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only love can hurt like this

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Misty ignores the ache in her calves, the fire in her thighs, continuing to push the pedals on her bicycle faster and faster until she is skidding to a halt on the sidewalk in front of Cordelia’s home.

She’s out of breath, but in a good way, and her bike is abandoned very much in the way so she can rush forward to the front door. As always, she smiles upon sight of the mustard yellow, the same color that makes the house standout amongst all the others against the repetition of the street.

Knocking wildly in the door, she bounces from one foot to another and strains her ears to listen for movement inside. It comes, but not in the same gait that she recognises. So, she isn’t shocked when Fiona opens the door instead of her friend.

“Is Cordelia there?”

The older woman has arms folded across her chest, this scathing look along dark eyes that are similar to Cordelia’s yet so different. She turns away from them, instead watches the flowers wilted by the rain, and waits ever so patiently.

Fiona turns on her heel, yelling down the hall. “Cordelia!”

The shrill call hangs painfully on her ears, but all pain subsides as she hears the flutter of footsteps, spies a flash of long, blonde hair and a gentle smile. She bounces again, energized merely by the sight of her. “That girl is here again.”

“Her name is Misty, mom.” Cordelia rolls her eyes, a clear disdain in her tone that Misty is grateful to have never been on the receiving end of.

Fiona glares at her daughter, then sends said pointed pupils over to the girl stood in the doorway. The same one who smiles sheepishly and sways back and forth on knobbly knees.

“Come on,” Cordelia reaches out for her.

“Shoes.”

Halting in the threshold, Misty stares down at muddied sneakers and lazily tugs them off her feet. They are thrown with the neat pile of others, hers askew and laces tangled in this indecipherable knot.

Not that she cares, seeing as Cordelia’s leading her down the hall towards the safe confines of her bedroom. Away from Fiona, from judging stares, and she relishes in the feel of sitting cross legged on the girl’s bed.

“Your mom is in a bad mood.”

Cordelia grumbles out her discontent. “She’s always in a bad mood.”

Smirking, she follows the lines of embroidered flowers on the bed sheets and then lifts a soft gaze.

“Why did you come here in such a hurry?”

Misty shrugs. “Wanted to see you.”

As ever, Cordelia wears incredulity even if she shouldn’t be surprised. It’s no secret. The sun wakes, then not long after Misty wakes; following that is deciding her day and, mainly, seeking the things that bring her happiness.

Most of the time, that leads her to this house, knocking on that yellow door and eagerly awaiting her friend.

Cordelia sighs, almost content, though still shrugging away the dregs of her own sleep. “Yeah, don’t know why I asked.”

Misty brushes past that and then stares longingly to the window. Soon, her feet follow the call of her heart and she stands on her tiptoes at the glass, nose practically touching it. “What do you wanna do today?”

When she turns, she finds Cordelia watching with a raised brow. She stands near her desk, idly straightening the textbooks on there. “I was supposed to be studying.”

A groan slices through her body with no surrender. “Again?”

“You can sit with me while I do.”

“But it’s borin’.”

As emphatically as she speaks, just like always, it has no effect. “School is boring, Misty.”

“Hm.” She tightens her mouth and wrinkles her nose, and is forever grateful that her parents don’t make her do any of that dumb sort of stuff. Not when mother earth is a far better mentor than the misleading school rooms.

This is announced to her friend, followed by a reception of gentle, bubbling laughter.

“Come on Delia, it’s Saturday.” With a bounce in her legs, she flounces over to the girl and pushes textbooks out of the way in stubbornness. “Let’s go do somethin’ fun.”

Here, she reaches out to hold at her arms. To tug almost childishly and plead with fluttering eyelashes.

Cordelia weakens at the assault. “I. . .”

“We could go for a hike. Or to the lake – Judy made us sandwiches.”

“Misty, my bike is broken – ”

Her face falls. “You still ain’t got it fixed?”

“I’ve been meaning to. . .” Convincing as she might be to others, to Fiona maybe, Cordelia can’t swindle Misty like that. Not when she spots the tell tale signs of a fable.

“Cordelia, you’re killin’ me here.”

She holds her arms in return, sighing, apologetic. “I’ve been busy.”

“I know.” Misty huffs, embracing the swarm of petulance inside. Busy with school, and extra credit, and stuff that holds little to zero interest for Misty.

She earns a hard stare.

Shifting in the spot, Misty rolls her eyes. “Don’t you look at me like that.”

Cordelia giggles delightfully, like some airy bird. “Like what?”

Where she doesn’t have the time to expand on an answer, she simply takes hold of Cordelia’s hand once more. “Let’s go for just a little while.”

“It’s never just a little while with you,” comes the reply, teasing, a finger prodding into her chest where she wears a baggy, plaid shirt that had once belonged to her dad. “It’s the whole day.”

Misty’s smile widens. “So?”

And that leaves Cordelia at a loss once more, clearly torn between her incessant need to be this perfect, little student, and another desire that has her too sending a yearning look outside.

Yet, she’s far too keen to hang out with her. After all, the other days Cordelia is cooped up in that school building – she wants her to taste the freedom of the flowers, feel the stronghold of a warm wind. She wants Cordelia to do that with her.

Once again, she goes for the pleading features.

It works a treat, dissolving the conflict that Cordelia displays. “Um, I suppose.”

“I’ll make ya a deal,” Misty grins, “you can bring your textbooks and still read ‘em, but please can we do something?”

She watches as Cordelia rolls her eyes. “Fine, fine. Nothing that is going to get them dirty, though. My mom will kill me if that happens.”

“I promise.” Misty smiles, all but bouncing over the idea of having succeeded.

Cordelia is already gathering some supplies, pens and papers, and hefty looking books that make Misty’s brain hurt. She catches Misty watching, then gives a shy smile. “I wish you came to school sometimes, you know, Misty.”

The girl pulls a face, as though Cordelia talks about a place of torture rather than that of education.

“Oh, don’t look at me like that – you’d enjoy it.”

Misty peers to the math textbook, squinting eyes at the lines and equations that make no sense to her. “Doubt it.”

“But what about the future?” Cordelia suddenly poses, quieter. Thoughtful; that way that she gets, where she’s thinking about any and every possible problem and trying to fix them from her little perch.

Misty shrugs. “What about it?”

“Don’t you want a job?”

She narrows her eyes, offering an almost storm in those blue spheres. “I don’t wanna do nothin’ that is borin’, or stupid, and I don’t wanna be stuck at some desk all day long – what’s the point of that?”

Cordelia opens her mouth, surely poised with some generic idea. The same ones that Judy tells her they brainwash all the other kids with, and she wonders if she could rattle those very thoughts from her friend’s brain. Especially as she starts talking about things like financial security.

They’re on their way outside now, shoulder to shoulder. Even if said conversations are only present for just a few moments, Misty has had enough – she begs that those very idea don’t leech into her own brain. “Money don’t matter,” she says honestly.

