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Orion's Belt

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Summer, one year earlier.

To say that Dina felt heartbroken after Ellie's departure was an understatement.

She wished it didn't have to be at work as she reached up to wipe the now-falling tears from her eyes now that Ellie's truck was out of view but she was thankful that she at least got to say goodbye. She was beginning to think that she wouldn't ever see her again because Ellie had her own way of dealing with things and that usually involved running away and not dealing with her emotions so while she was surprised when she had shown up, as hard as it was, she wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Dina held the jacket more firmly to her body for comfort, still looking after the truck that was no longer there as if at any moment Ellie would turn around and come back to her even though she knew it wouldn't. Ellie couldn't come back for the same reasons that she couldn't ask her to stay. She didn't think any of this was fair, if anyone deserved a chance it was Ellie, and the fact that only a school so far away saw that was completely ludicrous, though at least she was going somewhere she would be appreciated. Even though she knew both Maria and her team never took her for granted, it was just a shame that she was.

She thought if anything the timing was just too cruel. While they hadn't left things on terrible terms and she felt somewhat hopeful for their relationship in the future, she thought if they just had more time then things could have worked out for them. That seemed to be her motto these days though, it was always if she had just had had more time but life had a funny way of working out like that, there was never going to be enough time and maybe they were never destined to be anything more than friends, though she never truly thought that that's all they ever just were. Maybe at the beginning, she had tried to convince herself of that, like she was sure Ellie had, but she never wanted her like a friend, she had always wanted more of her than she was allowed.

Dina tried to swallow through the tightness in her throat, and in a feeble attempt tilted her head back hoping that gravity would fix her tears but they didn't stop, only helped the frequency lessened. Ellie had only been gone for a few minutes and she already felt as if a giant chasm had opened, not just in her chest but between them too. Maybe this time would be different than the times before they walked away from each other but something about it this time felt finite like she would never see Ellie again despite promising to keep in touch.

In time she might get over it but now she kind of felt like her world was falling apart and just like before she thought she couldn't tell anyone about it. No one else would understand how she felt, and if they tried to, she knew the most they would offer would be that the pain she felt now would get better in time but what if it didn't? What if she always felt the resounding sadness that she felt now? How was someone meant to live like that? She knew she would live though, and she would survive this but she wasn't sure the hurt would ever go away.

Dina knew she wasn't alone, sure she no longer had her family, but she had her friends, but standing on the pavement now with Ellie no longer in sight, she didn't think she had ever felt more so.

There was no going back, and there was no changing anything now despite the fact that the only thing Dina could think about now was what she could have done differently to change the outcome. What she could have done better to convince Ellie to stay.

What she wouldn't have given to kiss Ellie goodbye, to just hold her one more time.

With a sigh and a sag of her shoulders, she went back to work. Maybe she should have gone home, she knew she would have looked a mess, but the idea of being alone right now was crushing and she just wanted to keep herself busy so she didn't have to think about Ellie and how she might never see her again. An easier task said than done, but noticing her sadness, her coworkers did what they could to cheer her up. It didn't help, but the distraction was welcomed.

 


 

It wasn't easy at first, she had to take everything day by day. It was the only way to cope with how she was feeling. As much as they had all pined for Summer, she almost wished it had never come. Ellie still would have been here, or at the very least she still would have had school to distract her.

At first Ellie's replies came quick, and each and every time they still brought a smile to Dina's lips, there was no lessening their impact despite the distance. As the weeks of summer wore on though, something changed and the replies stopped coming until they altogether stopped. Dina often wondered what she had done wrong, or if she had said something that made Ellie push her away, or if Ellie just found it easy to cut ties with her now that there was the space.

Was there someone else? Maybe Ellie had never even meant any of the nice things she said about her.

She often found herself wondering if she was as easy to fall out of love with as she was to fall in love with. She has spent her whole life with people falling in love with her. She knew both her looks and personality were easy to love, she had had that drilled into her her whole life and was inclined to believe it, but she never had to think about what she left in her wake before. When she thought about Jesse she thought about breaking his heart, being unable to love him the way he loved her, but when she looked at him now, while she knew that he had once loved her, there was no hint of the love he held before. And all the boys before him, the ones that so easily fell for her and were heartbroken when she grew bored, when she saw them again, they all seemed to move on just fine.

