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Mad Girl's Love Song

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THERAPY HOMEWORK #6: 

 

  1. Breaking my arm when I was eleven on the high ropes at a girl’s birthday party. Never really liked heights after that. (Also, the cast was this ugly ass pink colour and Jordan in my class drew a dick and balls on it immediately.) Mom and Dad wouldn’t let me do any sports that might jeopardise my cello playing abilities after that.
  2. Tom breaking up with me. This ridiculous, floppy haired boy who bagged groceries at the local supermarket. For like three weeks he was my whole fucking world. He dumped me for a girl closer to his age and a rack that would make even a monk’s eyes wander. (Still, what a fucking prick.)
  3. Winter recital sophomore year. I got a standing ovation. That was the first time my teachers said I was a shoo-in for Juilliard. I cried in my room all night. I can’t remember why.
  4. My parents telling me that I was a danger to the family and that they were sending me away.
  5. Plane crash, and maybe a little bit before that, but who’s counting? (Oh, wait! I am, because you’re making me. Doc, you better have a bowl of M&Ms for our next session.)
  6. Leah ran into the ocean and we were starving and we thought we were going to be rescued only for hope to be snatched away. It was a fucking bleak experience, okay? I was allowed to cry. It should be fucking encouraged!
  7. Leah. I’m not going into this one, okay? We talked about this in session. I’m not writing it down.
  8. The night we were all reunited in the bunker. The night we realised it wasn’t over.
  9. First kiss. You don’t get the details of that. That’s mine and no one else’s.
  10. Crossbow bolt. Thinking I might die. I was also really happy just before it, and then to think it was all going to be lost. Also, it hurt like a fucking bi-, it hurt a fuck-ton okay?
  11. Missing Leah - Look, I didn’t keep track at this point. I cried a lot over the last year.
  12. Realising my Mom actually loved me. Not the version of me she always wished I would be.
  13. Leah had a panic attack because of something I said. (She told me it wasn’t my fault, I think that made me cry more than anything else).
  14. Second first kiss. Again, that’s mine, no one else’s.



22nd May 2021

 

“Do you like it?” Fatin whispered knowingly into Leah’s reddening ear, gently biting down on the other girl’s earlobe.

Leah let out a strangled whine of affirmation as her hands stroked up and down Fatin’s bare thighs, thumbs pressing intermittently hard against the soft inner skin, fingertips creeping under the ridiculously short skirt she had worn in the hope of this exact reaction.

“That good, huh?” Fatin hummed, head dropping lower to suck possessive marks down the length of Leah’s neck.

Fatin could feel Leah’s throat bob under her lips as Leah swallowed thickly, nails suddenly digging exquisitely into Fatin’s thighs.

She wanted to grind down or, better yet, grab the teasing hand and shove it up her skirt, providing her the relief she so desperately needed. But she resisted. She was straddling Leah’s lap, holding herself up - straining core muscles she didn’t know she had - to ensure she didn’t rest any weight on Leah’s bad leg. 

They may have moved very quickly the first time around but it was obvious in how Leah faltered and tensed up when Fatin had suggestively plucked at the edge of her sleepshirt that it wouldn’t be the same this time. Fatin didn’t mind, just being able to kiss the girl she was in love with was more than enough - being able to fluster her and feel her touch was an added bonus.

“Definitely beats cargo pants.” Leah mumbled.

Fatin pulled away from steadily marked skin, “Huh?”

Blue eyes went wide and darted around the room, “Umm… nothing.”

Fatin would have pushed for further clarification if Leah’s sudden nervousness hadn’t meant she started retracting her hands from Fatin’s thighs. Fatin’s own hands immediately dropped from the safe position of Leah’s shoulders, landing atop them and preventing them from leaving.

“I picked the skirt for you.” Fatin confessed, provoking a sharp intake of breath. “I want you to enjoy it, okay?”

Leah nodded falteringly, Fatin squeezed Leah’s hands once before tracing back up Leah’s arms, delighting in the goosebumps that arose in her wake. It made her feel powerful and confident in her own body to know she could have this effect on Leah. All the boys and men that could fall and had fallen at her feet with a well-timed smirk and innuendo had nothing on this.

Nothing on her.

Leah’s hands began to knead and trace patterns and Fatin didn’t hesitate to reclaim Leah’s mouth, teasing with her tongue where her hands could not.