“But -”

She shakes her head at just how silly her friend is being, then reaches to pick up her abandoned bike. “Are you ever gonna get yours fixed?” Misty grumbles as they walk toward the beach, the repetitive sound of the circling bike chain clinking in her brain.

Cordelia pouts. “I will, I promise.”

She nods, seeing as it’s all she can do, and leads the way. Their afternoon is spent on the expansive beach, Cordelia grumbling about how the sporadic rain attempts to ruin her books. While she sits and reaches, Misty plays with the sand, the rocks, and every so often turns up to glance over at her studying friend.

Cordelia pauses, craning her neck so she can glance her way. “Everything okay?” she questions softly.

To the very girl who hadn’t noticed she has been staring. She sits straighter, pressing the nearby shell into her palm. “Uh huh.”

...

“Ah, thought I’d find you here.”

Cordelia had been silent on her approach, but now sits leaning her chin on her flattened arms at the hatch of the treehouse.

Upon seeing her, a smile instantly springs to Misty’s lips. She had been sketching and doodling idly, but now her focus is drawn away. “Hey,” she glances outside where the darkening sky indicates the passing time. “You were there awfully late.”

“Yeah, it went on forever.”

Misty thinks of her afternoon spent alone, her frown only lasting a few seconds as Cordelia comes to sit neatly on the beanbag opposite her. “Did ya have fun?”

“Yeah, it was okay – giving tours to new students and things like that. . .” She adds a few slow nods, “but I forget how weird it is being at school after hours.”

That summons a grin from Misty, “yeah, I’ll bet.”

“Have you been here this whole time?”

“Hm,” she shrugs, “a lil’ while – had to sneak past Fiona.” Instantly, Cordelia is grinning, though it plummets at the next, rather tiny, confession, “it ain’t the same here without ya.”

The girl in front of her pauses, absorbing those words slowly.

Rather than address it directly, she shifts on the noisy seat and glances over to the abandoned sheets of paper. “What’s this?”

“Just drawin’s.”

She might disregard them, her eyes drawn to movement and life rather than the still imagines made by the graphite. Cordelia, however, studies them with this admirable smile. “They’re always so pretty.”

Her sweet tone finds Misty, wiggles into her heart. “You think so?”

“Yeah, you could totally go to art school, you know?”

Misty grimaces. “I don’t wanna go to school.”

Already, she is sitting straighter, higher. She commands the room, and by extension Misty, in a way that the Cajun could never understand. “It’s different to normal school, Misty.”

“I’m okay.”

Something flashes through her eyes, “you’d like it.”

“I already like it – I don’t wanna ruin it by havin’ to study.” She gives her a glance, that look; one that is knowing and withering, and tells Cordelia to leave the subject.

She listens, with a sigh. Misty is already distracted with the world outside. As she is many a night, much to the annoyance of Cordelia. While she wants to float away, it appears Cordelia can’t function without the sturdy ground beneath her.

Sensing that she’s fighting a losing battle, Cordelia comes to stand beside Misty and chooses to admire the outside with her.

She shrugs an arm around her shoulder, squeezing the fleshly part of Misty’s upper arm. “You want to do something?”

The smile on Misty’s face grows unsurely at first. “Now?” She tilts her eyes down toward Cordelia, “ain’t it late for you?”

It so is.

But Cordelia shrugs, forcibly nonchalant. “It’s fine – I feel like we haven’t hung out in forever.”

“That’s ‘cause you have been awful busy.”

“Never too busy for you.”

Her heart skips a beat, or two, and she shakes away the feeling. Their eyes meet, the weight of Cordelia's touch grows as though gravity has increased tenfold.

“Yeah, yeah – so why have I been up here by myself for the past three hours?”

She makes a huff. “It was a school thing, you wouldn’t understand.”

Maybe she doesn’t, maybe it’s a surreal world beyond the grasps of her thoughts, but she does understand the twist of her gut, a dormant dread.

The instigator – the mention of school – draws this invisible wedge between them. Misty would kick it out the way if she could. “Wanna go for a walk?”

Her friend gives her a look. “It’s dark?”

“What? You scared?” She giggles, and returns Cordelia’s slung over arm in her own half hug.

“No.”

“I’ll keep ya safe. Plus, nothin’ out there could be as scary of Fiona.”

She gets a hum of agreement, feels the pull of a hand that leads her toward the door of the treehouse. For a moment, she squints at their joined hands, feels her feelings as she so strongly does, and wonders when it started feeling like her body was on fire every time she touched Cordelia.

...

The new set of photographs sits pinned on her wall in a map of nature and friendships. Misty smiles over at them, tilting one with her pointer finger. It doesn’t make it quite straight, but she thinks she likes it that way.

She steps back, stumbles on a mess of clothes that tangle like vines around her bare feet. Kicked out of the way, they fly across the room and join some sketchpads that sit on opened pages.

Eyes flicker over from the photograph of her and Cordelia, the one they she'd begged Albert to take. He had, of course; anything for his daughter. They both grin at the camera, Misty scuffed from a fall on her bike but beaming nonetheless. The backdrop is their living room, the colorful stripes of curtain that sit in the doorway, the floral couch beside it. Misty blends right into side decor, yet Cordelia stands out like the sun. Always has, always will. She exudes a warmth that Misty sees captured in the very image, and she begs for it to keep the embers of her soul flickering.

But they struggle.

Crackling amidst an eclipse, they yearn for heat and light; they find very little of either. With a huff, Misty works her way over to the window.

Legs thrown effortlessly over the pane, she dangles them out over the street above and lets wind tickle her toes. As delightful as that might feel, sensations don’t equip her enough for this dull ache. Chronic, sometimes. In the absence of her friend. Okay, maybe more than sometimes.

Maybe more often than not. All the time, kind of. Even when Cordelia might be there. . .

Weird, huh? To feel this tug, this compulsion, that no one can explain. It’s the human connection, Judy says – an anchoring that everyone needs.

Unfortunately, her anchor is attached to a girl that’s all the way across town at the house of a decidedly less kind person. Madison, to be exact. A girl of false pretences and even faker personality.

Misty sighs, wondering if she should have accepted her invitation to go along with them. Through Cordelia, or course; not from Madison.

But she has some pride, plus she isn’t going to entertain a friendship where it’s not meant to be. Too much force is a bad thing, right? Messes with the goals of the universe and all that. What will be, will be. For her, that means a night sans her best friend.

It doesn’t stop her appreciation of the dwindling light. She almost stops to reach for her camera before deciding that the sight is better for her eyes and not the device. For they seem to capture its astounding beauty all that clearer, and she commits such things to her memory.

Her lips spread wider.

...

“You stole that from your parents?”

As ever, Cordelia is the sight of fret; unsure and nervously darting eyes around as though the cops are going to appear at any moment.

Misty rolls the thick joint between her fingers and flashes a smile toward her friend. “Stole is a strong word,” she giggles, “but they won’t mind, I’m sure. ‘Sides, they do it all the time.”

