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i wanna wake up with you all in tangles

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She doesn’t see Misty again until biology, and the Cajun shows up five minutes late with red rimmed eyes and a bleak expression. Mumbling an apology to the teacher, she sits herself on the stool next to Cordelia, not daring even a peek in her direction. Cordelia can’t look either, not without her insides throbbing with heartache.  

So, they do just that; spend the whole class not looking at one another.  

It hurts the confines of her chest. Inches apart, the air around them so thick that even Madison notices it a few feet away.  

Cordelia ignores the strange glances thrown their way, focusing solely on the board in front of her. It’s awfully boring, especially without the usual distraction of talking to her friend. Eyes flutter to the clock, wondering how an hour can last an eternity. And she still doesn’t glance at Misty.  

Even when she hears the distinct crinkle of a wrapper and knows Misty is snacking on something, or when the girl hums music under her breath. The tune, she doesn’t recognize, yet somehow succeeds in filling her with melancholy. Trying to work and simultaneously ignore/give Misty all of her attention from her peripherals should be an Olympic sport. Seeing as she aches with effort.  

It’s as though Misty demands her focus without prompting. But Cordelia’s severe words hang between them, a promise (maybe even a low-key threat?) that her questions aren’t over. That Misty shouldn’t grow complacent because they’re sort of, but not really, talking to one another.  

Curiosity burns at the insides of her brains as she once again tries to figure out the reason for Misty’s actions. More importantly, why she won’t tell her. Even so, the Cajun’s own question itches there, too. About the person that Cordelia liked (still likes, and is terrified that she is well and truly in love with).  

Why does she keep bringing that up? 

The question lingers, causing her eyes to glaze over as she thinks of the possible answers. Misty seems awfully invested in the answer, even as she winces and grimaces at the idea of Cordelia liking a person sometimes. Is it inquisitiveness? Or is it just a best friend thing? They’re supposed to tell each other everything, right? Her heart starts a slow, sinking descent as their conversation replays in her head.  

Misty had seemed genuinely annoyed that she wouldn’t tell her. Is her refusal to tell Cordelia her own reasonings a spiteful reaction to that? 

No. She shakes her head quickly at the very idea that Misty could be spiteful. Guilt sits heavily on her stomach for thinking that, even for a second. Misty is sweet and kind, and she’d never intentionally want to hurt anyone.  

But she’s hurting Cordelia, whether she knows it or not, and the older blonde shifts in her seat to try and nudge the discomfort out of her body.  

This class has always been one of her favorites. Right now, given the chance, she’d run for the door without a second thought. A long sigh flows from her ragged lungs. She blinks a few times, eyes unfocused and squinting and altogether tired. It’s a feeling the rest of her soul can relate to. 

She narrows her eyes in the direction of the board where writing seems to mock her with its blurry nature. Beside her, she hears Misty make a noise, close to disgruntled. Cordelia can’t help herself then, tearing chocolate brown eyes away and in Misty’s general direction, where they pick up on the worry lines scattered all over her face.  

Her eyes are still red. Less so, but still noticeable. 

In spite of her dishevelled appearance, and Cordelia expecting some snarky comment like it’s Madison sat next to her, the Cajun puckers her lips together. Then, all too fondly and attempting to be a reprimand, she speaks. “Will you just put your damn glasses on?” Cordelia’s mouth falls open at that, no reply able to form.  

Misty doesn’t seem bothered. She just stares back, unrelenting and commanding. So much so that Cordelia is wordlessly rifling through her bag for her glasses case. When they’re on, she dares to watch Misty again, just for a second, to find her looking elsewhere. Bowing her head slightly, Cordelia chews on her lower lip painfully and tries not to overthink.  

Unfortunately for her, that’s one of her only talents.  

By the time the class ends, she’s swallowing thick mouthfuls of tension until it hurts. Misty looks at her again, then pretends it had all been by accident when Cordelia just so happened to be peering in the Cajun’s direction. Their brief eye contact sends a judder through her body, and not a pleasant one.  

Her insides clench. She doesn’t know what to say. Never before has she never had anything to say to Misty, even if it is in one of their recent arguments. That stings even more.  

But Misty stands in blatant refusal to glance her way now, maybe because of the tears beginning to swill in her eyes. She shoves things into her backpack, then scurries out of the room.  

Cordelia resists the urge to scream.  

… 

Misty always comes to her house on a Monday, without question.  

But that day she doesn’t.  

Cordelia, again, laments the idea of Misty having to get home by herself, even if she knows the Cajun is a capable almost adult. She sighs and frowns and then sighs some more. Textbooks hold no interest to her. The TV serves only to fill the once white noise with aimless chatter and characters.  