“I told the girls that my legs were your favourite part of me.” Fatin revealed between kisses, “Dorothy said tits and Shelby said ass.”

Leah gulped, eyes blown wide and mouth a pretty red. “Out of those three, yeah, I like your legs best.”

“Knew it.” Fatin grinned, planning the ‘I told you so’ speech; sharing this moment in graphic detail, knowing it would make Shelby blush and Dorothy roll her eyes. “Wait.” Fatin paused, stopping a couple of centimetres short of recommencing their long overdue make-out session. “Out of those three?”

Leah let out a sad ‘mrrph’ noise at being delayed more kisses; Fatin apologised with a quick peck to the tip of her nose. 

“I love your legs. Like really, really, really…” Leah’s hands slipped round the back of Fatin’s tense thighs, digging in and massaging the muscles, prompting an uncontrollable moan of pleasure to escape from Fatin, “love your legs. But they’re not my favourite part of you.”

“No?”

“No.” Leah repeated, nuzzling into Fatin’s heated cheek. “It’s your eyes, they’re my favourite part of you. Physically that is, I mean-”

“Says little Miss darling-blue-eyes.” Fatin interrupted with a dry, almost dismissive chuckle, saving Leah from unnecessarily declaring that she liked Fatin for more than just her body. 

(Fatin already knew that, it's one of many reasons why Fatin loved her so much).

Leah frowned at the reply, lips pulled taut with something that resembled outrage. 

“I love your eyes, Fatin.” Leah declared seriously. “They’re the kindest part of you. I know the saying ‘eyes are the window to the soul’ is as cliche as they come, but… they’re cliches for a reason, you know? I look into your eyes and I see a capacity for love that’s far greater than anyone else I have ever met. I look into your eyes and I see how much you care for me. My eyes may look pretty, but your eyes?” Leah lifted a hand up to cup the side of Fatin’s face, “Your eyes inspire songs and poems and declarations of love and war. Your eyes are what make me feel loved.”

Fatin automatically leaned into Leah’s warm palm. 

Baby,” Fatin murmured, voice raspy from forming words around the lump in her throat, “you can’t say shit like that when I’m trying to be sexy as fuck. Makes me totes emotional.”

“Sorry.” Leah grinned, utterly unapologetic.

Fatin rolled her eyes, slipping to the side and off Leah’s lap before tugging them both down so that they were laying down facing each other. “Don’t be sorry,” Fatin whispered, shuffling closer until their noses touched, “just kiss me and make it all better.”

Thankfully, Leah acquiesced enthusiastically.

They exchanged sweet kisses and light giggles for an hour before Fatin was breaking away to yawn, the effect of staying up all night in a romantic angst frenzy catching up with her. Leah opened her arms and Fatin snuggled into her side instantly, dozing through the rest of the morning, Leah’s lips pressing intermittently to the top of her head whilst the taller girl flicked lazily through the graphic novel Ian had dropped off for her earlier that week.

Fatin heard the door open at one point followed by soft voices - probably Dorothy and Shelby checking to see how things had gone - but she slumbered on, safe and sound in Leah’s embrace.

“Fatin?” Leah called out gently as Fatin shifted, finally beginning to rouse.

“Hmm?”

The backs of Leah’s fingers grazed her cheek, her breath warm against Fatin’s temple as she whispered, “I love you, too. I realised I hadn’t said it and I… I wasn’t sure if that was clear or not?” 

Fatin lifted her head up and rested her chin on Leah’s collarbone, “It was,” she hummed, “but I like hearing it, regardless.”

“I like saying it.” Leah smiled, soft and small, more glorious than the first ray of dawn in Fatin’s opinion. Leah’s gaze flickered over Fatin’s face, and Fatin could tell she was being memorised, making her heart ache in a beautifully painful way. “Did you miss me?” Leah asked shyly, lip slipping between teeth as she spoke, “Whilst I was… away ?”

Fatin flinched at the question, jarred out of her post-nap bliss, at the sheer absurdity of it. Breathing carefully through her nose she pushed herself up into a half-risen state (not wanting to drift too far from Leah’s comforting form). 

“Did I…” Fatin trailed off upon hearing the sharpness to her tone. She took a moment to centre herself before peering into uncertain blue eyes. “You know how teachers say there’s no such thing as a stupid question?”

“Yeah?” Leah answered tentatively.

“That question would make every fucking teacher, in every possible capacity, change their mind.”

