Any irritation at their earlier conversation vanishes by the end of the lunch period. She reasons that being mad at Misty is like being mad at someone who’s been brought up believing the Earth is flat and then suddenly is thrust into information about its spherical existence. She didn’t know any better. Still, the work dyke parrots accusingly in her mind, and she realizes that any feelings she might be haboring for the blonde are best left to rot.
But they can still be friends, best friends.
Friends who laugh together and garden, and get revenge on cheating ex – boyfriends. That’s better than the notion of not being friends with her at all.
As best as she tries, their conversation lingers and her mind overexerts itself in conjuring ideas of what Misty’s home life is like. Ever since transferring here last year, she’s been pretty mute about it, something that is confirmed by everyone that she asks.
Zoe looks to her apologetically. “I’m not sure, Cordelia. Doesn’t she have, like loads of siblings?” The question is unsure, just something thrown out in hopes of being right.
It hurts Cordelia that she isn’t sure exactly how many her best friend has, a guilt-ridden pang striking her insides. Misty knows about her life, doesn’t she? About Fiona and her absent father, about her big, lonely house and how she plans to become a teacher, just like the headmistress thinks she should be.
And Misty? Well, she’s never mentioned her mother, but her dad is brought up freely. Though from what she’s heard, Cordelia isn’t quite sure where she stands with him, which seems rather cruel for someone she’s never met. But through Misty’s words, he sounds like a hard authoritarian with a habit for mistaking Misty’s kindness as feeble natured.
She sighs in thought, frowning as Madison jumps in.
“Yeah,” she agrees, “all of them live in some tiny trailer in the middle of the swamp. Pretty gross if you ask me.”
“Too bad nobody is asking you.” She scowls, dangerously. Casting attention away from her, even as she smirks from getting a rise out of Cordelia, she settles on Mallory. “You go to her church, don’t you? What’s she like there?”
The brunette purses her lips together thoughtfully, eyes flickering between her hands and Cordelia’s unwavering gaze. “Honestly,” she shrugs, “I never really notice her. They leave as soon as the service is over and her dad usually looks pretty pissed about something.”
Cordelia ignores the swill of unease in her stomach, then hums in thanks.
Mallory then tilts her head. “Where is the sudden interest from?”
Shifting in her seat, she glances down at the work currently going ignored by the group, and wishes their persistent gazes would go away. They don’t; she’s forced into a corner without anywhere to go, only able to heave a sigh from her painful lungs. “She’s my friend.” It’s spoken lamely, with about as much conviction as she can muster. Which, for the record, is not much at all.
Madison’s eyes glimmer wickedly.
“Friends?” She scoffs. “Don’t think my friends look at me like you do Misty.”
Spying the blush creeping across Cordelia’s cheeks and the panic in the corners of her eyes, Zoe jabs Madison in the ribs in an act of sympathy. Her countering yell earns the attention of the teacher and forces them to pretend to be focused in trigonometric functions rather than their actual conversation.
“Don’t even joke about that.” She insists, a frown deeply embedded into her expression. “Especially not around Misty!”
“Why? Trouble in paradise?”
No, because if a joke even circulates that she’s gay, then her dad might kick her out and it will probably ruin her entire life.
She bristles, muscles tensed uncomfortably. “Just . . . don’t.”
“Or what?” she teases, chewing on the end of her pen with a grin. “Are you two gonna egg my car?”
All eyes focus is on her once more, wanting confirmation on the rumor that’s been circulating the school all morning. She can’t help herself then, pride seeping into the cracks that the frown had left. “He deserved that.” She insists with her best attempt at a nonchalant shrug.
“You should have let us come.” Zoe says, a fire burning behind her own eyes. It brings a swell of belonging, at the idea of her other friends wanting to have helped. In hindsight, Madison would have loved every second of it, but then she knows that there’s always the possibility of it going too far with her. Most likely there would have been broken windows, at the very least.
She smiles softly. “It wasn’t my idea.”