She pushes the lump in her throat down as she makes dinner and realizes she’s making enough for both her and Misty, then angrily throws half of it in the trash. So ferocious in her actions, the plate almost makes it in. 

Not long after, she sits at the empty table, stabbing at the food in a way it probably doesn’t deserve. And it makes her feel better. Maybe. A little. Well, not really at all.  

Fiona flitters in, making herself a bourbon. Cordelia almost asks for one herself, knowing her mother couldn’t really care less about underage drinking. She doesn’t ask, but Fiona does set a pointed stare at her.  

“Where’s your friend?” She questions nosily.  

Cordelia doesn’t have it in her to summon the snarky teenage response that seems to be fit for talking to Fiona these days. She lets a frown tug at her lips and shrugs.  

Her mother takes a generous sip of her drink. Eyes narrow, wrinkles appearing even if she’d never dare tell Fiona that. “Did you fight?” 

Another shrug. “Sort of.”  

The way she responds is detached, uncaring, because if she lets even a droplet of emotion into her voice, the floodgates will open and she’ll be crying in front of Fiona. That is not a situation she wants to find herself in. To Fiona, crying is weakness. And Cordelia doesn’t need another reason to disappoint her mother.  

She curls her fingers tighter around the fork, eyes lifting to stare dead centre into Fiona’s almost black eyes. She's thinking. She’s always thinking. Ever since she remembers, that gaze has held hidden thoughts behind it, mockingly in her sights, but never simple enough to understand. For once, her mother grants her the aid of an explanation into her expression. “Well, it’s not going to do you any good sitting here and moping, is it? Either find the girl and sort this shit out, or cut her out of your life.” Cordelia winces at the way she speaks so bluntly. “But you’re a Goode, and Goode’s do not mope.”  

That sentence carries with her the whole night, heavy on her shoulders, her chest. It’s an immense weight that she wonders if she’ll ever shrug it off.  

If her mother ever realized how often she betrayed the Goode name by moping and pining over a certain blonde, she’d most definitely be disappointed in her. As it is, she keeps it hidden behind her bedroom door and falls into a dreamless sleep against the deafening silence.  

… 

Tuesday brings with it a new resolve, the idea that maybe she is going to be strong like Fiona. That she can look at Misty and not feel like everything inside of her is shattering if this continues. She can do it. Misty will realize that her intentions are good, caring; she’ll confide in her eventually, right?  

Said resolve breaks the second she sees the Cajun, and Cordelia inwardly berates herself for having such little conviction.  

Misty is by her locker, struggling to fit something inside of it. She shoves and grunts and pushes the object with tight lines at the corners of her mouth. When she sees Cordelia approach, her movements slow almost to stillness. She blinks, watching Cordelia open up her own locker. “Hi.” She tries. 

“Hey.” Cordelia says. Short, curt. But not angry. Still, it makes Misty bow her head slightly, something flashing across her face.  

The younger blonde opens her mouth to speak, but it flops closed when she notices Cordelia already clutching her things. She’s ready to go, knowing that if she lingers near Misty too long then she’s going to ask again, and she can’t do that. Not here, in the middle of the hallway. The thought of leaving Misty with despair sweeping over her expression in front of so many people causes her heart to seize with ice.  

Cordelia doesn’t notice how she causes that look either way. Seeing as she’s walking in the opposite direction of the Cajun. 

… 

“Damn Misty, are you sick or something?”  

Cordelia’s head snaps up at the mention of Misty, who sits between Mallory and Queenie. Not next to her, like normal.  

She frowns at Queenie, forehead creasing at the very idea. “No.” She pushes out slowly. “Why?”  

A snort of laughter follows, but neither Misty or Cordelia join the humor. “’Cause you’re eating like a normal person.”  

“Oh.” Misty frowns. Her voice is quiet, and Cordelia doesn’t like the desolate energy that vibrates from it. “Just not hungry, I guess.”  

“Stop the fucking presses.” Madison smirks, interested enough to lower her phone. “Someone write down the time and date so we have proof of this.” 

Zoe rolls her eyes. “Shut up, Maddy.”  

Under the sudden attention of everyone, Misty tries not to let herself shrink. She pushes on the least convincing smile Cordelia has ever seen. “I’m fine, really. Musta ate somethin’ bad, you know?” She clearly forces herself to take another bite of the sandwich, chewing longer than normal. 

While others drift attention away, Cordelia continues to stare. When their eyes meet, she doesn’t surrender to the idea of looking away, no matter how much she wants to. Misty stops. Like literally stops in all movement - every part of her body freezes, the unswallowed food causing a lump in her cheek. And she just stares, right into Cordelia’s soul, with a gaze so convoluted that Cordelia feels practically winded.  

