he was one of those shoppers — much too picky, and much too veganist for a small store in the middle of nowhere.


“Look, asshole , I don’t know what that fucking yeast infection told you, but she’s wrong . It’s not my fucking fault that my boss doesn’t know what the hell is in our fucking inventory. If it's not too much trouble for you and yours, you can take your tight-ass stripper pants and your soccer mom Prius to the nearest Whole Foods you can find.”


The woman said her piece with grace, sarcasm, and loads of sex appeal. Stephanie had to hold back a laugh and was tempted to turn around when fast, squeaky tennis shoes arrived on the scene. “Emily!” The new female voice was clipped and strangled as if stress and too much caffeine ran the woman's life.


“We have had this discussion time and time again! How hard is it to be polite to a single customer?”


Emily.


Stephanie wasn’t sure why, but the name seemed to compliment the employees firey spirit and foul mouth. The brunette could practically picture her eye roll as she sighed dramatically. She assumed that Emily had tried to open her mouth again when the assistant manager stopped her. “Let me handle this one, Emily. We’ll be discussing this incident later.” Emily scoffed, and Stephanie assumed that she realized there was no genuine threat behind her superior’s words.


Stephanie heard the adjusting of an apron as if the manager was attempting to control herself. “Now, sir, what may I help you find? I must apologize for the nature of my employee. I assure you that we’ll be having a major attitude adjustment.” The man was silent for more than a few moments before he finally mustered up the courage to speak. Stephanie smirked as she realized that Emily had most likely scared the shit out of his pompous ass. “I’ve been looking for Hales Organic Kale Chips, and I was told by you that you sell them here.”


“Of course we do!” Stephanie could feel the other woman physically turn to face Emily, an idea in her mind. “Emily, why don’t you tell this lovely man where the chips are?” Emily snorted with derision, and Stephanie continued to make her way down towards the despondent-looking carrots to hear more of what was about to take place.


“Last I checked, Stacie, you told me to stay out of this. This lovely man , as you call him, is perfectly fine in your capable hands.”


Stephanie had to jump back to avoid being rammed into the produce as Stacie dragged Emily to a slightly secluded corner. “Listen. I didn’t want to hire you in the first place. Who in their fucking right mind wants to hire a criminal? I didn’t, but the owner of our store did because apparently, you look like Blake Lively, who I assume he drools over in his sleep.


“Regardless, no one wants to hire a convicted felon, got it? This job is your last shot at a potential release from probation, and I know you want that. So shape the fuck up and get to it.” Stephanie froze. That woman, that sexy, snarky woman, was a criminal? The brunette was worried that that didn’t surprise her as much as it should have.


They must have moved back towards the man, as Stacie announced to him that Emily would gladly show him the way to the chip aisle. Of course, the asshole had to stick his foot in mouth at the wrong moment.


“So, will the blonde bitch be cooperating this time? Or do I have to stand here all day and wait for proper, polite service?” Both Stephanie and Stacie stifled a gasp at the same moment, and the brunette knew things were about to go straight to hell.


Emily’s voice was tight as she spoke. “Yeah, we sell Hales Organic Kale Chips. They’re on the homosexual hipster aisle next to the recycled toilet paper; you glitter dick.”


Stephanie heard an offended gasp as the man stormed out of the store, Stacie rushing after him, pleading with him to wait. It was at that moment she chose to turn around. Her breath caught in the back of her throat and her blood rushed to her lower extremities as well as to her face. The woman, Emily, was strikingly tall, icy blue irises shimmering beneath perfectly sculpted eyebrows. She had to be at least 6’0, and her tall, slender build put any professional model to shame.


Unfortunately, Emily noticed her as well. Her eyes narrowed with sadistic amusement, most likely capitalizing on Stephanie’s barely disguised attraction. The blonde sauntered her way over, hips swaying as she moved. Stephanie felt her hands shake with nervousness, despite her steady grip on the cart handle. Emily continued to walk towards her, stalking closer and closer until Stephanie found herself memorizing each tiny freckle on the blonde's cheeks. Emily smirked and leaned in, her breath that smelled of cherries caressing Stephanie's nose and face. “Boo,” she whispered playfully.


