Wandering the quiet halls of the school is strange during the daylight. The echo of her clicking heels bounces off the lockers and right back into her ears. She walks the familiar path back to the classroom, carrying the heavy bag of soil between her arms. As she steps in, Misty is immediately there and relieves her of the great weight with a smile.
She thanks her, then leans over the nearest bench. “It’s so weird not seeing anyone else here.”
Misty peers up from where she’s moved to change the support on the tomato plants, laughing. “I know.” A tongue darts out of her lips that twist mischievously. “When I was a kid, Sylvia convinced me that the teachers used to sleep here at night. I spent a whole week tryin’ to figure out where they slept until I got in trouble for walkin’ into the teacher’s lounge.”
“Oh yeah. I barged right in and asked where the beds were.”
Cordelia stifles a laugh behind her hand. “I can totally see you doing that." She moves the small distance around the table to begin helping Misty, relishing in the feel of soil against her fingers. This is one of the few occasions where she doesn’t mind getting dirty. In fact, she savors each moment of it; especially when the hobby brings her closer to Misty.
Her hands are already filthy, splattered with dry and fresh mud alike. “It wasn’t funny.” She insists, even if she’s chuckling too. “My momma had to sit me down and explain to me that teachers went home like everyone else.” She shakes her head at the memory. “I felt like a real dummy.”
She presses her lips together sympathetically. “You were just a kid.”
“That’s when I learned neve to listen to Sylvia. Ever.” Half of Misty’s mouth turns upwards into a smirk. “And she tried to fool me an awful lot.”
Although her eyes remain steadily on her work as she deftly repots and tends to plants, Misty replies in an instant. “Hmm huh. Then she started gettin' everyone else to join in.” She scoffs, muttering something about siblings under her breath. Turning, she sets soft eyes on Cordelia. “They even convinced me that you could only say a certain number of words a day, and if I talked too much, they’d tell me I was almost at my limit. I’d be quiet for hours!” Her lips bend into a tight line, before she rolls her eyes dramatically. “Can’t believe I fell for it.”
Cordelia struggles to keep her smile away at that, imagining a young and gullible Misty mortified at the idea of almost having used all her words.
She grabs hold of the secateurs, trimming at wilting leaves. “Please tell me that you got them back.”
“You bet I did.” The joy swishes back into Misty’s features, eyes glistening as they lock with Cordelia’s. She pauses, seeming to reflect on her own revenge before it’s shared with the blonde beside her. “I put spiders in their beds,” Misty crows proudly.
She almost drops the tool in her hands. “Spiders? ”
Despite her words of pretty horrific practical jokes, Misty giggles delicately in a way that causes Cordelia’s skin to prickle happily. “A whole lot of them.”
“Please remind me to never piss you off.” She jokes, voice a deadpan.
Misty grins, nudging her side. “I’d never do anythin’ like that to you.”
“But maybe someone else who crosses you?”
When Misty doesn’t reply, coyness pinching at her mouth and nose. Cordelia raises a brow and chuckles “You are terrible, Misty Day.”
“Oh, come on, like you ain’t ever done somethin’ like that!” She tries to reason, smirking.
“As a matter of fact, I haven’t.”
She’s tilting her head now, eyes narrowing in disbelief. Cordelia feels her stomach churn under the scrutiny, offering a timid smile. “Nope.”
“Not anyone?” She probes.
Laugher courageously bubbles over her lips. “Who was I going to prank as a kid? Fiona?! ”
Misty’s eyes widen delightfully at the idea, chortles following. Her expression suggests that she’s rather keen on said idea, but she doesn’t speak it. In fact, she says something that catches Cordelia off guard completely. “You are too nice for your own good.”
Her movements pause, body twisting so that Misty can get the full effect of her intrigue. “How can someone be too nice?”
“You just are.” she grins. Then adds, sweetly with her head ducking. “I mean that as a good thing, you know.”
“I -” Cordelia firmly presses lips together, mouth wrinkling thoughtfully at the corners. They soften then, just as her gaze does upon observing the sweetness on Misty’s face. “Thanks.”