“Misty.”

She eyes her. Well, more of a smolder, heat that crackles and grows the longer it focuses on the girl in front of her. When her eyes can no longer contain said warmth, it spreads without control through the rest of her body. Delightful, wonderful, a little scary.

Her lips widen, in spite of the fear. Like someone stood right on the edge of the most fierce storm to admire its bold beauty. “Cordelia.”

The mere counter of her name said back is enough to have Cordelia in full blown panic mode. She checks the window again of the treehouse, ever so skittish. “You can’t smoke it here.”

Misty rolls her neck back in her seat, a languid display where eyes soften as though she’s already smoked the item in her hand. “Why not?”

“Because. . .”

Her brows rise in question.

Cordelia rushes forward, reaching out hands that find purchase on Misty. They grip her with such enthusiasm (translation; horror) that Misty has to pluck them off finger by finger.

Air rushes into her lungs like a baleen whale dragging in a mouthful of heavy waters. “You ain’t gonna get in trouble,” she insists. Her parents don’t; why would they? Besides, they’re hidden away in the treehouse, where the inly prying eyes are those of the stars above.

And they’re her friends. No way would they betray her like that.

Cordelia still frets, and then paces a little, and tries to muster all and any excuse as to why this is a terrible idea. “Live a little.” Misty grumbles at her, smiling as she does it. Maybe it’s the beginning of something enticing, and she hopes Cordelia will be.

She flashes this smile that has worked on her before, that leaves her friend with little choice but to yield. Today, she has a stronghold, a barrier that one dazzling smile has varying effects in.

Misty falters at the sight of Cordelia crossing arms over her chest in a suffocatingly tight manner. Enough to have puffs of air squeezed from within in a painful sounding breath. “I. . .” she slowly brushes her toes back and forth over the shaggy rug, “I shouldn’t.”

“You sure?”

She nods.

Her stomach sinks a little; she’s been so keen on the thought of them doing this together. Just like her parents. If her spirits are drooping, she doesn’t let it show. She does, however, jump onto her feet, gather what things she’d excitedly brought, and make for the door. Just there, she pauses, under the appraisal of Cordelia’s unsure glances.

She’s the clear sign of guilt, apologetic dark eyes.

Those are ignored as she hoists the hatch open in one swift move and begins the descent that is nothing more than muscle memory. About half way down, she notices the distinct lack of noise, of a shadow, and hops back up a couple of rungs to blink at her friend. “You stayin’ here?”

She’s taken aback, maybe. What had she been thinking? Cordelia is so strange sometimes, so lost in her thoughts and this hypothetical world. Yanked once more into reality, she blinks and tries to make her brain catch up with her mouth. “Um. . .”

There’s a delay apparently.

Misty feels her mouth tug into a smile. “Well, if you ever decide, I’m goin’ down to the swamps.”

She dips down ever so quickly then, a groundhog dropping with zeal in wake of a predator. Only, she isn’t frightened. And her quick movements are shows of giddiness. That, in turn, stems from knowing.

‘Cause just as much as Cordelia sometimes confuses her, other times she is so utterly predictable that Misty could write down her daily habits without a moment’s pause.

Just as she’s headed for her bike, focused ears catch sounds nearby. Not the rustling of trees, or a neighbor dragging out their trashcan, even the hum of an engine. In the midst of it all, there is the rhythmic patter of Cordelia’s half jog after her.

“Wait.”

Arms wrap around Misty from behind, slowing her (purposely fast) pace. She grins and eases into a saunter, and enjoys the touch of her friend.

A squeal follows as a ticklish spot is found, perhaps louder than she’d intended. Lights of the house turn on, a shrill “Cordelia” breaking the barrier of the window.

“Oh no.” Cordelia says, nervous and electrified at once. “Come on, let’s go.”

They rush along the path and out onto the main street, where the late evening once again finds them. Still, the gentle cold is a soft embrace to the skin. It pinches shyly, not quite committed, and it isn’t the only reason that Misty’s cheeks are mirroring the pink of a rose.

They run, and giggle some more, and in their hurry she encourages Cordelia to balance herself on the front of her bike.

Sitting precariously on the handlebars, her friend produces noises and words of pure nerves, a wobble to her voice. “Don’t ya trust me?” Misty says over her shoulder, pedalling easily, even with the added weight on the bars, the way she has to hold her hands right at the very edges of the rubber.

It feels good, it is good. The way Cordelia has to lean toward her, spine curved, hands holding on to whatever she can. Misty tilts forward, just able to see the street over the crease of Cordelia’s hair. Not that she particularly cares where they’re going; she’d stay like this for an eternity.

The two of them, finding wind in their hair, their baggy clothes, searching for a refreshing boost where it ordinarily eludes them. But she inches forward, catches a whiff of hair that she tells herself she can’t help doing. Cordelia is, after all, sat right in front of her. Practically flush to her chest, and chuckling, and offering wonderful noises every time Misty makes a particularly sharp turn.

Misty feels free for a few minutes, a part of the freedom that nature so often encompasses. She is the vines that scale the enormous trees of the amazon, the roots that navigate soil and earth in search of water. She is water, cutting and shaping the landscape even when the earth tries to dictate its movement. True liberation.

And then, then, the pressure of a hand finds hers. Soft, like Cordelia’s always is. Seeking balance, a sense of sturdy even as the bike picks up speed.

Suddenly, she is none of those things. A houseplant, maybe, unwatered and denied light, a stagnant bowl of water to quench its thirst. The very thing stripping her of that sensation is the pestering feelings within.

She wants to curl arms around Cordelia, to drag her closer, to kiss and worship along the skin of her neck that sits temptingly close. Misty pedals faster, with more purpose. Even if just to force her frustrations elsewhere.

And Cordelia has no idea. She keeps her smiling, she laughs as Misty is inundated with too much.

Nothing that can’t be unshackled with the lighting of the stolen joint, the sweet inhalations that follow. She coughs a little, throat sticky from the night air.

Cordelia, now a respectable distance away, furrows her brows and watches her. She holds out the item and exhales a puff of smoke from her nose like some ancient dragon. “I still can’t tempt you?”

“You know that stuff isn’t good for you.”

On the contrary, Misty feels wonderful.

With a noticeable lack of tightness in her chest, the seventeen year old lies down happily in the thicker blades of grass. Here, she's content to be consumed by the nature. Mud beneath her fingernails, seeds and petals within the tendrils of unruly hair. The only thing that keeps her afloat is when Cordelia nudges her with her foot and tilts her head.

“Are you okay?”

She closes her eyes, drifting, seeking another drag of the joint. This time, her lungs don’t react as readily. Smoke is embraced like a welcome friend that hugs the entirety of her body.

Another nudge follows, this time on the fleshy part of her arm. “Misty, are you listening to me?”

Squinting an eye open, she gives a lazy grin. “You should try this.” Smoke is accidentally aimed Cordelia’s way where she wafts at it with her hand. “It’s real good.”