The brunette couldn’t help but stutter. “I...um...I...hi?” Emily let loose a gorgeous laugh that sent shivers up Stephanie’s spine, and she thought she could glimpse a hint of endearment in the blonde’s gaze. “Why so shy, baby? Haven’t you seen a poster board blonde before?” Stephanie still couldn’t find her words.


Emily casually booped her on the nose as Stacie furiously called her name from the front entrance. “You look like a good time, baby. Come visit me again.” She gestured in Stacie’s direction. “Maybe you can help me get that bitch off my back.”


As Emily walked away, Stephanie frozen in her wake, she casually called back, “Oh, I almost forgot. Welcome to fucking Massey Mart, baby.”


The brunette sighed miserably at her susceptibility to tall, gorgeous women, and she could only thank Emily for helping to reignite the passionate relationship Stephanie had once had with her hand.






Chapter Text

“Why do I let you live with me,” a woman with dark hair that sported purple streaks snapped. She was making omelets for the third time in a row that week, considering they had a shit ton of cheese that Emily had stolen from work left, and the stovetop was the only thing that worked.

Meanwhile, Emily was sprawled out on their plaid couch that smelled of cat piss and was centered in the middle of a living room that had one other chair, a lamp that consistently short circuited, and a TV from the 90’s that neither of them used.

 

“Well, it’s not because you like me,” Emily drawled, throwing a ball of tinfoil in the air. The woman, Sasha, turned and glared at her with unfriendly, gray eyes. “Congratulations, you got something right for once in your fucking life. Give the bitch a prize.”

The blonde on the couch rolled her eyes at her roommate, growing irritated as the ball hit her on the head.

 

“How did I “screw up” this time, huh?”

 

Sasha let loose a huff of anger as she slammed the omelets and two light beers onto the unbalanced, kitchen table. “I don’t know, Emily.” She paused for dramatic effect. “Oh, wait, yes I do. I got a call from the grocery store-“

 

Emily groaned, completely interrupting. 

”Oh, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Stacie thinks she can run my life, that I’m such a terrible, fucking mess that can’t handle a single-“

 

“Because you can’t,” Sasha growled️, gritting her teeth together. “Jesus Christ, you can’t handle a single goddamn human interaction, can you? You’re acting out like a child, Emily, I shouldn’t be getting calls about your “misbehavior.””

 

Emily stiffened as she sat down at one of the two beach chairs sat at their table.

 

She opened her mouth to argue, but Sasha plowed on, done with the events of that day. “No, you don’t get to talk. Do you not realize that if you get fired from this job, you have a snowball's chance in hell of getting off probation? I don’t know where the hell you came from, but if you weren’t with me-“

 

Emily shot to her feet, eyes blazing and dirty wife beater swinging below her hips. “Fuck you! Fuck you and your half-assed hero complex! You don't know what I’ve done or been through.” Emily swallowed, almost as if it caused her pain to talk.

 

”I’m not a mangy bitch that you can pick up off the street like a fucking dog! You promised you’d never ask, and I would never bring women home, that’s what we agreed. So don’t bring that shit up again.”

 

Sasha sighed as she cracked open her beer. “I know what I said. And I’m sorry.” She punched Emily in the shoulder, her eyes watery. “I care about you, bitch. I want you to see your son again, he’s a cute little shit.”

 

Emily rolled her eyes as she dug into her food with a plastic fork. “Hey, that “little shit,” is only six years old.” Sasha shrugged good naturedly. “Whatever. I just want you to see your kid again.”

 

They shared a watery smile, and both women ate in silence for a few moments.

 

“You know,” Sasha contemplated sarcastically, “Can you maybe steal some shit besides cheese?”