They haven’t spoken since their greeting this mornin; they’ve barely glanced at each other all day, and now Cordelia doesn’t know what to do. Because those eyes are wide and wild. Uncertainty dances in the corner. Her irises shimmer like glitter in the ever-moving surface of stormy seas on the most tempestuous of days. She isn’t okay.  

Her own gaze must hold all of the questions that remain unanswered between them, seeing as Misty suddenly looks terrified. 

Cordelia isn’t surprised when Misty jerks back into life, hurriedly finishing her bite and then reaching for her things. She utters some quick excuse about having to go, leaving with long strides. Everyone just sort of pauses for a second, confusion filling the air around them.  

She experiences the intensity of six gazes thrown her way, demanding an explanation, as if she’s some sort of expert of the unpredictable nature of Misty. But she doesn’t have anything to say to them. Misty’s troubles aren’t hers to go about sharing with people who don’t notice enough to ask the girl herself.  

Sighing, she stares at the door where Misty had walked out of, wanting to follow.  

“What the fuck’s wrong with her?” Madison asks.  

Mallory, after a thoughtful pause, shrugs. “Maybe she needed to throw up.”  

Their eyes still linger her way, hoping for her to share something, anything. She doesn’t. Cordelia somehow manages to remain indifferent to their whole conversation, and she thinks maybe for a second it might look like she doesn’t care. Fiona would be proud at that. Nothing gets the Goode’s, not even emotions.  

But she does care.  

She said so herself. And she’s rising to her feet too, with all those eyes observing again. She doesn’t have to say where she’s going. They know. Expressions range from sympathetic to amused, and Cordelia tears her gaze away from every single one of them in pursuit of Misty.  

Only, the Cajun isn’t where she expects her to be. The plants in the classroom sit quietly, staring back at her for disrupting the calmness over the buzz of the UV light. Cordelia feels her frown grow that bit bigger, checking the room again just in case her eyes are deceiving her. They aren’t.  

She checks everywhere she can think of. The library. The locker rooms. Even the bathrooms. All are empty of any blonde haired Cajun.  

She realizes with a nauseating thought that maybe doesn’t want to be found.  

This is only instilled further when the girl doesn’t show up to biology that day, and Cordelia spends the entire hour staring at the empty seat next to her.  

… 

The next morning, Misty doesn’t speak to her at the lockers, but her eyes loiter over the older blonde regardless. She doesn’t need to say anything for Cordelia to perceive the erratic nature of her being that morning.  

She takes a step back, scrutinizing her. Misty’s skin is pale, almost to the point of pasty. This does nothing but highlight the shadows and lines that hollow her face. When she catches that gaze, just for a moment, the blue is duller.  

And Cordelia is hit with that guilt again, with the resounding taunt in her head that she’s doing this to Misty and she should just apologize, let this be water under the proverbial bridge. Only, Misty won’t tell her the truth then, and she stubbornly holds out with the (perhaps fruitless) idea that Misty will apologize first.  

She doesn’t.  

Even without an apology, tenderness fills her next few words. “Are you alright?” she swallows 

Misty nods so emphatically that it’s clear it isn’t genuine.  

Cordelia speaks out her name oh so quietly. 

But they’re both really fucking stubborn, turns out, and Misty is straightening in one disdainful movement. Her nostrils flare with pride. “I’m fine.”  

She readies herself to call out Misty’s obvious lie, though the Cajun is already making to leave as if anticipating so.  

… 

Misty doesn’t show up to biology that day, either.  

The familiar abyss inside of her grows darker.  

“Trouble is paradise?” Madison snickers as she walks past, finding Cordelia glaring to the empty spot like it’s personally insulted her.  

She bristles, muscles tightening.  

“Go away.”  

… 

“Is Misty talking to you?”  

Zoe frowns at the strange, desperately asked question, and finally answers with a small nod. Then, her face twists in musing. “Why?” 

“I think she’s avoiding me.” Cordelia admits with a pit in her stomach.  

She struggles to concentrate on the work in front of them; she actually doesn’t remember any time in the past week that she’s successfully managed to focus in class. The idea is banished with a shake of her head. Slowly, she lowers her pen to the half filled piece of paper and looks directly at Zoe.  

To her friend’s credit, she feigns surprise fairly well, but it’s no secret that things have been weird between her and Misty for days now. “She hasn’t said anything.”  

Cordelia bows her head.  

Oh.”  

A hand is suddenly on hers, squeezing it. She barely smiles.  