It was easy to tell back then that they never truly loved her, she had known that all along even when the phrase spilled from their mouths and maybe that's why she could never love them back even though she wanted to. All she wanted was someone to love her for who she was, for the person she was never allowed to show the world, but she was always too good at acting to let her facade slide. All they loved was the idea of her, having someone beautiful and well off, someone who would stroke their ego.

It was narcissistic to think that they wouldn't move on but part of her hoped she could think back to one single person who still loved her though she couldn't. She hoped that Ellie might be different, that she might be the one to truly love her for who she was, after all she had been the first person she had allowed to see her real self but as the days wore on without a response to her messages her hope dwindled and the more desperate she was becoming because while she was easy to stop loving, she found it hard to stop loving Ellie.

Her family should have been the first sign that she was perhaps unlovable. After all, she thought her mother's love had always been conditional on the fact that she remained the perfect daughter and did as she was told and her father and sister had proven to her that given the opportunity, no matter how much love they had shown in the past, she was very easy to drop given a slight inconvenience to their plans for her.

Was it fair? She didn't think so but it could only be her, it could only be a flaw that she had that she didn't know how to fix and how could she expect someone to love something so flawed?

Dina took her drink with her to the dancefloor, pushing the smile that she didn't quite feel to her face before anyone saw her concerns. When she saw Cat she laughed and hooking her arm tightly around her neck she pulled her close, pressing her lips to the side of her head as they jumped around on the dancefloor with the other patrons. It was hot and sweaty, and both Cat and the others clung to her when they bumped into her body but she didn't care, she had had too much to drink to care and the night was still young, she was well on her way to having more to drink.

Dina wasn't sure when she and Cat first became so close or who had first offered the olive branch that first brought them together as friends. It was just like one moment they were acquaintances and the next they were hanging out almost every day. Maybe at first it had just been a coping mechanism for the hole Ellie had left, but as the days wore on she genuinely thought that Cat was one of her best friends.

She loved Cat now, that was easy for her to admit. Cat was easy to love, and for how jealous she had once been of her she now understood what had drawn Ellie to her. She was beautiful and she was kind and when she was with her everything felt so easy. When she was with her, she didn't think so much of Ellie. She made her laugh when she thought she couldn't and went out with her when she needed to forget. When she looked into Cat's eyes she thought that Cat might love her too.

Dina separated from Cat's side, banging her head to the music she raised her hands in the air and when she looked up and met Cat's eyes she grinned, both a drunk and lazy kind of grin that she returned readily.

"Another drink?" She mouthed, motioning over her shoulder towards the bar.

Cat nodded and slipped her hand into hers entwining their fingers. Dina looked back at her over her shoulder, at her entirely too enticing smile that never seemed fake, not like hers, and returned it, leading her way through the crowd. Cat's hand was always a comfort in her own, and most times it took away the ache of the ghost who she still, after so many weeks continued to pine for.

It felt even warmer now, and the hairs that framed her face clung to her skin. Leaning at the bar she pulled her sweaty clothes from her skin and fanned her face, taking the moment to catch her breath. Their nights out were only a distraction, a means to have fun and let off steam without having to go home and be alone. Dina never had to explain herself when she reached out, and Cat never seemed to ask, only ever agreeing. She felt that if anyone was going to understand it was Cat and they shared a mutual understanding of their shared pain.

"You've got work tomorrow." Cat said, almost stern before her face split into a smile. If she was trying to be the voice of reason, it was lost when she gave a breathy laugh.

"So do you." Dina retorted, her hand still in hers so she gave it a tug.

"Who would have thought that you would have turned out to be a little badass. I definitely should have figured that out sooner." Cat quipped, leaning over the counter to get the bartender's attention and order their drinks. "Ellie really held out on me."

Dina felt her cheeks burn, thankfully hidden by the fact her face was already a dark shade of red and the lighting was dim. Her eyes followed the curve of Cat's shoulders, down the arch of her back, and settled on her ass before she made herself look away, but she wasn't certain Cat hadn't caught her when she looked over her shoulder.