Emily woke up in a state of annoyance the next morning, ready to start her morning shift at eight. There were two rooms in the shitty apartment Sasha owned; she already worked at run-down McDonald’s herself, and those rooms were the bedroom and the kitchen.

The public toilet was outside, and there was no shower. This factor paired with her not having time to cook a true breakfast meant she left two hours early via an old Honda so she could hit the gas station shower and get a bite to eat.

 

Of course this gas station was at least forty five minutes away from their apartment.

 

By the time Emily arrived at the store, she was in a shitty mood, with no happiness to speak of. But anyone who knew her, regardless of her personality, were aware of her punctuality.

Despite her front, the blonde was deeply aware she couldn’t lose her only form of employment.

She didn’t give two shits about herself; what she truly wanted was to raise her baby right before he forgot her.

 

As she clocked in and walked to her register, she gave a grunt acknowledging Stacie, and the brunette manager huffed at her but said no more.

 

Of course the silence got old quickly.

 

And, of course, so did Emily’s playing with the overhead speaker.

 

Stacie stamped her foot like a five year old and narrowed her eyes, her many smiley face pins and welcome sticks jostling on her apron. “Will you stop that already? I thought you’d learned quite enough from the happenings of yesterday.”

 

Emily stood to her full height; even in plain tennis shoes she was tall, and she felt a glimmer of satisfaction at Stacie’s gulp of nervousness.

“What happenings? You mean calling my fucking roommate like I’m a naughty kindergarten? How did you even get my house number anyway?”

 

Stacie gulped. “I had no choice, Emily . Your parole officer gave it to me. It’s procedure, you idiot.” She shook her head, her badly highlighted brunette streaks moving with her.

 

“I don’t understand how a mother , of all people, would have trouble abiding the law when they have a child to think of.”

 

Emily clenched her fists on the counter and stared at the scars on her knuckles. She was used to fighting, used to defending herself; not everything in this world was right.

 

But Stacie was.

 

I don’t understand.

 

I don’t understand.

 

I don’t understand.

 

The blonde wasn’t proud of herself; how could she be?

Her kid was gone, her son , because she had fucked up.

Beyond fucked up, and she hated herself for it, and she didn’t understand that part of her.

 

She vaguely heard Stacie calling her name, but she wasn’t interested in conversation anymore.

Emily slammed open the cash register and started counting her change.

 

It was going to be a long day.

Chapter Text

The silver Subaru lurched into the driveway nearly crushing the flower bed planted so delicately next to a mailbox hand painted with bees that read, “Welcome to our Hive!” on the side.

That was cute. A few years ago, Stephanie thought. 

 

Stephanie adjusted her makeup and blouse, trying to make sure neither her son nor mother would be able to tell that she’d been drinking all day in an abandoned parking lot near their house. 

 

Of course, her mother chose that moment to knock, rather harshly, on the driver's side window. Her hazel eyes shone with disgust and anger.

“Where have you been all day? I had to pick Miles up from school. I had to. Is there a reason for that?”

 

Stephanie had to school her features into the old, happy-go-lucky woman she used to be. “I was volunteering at the animal shelter and lost track of time, mom. A few of the other parents and I thought it might be nice to consider the safety of the area so we could organize a field trip.”

 

The brunette held her breath until her mother smiled, the wrinkles around her eyes scrunching with love and relief. “Oh, Stephanie. You should have called, sweetheart! But at least you were doing something that was worth your time.”

She sniffed haughtily and crossed her arms over her chest, her cat adorned necklaces shaking with her.

“Unlike that trip, you took to that dump of a grocery store. Why would you travel so far out of your way, and somewhere so...unsavory?”

 

Stephanie was itching in her seat at this point. The brunette needed a quick aspirin before she saw her son, who she needed to spend time with.

Plus her “water” bottle was out of vodka. If she was going to get through tonight’s dinner with her mother, she needed all the alcohol she could get.

Stephanie rolled her eyes. “You might find out if you’d let me out of my car, Carol.”

 

The larger woman scoffed but moved back all the same.