“Maybe she’s just really busy. She was going on about falling behind in English yesterday.”  

She tries not to let her breath hitch at that, but it does anyway. All worries of Zoe hearing it are usurped by concern that suddenly floods around her body. It’s usually Cordelia who helps Misty study for that particular class, at her home with the TV entertaining itself in the background and Misty’s soft giggles filling the air. Cordelia lets the nausea crawl up her throat, preventing any words from following.  

Beside her, Zoe must notice how the blood drains from her features, tilting her head in unease.  

“Cordelia?” 

She blinks back into reality, tearing away damaging thoughts that their fight might be affecting Misty’s education. “Yeah?”  

“Have you tried talking to her?” 

Tried and failed, she thinks bitterly. Then gives a soft shrug. “I’ll try again.” The sigh that follows seems to last an eternity. “Maybe things will be different now we’ve both had a little time to think.”  

Zoe smiles hopefully, returning to her math. In turn, Cordelia tries to do the same. The monotonous nature of the work is almost enough to calm her frazzled nerves. 

Until she hears Zoe speak up ten minutes later. “I really do think you should tell her, you know.” 

Cordelia doesn’t answer.  

... 

When Misty’s absence prevails for the third day, the anguish inside of her very quickly transforms into something else. Her blood boils, hands clutching onto the edge of the desk.  

And the second the bell rings, she storms out before anyone else can even react.  

Feet carrying her with purpose, she heads toward the locker room all too quickly. With each passing step, her annoyance bubbles from her stomach into her lungs where it fills the space with thick irritation. She is barely aware of the other faces who look at her in confusion, knowing that she is not a regular in her gym class.  

Then suddenly, there’s one face staring back at her not with befuddlement in its wake, but guilt instead. Misty is already changed into her gym wear, and she’d been fighting to get her curls into a high pony when Cordelia had barged in. She drops the locks now, mouth flapping open and closed like a fish out of water.  

Because Cordelia is fucking pissed.  

It’s evident in the way her body twitches on the spot, or how her teeth tightly hold onto lips to keep herself from fully exploding with words she doesn’t mean to say. She slows in front of Misty, who nods, rising to her full height from where she had been sat on the bench. The Cajun braces herself with a deep breath. “Cordelia.” She says on the exhale.  

“What the hell, Misty?” 

The girl winces.

She can see the others around them, some beginning a retreat out of the room and others standing to attention, while pretending they are focusing on something else entirely. Cordelia couldn’t give a shred of care in the moment, even as Misty’s eyes dart nervously between the spectators and her friend.  

Her jaw becomes taut with frustration, all aimed toward Misty. “Why are you skipping class?” 

It’s a question she already knows the answer to, seeing as Misty is avoiding her in every other instant of school. Why not biology? Fire settles inside of her, never before reserved for the Cajun like this, and if she wasn’t so worked up, she’d take a moment to let it subside. But its flames rise higher and higher like a bonfire, the smoke bitterly catching in her throat, especially when Misty continues to flounder. “Why?” She pushes.  

“Don’t make me say it.” Misty insists through tight teeth. 

When she lowers her head to stare to the linoleum floors, Cordelia closes the gap between them. Misty’s warmth wraps around her, most stifling than usual. Catching Misty’s chin with her hand, she tenderly lifts it and brings their gazes together - one reluctant and another unyielding.  

Misty softens under her touch, whether from weakness or fondness she can’t quite tell behind red eyes, but she sincerely hopes its the latter. 

“You shouldn’t skip class.” She insists as the silence becomes too much for her spinning mind to take.  

Misty opens her mouth to speak, but she’s not quite finished. Even if the next few words pain her. “I don’t care if you’re mad at me.” She says, choking on her own words. “I don’t care if you hate me. But I do care if you fail because of me.”  

A firm head shake follows. “I ain’t failin’.” 

Cordelia sighs at her friend, once again at a loss of what she can do to help. Especially when Misty seems so headstrong on a path to self-destruction. Her fingers loosen on her chin, a sign of dwindling patience, and she wonders in a moment of weakness if this is all just some lost cause. But then there are two hands on hers, keeping it steady; there and then she knows that she’ll keep fighting for Misty.  

Misty's hands are cold against her own. She welcomes their presence nonetheless with the want to smile hanging on her lips. She doesn’t quite manage. Maybe Misty can see it in the way her eyes illuminate at the touch.  

“I can’t do it.” 

She pauses, not wanting to ask, but without any other choice. “Do what?” 