The Cajun grins, bowing her head again to continue her work. Beneath her, soil and dry leaves scatter the floor, making a blanket of dark brown over her boots. She doesn’t notice, continuing with concentration and vigor. Her thin eyebrows tangle together against her pale forehead, a pink tongue poking between lips. Cordelia stares for longer than she should, then smiles.
Misty drops some more soil, oblivious, as she scoops a divot into the layers of dirt to plant seedlings. Nothing misses her path, including the desk and her own clothes that lay muddied from where she subconsciously wipes her hands on them. She adds the tiniest splash of water to her pot now, a few escaping droplets mixing with the stray dirt and creating a congealed mess.
A hand wipes it over, leaving smear marks in its way. Cordelia hides a smirk in the corner of her mouth beneath some chuckles. “Do you always have to be so messy?” Her voice isn’t angry at all; it only holds the complete and earnest notes of endearment in there.
“Huh?” Misty flutters dark eyelashes and sets a soft look on her.
She points to the trail of Misty’s work, only succeeding in bringing out an impish grin from her friend. “That ain’t mess.” She insists with light laughter, but wipes it again for effect. This leaves the palm of her hand soggy with dirt.
Cordelia balks at the statement, earning an eye roll from Misty. “There’s more soil on the floor than in the pot!”
“No, there isn’t.”
A besotted grin refused to move from her plump lips. “Is, and you know it."
Incredulity causes her voice to heighten. This seems to push more giggles from Misty, who peers at her with a serene expression that she wishes could be there all of the time. Her lips quirk with a playful tug, one that Cordelia stares at so intently that she doesn’t see when Misty’s fingers curl around a small ball of dirt, smoothing it between the tips. Moments later, she aims it directly in the direction of the older blonde where it splats unceremoniously onto her cheek.
It takes all of a few seconds to register the cold intrusion on her skin that she wipes away with haste. Eyes dart from the misshapen ball in her palm to the Cajun, who grins at her innocently and sways from side to side. Her eyes flash daringly, and Cordelia finds that childish impulse surging through her bones once more, just like it had done in the swamp that day. “Oh, you are so in for it.”
She locks her jaw, determination settling on her features like a blanket of snow.
Misty’s laughter turns to a shrill squeal as Cordelia launches the soil back at her. Unfortunately for the older blonde, her aim isn’t something to envy, and it misses by a fair margin. The smugness of Misty’s face bolsters her further, where she reaches for the open bag of soil with urgency. Panic briefly shows on her friend’s face, who takes slow steps backwards, even if she’s grinning the entire time.
Cordelia throws more in her direction again, despite telling herself that if Miss Snow walked in right now they’d get in so much trouble. Debris from her shot litters against the posters on the walls, but most of it scatters over Misty, speckling in her golden hair. Hands fly up to it, raking through the locks that she shakes without abandon to rid herself of it. Even so, it clings to each individual strand regardless.
There is little care in Misty’s expression. In fact, there’s an electrifying energy that makes every hair on her body stand at end in anticipation. The feeling has her insides buzzing with the ferocity of a wasp. Misty smirks at her, jaw setting and eyes piercing right through her skin. Across the desk, Cordelia holds in a delightful shudder, experiencing the same dismissal of inhibitions.
With a handful of dirt, Misty practically launches herself at Cordelia, circling the desktop so quickly that Cordelia almost doesn’t have time to react. By the time she does, Misty is only feet away, grinning like a madwoman, and sending a furious flutter into her already weak heart. A throw is aimed her way, somehow dodged last second.
Misty grumbles her disappointment, but is already arming herself with another handful.
“This isn’t fair.” Cordelia announces airily. “You’re faster than me.”
“Shoulda thought about that before you threw it in my hair.” Her devilish response comes.
That very same hair that swishes and dances around her as she runs in pursuit of Cordelia, who flees like a baby deer on wobbly legs. Her coordination leaves something to be desired, though she is impressed by how long she manages to evade the Cajun. They go round and round until dizziness swirls at the back of her eyes. She runs faster then, fingers reaching out to the stained desk to ground herself, even if they run the risk of knocking into the series of potted plants.