“Don’t you get a tone with me, Stephanie. Besides, you promised to recall your “adventure” to that horrid store. And I prefer we have this conversation outside. We don’t need to subject Miles to any more trauma than he has already experienced.”

 

Stephanie gritted her teeth and clenched her fists. If she could lay into her mother, oh fuck yeah she would.

 

But you can’t, Stephanie, she reminded herself. Miles needs his family.

So what if his family consists of a near alcoholic widow and an overbearing, too-much-makeup wearing grandmother?

 

I mean, we’re family, right?

 

Stephanie sighed.

 

But not the family he deserves.

 

She ran her hand through her hair in exasperation. “I just needed to get away for a bit. Sometimes, you just need to drive on your own to the middle of nowhere, and if you find civilization, good for you. It’s a good way to escape grief, even for just a few hours.”

 

Her mother’s eyes softened a bit, but she said nothing. “All right, dear. I understand, slightly.”

 

Stephanie sighed with a small glimmer of relief.

 

“Just do it somewhere else next time.”

 

Why did Stephanie expect anything else?”

 

xxxxx

 

Regardless of how she felt or how she changed, nothing would lessen Stephanie’s love for her son.

The minute she walked in the door and hung her purse on the Mickey Mouse coat rack, the pounding of little boy tennis shoes thundered her way.

 

“Mom, mom, mom! You’re home!”

 

Stephanie relished in the smell of Miles’ hair when he jumped into her arms.

She kissed the top of his forehead and ruffled his curly hair. “Did you have a good day at school, smooch?”

 

Miles screwed up his face. “Ew, mom that nicknames for babies.” Her son puffed out his chest and said, rather seriously, “I’m five years old, now.”

 

Stephanie grinned at her son's posture. “Well, then, you’re practically an adult,” she said seriously. Miles smiled at her, his missing front teeth gaping. “Yup.”

He jumped up to his feet before she could remind him that his shoes were untied. “Grama already made supper for us, so we better hurry.”

 

Stephanie stiffened as she stood and glared at her mother, who was reorganizing the shoe cubby even though it was perfectly fine.

“Carol,” she spoke, irritably. Her mother stood up, looking much too innocent. “Why, whatever is the matter, dear?”

 

Stephanie growled and shoved Miles’ backpack that he dropped into her chest. “You know what I’m talking about. I can cook dinner just as well as you, the majority of my blog consists of my cooking. You could have waited, mom.” She glared even harder.

“You may be his grandmother, but Miles is my son, and I can make dinner for us every day of the week and twice on Sunday.”

 

Stephanie was surprised by her mother’s next reaction. She had never seen her so angry.

 

“Who says you can care for him at all? Blood means nothing when you can’t be a halfway decent mother.” She shook her head. “Davis would be so disappointed in you.”

 

Before Stephanie could defend herself, she added one last blow.

 

“And so would Chris; don’t think I don’t know what happened there, because I have eyes, daughter. I know who Miles really belongs to, and if you care about his opinion, then you’ll teach his son right.”

 

The brunette quickly deflated. She couldn’t argue with that. What could she say to that now? 

 

Not much , she reflected.

 

Her mother smirked, knowing she had won this battle. She walked by, squeezing Stephanie’s shoulder a little too hard. “Dinners on the table, darling. Be there in exactly five minutes.”

 

Stephanie sighed. The portly, older woman loved to give her time limits on simple tasks just so she could accuse her daughter of being untimely and lazy.

Stephanie stopped giving a shit quite a few years ago, and simply took whatever time she could afford. 

 

No matter how much Carol emphasized a clean house, nothing could prevent Iron Man and Captain American from battling it out on the stairs, or the Millennium Falcon and the ill-fated Challenger racing upwards towards space.

Every step had to be calculated and careful, otherwise Stephanie would have been stabbed in the foot by a LEGO a very, very long time ago.

 

She found it rather endearing that there were stickers on the walls and shoes everywhere.