“I can’t. . .” Misty trails off, grimacing, “sit there with you not talkin’ to me.” She lowers her hands now, falling limply by her side and tugging at the hem of her shorts. Cordelia would normally stare there, all dumb and smitten, yet she finds herself with more pressing matters. The worry lines on Misty’s face grow in number, a terrible onslaught of anguish that tugs at her heart strings. “It hurts too much.” 

Her lips press together again, thoughtful. But also to keep tears at bay. They fight against the barrier, trying to permeant the skin with their noises of despair. She keeps fighting. Cordelia closes her eyes and, just like Misty, experiences that unforgiving sting of pain. “Then don’t sit next to me.”  

Misty’s eyes widen, confused. Horrified. That at least gives Cordelia somewhat of a break in her sadness. Not enough, because she keeps on talking even as Misty shakes her head.  

“Swap with Madison, or anyone. I don’t care. Just.” She stops, letting her voice crack. Just once. “Just show up to class, please.” 

At her words, Misty’s face has become darker, pained. Though directed at herself rather than the older blonde in front of her. She doesn’t say anything, and maybe that’s for the better because Cordelia doesn’t think there’s anything that could make this situation any better.  

She’s offering to sit next to Madison of all people just to keep Misty from skipping. Her stomach flips and twists uneasily, and her hand does slip from Misty’s face this time, hovering for just a moment. Misty observes its retreat with regret swimming in her eyes.  

“You can’t be serious.” She barks out, disbelieving. For a moment, she observes Cordelia like this is some trick, a farce created to heal the rift that the pair are succeeding in amplifying every passing second.  

But it isn’t, and Misty must eventually realize that because something strange settles on her features. The look that always catches her off guard. She stares at it, hoping one day it will make sense.  

Their eyes meet, and she smiles ever so sadly. “I am serious, Misty.” The quiet nature of the words doesn’t mean that they're not heartfelt, and Misty stills again in their appearance.  

Whatever moment the pair are having, it is rather abruptly put to an end when the coach barrels in, demanding a reason for the hold up. It’s only then that she realizes she’s late for her next class, and she’s been keeping this one held in ransom through their own curiosity at watching the pair. Cordelia flashes red, mumbling an apology to the coach and throwing one last look to Misty.  

Who still hasn’t moved.  

As soon as she is out of the door, she pulls in a shuddery breath. Surprise rolls through her in waves as she feels the tears ebb away, none of them falling. Briefly, she’d assumed the flood gates would open the minute she left. Maybe she’s getting better at controlling them, or maybe she’s cried so much that few remain. 

Either way, she finds her way to the next class appearing outwardly less scathed than she feels.  

… 

Their conversation follows her the entire way home, all through dinner and then haunts her bath as she attempts to read some prose for her English. Shakespeare is easily put to rest in favor of thinking herself into a frenzy.  

She reaches for the phone, where music softly hums from the speakers, checking it for any messages. There are texts, but not from the one person that she wants. After staring for a long while, she lets a sigh reap melancholy through her entire body.  

Cordelia didn’t realize it was possible to miss someone this much when you see them every single day.  

… 

Friday brings with it the promise of the weekend, a reprieve to whatever this week has been. She is all but ready to put it behind her, insisting that next week will be better. Maybe. Surely it can’t be any worse.  

Most of the morning is spent making amicable chatter with Queenie and Nan, feeling herself laugh for the first time in days as they have her in stitches over Queenie embarrassing herself in front of her crush. It’s nice, it’s easy and she likes how her smile meets her eyes for once.  

She has another meeting with Miss Snow. Not out of necessity, turns out, but the teacher curiously asks her if she’s had any college letters yet and she ends up in her office for most of the lunch hour. That’s nice, too. An adult who’s interested in her future, who shares the passion of teaching others and wants only what’s best for her.  

Don’t get her wrong, talking to her friends is great, but there’s something reassuring about having the confidence of the woman in her. That glint behind her eyes brings a warmth inside of Cordelia, one that makes the future seem less scary.  

She leaves a few minutes early, enjoying the gentle pat on her shoulder from Miss Snow as she’s ushered from the office when the woman’s phone starts ringing. 

The walk to her locker feels lighter than previous days. She turns, hoping to find Misty at her own locker, but no such luck. The smile falters, just momentarily.  

Maybe she’s already at class. She hopes. What if her words haven’t got through to Misty? What if she continues to skip and steer clear of her at all costs just for the sake of avoiding the discomfort of having to sit next to one another?  

Oh so expertly, she begins to unravel the good mood she’s worked all day on building up, and it falls apart like strands of yarn. More so when she gets to the room, almost late herself, to see no Misty. 

Well, shit.  

Madison is behind her, less caring of her own tardiness, and practically barges into Cordelia to get past. She yelps, eyebrows knitting together in annoyance as she glares at her. “Is that necessary?” she grumbles out, eyes flittering back to the empty stool. She’s beginning to hate it.  