“It stinks.”

Misty begins to lose herself again. Though she knows the ground beneath her is solid, she wouldn’t be surprised if the earth rumbled and shifted to accept her relaxed muscles within. They are, after all, seeds from this world, and one day she’ll be right back in the ground where she stemmed from. Her smile grows, frets and worries leeched from her skin and banished out of this very realm. “Hmmmm.’ The noise comes of its own choice, but she doesn’t fight it. In fact, a series of smaller and more drawn out hums follow like a fading echo.

Beside her, the grass moves and bows down to the weight of something – Cordelia – who has come to sit beside her. Legs held awkwardly in her arms, she watches Misty with the weirdness to her eyes.

Below, Misty gazes up at the moving sky that holds all the wonders of the worlds. A strong navy, blackened around the edges, with the chaotic splatter of stars. Twisting her neck to stare at Cordelia in very much the same way, she finds a more regimented set up of twinkling there. Either way, she smiles. “Did you know you got stars in your eyes?”

“What?”

They widen, and question, before her lips quirk into a wavy and thoughtful line.

Merely the sight of it has Misty grinning, lazily turning over to her side so a hand can weakly squeeze at Cordelia’s. “Don’t worry. You always look so worried.”

“I. . .I don’t. . .”

“Life ain’t nothin’ to worry about, Delia.”

Aimed to be reassuring, they must come off as something else, seeing as there’s a sudden split in Cordelia’s expression. A wakening of something that would make Misty shudder if her brain wasn’t clouded by this happy fog.

She tries to fight that statement again, to insist that she’s the carefree, life loving individual, ready to embrace spontaneity like an old friend.

Misty bursts out in laughter. In no way holding malice ‘cause well, that’s not her Cordelia, is it? The worrier, the planner, a lateral thinker who has the next six months planned in her head. Yes, no taunting, no judgement. Just, laughter. For the sake of it.

Cordelia turns her head away and wears the cloak of sadness.

She may be lost to the vapors she’s inhaled, but Misty doesn’t miss that. Tugging herself upwards in a clumsy display, she grasps onto Cordelia. “No, no – don’t be sad.”

That is affirmed or denied, and Misty can only blink wide pupils in her direction. “Please don’t be sad,” she confirms, wearing this tiny frown of her own.

“You think I’m. . .”

She does allow the moment to stare, to maybe be given the insight of exactly where Cordelia’s thought process is. But she senses something negative in the side lines, something that certainly isn’t true.

“I think you’re wonderful.” She blurts out in honest confession.

To her relief, it brings a smile back to Cordelia’s lips once more. Relief passes in a hurry and leaves another pressing desire. I want to kiss you.

“What?”

Misty blinks and gapes with an adoring (albeit lazy) smile. Even then, she sobers slightly at the way those eyes are staring back. The stars have diminished in them, burned out.

Her muscles have stiffened, the spindly bones poking through white skin of her hands. “What did you say?”

Maybe due to the haze of the marijuana, any few inhibitions she has say a fond farewell and leave her with no consideration of the consequences.

She stares at those lips again, tempting. “I wanna kiss you.” Misty says out loud and hears it in an echo, and how strange it must sound to Cordelia. Her friend, the traditional and proper little soul that she is. It has drawn creases along her brow, wrinkles beneath her eyes.

And the ridiculousness of it dawns on her, that she’s just told her best friend something altogether friendship changing. “You got stars,” she repeats, “like they’re trapped in your eyes.” She wants to delve in and release them in all their celestial chaos.

Cordelia heaves in a breath, like they have suddenly ran out of oxygen. And the exhale is shaky, and long; she’s watching Misty in a bewildered manner, shocked.

But words do come. “Jesus Christ, how strong is that stuff?”

Misty tries to lift her neck up from the soft grass, but that proves a difficult task. She pouts and wiggles, and laughs at her own attempts. Holding a hand over her strained tummy, she blinks at Cordelia. “It’s not the pot, Delia.”

Her croaked reply hangs heavily on the lack of wind.

Cordelia stays eerily still, paralyzed by her own tremendous weight of thoughts. Maybe Misty ought to consider some of the more severe restraints of her actions. She’s no idiot. She knows what liking girls means, what others think.

When has she ever cared what people think?

Well, maybe one person in particular. “Kiss me,” she asks, voice soft and lips pouting, and far too much feeling in her tone.

“Misty – ”

“It don’t gotta mean anything,” she insists, just like she had done a couple of years ago, just like she can convince herself if she tries hard enough. Doe like eyes rest of Cordelia, and her beauty, and she swallows the lump in her throat. “We can just kiss ‘cause it feels nice, ya know?”

“I – ”

Where there’s been the floating of the drug, fear now clasps at her. The grass surrounding her warm skin moves and grows, and attaches her body to the ground. She can’t move, she can’t struggle; all she can do is give her attention to the girl leaning above her. “Delia.”

A hand finds hers, and that gives her the strength, the release of the velcro grass. She bolts upright, or so it feels. Pupils harden, so wide and blown that the moonlight scars her retinas.

But Cordelia is there, whispering out her name. She senses her hesitation, her obvious fear. “No one’s gotta know.” Misty promises, a half smile. A tepid assurance, ‘cause maybe she’d want the whole world to know.

Cordelia bites her lip, an action not missed that those surveying eyes. And she darts her gaze about like the trees could betray them. Yet nature wouldn’t do that, not to Misty. They build a fortress of protection enough them, enough for Cordelia to ask in a tremble. “Are you sure?”

She nods, head tilting to one side and admiring Cordelia from this new angle. In each one, she’s just as pretty, as striking.

And then it happens quicker than she’s prepared for, the way that Cordelia surges forward. She attaches her lips all too quickly in a now or never move. Misty, even if her reactions are somewhat delayed, does jerk upwards when the kiss finally registers.

It isn’t like their first kiss; a quick peck, a rash decision. She takes her time, and so does Cordelia, and before she knows it they are spreading mouths wider, tongues in an intricate dance that she didn’t know she knew the moves to.

Misty sighs into Cordelia’s mouth, eyes closed lazily, head still trapped in a mist like the very hidden height of a mountain. There’s fog and surprise. Yet, a startling amount of clarity. Yes, that’s right. She’s sure, oh so sure, that this feels utterly perfect.

...

As she walks Cordelia back to her mouth, with pouted lips, knotted tresses of hair and the memories of her kisses locked in her lips, she notices how quiet the girl is.

“You okay?”

Misty tilts her head, continuing to push her bike alongside the middle of the pair, as though trying to maintain some distance. Despite the fact that they very much just made out in the middle of the swamps.

In fact, Cordelia still has a few tendrily remnants of Spanish moss residing in her hair.

Cordelia startles, and blinks. Pulled from her thoughts, she purses her lips and nods too emphatically.