Leah blinked at her dumbly, “So that’s a yes… then?”

Fatin’s nostrils flared, “Yes, it’s a fucking yes!”

Leah winced sheepishly.

“God, Leah, I missed you so fucking much I thought a piece of me was fucking missing !” Fatin exclaimed, the words pouring out of her. 

She had spent the last two months reining her emotions in, telling herself repeatedly - commanding it when needed - to focus on Leah’s recovery. To be there when she needed her, not the other way around. She had spent the last two months denying every single urge to press Leah against the nearest wall and kiss her until neither remembered their own names, only each others. She’d spent the last two months overthinking, afraid that she was pushing too hard, asking too much of the traumatised love of her life. 

And now it couldn’t be held back; not after finding out her restraint was what kept Leah guessing. What made her hesitate. What made her think Fatin could leave her so easily. What made her consider for even a second that Fatin wasn’t utterly broken and distraught, missing her every single day, hour, minute.

“I couldn’t sleep unless I had something that smelled like you.” Fatin continued, hands reaching out and fisting the front of Leah’s t-shirt, eyes stinging with the tears of relief, joy and despair that she had been ping-ponging between relentlessly for two months. “I was fucking terrified as Maryann was running out of your clothes that still smelled like you to give me.”

“Fatin…” Leah croaked, her own hands reaching out to tenderly cradle Fatin, one hand on the small of her back, the other threading through her hair.

“I read so many of your books.” Fatin continued with a whine, “I read more books in the last year than I have in my entire fucking life.”

Leah’s combing through her hair faltered momentarily, “You read my books?”

“Yes!” Fatin groaned, “And please go back to reading sci-fi and fantasy,” She demanded, “you clearly loved it from your annotations and if I have to read another depressing great literary novel to learn more about your beautifully complicated big brain I might burn your bookshelves down.”

“But why wou-”

“I’ve also burnt through so many batteries with Lil Leah that my brothers think I’m really into RC cars and I’m just excluding them.”

“Lil Leah?” Leah repeated, before inhaling sharply as realisation dawned. “Fatin, please don’t tell me you named your-”

“Vibrator after you?” Fatin finished. “I could say no, but I don’t want to restart our relationship with a lie. Also,” Fatin pouted, “Lil Leah is very important to me, baby. She’s gotten me through a lot of rough patches and needy moments - you wiggle in your sleep, by the way, which is just… phenomenal , except for when we are in an undefined relationship status.” Fatin sucked in her own bottom lip, thinking back to the last couple of months pressed close to Leah, waking to find herself brought to the brink and having to roll away to cool off. Leah now looked equal parts guilty and proud. “She goes pretty much everywhere with me now.”

“Everywhere?!”

“What? Don’t slut-shame me.” Fatin replied, hands curling out of their tight fists to press against Leah’s abdomen. “I think about you a lot and quite a lot of those thoughts turn rather… graphic …”

Leah gulped, “I- I don’t know what to say…”

Fatin preened at that, bolstered by rendering a pretty girl speechless.

“But weren’t you like…” A deep furrow creased Leah’s brow, “with other people, though?”

And then Fatin came crashing back down. It shouldn’t have hurt as much as it did, but in that moment Fatin would gladly have taken another crossbow bolt to the gut over the crack in her heart.

“Is that what you think? There was no one else, Leah. Only you. ” Fatin whispered, moving to lean out of the safety of Leah’s arms, only for Leah to tighten her hold.

“Hey, hey, hey,” Leah soothed, dotting kisses to Fatin’s face, lips catching tears that Fatin didn’t even know were falling. “I just didn’t… didn’t want to assume… I didn’t want to have unfair expectations.”

“Yeah… I… get that.” Fatin mumbled, “You stupid self-sacrificing idiot.”

Leah huffed a laugh against Fatin’s forehead.

“I want you to expect more from me.” Fatin confessed, closing her eyes before amending, “I need you to expect more from me.” 

Leah pulled away and waited until Fatin’s eyes reopened, so that she could see the earnestness and commitment when she said simply, “Okay.”

“I mean it.” Fatin emphasised.

“I know.” Leah gently cupped her face with both hands, “Fatin, I think you’re the best person in the whole fucking world.”

“Better than-”

“Way fucking better than Ben Folds.”