“You were in my way.” 

“I’m stood in front of my desk.” 

A liberal eye roll follows, then quickly locks onto the wistful way Cordelia stares beside her. “I wouldn’t expect trailer trash any time soon.”  

Cordelia narrows her eyes at the name, then grows in dejection at the idea of even Madison knowing that Misty is avoiding her. All she needs now is ‘pathetic’ written over her forehead. “Yeah, I was just hopeful, I guess.” I really thought she’d come.   

Before her, the girl gives a deep frown, then smirks in understanding. “Ew, this isn't about your lover’s quarrel.”  

She really, honestly and truly, resists the urge to slap her there and then.  

But Madison has piqued her interest, and now she finds herself staring expectantly to her for some sort of an explanation. “You didn’t hear?”  

“No.” She says, growing in exasperation.  

Madison shrugs, unbothered. Even if the gossip rolls off her tongue way too easily. “Swampy got into a fight.”  

She feels her breath catch, then her eyes widen. “What?” The voice doesn’t sound like her own, all choked and shocked. “With who?”  

There’s another smirk, eyes glistening and eyebrows rising. “That would be telling.”  

“Madison, I swear to god – " 

“Apparently she was defending your honor.” She gives a stark laugh, obviously amused by the paling of Cordelia’s face at that revelation.  

Cordelia ignores the way Miss Pembroke is staring to them impatiently. “Have you finished ladies?” She asks, perturbed.  

It goes completely unanswered, because all Cordelia can do is try and ground the many of thoughts soaring around her head right now, the first and foremost wondering if Misty is okay or not. She says it aloud, only for Madison to give another non – committal shrug. “Where is she?” she then demands to know, a hand grabbing onto her arm.  

Madison pushes it off, pulling a face. “You know I don’t like people touching me.” She insists as her smirk quickly transforms into a scowl. Cordelia’s eyes relent, wide and wet and desperately caring. “I dunno. She’s in the nurse’s office, I guess.” 

That’s all Cordelia needs to know before she’s grabbing the bag that she hasn’t even unpacked yet and unceremoniously shoving Madison out of the way to get to the door. Behind her, Miss Pembroke calls her name, but she really couldn’t give two shits. Her power walk becomes a run in a matter of moments, where she sprints toward the office with more than breathlessness on her lungs.  

And she doesn’t have to look very far for Misty, seeing as she’s sat on the bench outside. Her legs are crossed under herself, a hand holding tissue firmly to her bloodied nose, just enough to cover the wounded way she stares at the ground.  

At the sound of footsteps, she throws her head up and locks their eyes. “Hi. . .” Cordelia pauses for all of a few seconds to regard her downtrodden appearance, then she decides that she doesn’t care if Misty is mad at her and she swoops onto the spare seat next to her.  

“Misty.” She says, softer than ever before. Nearer, and with the aid of the artificial light, she can see where her lip and eye are beginning to litter with the blues and purples of forming bruises. She cups the Cajun’s chin, just like she had in the locker room, only this time her thumb brushes over the not quite there bruise of her thin lip.  

Under her touch, Misty stills. Her eyes had first been reluctant to land on Cordelia, but now settle on her in a beautiful sadness.  

“I was going to ask if you were okay,” Cordelia starts with a wry smile, “but I think I already know the answer to that.” 

“How did you know I was here?” 

She finds fresh tissues for Misty, replacing the old one with crisp, white material that doesn’t stay white for very long. Misty lowers both her hands now, allowing Cordelia to carefully tend to her. “Madison.” The Cajun nods in understanding. 

All those questions fight to make themselves known, but the moment is so quiet that she dares not break it. Plus, her eyes are pretty busy making a map of all the bruises, committing them to her memory.  

Inside the room, she can hear someone complaining, no doubt that other party to the fight. When she returns her gaze thoughtfully to Misty, she finds the girl continuing to stare at her direction. “I was gonna come, you know.”  

“What?”  

“To class.” She explains, eyes closing briefly for a second. She looks awfully tired. “I swear I was.”  

Cordelia runs a hand gently down her arm, all the way to the wrists. When she notices that the material is askew, just like it had been in their first fight, she breathes out against a constricting throat and fixes it for Misty. The cuts now lay hidden behind the black material, just as angry and unforgiving as the bruises on Misty’s face. She rests her hand on the girl’s forearm then, needing her touch to bolster all and any confidence.  

Her dark eyes keep Misty enrapt. “What happened?” she asks gently, wondering if Misty’s story will corroborate what Madison had said. At such an idea, her chest throbs with something she doesn’t want to admit.  