At the sight of that, Misty sighs. It never is a good sign, really, Cordelia’s need to keep everything under control. No matter how many times Misty insists that life is at the whim of forces beyond them.

“What’s in that head of yours?”

“Nothing.”

Misty comes to a complete halt, sneakers hitting the cracked asphalt beneath. Where nature tries to fight back against civilization by poking stray leaves through the dingy gray.

She smiles, just for a moment, and tries to keep it afloat as she watches Cordelia. “When you’re quiet, it means something ain’t right.”

Staring down at the same freedom searching plants as Misty, Cordelia isn’t entranced by them. Instead, she frowns at their rebellion with a sad sagging of her shoulders.

“Do you think we’re gonna get in trouble?”

The younger blonde does a double take.

“For the pot?” she gives pause, then rolls her eyes softly. “I told you, it’ll be fi – ”

“No, not that.”

Her stomach somersaults, and not in a good way. Like someone has just strapped her to some grumbling rocket and abandoned her just before the take off.

She gulps.

Both lifting their necks, eyes meet. Scared in different ways.

“The kissin’?” Misty begins, ever so trepid.

Cordelia sighs and nods. “I just – we could get in trouble, right? We shouldn’t have done that.”

It sounds silly, but despite the dark of the early hour, Misty had been shrouded in light. Cordelia’s light, only intensified as they’d joined in their kisses not that long ago. Well, light vanishes, a broken eclipse.

And Misty feels weirdly empty.

Only Cordelia could have the power to fill and shatter her heart in the same night. “I – no one will know, I told you.”

Their staring competition continues in all its intensity.

The night watches on with no sign of diminishing interest. “It was just a little fun,” Misty shrugs, nervously flicking her tongue between her lips.

Maybe she believes her, maybe she doesn’t.

Her worries are all too clear. “But. . .you won't tell anyone? That we kissed.”

Her teeth tighten, and her head shakes, and the world becomes a little bleaker. “No,” she whispers, “no one.”

But Misty knows that they did. Maybe that’s enough for now.

She walks Cordelia the rest of the way home, pulled into a hug that she reciprocated despite the heaviness in her chest. The closeness makes her feel sick, so she’s grateful for the solitude on the bike ride home.

And, for the first time in her life, she is consumed with thoughts and ideas, and futures dwelled on. The whole thing is exhausting, a drain on her mind, and so she sneaks into her parents stash in the stupidly early hours of twilight.

Snuck past their sleeping figures, she returns to the safety of her room. With legs dangling from the window, she lights the smaller joint, inhales as deep as she dares, and loses herself.

...

And forget they both do. (Well, Misty doesn’t, but she’s waiting for the right time to bring it up).

Life just goes on, and they won’t let something like that come between their friendship. Besides, she hates to dwell. What could have been doesn’t matter, right? All that matters is what is.

That is their friendship, strong but tested. Just as the boards of the treehouse rattle in wake of the oncoming hurricane. Terse winds try their very best to dislodge nail from boards, glass from within its tight hold.

As Misty awes at the strength of nature, even a storm that dominates further away and the coast and not necessarily over them, she finds that Cordelia has a different approach.

“Misty, we shouldn’t be in here. What if something breaks, or the tree falls, or – ”

“The hurricane ain’t comin’ near us.”

She kicks the nearby bucket with her toes, putting it directly under the spray of two drops rather than the initial one. Eyes glance up, spot the infiltration, but there’s nothing to do with rain still rocking the tree on its foundations.

“It could.”

“Will you just relax?”

Standing, she uses hands to guide Cordelia over to the bean bag chairs. The girl huffs, not too keen about being manhandled, but she does then soften her sights over in Misty’s direction.

Her friend is already busying herself with work. Here, she reaches for Cordelia’s hair brush and starts combing through those straight locks. “Sorry, I’m not being very good company, am I?”

Misty, in her concentration, remains silent for a second.

Which earns this tight exhale from Cordelia.

“It’s okay – I know that you get like this.” She says, teasing. Her pointer finger pokes at Cordelia’s side, and she relishes in their proximity. Inching closer, she kneels with legs parted and sitting either side of Cordelia’s hips. “You want your hair like the other day?’

Cordelia twists, even if she messes Misty’s flow, and smiles back at her friend. “Sure. Then maybe I can do yours.”

“What? Like all the girls at your school?” her nose scrunches up, unsure.

She imagined them all; their colorful make up, overly primped hair. Sure, it’s nice for the for social hours at school, but Misty has no need for that. Plus make up isn’t exactly the most practical when it comes to days spent in the throes of nature. The usual make up she wears is mud and moss stains to her pale skin.

But then, Cordelia can be convincing sometimes, and suddenly she’s there. Playing with Misty’s hair, tutting at it with a giggle amidst all of it.

“I love your hair.” She announces. The rain lightens, the dripping less frequent.

On the side, Misty’s radio that she'd brought in place of her camera today plays out for both to hear. The song is crackly, no doubt a result of the storm, but the aerial at least picks up something.

“Oh, I love this song.”

Cordelia twists the dial up, crackles or not, and hums along to the tune. Right over Misty's shoulder, a pleasant set of noises where she closes her eyes for a few moments and just embraces them.

Thin fingers shift and organise Misty’s girls, taking great care with them. She gathers the hair at the top, gently pulling it back and tying it with a bright pink scrunchie. As she words, hums evolve into words. “I think we’re alone now, there doesn’t seem to be any one around.”

“Are you giving me hair like Madison?” Misty asks in shrewd observation, lips puckered.

Holding onto either side of her face, Cordelia tilts her head backwards. Here, Misty is at the mercy of tumbling into her eyes and skipping a heart beat or two. Cordelia is intensely giddy, “it will suit you.”

“I don’t – ”

“Come on, you can take it out if you don’t like it.” She laughs once more, picks where the song has jumped a few lines. “Trying to get away into the night, then you put your arms and around me and we tumble to the ground and say. . .”

Her head bobs, finding a duet with the beat, and her smile widens as the radio continues to play out the words.

She sings, eyes scrunching closed with her enthusiasm briefly. It’s not the first time that the walls of these greenhouse have enjoyed music.

It’s the first time that Misty thinks she could throw up in here from the pressure in her chest.

I think we’re alone now,” Cordelia finishes happily, “the beating of our hearts in the only sound.”

Try as she might, Misty can’t hear the heart of her friend, not even so close. The main, and most probably, reason for that, involves how her own thumps with such downright vigor that even a marching band couldn’t compete.

She is dragged from her cross legged position to where there is an array of makeup in the corner. It sits atop old comics and board games like clumps of lichens, and Cordelia eagerly reaches for the eyeshadow.

Misty, on the other hand, eyes it suspiciously. “It’s yellow.” She points out after having found her vocabulary again in wake of the song. (thankfully, the next song doesn’t make her have as much of a pain in her chest).