Out of the corner of her eyes, she catches sight of Madison’s liberal eye role, then the gentle, musing expression that Mallory holds beside her. She feels under scrutiny once more, enough to cause her to actually focus on her work in hopes of finding an escape.
All she’d wanted was to know more about Misty, not for her friends to start some incredulous theories about her feelings. Said feelings that she buries deep down so that no one, especially Misty, will never have to deal with them.
She waits for Misty to finish track, scrolling idly through her phone as she leans against her car. The warm winter sun bores down at her, causing eyes to squinting in protest. So preoccupied, she barely notices the figure storming up to her in the throes of rage. She perhaps senses that first, eyes flickering upwards and ice running through her spine at the sign of Hank.
“Oh, it’s you,” she deadpans.
“What the fuck, Cordelia?”
His normally kind eyes are dark, beady things that bare no familiarity, irises straining against bloodshot whites. At the sight of his firm set scowl and tight teeth, she forces herself to stand taller, phone lowered to her side in abandon. “Am I supposed to know what you’re talking about?”
His nostrils flare, easily resembling an enraged bull. Fitting. He certainly acts like an animal.
“I know that you did that to my car – you think I’m stupid?”
Cordelia remains silent, letting her lack of an answer concisely say what she really thinks.
“So, you’re just gonna ignore me now?”
She smiles, the act sickeningly sweet. “Now, why would I do anything to your car, Hank? That would be rather petty of me.”
As expected, his face grows redder, veins pushing against the skin of his neck and puffs of air grunt from his nose. “You’re such a fucking bitch. Just wait until I send you the bill for it to be cleaned.”
Cordelia rolls her eyes, scoffing and forcing down the rampant irritation inside of her. “And I will send it right back, so you have something to wipe your crocodile tears on.”
“Are you kidding me right now? I could go to the police for trespassing on our property.”
“I’m serious.” He slams a hand down on the metal frame of the car beside her, pressing her firmly between him and its exterior. Panic momentarily flashing through her, she feels her muscles turn as hard as steel, hand rising to lay flat against his chest and push him out of her space. It only bolsters him further, and he inches closer – what was once a long time ago a welcome smell of his cologne now infiltrates her senses in a nauseating attack.
She scrunches her eyes closed and offers another unceremonious shove. “You know who my mom is, right? Maybe you’re the stupid one, ‘cause if you touch me again, I swear to god you will regret it.”
“Your mom is a bitch, just like you.”
His presence doesn’t yield, remaining a frustrating barrier between her and the rest of the world. That is, until a pale hand on Hank’s shoulder yanks him away and she hears a voice makes her insides jump from relief. “I think it’s time you leave.” Misty’s thin lips are placed into the tightest of lines, blue eyes no longer the calm waters that Cordelia is used to, but the crashing waves of the angriest ocean she’s ever seen. And with her hair swept back into a loose pony tail, Cordelia can see every wrinkle and lines of displeasure that litter her face.
He shrugs off her touch, backing away from Cordelia when Misty steps between them like some protective guardian. The older blonde bites back a laugh as she realizes Misty’s slender frame almost matches up to Hank’s own height, only an inch or so off, but with her formidable expression she seems all that much taller.
Still embracing his belligerent nature, he looks her up and down, then stares past to where Cordelia glares with a firm set jaw. “I’d go if I were you,” she warns, Misty’s presence doing wonders to instil her with further confidence. He seems to debate with himself, eventually relenting to the small, rational side of his brain and he makes his retreat.
“Good riddance,” she mumbles under her breath, loosening the tight grip on her bag she hadn’t realized was there. Misty spins, her solemn glare melting under the winter sun and a smile springing onto her lips.
A hand holds onto Cordelia’s shoulder, filled with the uttermost tenderness compared to the treatment Hank got. “You okay?”
“Yeah.” She steadies herself with a deep breath and fingers running through straight, blonde hair. “You know what it’s like with ex’s.”