Misty’s face pinches with ire. Fists clench together, all but ready for round two.  

She questions again, when the response takes too long. Trepidation lingers on her features, for fear that she might push Misty too far again. But then again, she doesn’t want too little, either. It’s a fine balance, one that she’s determined to master.  

“They were talkin’ about you.” She mutters, words all quaky as she fights her obvious resentment of anyone badmouthing her.  

The older blonde eases the moment with light laughter. “We’re in High School. Everyone talks about everyone.”  

“Well, they – they shouldn’t have said those things.” Misty says, severely and with fervor. Her brows grow thicker as they knit into a tight line on her forehead, but Cordelia can only stare to her lips as she speaks. Her tongue darts out, nervously, like she doesn’t want to say the next few words. Cordelia is all too familiar with that internal battle, squeezing Misty’s arm in earnest.  

Interest forms inside of her like a seedling, nurtured by the fury that Misty wears.  

Cordelia swallows thickly, rearranging the tissue to help catch the droplets of blood that fall from Misty’s nose. She guides her head backwards ever so slightly, holding the tresses of her golden hair with her free hand. Misty closes her eyes, basking in whatever this is.  

“You didn’t need to fight them.” Cordelia says. “I’m sure people say bad things about me all the time.” 

“They called you a dyke.”  

Her lips part, face falling ever so slightly. “Ah.”  

Misty licks her dry lips again, thoughtful this time, but enough to keep Cordelia staring with feelings stirring inside. “You said that was a bad word.”  

“It is.” Cordelia agrees softly.  

“I didn’t want you to hear and be upset.” She confesses, eyes still closed.  

With an appreciative warmth buzzing through her body like a hive of bees, she simply gawks. She stares because Misty would do this to herself to defend her; because her friend was worried that some random kids at their school might her hurt feelings and acted on instinct, and she stares because Misty’s oddly noble act is both endearing and bittersweet.  

She wonders how she’d react if she ever told her she did like girls. 

Cordelia couldn’t ever imagine Misty judging her for such a thing, but sometimes those inklings of doubt find their way in. She never thought she and Misty would argue until last Monday, so that goes to show how much she knows. Even now, holding Misty in her delicate touch, she is aware the Cajun is somewhat of a firecracker.  

Unruly. Unpredictable. A mixture of chaos and good that makes her insides quiver.  

Maybe she should tell her. Surely, she won’t share the same views as her father; she’s from a different time, a different generation who are altogether more accepting. Except, here Misty is bruised and bloodied defending her because someone called her a lesbian. 

She sighs. Maybe not. 

“That’s sweet of you to think of me.” She speaks carefully, using a rehearsed tone that Misty peeks an eye open at. “But you really didn’t need to do that.”  

Misty shrugs, unapologetic. “Couldn’t stop myself.”  

“You’re hurt, though.”  

“I’ll heal.” 

For a moment, Cordelia wonders whether she thinks that about the cuts on her wrists, too. And how much Misty hopes time is going to be the healer of all and any of her wounds.  

Crisp tears spring to her eyes without warning. A hand begins a rapid retreat from Misty, who jerks to attention and watches Cordelia with sadness swimming in her own eyes as a sob flows from the older blonde’s lips. “Delia?”  

“I’m sorry.” She wipes hurriedly at the wetness on her cheeks, feeling downright silly when Misty is the one sat with literal blood flowing from her nose. Her hands clutch the tissue there tighter, until Misty takes over and holds onto it. With her other hand free, it simply holds onto Misty’s arm, anchoring her in place. “I’m sorry.” She says again. “I just – this week. . .” 

Misty nods quickly, face crumpling with despair as she witnesses Cordelia try to clutch onto the last semblance of composure.  

Through watery eyes, she sees the Cajun stare down to her wrists, then back at Cordelia in a solemn manner. She calls her name, pulling Cordelia’s attention away from her tears just enough to slow them. “Hmmm?”  

“I want us to be friends again.” 

“Misty.” Her lips quiver. “We were always friends. I – " 

She holds up a hand to silence her, suddenly nervous and twitchy, but so fucking sincere that Cordelia feels her eyes inch that bit wider. “I know. I just.” Misty looks down again, decided. “I’m gonna tell you the reason, okay? And. . .” Her voice shakes with effort, but she persists, pulling the tissue from her nose to keep the words from being muffled. Cordelia watches, transfixed, as the smallest drop of blood travels down her philtrum toward her lip. “And - I ain’t ever told anyone this so please just. . .”  

That’s all she can manage to get out, but Cordelia nods either way.  