“Good.” Fatin hummed self-satisfied, lowering herself back down and curling around Leah’s body, emotionally fatigued but also feeling like her vulnerable spots had been lovingly tended to. It was this feeling of ease and comfort that made Fatin volley back the question that had started it all. 

“Did you miss me?”

There was a long and weighty silence where Fatin’s words and the memories they probably triggered caught up with her.

“Fuck, baby, don’t answer that.” Fatin muttered apologetically. She held her breath, waiting for Leah’s reaction, hoping it would all be okay.

“Kind of.” Leah answered, tone neutral and empty.

Fatin might have been hurt by the response if she wasn’t so confused by it, “Kind of?”

“It was hard… I…” Leah trailed off, and when Fatin peeked a glance at her she saw that Leah was staring blankly up at the ceiling.

“Baby, it’s okay, I shouldn’t have asked.” Fatin consoled, “I didn’t mean to- I know you were alone and missing everything and everyone, and I shouldn’t-”

“I wasn’t, though.”

Fatin lifted her head, suddenly tense, “Wasn’t what?”

“Alone.”

“There were other people there? There were other captives?”

“No!” Leah rushed to reassure, nails digging into Fatin’s back, blue eyes dark and panicky. “I-”

“Breathe, baby. Just breathe. Take your time.”

Leah did as ordered, breathing slow and steady, eyes returning to their usual bright blue over time.

“I didn’t miss you the same way you missed me because…” Leah explained, voice stuttering and halting like it had been when they had first reunited, “Because you were there . I imagined that you were there. You and the other girls. I made it so I wasn’t alone.”

“Leah…” Fatin gasped, heart plummeting and shattering all over the floor.

“I think I went mad out there, Fatin.” Leah confessed. “I think I chose to go mad, because… because I would rather be mad and have you than be alone.” 



IF I HAD A TIME MACHINE

 

  1. Would not have gone back a second time to Harry. He looks like he has a good dick game but he didn’t make me come the first time, and he sure as shit didn’t make me come the second time. Was not worth the fucking fuel to drive to his place.
  2. Jenny Powell asked me whether I thought she could rock a pixie cut. (We weren’t friends but people trusted my opinion on these things and she was desperate to get laid). I told her the truth that a pixie cut would make her look like one of those toy trolls and suggested a cute style instead. After that graduation speech, I would fucking drive her to the stylist myself and suggest they dye it fucking blue for the full troll effect. (What a cunt.)
  3. Would have asked the cute girl that lended me a tampon in the school bathroom out on a date.
  4. Kick Jeffrey Galanis in the balls when he visited school. :)
  5. Wouldn’t have sent Dad’s dick pics to everyone. Mom didn’t deserve that. I still would have told her, just in a better way than that. Maybe if she hadn’t felt so alone in the fallout she wouldn’t have deferred back to Dad so easily.
  6. Be like five percent less of a cunt on the island those first few days.
  7. Believed Leah from the start.
  8. Held her close instead of pushing her away after nearly losing her.
  9. Fucking listened to Dorothy when she says this is important since it might reduce the likelihood of becoming a human pincushion. (Maybe just always listen to Dorothy, she’s nearly always right anyway).



24th May 2021

 

It was something her therapist taught her to do. Dr Bianchi was a rather large, takes-no-bullshit italian woman who met Fatin’s blunt attitude with an even blunter one of her own. Unsurprisingly, they got on like a house on fire. 

Making lists was something Fatin had started doing on the island in the notebook filled with cryptic answers. She recorded the girls’ menstruation cycles so she could give them a morale boost when needed. Listed their birthdays and came up with realistic and unrealistic birthday gifts. She made predictions regarding her brothers: what sports they would start next year, what school lessons they would like, what grades they would get. She recorded how often the girls left camp, keeping an accurate timesheet about Leah specifically, trying to work out if a departure length was veering towards atypical and required a check-in.

Her lists changed in the bunker, focusing on theories, making connections. An archive of different possibilities that she then gave to Leah to work through tirelessly, crossing each one out with her incredible mind.

She stopped the lists when she arrived home.

Her coping strategies fractured by the complete change in scenery and circumstance.

She restarted at Dr Bianchi’s suggestion when Leah returned. She had all this… excessive concern and worry … and she had nowhere to put it. She found herself watching the clock relentlessly whenever Leah was out of sight, mind unravelling with a thousand-and-one horrific scenarios that could have befallen the other girl when she wasn’t within Fatin’s view. 