Cordelia giggles. Eyes shine even in their dim surroundings, with string lights haphazardly strewn across the wall and a small generator Misty had lugged up here. “Yes, it is yellow.” She responds, teasing. Most definitely. Then, she spots Misty’s expression. “You have to trust me more, you’ll look really pretty, I promise.”

She hums in response, and doesn’t flinch as Cordelia inches in so, so close in her concentration. “Close your eyes,” she orders in a tender tone. Outside, the storm tries another battery that tests the hinges of the window.

Holding her breath, Misty does just that. Her world becomes dark, nothing. Save for the way Cordelia holds her steady by her chin and sweeps the bright yellow make up across her eyelids. They twitch, unfamiliar to such a feeling.

One done, then she moves to the other. With one sense stolen, Misty strains to compensate elsewhere. Over the pelt of heavy rain, the radio, (her own heartbeat), there is Cordelia. Slow and steady breaths, regular, predictable. Each anticipated exhale and inhale is the certainty of the next sunrise. Chin lifted, Misty lets herself be guided as Cordelia admires her work.

Another item is shook, and a lid loudly popped open.

Upon the feel of a cold brush, she recoils back, only to be lured forward again like a snake charmed at Cordelia’s soft cadence. “It’s only eyeliner,” she says, perhaps taking satisfaction in the fact that for once it isn’t her on the wrong side of uptight.

Misty nods, squinting one eye open just to be sure.

“Do you not trust me?” Cordelia asks, still rooted in the spot. Still smiling, and still holding Misty’s heart in her hands. Unknowingly.

“’Course I do.”

Just to prove it, she slams eyes closed once more and lets Cordelia work away diligently. As she does, she grumbles at how long it takes to get the eye liner to match, then hums to the radio that bit more.

Just one step of makeup suddenly starts turning into more, and Misty can’t tell Cordelia no to the blush or the mascara, even if it feels kinda weird and heavy on her features.

Rattling catches her attention, and she slithers eyes open again.

“Hey, no peeking!”

Misty smirks, plummeted into darkness again. “Fine, fine. I ain’t lookin’.”

“You better not be,” comes her warning, with a strange tug on the tone that has Misty squirming a little on the spot.

There’s a weirdly long pause.

With a lift of her brow, Misty breaks the quiet. “What is takin’ you so long?” she grins.

“Oh.” Why does she sound caught by surprise? “Nothing.” The telltale sound of movement stirs the vibrations within her ear.

A warm hand finds its place on her chin once more the grip tighter. “Just the lipstick now.”

“I – ”

“Shhh, don’t talk.”

Duly put in her place, she does as asked and quickly has lipstick pressed against her dry lips, dragged back and forth in sure movements. “Press your lips together.” Again, that request is fulfilled, and she waits. As the lipstick seems to cling to her sensitive skin in an unfamiliar feel.

She waits some more as wind whistles, and the radio sings, and treehouse shakes. With her eyes closed, Misty embraces the pause, even as it extends longer than it should. Maybe she should say something, ask Cordelia if she’s finished, but then words evaporate on her now dry lips.

And that arid nature spreads the length of her throat until a painful gulp follows.

Does Cordelia spot it? So near, still with Misty’s chin cradled between her pointer finger and thumb. Does she see that way Misty trembles at her proximity?

That tremble doesn’t quite translate into her words. “. . .is sitting here in silence some weird make up thing I don’t know about?”

Here, she can’t help herself from looking, seizing the opportunity to gather Cordelia’s reaction. But those soft brown irises aren’t checking for Misty’s own stray blue ones.

In fact, they’re not peering upwards at all; it takes her of a few seconds to piece together the fact that Cordelia is staring downwards toward her lips with this startling intensity that Misty wants to harness and keep in a mason jar. She doesn’t speak, just to take it in, to dissect and question its nature, and to relish in that fact that it’s the way her parents stare at one another.

Blood races around her body, bringing a sizzling heat. Juxtaposed by the cold of the rain, the lack of touch anywhere else.

Misty believes, just for a second, ‘cause that’s the thing that she’s best at.

Until she can’t take the staring any longer, not without initiating something else. But Cordelia’s reaction last time plays in the back of her mind.

She drowns her wants inside and parts her lips. “Delia?”

As though released from some trance, Cordelia jerks back into life. Muscles animated by awkwardness, throat cleared, and eyes averted. “Sorry.” She rubs at her cheeks as though tired. “Just got lost in my thoughts.”

Her response is a timid half smile, “don’t worry ‘bout it.”

And that’s where she expects it to die out, that little moment. Disappearing as the wispy smoke of a dampened flame does.

Strangely, the consistency she’s used to in Cordelia wavers. Her friend peers at her again, convicted, intent. “I wish I was as pretty as you.” She announces sadly, even if her lips twitch with an undecided smile.

Surprise sits evident in Misty’s response, her tight. “What?”

“You. . .you’re so pretty.”

She blinks at her.

“Don’t you know that?”

“I – guess I never really think about that kinda stuff.” Misty decides after a beat, ever so thick. True, she never considers her own beauty, but she knows beauty. The core of it, the earth and its inhabitants, from the majestic creatures down to the most simple of life. All beautiful, in their own way, just like Cordelia is. As unique as each flower, as the gulleys and ravines carved out by time and chance.

They don’t know their own splendor, either.

She's just about to share a returning compliment, to make some corny statement about Cordelia being one of the most beautiful things she’s ever photographed.

The thing to remove the electricity in the air is neither of their words, but another great gust against the treehouse, a clunk against the roof. Following is another leak, right above their heads, that steadily lowers between the pair and splashes Cordelia’s face. She wipes them away with a frown. “Shoot.” Despairing eyes glance upwards at the hole.

It has them soon headed back into Cordelia’s home, sturdier by all means. Misty catches sight of herself in the mirror, halting. The full face of neat makeup looks strange when fashioned with her dirty dungarees, like two entire different outfits.

But Cordelia only chuckles at her fascination and leads her to the bed by the hand. The radio had made the journey with them, now sitting in the window ledge where it sings out sad love songs (Misty resists the urge to swat it to the floor).

But Cordelia sings along with this smile and the many emotions of a teenager. She even goes as far as almost yelling some of the lyrics, a bold move from Cordelia Goode, the great stifler of her own emotions. Misty watches this with laughter, encourages it by singing, too. Jumping about the room, on the bed, and harnessing a sight and feel of their joined energies.

There may be a storm outside, but there’s wholly a commotion within those walls.

Legs aching, lungs heaving, she drops down to the mattress and lies flat on her back. Hair is frenzied, puffy, but still in some sort of form.

Next to her, Cordelia pants dizzily. Those pupils unfocused and glazed over, but in a wonderful way, a tempting way.

Where she’d fought earlier, Misty lacks the strength right now. She admires Cordelia, leant in her pillow that smells so stiflingly of her perfume that she could get high on those fumes. When she’d landed, there’d be a small space between them, and now she closes it with the clammy itch of nerves within.