She gives a weak nod, eyes peering down. Cordelia takes a moment to appraise her, eyes peering lower to the shorts of her track uniform that end half way up her thigh and reveal the impossibly long expanse of her toned legs. Blinking, she jerks her head up and finds Misty’s eyes, then spies the thin layer of sweat across her forehead. “Come on, let’s go.”
With one glance over to Hank’s retreating figure, she climbs into the car and Misty follows suit, throwing her piles of bags in the footwell. She sighs, eyes closing tiredly for a minute as she settles into the passenger seat.
“You have fun?” Cordelia asks, just to fill the air as they begin to leave the lot.
She gives a wry smile. “I wouldn’t exactly call runnin’ fun.”
“You’re the one who chooses to do it.” She counters with a smirk.
As she peers at Misty through the corner of her eyes, she sees her hastily tugging the hair tie out and ruffling her curls wildly around her head. Bandana bracelets adorning each wrist, both hosting a different floral pattern, and quickly catch Cordelia’s attention. She reaches her hand out without thinking, taking hold of the nearest one. “Are these new?”
Fingers around the younger’s blonde’s wrist and eyes back on the long road ahead, she doesn’t see the way that Misty squirms and winces under even her gentle touch on her wrist. She gives a forced smile as Cordelia briefly turns back awaiting an answer.
“Yeah,” she speaks against a lump in her throat, quickly clearing it away. “My sister gave me some old clothes but they were too big. Thought I’d make some stuff outta them.”
Misty’s eyes brighten with a genuine glow, appreciative and delicate. “Thanks, Delia.” That affectionate gaze quickly falters, taking on the guise of something altogether troubled and Cordelia feels it grow in intensity. “Hey, I’m sorry about before, you know. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
She frowns as stifling air suddenly pushes inside her, the heavy words catching Cordelia off guard. Readjusting her hands on the wheel, she ignores the whites of her knuckles poking through pale skin. “It’s fine,” she sighs.
From barely a couple of feet beside her, Misty radiates a nervous and frantic energy, one that makes her insides run cold with something she can’t quite place. She ignores the aching in her chest and stretches out a hand to ever so lightly at Misty’s knee, feeling the soft hairs and skin underneath her touch. “Don’t beat yourself up about it.” But words seem to fall on deaf ears as Misty spends most of the ride back twiddling her fingers and fidgeting with the hem of her shirt.
She gently calls her name as they pull onto Cordelia’s drive, tugging her from her thoughts with a growing smile. “You coming?”
Misty nods keenly, scrambling for her things and following Cordelia inside. She takes her shoes off in the hallway as always, despite Cordelia’s amused resistance, then traipses up the stairs at her side. Within the expansive rooms, Misty seems smaller than ever, curling in on herself and holding her bags to her chest. It isn’t under they’re in her room that she lets her guard down, chest expanding as she remembers how to breathe.
The Cajun throws herself onto the double bed, legs and arms starfishing, with hair twisted underneath her and the easiest of grins on her pretty lips. Cordelia feels her knees go weak at the sight, only managing to lower her bag to the desk and muster a half-hearted tease. “Gross, you’re all sweaty.”
Tilting her head in Cordelia’s direction, she giggles and bites on her lip. “Aw, I ain’t that bad.”
The sight before her beckons her numb legs forward, all too tempting, and she lowers herself to the soft sheets beneath. With each movement, Misty watches with unconditional interest. Her lips twitch into an inviting smile, curling upwards until her eyes are crinkling at the corners, too.
Cordelia finds herself running fingers through Misty’s mane, feeling the heat flooding from her scalp. “Hmm, and you’re really warm, too.”
Misty closes her eyes from the sensitive ministrations, practically melting on the spot.
And she thinks that she could sit like this forever, until she sees that it’s later than she thought, coming back into reality with a sigh. “How about I go make us something to eat while you go take your bath?”