(She wondered if this was what Leah’s mind was like constantly. If it was, it merely backed up Fatin’s iron-clad belief that Leah Rilke was the strongest fucking person in the whole damn world.)

Her brothers had gifted her a beautiful leather-bound journal for her graduation present to write her lists in, to note down any inspiration for music composition and doodle in whenever the urge took her.

The lists helped keep her grounded, keep her focused on the real world, and keep her in a constructive mindset. Some lists were requested specifically by her therapist for them to talk about in sessions: when she remembered crying, what she liked about herself, what she thought others liked about her etc.

Then there were the lists she made just for herself: how many times Leah smiled that day; what food Leah would eat more of without prompting; how many times she caught Dorothy checking E!News, despite her repeated claims she wasn’t being suckered into reality tv; activities Shelby did with her family that Fatin swore to do with her so she didn’t lose something else; how many times Leah reached for her in a single hour.

The urge to list quietened down when Leah’s lips were pressed against her own and in the immediate aftermath Fatin’s lists shifted towards hopeful and speculative rather than a mere counting exercise. When Leah fell asleep before her she had listed all the places she intended to kiss Leah, all the dates she planned to take her on, all the places she wanted them to see together.

The lists were nearly always ticking away in the back of her mind, especially without Leah there to ground her. (It was whenever Leah was out of sight, out of reach, that the deafening fear started to seep in.)

“You’re back.” Rana remarked, perking up in mild surprise, as Fatin wandered into the kitchen, dropping her depleted overnight bag by the staircase ready to take upstairs and change dirty clothes for clean.

“Yeah, Leah’s meeting Ian for coffee,” Fatin explained, padding over to the cupboards and extracting a glass to fill, “Dorothy sleeps in until like early afternoon now that schools out and Shelby’s gone out, probably to have phone sex in the back of her car.”

Rana’s nose wrinkled at the information; she was set-up with her laptop, notepad and a small pile of documents on the kitchen counter, working from home that morning, viewings booked in for the afternoon. 

“Fatin,” Rana said slowly, “I greatly appreciate that we have reached a level of honesty between us where you feel like you can comfortably share with me, but there are definitely some things I don’t need to know.”

“Fair.” Fatin shrugged, turning up the collar of the blue blazer she’d stolen from Leah to hide the marks on her neck. She sipped her filled glass of water, moving to lean against the counter, settling opposite her Mom. “Dad pick up the boys?”

“Yes.”

“Did he…” Fatin ducked her gaze, watching a drop of condensation run down the side of her glass, “Did he ask about me? About my graduation?”

Rana immediately reached across the counter to squeeze Fatin’s hand, “I sent him the photos from the day and your brothers couldn’t wait to tell him all about it, they’re both very proud of you.”

Fatin pulled away from the touch, shoulders hunching upwards as she read between the lines. “So, he didn’t ask.” Fatin’s jaw clenched, hating how it still hurt to be so callously cast aside. “I’ll be in my room.”

“Wait,” Rana requested quickly; Fatin paused mid-turn, arching an eyebrow expectantly. “I need to talk to you.”

“What’s up?” Fatin prompted.

Rana carefully folded her hands in front of her, lips pressed tight together as she put on her most neutral of tones. “I haven’t pushed back about Juilliard-“

Fatin snorted in disbelief, “You definitely have.”

Rana grimaced before amending, “I haven’t pushed as much as I could have.”

Fatin deposited her glass back on the side so she could fold her arms defensively, “Good, because it’s my decision, not yours.”

Rana’s face fell ever so slightly at the aggression, “Fatin, please.”

Fatin exhaled slowly, releasing some of her tension before murmuring a softer, “Fine.”

“I understand your reasons for deferring and I know pushing back - more - would damage our relationship.” Rana explained, “But if you are staying here for a year, I have certain expectations of you.”

Fatin rolled her eyes, letting out a loud groan, “Come on-”

“Let me finish.” Rana demanded, holding a hand up in request for silence. “One, you keep your cello skills honed. You don’t want to start Juilliard next year and find yourself out of your depth. There’s a number of local orchestras in the area that are running auditions over the summer. I've made a list, I think it would be good for you to join one of them. You won’t have school and… Dorothy and Shelby won’t be here, I don’t want you to feel lonely.”