Cat finally ordered two drinks, talking closely with the bartender before she dropped back down to her feet, shooting Dina a knowing smirk.

Cat had a nice body, Dina hadn't been afraid to tell her that but that didn't mean she wanted to be caught staring regardless of whether or not Cat was always shameless about admiring her. There were times when they slept over at each other's apartments and she couldn't look away, not when Cat was undressing or was only walking around in her underwear. She tried to but the more they hung out, the more she couldn't look away. She figured she was just lonely, that she just craved someone's attention, for someone to appreciate her the same way but still she couldn't get herself to look away.

"So, late night and we both go in hungover?" Cat asked, her lips pressed into a cocky smirk.

"I'll have a coffee ready for you." Dina replied, swallowing down the thickness in her throat.

Cat handed her her drink and clinked her own against her glass before she raised it to her lips. Following suit, Dina did the same, finishing it when Cat did, her eyes never leaving hers. She often wondered if Cat's eyes were mirrors of her own, the same color at the very least, or if she hid as much behind them as she did. Dina could never really read Cat, and never really knew if she was hiding anything or not. She was trying to learn from her though, to appear less guarded than she was because she was sick of being so easily read. She was growing tired of everyone feeling so sorry for her because she got her heartbroken.

She was fine, she would be fine just like she was when her parents disowned her, and when Ellie was disinterested in her, she would be fine.

She was fine.

Cat thrust another drink in her hand before taking her free hand with her own and began leading her once more through the crowd, this time taking her to a small secluded outdoor spot.

She placed her glass down on the ground, and Dina watched as she searched through all of her pockets to fetch her packet of cigarettes and lighter. When Cat offered her one she shook her head instead, taking a sip of her drink but again she couldn't look away from Cat's mouth when she tapped one out enough to take it between her teeth and pull it from the carton.

Her cheeks once more burned as Cat lit the end, inhaling the harsh smoke before she took the cigarette from her lips and turned her head to exhale. It reminded her too much of Ellie, and she wondered if she pressed her lips to hers if she would taste the same smokey sweetness that she thought would always precede a night out if she could just press her lips to hers.

She never meant to compare Cat to Ellie, it was never fair but sometimes little habits they both shared caught her off guard more than they ought to have and left her for the moment reeling.

Cat caught her eye, that same infuriating smirk on her face as always, and offered the cigarette to her with an arch of her brow. Dina had meant to say no, like she had every other time before now but the sight of Cat's lipstick curled perfectly around the end left her curious so she reached out to take it.

She felt the burn in her chest first, the utter ache left behind from the memory of their first New Year, the first time she truly found it hard to hide just how she felt for Ellie. The burn shifted between her legs, and she brought the cigarette to her mouth and inhaled, quickly exhaling.

Dina had tried smoking before when she was younger, but unlike weed, it wasn't a taste she had ever been interested in herself, only on the lips of someone else and even then she had encouraged her to stop though she always let her indulge when she was drinking, unable to find it in her to make her stop.

She sighed and handed it back before she took another puff. She understood, outside of the fact that it was addictive, why people smoked. It was cathartic having something in your hands, a distraction for when you were thinking too much. If she kept going, she thought she might get addicted, even if it was only to the way Cat looked with a cigarette between her lips, if she tried hard enough, maybe she could look like her.

Cat took it back in her mouth, grinning around it before she asked "You okay?"

"Yeah." Dina nodded, looking down at their feet. "Why wouldn't I be?"

"You hot?"

"No?"

"Then why is your face so red?" Cat asked, a breathy laugh escaping passed the cigarette in her mouth.

"Shut up." Dina groaned, reaching over to push her away. Laughing, Cat stumbled back and Dina lifted her hands to hide her face.

Dina tried not to think about Ellie but sometimes Cat made it hard.