At the prospect of food, Misty gives an impish grin. “You are the best, Delia.” She reluctantly sits herself up, then rises on sinewy legs and makes for Cordelia’s closet. With the robe in her hands, eyes remain on Cordelia, reluctant to turn away. Under the appraisal, she feels herself shift, head bowing briefly and fingers subconsciously itching with the need to do something. There’s an unknown nature to Misty’s stare; she half expects her to speak, if the pensive wave across her face is any hint, but she only smiles. The act is all cheeks and teeth, azure eyes catching the emotion of the smile in a way that makes Misty radiate joy. She mirrors the action, although altogether unsurely.
But Misty doesn’t talk. Slowly, she drops the paralyzing gaze and releases Cordelia of its hold. The older blonde still watches her walk into the adjoined bathroom, then moments later hears the faucet turning.
Satisfied, she makes the journey down to the kitchen where she peers through the fridge for food and settles on pizza. It’s easy; Cordelia making the addition of Misty’s favorite toppings to her half (she cringes as she places pineapple on for her) while losing herself in thoughts. The most pivotal thought being of her friend, currently sat in Cordelia’s very own bath as if that’s the most normal thing in the world.
It’s normal for them, she supposes. An idea summoned by Cordelia herself almost a full year ago now, when Misty had told her that her house doesn’t have a bath, just a small electric shower, and had gushed about how much she misses them. Her kind encouragement to use hers had been met with bewilderment, then protests, then grateful smiles as Misty’s resolve wore down.
And now, if Misty comes to her house, it’s normally one of the first things she does. It’s not weird. That’s what friends do, right?
No one answers her question, and she’s too scared to answer it herself, so she scrolls through videos on her phone for a distraction and waits for the food to cook. Soon, the kitchen fills mouth-watering smells, beckoning her forward. She smiles at the sight of the pizza, cheese bubbling away invitingly, and quicky cuts it into pieces that she divides into two plates.
Said plates burn her hands as she climbs the staircase back to her room. Cordelia nudges the door open, slowing when she hears a quiet voice singing out, “you touched my hand and you smiled, all the way back you held out your hand.”
Her voice is as gentle as a summer’s breeze, light and loving, and Cordelia finds herself entwined in the pretty notes as she crosses her room.
“If I hope, and if I pray. . . ”
The noise lulls, leaving in its place the stammering of Cordelia’s heart, that she quickly satiates with a firm reprimand.
She chokes on a wistful sigh, then finds her own voice in the thickening tension that she’s not quite sure how she created so efficiently. “Misty?”
There’s the disturbance of water, something banging against the tub, then a hurried, “yeah?”
“I’ll be out in a minute.”
Cordelia makes herself comfortable at the head of her bed, nestling into the plethora of cushy pillows and reaching for the controller to turn the TV on. She flicks through channels, disinterested, but grateful for something to ease the thoughts from her mind.
The door to the bathroom clicks open, announcing Misty’s presence as she tiptoes out, a bundle of clothes in her hands that are lazily shoved into her bag. Cordelia stares from the corner of her eyes, revelling in the sight of Misty in her robe, with wet, bedraggled locks falling on either side of her face. With all remnants of eye makeup gone, they somehow appear seemingly larger than normal, and stare right over at her friend with startling intensity.
It’s gone in a flash as she sits on the bed too, grinning at the sight of the food waiting for her. “Thanks.” She mumbles around a slice, lifting her hand to catch the escaping sweetcorn and pineapple.
Cordelia watches, taking sight of her tongue wrapping expertly around it, and turns away with a hot blush that she hopes Misty doesn’t see. She’s thankful that no meal ever lasts too long in Misty’s presence, because she could stare all day. But soon they are focussed to the task at hand, books and papers strewn about the pair.
She feels her head pulsing in pain at the prospect of more math, the numbers and formulas beginning to merge into nondescript shapes. “A.” Misty says plainly as they stare at the next SAT question together, before Cordelia even has chance to finish reading. She blinks up at Misty, then back to the question as she figures out the answer herself. Her smile grows then, a mixture of mirth and slight annoyance.
“Show off,” she mumbles.