Cordelia rolls her head to the side, then lifts a limp hand and plays with the ends of Misty's hair. “So pretty.” She laughs, somehow shy and confident at the same time.

Their eyes meet. “You’re full o’ compliments today.”

“Hmm.”

Within, the fire burns stronger than ever, a hearth that warms her (and hopefully Cordelia) as they ride out the storm in her bedroom. “You should stay here tonight.” Cordelia decides, as sure as ever.

Misty’s stomach twists. It isn’t the first time she’s stayed over at Cordelia’s, but something feels different this time.

“Your mom won’t mind?”

“Don’t care.”

“Oh,” Misty smirks, “you’re such a rebel, Delia.”

She gives a sharp exhale, laughs once more, then grows all the more sincere. “You’ll stay then?”

Misty's lips twist into a loving smile. “Sure.”

That smile is returned, the two settling into more comfortable positions, and a relaxed night welcomed.

...

As it goes, Misty feels anything but relaxed sleeping beside Cordelia.

With soft noises in her ear, she awes for longer than she should, and she wishes that she’d brought her camera to immortalize that sight.

As it is, she had to rely on her own eyes to do the job.

...

Music calls out to her before she even gets through the front door, and Misty smiles faintly at the melody.

Shoes are shrugged off without undoing the laces, and the chilling vibe of the notes welcomes her like it always does. “Somewhere, a queen is weeping.”

As it so often does, her parent’s music drags her back in time via memories. Pleasant ones, of dense woods, hot days, the gentle summer’s breath on her skin. A different place every few weeks, new people. So many people; a different kind of people. Just like her parents, not quite rooted in this dwelling, not really.

And her? Well, she's still not sure which world her feet lie in. Maybe one sits either side of the threshold.

She’s got time, she thinks. What will be will be.

In her hand is her camera, a fresh batch of photographs that all the local birdwatching fans will go nuts for. Sadly, that only seems to be her and her downstairs neighbor, Mr Jenkins. Either way, she’ll share then with him soon.

Somewhere, a king has no wife.”

Along with these lines, Albert's baritone voice accompanies as a dear friend and fills the small apartment.

Misty heads through the aging curtains to the living room and smiles at the sight of her parents. Upon seeing her, they light up too.

“Hey sweetheart.” Judy lifts up a hand, beckoning her closer. Misty takes it gently and is drawn like a leaf on the wind to the woman. Judy’s movements are slow, lazy, and when Misty sniffs up she catches a familiar scent in the air. Hands play with her hair. “Did you have a good day with your friends?”

“Oh yeah, Zoe showed me how to make a mix tape.” She excitedly pulls the item from her pocket, the messy and illegible scrawl of her own hand witting on it.

Her father continues his duet with the record player beside them, and Misty leans further into Judy’s side. “Well, that sounds swell.”

She shrugs. “It was good.” Her fingers toy with the camera, wondering just how all of her imagines turned out; if they’re anything as good as what she remembers the world being on that particular day.

“What about your other friend?”

Twisting her neck, and features, in her mother’s direction, she stares dumbly for a second. “Huh?”

Judy pats her lips with a chuckle, soft eyes on her daughter. “Cordelia.” She says, with more meaning than Misty cares to decipher. Plus, her mom is kinda high, so what sense is she gonna make anyway?

But the landline rings before a nervous little Misty withdraw any kind of answer. All three of them stare, slightly confused – it’s very rare for the item to call out.

Showing just the right about of bewilderment, Albert heads out to the kitchen where the noisy phone hangs on the wall. “Alright man, chill out. I’m comin’.” The two women watch him leave, both lost in a trance of their own thoughts.

Well, for a few moments. Misty curls up legs beneath her, a loose sock rolling from the heel of her foot. “What else did you do?”

“Oh,” she smiles, “just hung out, took some photos – it was nice, the river was high today.” What she fails to mention is that they actually went to some diner and had the greasiest burgers she’s ever seen in her life. Well, one of two burgers she’s ever had. Even now, her stomach grumbles a little in disagreement, and the weird tasting cheese lingers in her mouth. She swallows said taste and flutters lashes over at Judy, who smiles and then cups under her chin.

She basks in the light that lives in her mother’s eyes; it keeps her afloat even when things seem all that too much confusing. Like how she’d shyly kissed Cordelia again this afternoon. It’d happened just at the peak of the sun’s arch, just the two of them; patiently waiting amongst the foliage for passing birds.

Close, so close. They always are, aren’t they? Lured to one another, compelled, or so she tries to reason with herself.

Fearful as she had been, she’d spotted Cordelia’s glances from the corner of her eye. Just as Misty had been so intent on any potential avian, Cordelia had watched her with matching fervor.

Here, the clench in her chest made itself known, a tummy full of nerves. Cordelia does that, makes her so nervous, so excited. She stifled that excitement in hopes of not appearing too obvious.

In hindsight, the question that she’d asked next had given away all and any of her intentions. “I – um, do you think it’d be okay if we. . .if I kissed you again?”

Cordelia’s eyes were something hard to decipher, like she had been waiting a painfully long time to hear that and, yet, as though it was a surprise to her, too.

She’d hesitated, peering to the dry grass beneath, plucking at individual blades.

Misty had gone in all timid, but then summoned courage. Or maybe, stupidity. Delusion, in fact. “It don’t gotta mean anythin’.” She rolled her eyes, playing it nonchalant. “It’s just a kiss.” A third kiss, and she wants more. More, more, more.

Then, finally, a quiet affirming nod had come, a demure, “okay,” creeping from Cordelia’s lips.

They’d wasted no time after that, and Misty still remembers the taste of Cordelia’s lips – cherry red. Sweet, intoxicating, a true summer’s kiss that had swept her in serenity.

Cordelia’s words as she’d walked her home still echo about her mind.

“You’re right, it is fun.”

“Hm, told you.”

A long, pensive pause. “And it doesn’t mean anything? It won’t. . .it’s not going to come between our friendship?”

Her heart weighed down, she’d shrugged and admired their joined shadows. “No way, nothin’ is ever gonna come between us.”

They’d briefly held hands then, different to the way Judy’s fingers curl around hers now. A different kind of tender.

She sighs away the weight on her chest, eyes focusing on the figure returning to the room. Peeved is the only way to describe him. “Your brother called.” He speaks softly to Judy, moving over to hush the music.

The touch on Misty hardens, earning a frown from the girl. “Again?”

“Uncle Max?” Misty jumps in excitedly. She’s met the man save only a handful of times, but he’s the only reason that she has such an extensive collection of cameras. Maybe it’s guilt for never visiting his sister, or perhaps it’s the fact that he “has more money than he knows what to do with” but Misty certainly isn’t going to complain. There’s nothing more that she loves than capturing the world through the lens.

Her parents exchange a glance, somewhat close to annoyed. A rare emotion to be seen in the two.

“What did he want, honey?”

“He’s goin’ to come see us.” Albert drawls out slowly, rubbing a hand over his thick moustache. “Said it’s important.”