For a long time she felt sad, though Ellie at the time was still talking to her. That made the hurt easier. Then when she stopped, she began to feel angry. She felt angry for missing someone who didn't miss her and she felt angry for being sad over someone who didn't care about her anymore, if she ever had. She tried not to dwell too much on it, but there were times that her mind betrayed her. She thought Ellie had been different but really she was just like all the boys before her, only infatuated with her appearances, uncaring when it came down to anything to do with her feelings.

Most of all Dina felt stupid, and she thought that was the most agonizing of the lot.

She had always been so careful about not getting hurt. She used the acting skills she had learned growing up in an affluent family to keep everyone at arm's length so that it didn't hurt when they left but she thought Ellie was different. Ellie had broken her down, had kept chipping away at her until there was nothing left but her vulnerabilities. The cracks eventually started to show and she crumbled. First into a mess of emotions, then into physically aching. She thought about Ellie when she woke up, she was the first thing she ever thought about. She thought about Ellie during the day when she should have been focusing on other things. Worst of all she thought about Ellie late at night when she was trying to find some peace.

Cat cleared her throat and Dina watched the once lit cigarette fall to the ground where Cat toed it out. She blinked back the tears she could feel welling and when she looked back up, Cat had extended her hand to her.

"Come on." Cat smiled, "Let's go home. You're staying at mine tonight."

Dina smiled, and as she took Cat's hand for the first time in a long time she felt as if she truly meant it.

 


 

Dina nursed her drink in her hand, taking small sips as she conversed with Cat over the bar while she worked. Even though it was unbearably hot, and the idea of being in a stuffy bar was the manifestation of pure hell for her right now, a promise of a good night had her quickly agreeing. Cat only had another half hour of her shift, and it had been easy for her to convince Dina that they deserved to have some fun. Ellie had been flat out rejecting her calls for a little over two weeks now and she wasn't sure what hurt more anymore, her being gone, or her suddenly wanting nothing to do with her anymore. At least before if that was the case she would still be able to see her, despite how painful it had been. So, when Cat made the offer, though how tempting it had been to turn down, she decided to say'fuck it' and let loose.

If Ellie could move on, she could move on too.

She probably had someone else who was entertaining her, who was taking up all her attention so that she couldn't give her any. Just the thought of it left a bitter taste in her mouth so she finished her drink, impatiently waiting for Cat to give her another. There was nothing she could do to change Ellie's mind, she couldn't make her love her so what was the use in thinking so much about it?

But she couldn't stop and the bar was a good place for that.

With her shift over, Cat led Dina to the dancefloor. With her drink still clutched tightly in her hand, Dina lifted it high above her head, dancing recklessly with Cat on the dancefloor. Now more intoxicated than she cared to admit, maybe even borderline belligerent, she didn't care if she spilled it all, all she focused on was staying in time with the music, swaying her hips how she wanted, and how electric it felt when Cat's hand fell to her hip. When she opened her eyes, Cat's eyes were on hers and she was grinning, so she grinned back wide enough that her cheeks hurt and they both danced around more, inching closer together.

Getting drunk wasn't the answer, and older now she thought she was passed that phase of her life, but it helped now more than she cared to admit. When she felt lonely, or she just didn't want to deal with the chasm she felt in her chest when facing any thoughts of how much she had lost. She didn't have a problem, she could stop when she wanted to, but it felt nice just to let go, to be that stupid teenager she never really got to be.

Dina finished her drink and motioned to Cat that she was going to head to the bar to get another. Now out from the dance floor, she realized how much easier it was to breathe and took that moment to catch her breath while she ordered another drink. Leaning against the bar she waited patiently, nervously wringing her fingers. She didn't know why she did that now, or when she first started to do it, but now whenever she was alone she found herself doing it.

"Hey."

Dina lifted her head to the man beside her, narrowing her eyes a little as she took in the intrusion. He was handsome enough, tall and he had a nice smile but she had no interest in getting to know him, not like he would want to get to know her. She smiled though to be polite before she took his extended hand and gave it one firm shake. "Hey."

"Is this seat taken?" he asked with a slight laugh, gesturing vaguely to the empty spot at the bar beside her.

"No." she shook her head, turning back to the bar when her drink was placed in front of her.

"Maybe I should have been a little quicker in offering to buy you a drink." he said, gifting another bright smile. "How about I get you the next one?"