Misty laughs too, cheeks changing to the softest hue of pink. “Oh, don’t be jealous.”
“How are you so much better at math?”
“Math is easy,” she teases. “And you’re one to talk! You’ve practically already got a scholarship for college.” The words take a hint of a sadness that Cordelia just about catches until Misty is covering it with a withering smile.
She catches on her own words, never been one to brag, unlike her mother. She deflects quickly, eyes beginning to grow weary from so much concentration. “You’ll get one too, I know.” Misty stills under her gaze, eyes thoughtful.
Then, she too perfects the art of diversion. She reaches for Cordelia’s glasses that lay ignored on the bedside table, handing them over to her. “You’re supposed to use them when you’re readin’” she says, much like a mother scolding a child. But Cordelia doesn’t shrink away from it; she feels corners of lips tugging upwards.
The idea of college weighs at the forefront of her mind, and she perseveres with the topic as she places the black rimmed glasses onto her face. She hates them, but they’re certainly better than uncomfortable contacts. “I really hope you go to college too, Misty.” She breathes into a deep smile, “wouldn’t it be great if we went to the same one?”
The Cajun sits taller then, eyes glistening and wide and daringly hopeful. She looks so pretty like this, the light scattering of freckles around her nose wrinkling with her smile, a certain rejuvenated spirit washing over her, and excitement exuding her every pore. It’s a refreshing sight, as though Cordelia is just getting the taste of water again after a gruelling journey through a desert.
“It would be,” she agrees quietly.
They let the idea linger in the air, dancing teasingly around them as both allow their optimistic side to take reins.
Cordelia fills with glee. “We could even be roommates. We’d have so much fun.”
Misty nods, chuckling softly.
“I’d like that.”
The idea honestly makes Cordelia grow drunk with possibilities; having a housemate who’s somewhat consistent in her life and, not only that, but wants to take an active interest in it. She finds herself physically unable to stop grinning, then teeth tug at her lower lip happily. She thinks how freeing it would be, about not coming home to an empty house, about having voices and singing and laughter filling the rooms. Most of all, she thinks about how less lonely she’d feel.
This brings the familiar dark swell inside her chest, dampening the job in said cavity.
But then Misty’s sweet voice severs any further thought, lulling her back into reality. “Hey, earth to Delia, you in there?”
A hand sweeps in front of her face and comes to rest beside the one that Cordelia is leaning on. It twitches with the want to make contact. Cordelia smiles, close to bashful and apologises with a soft head shake. “Just got lost in my thoughts.”
“Thinking about college is just making me wanna go already.” The itch to fly the nest is stronger than ever, so much that It's very much beginning to consume endless hours of her life.
Misty smiles, and then her hand does brush against Cordelia’s. It’s barely there, like the touch of a feather, but Cordelia feels it and then subsequent prickle of electricity that surges through her skin. “Gonna be like girls gone wild.” The Cajun jokes.
A guffaw catches in her throat at the implication, eyes bulging slightly. “Only if Madison ends up in the same college as me.”
“That could be dangerous.” Her eyes glisten mischievously at the possibilities.
“But remember, she’s going straight to Hollywood and taking it by storm, right?”
Misty’s grin grows even further, accompanying an obnoxious roll of her eyes. “How could I forget?” But then her face twists, a sudden darkening of demeanor that throws Cordelia into super protective mode. She inches in closer, hoping her presence offers some sort of comfort, and places her hand more firmly over Misty’s, surprised at her own lack of hesitation.
She half expects Misty to pull away, to flinch at the way Cordelia’s tenderness is pouring from her judging by their earlier conversation. But she doesn’t. Fingers curl around her own, even if Misty is only able to muster a wobbly smile from the action. “What’s wrong?”
“She keeps callin’ me trailer trash.” She grumbles out loud, anger lacing her tone.
Every muscle in Cordelia hardens, except for the ones currently holding Misty’s hand, and she regards her with a frown. “She’s a bitch. Don’t listen to her.”