Judy frowns, troubled, though eager to rid those layers of potential stress. The first thing she works on is keeping any worry from Misty’s sights. “Come on, darling, why don’t you go water the plants?”

With a fluttering of eyes, she tilts her head. “Mom?”

“The plants, Misty.”

The very way the syllables appear is so unlike Judy; a lack of softness, of tranquillity. Not her mother, nor are the worry lines along her normally smooth forehead.

But. . .but she’s always been taught to question things, even her own flesh and blood. And so, she remains in place. “Tell me.”

“Later.” A hand brushes down the curve of her cheek, “now go on, dear. Go work your magic.”

She sighs, making it all too obvious that she’s not happy about being left out of the loop. This time, however, she does relent. She retreats, slowly. Oh so slowly. Just at the door, she turns and sees her mother rushing over to the cabinet in the corner. What she pulls out is a small vial and a jar of sugar cubes, enough to let Misty seep with confusion.

It renders her still, watching the clattering of her mother, and a cloud passes over her. Loitering, it threatens with rain – Misty waits, unprepared but willing to ride out the deluge.

A throat clears. “Misty.”

“What are you doin’?” She blurts out.

“It just helps me relax, angel.” Judy explains, dropping some of the harmless looking liquid onto one of the cubes with a great amount of practise.

Chewing on her lower lip, Misty’s intense gaze remains on the two adults. She holds her chin higher, rolling on the balls of her feet. “Can I try some?”

“No.”

Her tongue wrap around the word as though foreign. “No?” She eyes it again, that sugar cube, just as it swallowed by her mother. More questions than answers appears. In her stubbornness, she remains and pouts her lips, eyes squinted closer with a challenge toward her caregivers.

Albert pads over to her barefoot, and brushes a hand through his long hair. Curled, just like hers. It then sits on her shoulder and begins to lead her out, “c’mon, you want something to eat, petal? We picked some berries this morning.”

She gives a grunt of annoyance, twists her head again, but Judy is retreating to their bedroom, the flowers call out to be watered and she instead listens to her father's mindless chatter over a buffet of fruits and homemade bread.

If she wasn’t confused already, she certainly is now.

....

“Then, she got all weird – like, she couldn’t even talk back. At first I thought she was asleep, but she made some strange noises. . .only for a few seconds. I dunno, it was kinda scary.”

Confessing such a thing to Cordelia has butterflies in her stomach. Not the soft ones, but the angry, tornadoing ones that make her seem not quite right.

She stretches out legs and glances at her friend. “Weird, huh?”

Cordelia appears far from impressed, so much so that Misty can sense on incoming lecture. She always regrets telling her, almost.

But it never arrives. Halted by some barricade, it fades just as the gray clouds do. They’re sat in the treehouse, with its temporary fixes from the storm; those being hastily hammered boards to cover over the many, many holes. It still smells of a musty damp, Cordelia’s childhood games effectively ruined by old water, but the shell of it remains intact.

“Hmmm, pretty weird. Is she okay?”

“Oh, yeah.”

Cordelia noticeably swallows. “Are you okay?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

Even as she asks that, initially rhetoric, question, she opens the room to further probing. That comes in the form of Cordelia coming to lay by her side. Serious, adorably so, and pragmatic and puzzle solving, when maybe she thinks maybe she just needs company rather than therapy.

“You look worried.”

Eyebrows poke up, “I do, huh?”

“Yeah,” she teases, leaning forward on her forearms and then smirking. “Look at all these wrinkles on your face.” Cordelia points between her brow, beneath her eyes, around the corners of her mouth, “So, so many.” She giggles, hand lingering. Her recently manicured hands are crazily soft, and Misty leans into them.

Even if she wants to melt within the touch, she won’t let any of that taunting slide. Not a single ounce of it. “You can’t tell me I look stressed.”

“I’m over my worrying now.” Cordelia scoffs. “School is finished, remember?” That’s right, officially over, and Misty is more than excited at the idea that her friend will no longer be bound to that building during the day.

Still. . .“You'll find something else to worry over.” She nudges her side.

“Shut up.”

Smirking, Misty shakes her head. “No.”

“Be quiet, Misty Day. I won’t have you tease me like that.”

On her back in the reclined position, she stares up at Cordelia like one would sit back and appreciate the stars. Lungs deflate with a sigh, muscles relaxed in spite of the previously heavy conversation.

Then, she dares just once more. “Make me.”

Pupils narrow, intensify, and she thinks maybe she’s gone a step too far when there is the passing of something temporary over Cordelia’s features.

But it disappears, as do the inhibitions, apparently. The next thing she knows, Cordelia is pushing herself up, palms bearing the weight of her upper body. She sneaks in, nearer, until breath tickles the other’s lips. Foreplay, really. A giddying sensation that has Misty’s heart in her throat and the excitement fizzing away in every crevice.

The kiss is imminent, a promise, pushing through the horizon and ready to crash land on Misty's lips. She’s more than braced for the impact. In fact, she’s rather impatient for it and, when Cordelia takes those few seconds too long, she cradles the back of her head.

Tresses of smooth hair catch between her fingertips, and only brings Cordelia nearer. Bridges the gap, connects what ought to be connected, and sends Misty into a bliss just like the one her own mother had found.

She sighs against those lips; happy, contented. This is her paradise, her serenity. When she closes her eyes and deepens the kiss with a fuzzy, and wonderful, ache in her chest, all seems right in the world.

It can’t last forever, and it doesn’t. Just as always, the kisses are taken away. The retreat with Cordelia’s form who rolls over onto her side and gazes away from Misty. Every so often, she does grace her with a tiny peek, all the while Misty is pressing lips together and trying to mimic that wonderful pressure from moments ago.

Maybe, just maybe, she can convince herself that Cordelia is doing that same. That she daydreams about it, that it haunts her thoughts without fail. Would be nice, right? To think that these feelings are mutual.

“You kiss so differently to Hank.”

Maybe not.

It takes a few seconds, but those words do settle. They weigh on Misty, steal the air from her lungs, glue to muscles to the wooden planks beneath her.

She’s still, paralyzed, and thwarted by confusion. “Hank?”

“Yes,” Cordelia sighs, “wait, didn’t I tell you?” Her crestfallen, and slow, shake of her head answers that question.

Now, Misty’s heart beats, but not in the chimes of adoration. No, hefty bells of warning call out, a bellow of grand proportions. Why hadn’t she headed them before? Well, she hadn’t heard them, or chose not to, either way.

Their signal is too loud to ignore now, the pain in her chest inescapable.

The realization that not only has she lied to Cordelia, but she’s also lied to herself. It doesn’t have to mean anything, she’d insisted. Maybe it does, maybe it means a lot. Too much to say.

Unfortunately, it appears that those kisses don’t mean as much to Cordelia. With every passing second as the girl gushes over a descriptive story of some guy, Misty experiences the slow and excruciating dismantling of her heart.