 

But Stephanie needed the upstairs bathroom to herself, if not to cry to herself and think for a bit.

She made careful not to slam the door in frustration as she locked herself into the master bathroom, the second person using it being the one who didn’t deserve it.

 

The brunette walked over to her messy sink and grabbed a cloth from the towel rack to wipe her makeup off. She’d never liked it, but if she wanted to pass as a functional person, she needed it. 

 

She tried not to scrub too hard and ended up doing it anyway, as if she were trying to clean some part of her that would remain filthy for the rest of her life.

 

Stephanie embraced the stars behind her eyes as she shoved the rough fabric onto her face, wondering if there was any part of her life that she could blame on someone else, wondering if there was anything in this world that she wasn’t at fault for. 

 

You know that’s not true .

 

Stephanie sighed at the voice in her head.

 

I know.

 

She looked in the mirror in front of her, embarrassed at the fact that she couldn’t even bring a single tear to her eye.

 

I care! I should be able to feel that! Why can’t I?

 

Stephanie wondered where that part of her went; her emotional side, the cheerful one, the one that somehow drove her to owning a helium tank.

Of course she put on a face for others and her viewers, but not on her own.

 

Stephanie could barely recognize herself anymore. She had always wanted to know the answer to her age old question

 

What happened to me?

 

Suddenly, for no reason whatsoever, she thought of the blonde from the grocery store a few days ago.

 

Emily.

 

She wondered about her; why she was there, who she was, and, perhaps the most important question of all; why was she the way she was?

 

Stephanie clearly didn’t know any of the things.

 

But she wanted to know.

 

Screw life. I’m headed to that store tomorrow.







Chapter Text

All Emily could think about were Stacie’s brutally honest words, letting it ultimately distract her from properly bagging her next customer’s goods.

 

“I don’t understand how a mother , of all people, would have trouble abiding the law when they have a child to think of.”

 

Emily clenched her fist around the receipt and shoved it into the hand of the man in front of her, ignoring his rolled eyes and not-so-subtle middle finger. 

 

Why does everyone have to be right but me? I wasn’t right when I was Hope, I wasn’t right when I married the wrong man, had the wrong kid, and I certainly-

 

The blonde shook her head violently. She refused to think of that time; the time when an orange jumpsuit was her most fashionable outfit, wearing it because she was fucking punished for doing the right thing. 

 

But was murder really the right thing?

 

Emily snarled as she pounded her fist on the moving track meant for produce and other items, making it ripple and nearly tear in the middle. She grinned maliciously, feeling that odd, familiar joy that came with hurting others.

 

People murder people all the time and never get caught. You were just unlucky, but you did it to protect your son so why should you have been taken, why you, why me-

 

“Now, what did that conveyor belt ever do to you?”

 

Emily jerked her head out of her hands, embarrassed to be caught in such a moment of weakness. The blonde nearly bit the other woman’s head off, but paused when she got a closer look at her face.

 

The intruder had mousy, brown hair, and her eyes were haggard with a nasty hangover that screamed “alcoholic.” But they were also wide, and a beautiful hazel. Emily actually had to force her gaze away, for fear of being caught unaware. She looked like she had a small determination in her eyes, which was more than Emily could say for herself. 

 

“Are you here to buy some shit, or talk my goddamn ear off?”

 

To her surprise, the woman smirked. “Depends on what you want from me, glitter dick.”  

 

Emily flushed as she realized this was who she’d seen yesterday. The blonde had no idea why she was embarrassed, flustered, even. Just the previous day in that poor excuse for a vegetable aisle, Emily had had the utmost upper hand, and exercised it as well. Suddenly, she was thrown straight under the bus by this ridiculous soccer mom.

 

The cashier shook her head.

 

This is my turf. And I’m taking it back.

 

She sauntered around the counter, stroking a long, nimble finger up the brunettes hand. Emily relished in her tiny shiver. She smirked, locking her cyan gaze with the woman currently trapped in her thrall.