Ultimately, it’s all fruitless. Her pace is no match for what Misty’s long legs can reach, and she squeals when a set of arms wrap around her from behind. “ Gotcha! ” As the clutch tightens, so does the tight hold on her heart. She hadn’t been expecting that.
Misty is laughing right against her ear, so endearing that Cordelia doesn't think she could try running again even if she really wanted to. But she does find the arm that twists in on itself, a mission of trying to squish the mud into her forehead. “Misty,” she says, voice strained with laughter, constricted by the effort of trying to hold her back.
But she’s strong, stronger than Cordelia no matter how hard she tries. She’d always imagined having Misty’s arms wrapped around her, though not exactly like this.
“I thought you said you’d never do anything mean to me!” she attempts, sweetness thickly lacing the syllables as she fights against Misty’s hands.
The movement against her slows, muscles weakening, but not relenting.
Cordelia uses it to her advantage, manoeuvring herself stealthily until she can twist around and out of the embrace, where her fingers clutch onto Misty’s advancing hands. Surprise pleasantly fades into the corners of her expression, hiding in her dimples that her grin creates. “That was sneaky.” Misty comments, brows twitching in place.
It’s her turn to bathe in smugness now, enjoying that way Misty hones in on her, like she has eyes for nothing else.
Those arms fight against her again, drawn near even as Cordelia summons hidden strength to keep them at bay. The silliness of it all sits warmly on her stomach, then rises to her chest that tightens under a serene swell. Misty is so near; she smells of dirt and fresh flowers, and Cordelia almost gives in to her strength, if only to bring her that bit nearer.
Stubbornness keeps her fingers firmly clutched around those palms that try to reach her face, ready to litter it with dark marks. Misty grunts with effort, a noise that hits her right at her very core. The unsteadiness that it brings with it gives Misty a momentary advantage; she swoops in with all the agility of a hawk, hands grazing Cordelia’s forehead. “Almost.” She grins, teasingly. Maybe something else. Maybe, if Cordelia let her imagination run as wild and carefree as it could, she could convince herself that Misty is flirting.
But she isn’t. Right? And the nervous pit in her stomach begins to appear, sucking away the breath from her lungs.
As it is, she’s still smiling. Her own lips twist coquettishly, in a way that has Misty staring with something lurking behind her features. Cordelia fully prepares herself for the inevitable way that Misty will withdraw, taking away her touches and smiles with her as she curls into herself. She doesn’t. She remains in Cordelia’s foresight, gaze ever so thoughtful and complex and swimming with things that Cordelia doesn’t think she’ll ever be able to understand.
Breath hitching, it sucks all the firmness from their connection. Her fingers begin to uncurl from around the soft skin of her inner wrist that no longer pushes against hers, drifting downwards without command. They linger; again, not by any control of her own.
Misty doesn’t seem to mind. Her face shifts and twists so quickly that Cordelia can barely keep up. The Cajun appears happy and sad all at the same time, eyes welling deeply with emotion. Pressure begins to build in her chest. Cordelia’s next words are breathed out like air slowly escaping a balloon. “Why did you stop?”
“I -” It sounds like something is stuck in her throat. Her courage, maybe. “I don’t know.”
Cordelia tilts her head at the vague response, lips pressing together to form a straight line.
There’s a moment where Misty forces out a sharp breath, one that she swears she can see even in the tepid classroom. She takes in the sight of Misty, how her fists begin to unfurl in a languid manner, clumps of dirt descending to the dreadfully dirty room they’ve created. For a moment, Cordelia wonders whether Misty’s going to take hold of her own hands, as if that is the natural progression.
She peers down to them, her pale skin muted by the brown speckles.
She smiles even as Misty seems to have lost her own.