"I don't need anyone to buy my drinks for me."

"That's not what I meant." he said, shuffling a little nervously on his feet before he met her eyes with sincere ones, and for the first time, she noticed they were green, almost as green as Ellie's had been and she couldn't look away. "I just thought it might convince you to chat with me. I know it's cliche and forward, but I kind of think you're the most beautiful woman here tonight."

"Have you looked around?" Dina joked, forcing herself to look away from him as her cheeks grew pink. "Maybe if you did you'll have a better perspective. I'm really not."

"Maybe, but I doubt it." He took a moment before he folded his arms across his chest and didn't look away. When Dina looked back at him he smiled once more, a certain admiration there now. "My names Joe. Yours?"

Dina made herself look away the moment she felt her cheeks burning more under his appreciating gaze. The way that he was looking at her left a burning desire in the pit of her stomach that she quickly wanted to extinguish but she couldn't shake the feeling of how nice it felt to be wanted, to have someone interested in her again. To have someone see her.

"I've got to get back to my friend." Dina said, feeling increasingly unsettled by his eyes. She opened her mouth to speak, to say something else, maybe to ask him to come too or push him away more but immediately closed it and with a nod of her head turned to walk away before he could protest.

She kept her head down, frowning as she made her way from the bar to the bathroom. The line was long but moved quickly and once behind closed doors she splashed water to cool her face at the sink. When she looked back up into the mirror she didn't like what she saw. When she couldn't be herself she hated who she was and when she could she hated who she had become, always feeling jealous and bitter over someone who couldn't even give her a courtesy text. Maybe if Ellie had just messaged her and said that she didn't want anything to do with her she might have been able to move on, but here she was constantly stuck in a weird limbo of hating her and aching for her.

One more look in the mirror had her turning away and just as fast as she came into the bathroom she left to find Cat. If anything she would distract her enough to take the burn in her throat away and if not, another drink would do the trick.

Dina quickly found that no matter what she did she couldn't seem to get away from Joe's gaze but she must have been searching for him too to find it. His smoldering eyes left her feeling good and for the first time in a long time she felt truly wanted like she was important and worth having. She didn't think she wanted him, but she thought about how good he could make her feel if she just allowed him to, how much he would appreciate and worship her body, even if only for the night, and how much Ellie didn't want that anymore.

When she raised her eyes she saw his and it was like Ellie was staring back at her. At first, she felt angry, she wanted to use him and mark him, and then again in the same breath, she wanted him to want her. She flopped between the two, her chest slowly filling with spite until it was flowing over. She could be desirable, other people would want her even if the one person she wanted to didn't. She didn't need Ellie and she didn't need her closure.

Dina wasn't sure who made the move first or even when it turned from flirtatious looks across the room to now when they were dancing closely together. Cat had at one point been there but had long since moved to the side, maybe she was just as unsettled by his eyes as she was. At one point she thought Cat might have been concerned, but a chaste kiss on her cheek as she moved away had put her once more at ease.

The moment his rough hands found her hips she shuddered and pressed closer but when she closed her eyes all she could feel was Ellie so she kept them open when his lips latched to the side of her neck. For as wrong as it felt, at that moment, nothing more had felt right and her entire body ached with want to be wanted.

Dina didn't think he had pulled her into the bathroom, but she didn't quite remember how they had gotten there. One drink earlier she might have been concerned about that fact, but now all she could think as she wrapped her arms around his neck and his mouth found hers was how good he felt pressed between her legs. Her back found the door and she reached behind to twist the lock. Once she thought she might have been too good for drunken bathroom hookups, but again, that was probably at least one drink earlier.

Joe hungrily devoured her and when she tilted her head back he found her neck, his hands worshipping her body with a growing ache between her legs that she hadn't felt in a long time. Dina moaned her encouragement and dug her nails into his shoulders, pulling him closer to her body and he dropped his hands to the back of her thighs, hoisting her legs around his waist before turning and setting her down on the basin.