 

“Didn’t your mommy ever tell you that it isn’t polite to eavesdrop?”

 

The blonde grinned at her discomfort, prepared to go straight for the throat. She had just opened her mouth when the brunette lunged forward and pressed their foreheads together. 

 

“Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t,” the other woman whispered sensually. “But I was punished for having a dirty mouth, Emily.”

 

Emily jumped at the contact, but chose not to break it. “Well, well, well, baby. Isn’t someone a smart ass, remembering this posterboard’s name.” She leaned closer to the point where their noses were touching. 

 

“Willing to share yours, soccer mom?”

 

The brunette dared to lean back, surprisingly to Emily’s disappointment, and laugh in her face. “Fair trade, I suppose.” Her hazel eyes glittered with mischief. “It’s Stephanie. Stephanie Smothers.” Emily shook her head in bewilderment.

 

The Stephanie Smothers? As in Davis Smothers’ wife?” The blonde had heard about that horrific story on the news, and was suddenly in awe of the woman in front of her. No wonder she looks a little fucked up.

 

Emily wasn’t quite sure what reaction she expected, but the one she got definitely came out of left field. 

 

Stephanie tossed her head back and laughed; so loudly that Stacie gave them an evil look, primarily directed towards Emily. “The one-and-fucking only. Let me guess; you know about Chris, the half-brother? The scandal? My son? Go ahead, laugh it up, and I’ll be on my way.”

 

Emily blinked. For once, she held back one of her infamous judgemental comments, and told the woman a rare truth. “No. No, I didn’t.” The brunette looked shocked. “H-How?”

 

Now, Emily allowed herself to become angry. Why the fuck did Stephanie, or anyone for that matter, automatically assume that she knew of or cared about their problems? I’ve got enough to worry about for myself, and my son. I don’t need another goddamn idiot on my back.

 

She snatched her hand back abruptly, an animalistic snarl on her face that Emily couldn’t see but knew was there. “Because I don’t give two goddamn shits about you, that’s why. I don’t give two goddamn shits about anyone. I care about motherfucking me, and sometimes not even that. 

 

“I don’t need you, we’re not friends, and you’re too screwed up for me.”

 

The blonde was gripping the cash register bearings as if they were her only lifeline, feeling her entire body trembling with rage and some other emotion she couldn’t identify.

 

Meanwhile, Stephanie didn’t look the least bit intimidated or upset. In fact, she had her arms crossed and left eyebrow raised in contempt. The brunette smirked and flicked the cashier’s nose. “I couldn’t have said it better myself, miss posterboard. 

 

“I didn’t say that I wanted to be friends with you, and I sure as hell didn’t say I need you.” She laughed, her voice hoarse and unkind. “You’re awfully pathetic, I hope you know that. You’re just as fucked up as I am, we’re no different.”

 

Stephanie swallowed emotionally and glared. “You are one, selfish bitch, aren’t you, Emily?”

 

The cashier stuttered, fiddling with her apron as she stepped back behind her wall. “I know,” she whispered dully. The brunette started at her in shock. “Y-You what?”

 

Emily looked up, unable to muster any amount of anger or cruelty.

 

I don’t understand.

 

A mother, of all people.

 

You can’t handle a single goddamn interaction, can you?

 

You were just unlucky.

 

You were nothing.

 

You are nothing.

 

“I know what I am. I don’t need you to remind me, missy.

 

Stephanie stared at her in shock. “Y-You admitted it.” Emily glanced up from sorting the change, a somewhat nervous habit, and glared. “I have no reason to lie to you, soccer mom. We are not friends, and we do not care. Your words; not mine.”

 

The blonde smacked Stephanie away when she tried to reach out for her. “Go home, Stephanie.” The brunette shook her head, hazel eyes suddenly pleading. “Emily, I just-“

 

“No!” Emily violently yanked out the change drawer and threw it on the ground. “Do not lie, and say that you didn’t mean it. I know you did, and you are right.” She looked down, focusing deeply on one of the pennies she dropped. “I said, go home. You have people waiting for you.”