Eyes drift lower, to where her fingers hold the Cajun with purpose, where her deep purple nail varnish sits starkly over moonlight skin. She admires it as she does everything about Misty, until suddenly there’s something not worth appreciation. In the scuffle, the material around Misty’s wrist seems to have been pulled askew, sitting lopsided on her arm.
And all Cordelia can do is stare at her wrist, nausea beginning to crawl its way up her throat.
The exposed skin sits heavy with long red lines, some thin and faded, others thick with red, angry appearing scabs that taunt her with their presence. They criss cross each other, layers and layers like age lines of a tree bark, hinting at the age of the older ones.
Cordelia knows what it is the second she sees it, but she still finds herself looking to Misty with eyes demanding an explanation.
Misty she refuses to give it to her, looking to the ground with shimmering intensity to her eyes; like she‘s begging it to swallow her whole. Her spare hand shrugs itself of Cordelia, reaching to free the one under scrutiny. When Cordelia only clings on in blatant denial, her nostrils flare. “Let go.”
The girl recoils within her hold. “Delia,” she starts, voice a warning that unsettles her.
But she feels her courage swirling around, bolstered by curiosity and care, and love. “What is this?” She asks, like she doesn’t know, words barely a whisper. She does know. She’s known for a while; she just wants Misty to say it out loud and make it real. Even if the idea of making it real has bile burning the back of her throat.
She shakes her arm harder this time, eyes stretching wider and worry lines growing on her face like weaving roots.
Her breath returns to her, even if it tastes stagnant and thick. “Misty.” Eyes volley between Misty’s tight expression and her wounded arm, the icy wrap of anguish joining for the ride.
“What?” She snaps, giving one firm and final tug that causes the both of them to stumble on wobbly legs. Cordelia steps forward, reaching out again only to have the Cajun practically fly from her reach, hurrying to hide the cuts from her view. Her fingers tremble with the speed of her knots. Her wrist may now be covered, but the imagine burns against Cordelia’s retinas.
“What do you mean, ‘what? ’”
“Your arm – "
She cuts her off with a harsh. “It’s fine.”
Misty takes another step back, shoulders sloping heavily and hand held protectively over her wrist. “I told you, I was climbin a – "
All and any frustration that she has over the whole thing finally has had enough, spurting out a deadpan of “bullshit.”
The Cajun’s eyes widen in shock. “Excuse me?” she chokes out.
“That,” she points accusingly, “is not an accident, Misty.”
“Why are you lying to me?” As she speaks the question, her heart stings as needles of misery poke hundreds of holes into it.
She stands taller at the accusation, scary and intimidating with dark, black eyes that cut right through the girl in front of her like they’re not best friends. “I ain’t lyin’.”
Anger surges through her. She digs her nails into her own palm as the temptation to shout and yell overcome her. That isn’t going to help anybody, especially not Misty, so she stifles them as best she can. Her strained voice is steadied with a slow gulp. She swallows the lump that blocks her replies from forming.
“There are so many.” She points out.
Misty scrunches her face together in uncertainty, a hint of anger still swimming at the surface. “So?” she throws out.
“They’re not from just one day.” Cordelia says, as if Misty’s doesn’t already know, like saying it out loud will make the girl have some sort of realization. She doesn’t; all Cordelia’s words do is pull another layer of vexation to her troubled face.
She can’t seem to find a reply now, only glaring in hopes it might sway Cordelia into silence. With her courage finally catching up with her, that doesn’t seem very likely.
“You did it on purpose, didn’t you?”
Teeth clenched together, she throws her head to the side. “Stop it.” It’s a whisper, lacking in conviction.
Cordelia feels tears poking at her eyes. “You’ve been cutting yourself for weeks.” She says, not seeking confirmation. It’s all too clear in Misty’s face. Her voice rises with emotion. “Maybe even longer.”
“Stop.” She’s louder now. Her darting gaze manages to still on her for all of a few seconds; she looks like she’s going to throw up. “Cordelia, please – don't."
A broken sigh follows. “If you are hurting yourself then you can ge – "
“I saidstop it!"
Cordelia does stop.