It was uncomfortable, but when he pulled away and looked into her eyes all she saw was the ghostly green before she closed her eyes to kiss him again, to feel something other than sadness. Clenching her eyes shut tighter she focused on his hands up her shirt, his fingers deftly skimming the planes of her stomach and palming her breasts. He was too gentle and she dug her nails more firmly into his skin searching for that point where he would break and be rough enough with her that it would take the edge away but he didn't.

She felt his hands on the button of her jeans, pulling it open and dropping the zip before clumsily fumbling with his own and Dina tilted her head back against the wall, looking at the paint that was peeling from the ceiling. The longer she stared the more she felt the familiar sting behind her eyes as his mouth once more found her neck.

"Fuck, you're so hot." he murmured, his words vibrating against the side of her neck.

Dina closed her eyes, her breathing growing more shallow and she wanted to be here and present but she wasn't. She thought she might be able to push past it, that if they just kept going eventually it would feel good but she knew it wouldn't. His hands felt too rough on her skin, and the stubble on his face scratched at her neck uncomfortably.

Ellie wasn't soft, but she felt better than this.

There was a knock on the door and Dina couldn't ignore it anymore. She placed a hand on his shoulder to still him and when she looked into his disappointed eyes it only made it more impossible to not see her. She looked and all she could see was the hurt, the utter devastation she had caused, and the irreparable damage that she was never going to get the chance to repair.

"I'm sorry." She said, but she wasn't sure if she had meant it or if the words had even left her mouth and if they had if they were even audible but he nodded anyway and took a step back from her.

"Sorry." He said as he rebuttoned his jeans and gave a wry smile. Giving one more look at her he turned to the door. Opening the door he exited and when he had passed, Dina's eyes met Cat's on the other side. She dropped her head to her hands and sobbed, Cat quickly scooping her into her arms.

Like earlier, Dina didn't really remember how they got back to her apartment but her stomach both churned with the mix of alcohol and the sadness of regret. Sat pathetically on the end of her bed she stared down at the carpet underneath her feet, wondering just how she got here and the exact moment it all went wrong. She thought all the way back to the party where she first met Ellie and remembered the look in her eye, then the way the stars reflected in her eyes and painted her cheeks when she lit up. Maybe even back then she knew she was in trouble, or the first time Ellie laid her hands on her and the feeling that lingered, she should have known.

And maybe she did, maybe she had known all along but she was too scared to admit it. Dina didn't think she had ever needed to be brave, she had always been protected from the harsh realities of life, the lifestyle she was accustomed to affording her that luxury. Now that she wanted to finally be brave, she didn't really have anyone to be brave for.

"Why doesn't she want me?" Dina asked now that she felt more numb than anything else. She looked up from her feet, her wet eyes meeting Cat's.

"Who even cares. Ellie can't even respond to us." Cat said with a bitter laugh but the shake in her voice for the moment betrayed her real emotions. "Ellie's a selfish prick. You can date me, you know? I'm a much better lay."

Dina rose to her feet, her eyes trained on the tightness in Cat's jaw. She cupped Cat's cheeks and pressed her lips softly to hers and when she pulled away she looked into her eyes and smiled. "Even if I didn't love Ellie, I still couldn't do that to her. Not when it came to you. I'm kind of really fond of you now."

Cat groaned and rolled her eyes. "Do you think she'll come back?"

"I don't know." Dina said, the honesty of her words made her chest ache but she shook it off with a shrug. She gave a forced smile to Cat before she looked outside at the rain pounding down on the window. "Maybe before I'd hoped but now? I don't think so."

Cat turned her head to follow Dina's gaze but said nothing more and Dina was thankful for that, she didn't think she would be able to say anything more through the tightness gripping her throat.

She knew one of the stages of grieving was acceptance, one she had come to know so intimately. She had to accept that she had to let Ellie go. She had to accept that Ellie didn't want anything to do with her anymore but she just couldn't let go. The idea of things ending like this almost hurt more than her absence.

Once Cat settled down on the bed, Dina made her way to the bathroom. Looking in the mirror at her smudged makeup she cringed, but the mark that remained on her neck left her reeling. She tilted her head to the side and raised her thumb to rub at it but it wouldn't go away, it was a reminder of how stupid she had almost been. She felt a little dirty and wanted to absolve herself of any sins so she turned and began filling the bath. A drunk bath might not have been the smartest move, but she still felt a little rebellious, a little over always following the rules that had been set out for her.