 

And you have no one, Emily.

 

Stephanie stuttered, not as quick to accept the truth as her counterpart. She nearly snatched her purse and march out the sliding doors, when she saw her posterboard gathering up her change in a very robotic manner.

 

Emily didn’t even notice her begin to pick up the money and put it back in it’s correct slots until her fingers brushed the brunette’s. The cashier glared at Stephanie, and unnecessarily slammed a penny that had been flipped on its tail in the soccer mom’s hand.

 

“Keep the change,” she whispered hoarsely as she finally shoved Stephanie away.

 

Emily ignored Stacie’s confused comments and instead chose to watch Stephanie’s surprisingly attractive ass disappear out the door. 

 

She’ll be back tomorrow.

 

After all, it is quite difficult to write your number on the back of a tiny ass coin.

 

She’d better appreciate the gesture.



Chapter Text

How could I possibly screw up this badly?

 

That was the question that plagued Stephanie Smothers’ mind as she gripped the steering wheel of her car. As she turned out of the parking it suddenly occurred to her that she hadn’t actually bought anything when she’d gone inside. The brunette growled and ignored the way she deliberately ran the red light that was directly positioned over the store’s entrance.

 

Not only am I suddenly the worlds biggest dick, but I’m also it’s biggest idiot, too.

 

She actually considered turning back, apologizing, saying that what she said was out of anger, that it wasn’t even true. But that’s just it , she reminded herself. It is true, all of it. None of what Stephanie said was a lie, and it didn’t help that Emily readily admitted that she was one of the most despicable women on the planet. The brunette realized that even if she’d given the cashier her sweetest platitudes and her most sincere reassurances, the blonde would have seen through all of them.

 

She’s a bitch, but she’s too smart for that .

 

The single mom suddenly slammed on the brakes as hard as she could, narrowly avoiding rear ending the car in front of her. Angry honking resounded from behind her bumper, but, Stephanie was lost in the same thought that nearly caused her to wreck her poor Subaru.

 

Did I seriously just call that sexy idiot smart?

 

Stephanie nearly screamed.

 

And did I seriously just call her sexy?

 

The brunette reflected that she must be extremely depressed and extremely bored, of all things, to be actively driving thirty minutes out of her way in order to see someone she wasn’t friends with; that someone being a fucking criminal, and a woman she’d just unnecessarily yelled the honest truth at.

 

Stephanie had seriously, seriously , considered going back, at least to ease her own conscience. However, it was also that very same conscience that told her to stand her ground, no matter how wrong she was, and give a glorious middle finger to her bad decision. The soccer mom sighed as she pulled into the parking lot of the nearest ABC store, not bothering to lock her car as she marched through the doors and straight towards her wonderful, grey goose vodka. The brunette wasn’t that same woman who felt the need to endlessly apologize and grovel at the feet of someone she truly didn’t feel was right. 

 

But life’s not that easy, not that black and white, so when have they been right and you’ve been wrong and you didn’t notice because you didn’t care? 

 

Yes, that’s worked so well for you, hasn’t it?

 

Stephanie bit her lip in frustration.

 

It’s better than who I was before.

 

Anyone was better than that.



Stephanie was an experienced drunk driver. She was aware that sounded horrific, and she was also aware that she could easily ram her car into someone else’s, or luckily, a side rail. The brunette sighed as she took a gulp out of her trusty water bottle, newly refilled with vodka. Was she suicidal? She didn’t think so. Stephanie was entitled to some bad decisions every now and then, and this was hers.

 

Sure, every day wasn’t “every now and then,” but who the fuck was counting how many times she stumbled into her car with a haze floating around her eyes? Stephanie wasn’t.

 

At least that’s what she liked to tell herself.

 

As she pulled into her driveway, she felt an odd twist in her stomach come to pass, bringing forward a fresh wave of nausea. The single mom desperately wanted to chalk it up to the alcohol, but something told her she couldn’t. Forgoing her purse once again, she rushed inside in a frenzy, abandoning her heels in the front yard as she threw the front door open.