Breath waits patiently in her lungs; this is something that she’s both wished and dreaded at the same time, and now it’s happening.  

Her fingers find Misty’s. In turn, Misty interlaces them neatly.  

And Cordelia waits.  

Because she’s got awfully good at this waiting gig. To her relief, Misty only needs a few moments to gather her words, to summon strength that Cordelia knows she has an abundance of.  

Her words are so quiet that she almost asks her to repeat them. “I have these thoughts.” She does hear them, just about, and feels her face react with confusion.  

Misty isn’t looking at her; she’s found a particularly interesting pattern on the floor and seems content in mapping every twist and turn of it. Their hands stay held together.  

“What kind of thoughts?” she hears herself ask. 

Eyes rising to her, she is taken aback by the grave nature of Misty’s stare. “Sinful ones. Stuff I shouldn’t ever be thinkin’ about.” 

That isn’t enough for Cordelia, whose lungs burn with the desire to probe just that little bit more. Only, once she starts breaking through all the layers of Misty’s complex psyche, she fears there won’t ever be a chance to go back. 

Misty blinks. “I can’t stop ‘em.”  

She sniffles, and Cordelia hadn’t even realized the tears she could see were Misty’s and not her own. Cursing herself for not taking notice, she leans in nearer and places a hand on the girl’s shoulder, fingers curling around the soft skin.  

“I think I’m goin’ to Hell, Delia.” She confesses, nothing short of broken.  

Cordelia envelopes her that bit tighter, hoping that her embrace is enough to make Misty feel less stranded in the vast ocean that is life. “Not a chance.” She says, voice stronger than she ever remembers it being. Misty turns to her, almost needily. “Not a fucking chance.”  

Face crumpling in on itself, Misty lets the tears take over. Any want to believe Cordelia’s words is usurped by a notion that she’s already convinced herself of. “I just know I am.” Her head falls against Cordelia’s shoulder, and the older blonde can hear her physically gulp down the army of tears. “The thoughts – they scare me sometimes. . .” She closes her eyes, then corrects herself, whispering out. “Well, all the time.” Her expression shatters. “I’m definitely goin’ to Hell.”  

“Hey, hey.” She tries her best to corral Misty’s emotions together, but they resist. “You are so, so good. Misty. You’re like – like. . .” She feels Misty shift against her, “you’re like when sun breaks through the clouds after a storm. When it’s reflected in all the puddles and there’s nothing but bright and color, and life. That’s you.” Her own words surprise her, but she continues regardless. “Someone like you couldn’t ever go to Hell. I refuse to believe it.” 

Misty doesn’t say anything, though there’s a growing air of disquiet about her.  

Cradling the girl, Cordelia begins to put the puzzle pieces together of all the information she’s been given. “That’s why you do it?” she asks, heartbroken. “Because of those thoughts?” 

The Cajun exhales, like she’s relearning how to breath.  

“Yeah.”  

Cordelia lets another hot tear roll down her cheek.  

“At first I thought if I felt pain every time I had one of those thoughts, it would stop them.” She bows her head. “But it didn’t.”  

“How long?” she asks, needing to know.  

“I don’t remember.”  

Her chest stings uneasily.  

“But it’s got worse since I moved here.” Cordelia feels that familiar pang inside of her, the desire to keep Misty in her arms all too strong. Like that’s going to help her. Clearly it isn’t, if she’s getting worse. She doesn’t know whether to cry or scream, and she knows both are pretty damn useless in doing anything to stop this.  

“If it doesn’t work, then why do you still do it?” 

Misty’s discomfort grows in tenfold, like she knows she’s about to push Cordelia to her limit. But the honestly continues to flow from her, and Cordelia is willing to accept whatever is thrown her way in its midst.  

The Cajun frowns so deeply that her entire face wears the sorrow. “I figured if it wasn’t gonna stop, I should at least be punished for them.”  

Punished?  

She almost recoils from her friend’s touch, insides pinching painfully.  

“Shit, Misty.”  

There is no response, and she really doesn’t think anything could alleviate the turmoil that runs through her veins. She clutches Misty tighter, wondering if this is what she feels all the time.  

Her words must finally strike a chord in Misty, who lets her own tears fly through the threshold and return with vengeance. They’re ugly, broken sobs that Cordelia doesn’t think she’s ever heard from anyone. She holds her, too scared to let go. And she doesn’t know what to make of what Misty has told her, what it could possibly mean. Implications drift like abandoned boats on the ocean of her thoughts and she desperately wants to cling into them. 

But as she looks down at her friend, she realizes that what she thinks is really quite redundant now. Misty is hurting, and all that matters is that she’s there for her.