If only to stare the tears that well in Misty’s eyes like an angry ocean. She’s holding a hand protectively over her wrist, hiding it from Cordelia’s gaze as though the damage isn’t already done.
She doesn’t talk, not that Cordelia expects her to. But the tension between them becomes thick and stifling, as they continue to stare like they’re both waiting for something to happen. A single tear begins to descend down Misty’s cheek, where the dirt sits like freckles. Cordelia is reminded of how they were just a few moments ago. Happy and laughing. And now? In a matter of minutes, the illusion is shattered.
The very thought has her body preparing itself for tears of its own. A hot prickle pokes in the corner of her eyes.
Her questions hangs heavy in the air between them, broken like her heart.
“Cordelia, please.” She closes her eyes, and suddenly she looks awfully tired. The momentary chink in Misty’s anger gives her an opening where she steps closer. Her fingers twitch from where they hang beside her.
“I just want to know why.”
She says nothing.
The older blonde gulps. “Why won’t you tell me? I could – I want to help you.”
Silence. Deafeningly so.
Her denial irks Cordelia to no end, but she holds that back with teeth pressing tightly on the tip of her tongue. Any pain it brings fizzles out with her upset.
Instead, she tries to close the gap between them again, a hand lifting to meet Misty’s free arm. But the Cajun shifts out of her reach like a frightened animal, eyes as wide as saucers. She gives Cordelia one firm and decisive look, a strangled breath flowing from her lungs. “I'm gonna go.”
“Go?” She repeats like it’s a foreign word.
Misty frantically wipes at her cheek where another tear falls and lunges to grab her bag before Cordelia can even register the movements. When she does, she follows her. “Misty, don’t leave. Come on.”
“I don’t wanna talk about it.” She insists, that anger back from its slumber.
She reaches for her upper arm, making the slightest of contact before Misty shrugs her off with ease. A dark glance is thrown over her shoulder, one that has Cordelia freezing on the spot in dread. Reeling back, she scrutinizes Misty likes she’s a different person for those few seconds. “Stay.” She says. “We can just. . .”
. . . Forget this happened.
But no, she doesn’t want that. She wants Misty to confide each and every of her problems in her, just like they always do. Just like they should. It kills her that Misty won’t do it, even now that she’s seen the undeniable evidence.
Misty looks at her again, that same dejected way that makes her want to sweep the girl up in her arms.
Her fingers are already on the classroom handle, yanking it open. “Misty.” Cordelia tries again.
“Just -” She stops herself, lips parted with reluctant words that this new Misty clearly wants to say, but the old one holds back. The internal struggle is palpable in the air, until one of them wins, and it’s clear who when she sighs out the next sentence. “Leave me alone, okay?”
She doesn’t agree to it. She can’t. Misty’s name falls from her lips once more, only to be ignored by the Cajun who’s throwing her backpack hastily over her shoulder and stepping out of the room. As she does so, Cordelia can see her tugging on those damn wrist ties again, making sure all of the scars are hidden out of sight from everyone else.
“Misty!” Cordelia is standing in the hallway now, her words echoing tauntingly around her. “Come on, don’t go. I didn’t. . .” She pauses, biting her lip, because she had meant to probe. It’s something she’s been hinting at for weeks now. “Where are you going?”
“Home!” she yells over her shoulder.
“But that’ll take you over an hour to walk.”
Her shoulders stiffen. “I don’t care.”
“Don’t be like that.” She finds herself resisting the urge to scream out all of her frustrations into the hallway that seems to be growing smaller by the second as Misty’s figure angrily retreats, or more flees, from her sight.
Her chest sucks in tighter, like a vacuum tugging the air from within it.
Misty stops just before the corner, head bowed and feet sticking to the squeaky floor. She glances back, just for a second, and Cordelia thinks she might realize what’s she’s doing. That regret might tinge her insides and force her back toward her, but it doesn’t. Hardness fills where fragility once was in her features. She wipes at her eyes again, though Cordelia is too far away to see any tears that linger there.
Then she’s gone, and Cordelia wishes there was a way to have made her stay.