Dina didn't know how long she had been sitting there for, knees tucked up into her chest with her face buried into them but by how cold the water was, it must have been a while.

Now aware, she felt the chill in her bones that erupted into goosebumps on her skin. She sat up, the curve of her back protesting in the form of an ache that she knew would take days to shake but she didn't care, right now all she cared about was wiping away any remnants of the tears the still wet her face. If anyone asked she could have said it was the water but she knew the truth of what it was, and she wanted all evidence gone.

The thought of getting out crossed her mind, but she couldn't bring herself to. It was as if all strength left her body so when she dropped her knees from the chill of the air into the even colder water she just sat still, staring down at the water in front of her, wishing things could have been different but all of the wishing in the world wouldn't grant her what she truly wanted.

She leaned forward, her already protesting back creaking under the bend, and dropped her face into the water. It's not like she wanted to kill herself, she wasn't suicidal she didn't think, maybe just a bit depressed over everything. She could remember doing this for as long as she could remember. In her saddest moments crawling into the water and staying there for hours where she felt safe until the water was so cold it hurt.

She held her breath, her cheeks inflating and finally she opened her eyes, her already stinging eyes further burning from the soap in the water but still, she watched the tiny little bubbles as her body fought her to take a breath and she did eventually, when she could hold her breath no more, throwing her wet head back and gasping for air.

The more she thought about it, the more she realized that she had always kind of been alone. As long as she wasn't causing any problems she was always just left to her own devices. As long as her mother didn't need to show her off as the perfect daughter and her father wasn't around, she could disappear without anyone noticing or caring.

Could she stem all her issues to back then?

Could she call them abandonment issues?

She supposed it wasn't entirely true, she hadn't always been alone, in fact, when she was younger there wasn't a single second that she wasn't surrounded by someone, or supported in some way unless she did her best to hide away from them. The only problem was that those people supporting her weren't anything to her. Quite often they were people she had never met before, new tutors or caregivers only there to sate her mother's need for perfection.

She hadn't been alone in her life, but she had felt alone.

It wasn't those people that she sought approval and validation from, the people that were there for her growing up, the ones trying to get her to be her best, no, it was her family. It was her father, it was Talia and above all, it was her mother.

She supposed it wasn't fair to think that of her father. He had worked hard when she was growing up to build his company from the ground up and she understood why he had to be away a lot.

When he came home, no matter how short his visits, they were some of the happiest times of her childhood and he always tried. He always called home every night to talk to her before bed even though she had nothing to say, even when she could only complain, he still called and he actually listened to her, something she took for granted then but now she would have given anything to curl up in bed and just have one of his calls.

When he was home she felt like she could be herself, at least when her mother wasn't around, but even sometimes she slipped and when her mother gave her father that certain stern look she knew that they were both in trouble but he never punished her for being herself, and though she knew he would get an earful, and eventually she would from her mother too, he never did to her.

Her mother wasn't a bad parent, she thought that she just had different ideas about what being a parent meant. She never doubted that her mother loved her back then, even before everything that happened when she wanted to follow her own path she still thought that her mother wanted her to be happy. It was different now of course, but once she had loved her.

Ellie had once loved her too, she was sure of that.

Dina lifted herself from the water, barely drying herself off before wrapping the towel around her body. She padded into the bedroom, hair wet and dripping carelessly on the floor. Catching sight of a sleeping Cat, she smiled, quietly reaching passed her to her phone. She scooped it up and headed to the lounge.

She stared at the screen for a long while, her name haunting her before she found the courage to hit the call button. It rang out and she wasn't sure why she thought this time would be any different but this time she decided to try harder, she sent a text, hating how desperate she sounded but she only wanted to hear her voice, to know she was still there or at the very least that she was okay.

Dina tried again, cringing over how desperate she knew she would have seemed but to her surprise, she was thrown a lifeline and the phone stopped ringing, followed by a shuffling on the other side.

"Ellie?"