“Just wish she didn’t have to be such a bitch in front of the whole school.” She sighs, a slight defeat overcoming her, before it’s replaced with stoic features. “Sick of people lookin’ at me like I’m a piece of garbage.”
“Misty, that’s not . . .” She slows as a stubborn gaze meets hers, words halting in its quake.
And she never forgets how strange this is, seeing Misty so vulnerable. The girl wears an unbreakable armor at school, protecting her in the war that is High School - a war that she wishes she didn’t have to fight. She has the cards stacked against her, with her hand me down clothes and her “backwoods” accent. What she admires most about her is that, despite the names and the whispers, she still shows up the next day with the brightest of spirits and an unbeatable kindness.
But sometimes, as rare as the blue moon, the softer side comes out. As though it’s reserved for her and her alone. She sees the tears glistening in her blue pools of irises, the way she chews her lower lip nervously until the skin breaks. “They’re,” she sighs, trying to delicately pluck the right words from her arsenal, “they’re just ignorant. Madison, included.” Cordelia then stretches out her other hand and moves in nearer, until fingers are clasping under Misty’s chin. “But it doesn’t matter what they think. Only what you think.”
“You sound like Miss Snow.” Misty laughs, all wry and half there.
She feigns offence, but in all honesty, being compared to their kind headmistress is a stroke to her ego.
Misty then lifts her own hand and it seeks out to where Cordelia so tenderly grips her jaw. She tilts her head slightly, the ghost of a smile dancing across her lips and hair brushing over both their arms. “I don’t care what anyone else thinks,” she says, surely, as though repeating that mantra might make it real, “’cept you. I care what you think of me.”
The confession causes her heart to skip a couple of beats, insides compacting together nervously. “Well, that’s good ’cause I think the world of you, Misty Day. You’re my best friend.”
She suddenly seems less small, any doubt chased from her features. “You’re mine, too.”
Cordelia feels stupid for the way she reacts so keenly to the word mine, glad that Misty doesn’t seem to notice. The younger blonde does however seem to zone in on their joined hands, staring down at them as though the decisions to combine them hadn’t been her own. She all but jumps away, severing the contact with cold air between them.
With that, any illusions are shattered, and Cordelia ignores the stab of pain to her chest.
Misty doesn’t look directly at her at first, still worrying her lip, still fidgeting with unused energy, before Cordelia tries to compensate with words, at least.
She smiles into a sigh. “Hey, do you remember the day we first met?”
The Cajun’s head snaps up, unable to not react to a direct question. Any rigidity in her body melts under the nostalgic reminder, “yeah.” She nods. “You got annoyed at me ‘cause I came into your greenhouse uninvited and started movin’ all that plants.”
“I wasn’t annoyed.” She counters, bordering on a playful whine.
Misty snorts into her hand, eyes growing delightfully wide as saucers and doing a great job at hypnotizing Cordelia. “You called me a plant meddler. ”
“Oh for – " She balks, though laughs are at the threat of bubbling over her lips at all time. “Why do you always mention that?”
“I remember goin’ home that night thinkin’ I’ve never met anyone like ya.”
She stills, ears hot and chuckling softly.
“And then a week later you came to ask me to join your club ‘cause the plants were doin’ much better where put ‘em.”
“I still don’t know how you did that.” She narrows eyes at her, more in closeted admiration than any sort of accusation.
Shrugging off the half compliment, she smiles plainly. And Cordelia wants to touch her again, wants to grab hold of her hands and bring her impossibly closer, but she fights the urge with every inch of reason within her. She steadies herself on the bed, feeling the cold papers against fingertips; they force her to remember that forgotten task at hand.
Misty notices too, eyes flickering down and then up again. “Guess we got a little distracted, huh?”
“I’m tired of studyin’” she remarks with a pout, shoulder slumping.
Cordelia hums her agreement, but insists they carry on. It’s not the work that she wants to do, but she knows that the best thing for idle hands is to keep the distracted. And if doing school work stops her from wanting to touch Misty at every possible moment, then school work it is.