 

She checked her watch. 

 

3:45.

 

Miles should be home. He should be here, where is he, where is my son?

 

“Miles,” Stephanie called out hesitantly. The hallway was silent. Stephanie felt her heart pounding frantically in her chest. It wasn’t right. Something wasn’t right.

 

“Smooch?” Miles always answered to that, he hated that nickname with a passion. 

 

“Ew, mom, that nicknames for babies. I’m five years old, now.”

 

She swallowed in physical pain when she didn’t hear his lovely, slightly high pitched voice.

 

“Miles?” She was nearly screaming at the top of her lungs. “Miles! Miles!”

 

Why does everything have to be taken from me? Am I that much of a bitch to have everything I love snatched from my very hands?

 

She nearly dialed emergency services when she remembered someone. Someone who was vile, misunderstanding, and perhaps, even more selfish than herself.

 

Mother. 

 

Stephanie raced into the kitchen, searching for any sign of life, when she saw it. The note. The note that would forever live in the terrible infamy that was Stephanie’s mind.

 

Dear, Daughter,

 

           I have taken Miles to stay with your aunt and I    for a short time. Your daily disappearances are becoming too much for this family, and you are severely irresponsible. And don’t think I don’t know about your little “drinking” problem, Stephanie. I know more than you think. I love you, darling, but this is for Miles’ own good. He needs a mother, not an absent alcoholic. Don’t try to find us, I will call the police. One word about Chris is all it would take. We love you very much, Stephanie. I’m sorry it had to come to this.

 

                                  Love, Carol



The brunette didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. She should have fucking seen this coming, she should have seen it. The single mom had never been good enough for her mother since Davis’ and Chris’ deaths, somehow knowing every last detail of her forbidden relationship with her half-brother. Stephanie never should have invited her mother to stay with them, she should never have put up with the endless amount of bullshit that consistently streamed from her mouth.

 

Miles would still be here. Yes, she took him, but I invited the devil to my dinner table, so to speak. He’s only gone because of me.

 

Stephanie fell into a kitchen chair, staring blankly at the letter with tears in her eyes. She needed help, needed someone on her side, someone who understood what it was like to lose and lose and never win. But, Stephanie had no one; no friends, no family, no son, nothing. The brunette was trapped in a web of isolation and utter loneliness.

 

A drink won’t help you now. Do you even have a plan?

 

Her hands trembled as she reached for her phone, ready to thumb through her contacts with what was most likely misplaced hope, when her fingers brushed against something small and round. She pulled it out in confusion and scoffed in frustration at that stupid penny Emily had shoved at her after Stephanie had royally screwed up with her.

 

Another problem I really don’t need.

 

She nearly threw it at the wall in utter anger when she felt an unusual engraving on the back. The brunette turned it over and gazed in utter shock at the fucking phone number cleanly scratched onto the back. 

 

It’s Emily. 

 

That fucking asshole gave her phone number on the back of a goddamn penny.

 

Stephanie grinned in spite of herself, and suddenly became aware of an idea that would be considered by most as a disaster. She zeroed in on the numbers and typed them in, carefully, gaining a dial tone. It began to go on for so long that Stephanie nearly gave up, assuming it was a wrong number or that Emily was fucking with her, something not out of the question.

 

Her thumb hovered over the red end button when an angry shout resounded from the other end.

 

“If you’re trying to sell me some grape flavored condom shit again, I don’t fucking want it.”

 

“Emily,” Stephanie spoke, softly. 

 

There was silence on the other end.

 

“Soccer mom? Is that you?”

 

“The one and only,” Stephanie laughed.

 

“I didn’t think you actually had the balls to call me. Good on you.”

 

“Well, it’s not really…”

 

Stephanie broke off, taking Emily with her.

 

“What’s wrong, baby?”

 

Stephanie breathed deeply, and took the plunge.

 

“I need your help.”