Fatin blinked in surprise at Rana’s reasoning, at how her mother’s expression had turned soft with concern. She couldn’t argue that without the regimented practice and guidance provided by high school she had the potential to lose her edge which would make starting in a year’s time a daunting experience. Additionally, even though she would have Leah next year that would be it when it came to social options, and Fatin recognised that may not be the healthiest of situations.

“Okay,” Fatin accepted with a nod, flashing her mom a smile, “I’ll have a look at your list.”

Rana nodded approvingly before straightening up, chin raised with determination which was the only pre-warn given that this next one would be unpleasant.

“Two, you will get a job.”

Fatin’s jaw dropped, “What? Seriously!?”

“You’re not going to spend the entire year doing nothing.” Rana declared firmly, tone invoking a steeliness that only came out when Ahmad tried to sneak ice-cream before dinner. “You convinced me that deferring would help you grow and recover even more after everything that has happened. This year is for that. Not just to make out with your girlfriend.”

Fatin froze, eyes wide and mouth moving up and down without sound.

Rana merely smirked in response.

Fatin’s jaw snapped shut, and murmured, “You know.”

“Of course, I know.” Rana replied gently, “And I’m looking forward to getting to know Leah more in the future, once you stop hogging her.” Fatin blushed at that, unable to deny it. “Bring her here more often, please.” Rana requested. “Kemar already adores her. And the boys… and me… miss having you around.”

Fatin swallowed thickly, touched by the sentiment and how easily Rana accepted Fatin and her love. It wasn’t like Fatin had been subtle about her feelings for Leah but she’d never openly stated them, had never explicitly told Rana that she should expect Leah to become her daughter-in-law down the line. She’d forgotten how close she’d grown to her Mom over the last year, how her Mom now knew how to read her. She sometimes still assumed her mother was blind to her like she’d been before the island.

“I… yeah, okay.” Fatin nodded quickly, feeling young and awkward like a pre-teen telling her parents that she now had her first girlfriend (which she was except for the pre-teen part). “And I’ll look into the job, I guess.”

“You can wait until after summer, I’m not a monster.” Rana teased, glancing back down to her laptop screen and giving Fatin the all-clear.

“I know. Thanks, Mom.” Fatin acknowledged, picking up her glass and moving round the counter to kiss the side of her mom’s head. Rana gave her a side-hug in return which allowed Fatin a glimpse of the documents next to Rana’s computer. “Are those-”

“Divorce papers, mmhmm.” Rana completed for her, unable to meet Fatin’s proud gaze. “It’s time.”

“I love you, Mom.” Fatin declared.

“Love you, too.” Rana replied instantly, before hesitating - Fatin waited, hovering nearby, “Fatin?”

“Yeah?”

Rana turned to meet her gaze, expression serious, “Be careful who you entrust your heart to.”

Fatin frowned, shoulders back, declaring confidently, “It’s safe with her.”

Rana hummed, sounding somewhat unconvinced, attention shifting back to her work, “If you say so.”



DATE IDEAS:

 

  1. Bookshop??? How would that work? Do I just follow her around, carrying her books and watching her read??? ---- Okay, I’ve thought about this some more, I might actually enjoy this. She gets that adorable crinkle when she’s reading, and she sticks out her tongue ever so slightly when she’s memorising a section. This could work. (Also making out between the stacks, books already get Leah hot, how hot would she get when making out in book nirvana?)
  2. Spa day. Couples massages, lounging by a pool and hot tubs. (Leah is not comfortable with her leg on display - no bikinis :( - but I saw some cute boarder shorts that she would rock which might make it work).
  3. Theme park. Ahmad and Kemar have been begging me to take them to a theme park over summer. Would Leah mind a date with my two brothers in tow??? 
  4. Laser Tag. (Toni’s suggestion). Maybe not a 1:1 date, but might work for the next unsinkables get together?
  5. Go-karting. (Shelby’s suggestion). I think Leah would secretly be a speed demon if given half a chance. Also her taking off a helmet and shaking her hair out like one of those ridiculous hair commercials would really do it for me.
  6. Cat cafe. (Martha’s suggestion). Had to google this. This could really work. Gold star for Martha.
  7. Cinema. Bit plain and they really frown on people who get handsy - would much rather have movie night in my bedroom.



27th May 2021

 

“This is stupid isn’t it?” Leah grimaced, hand starting to pull away from Fatin’s as they reached their designated bowling lane.

“What? Of course not.” Fatin reassured, holding tight to Leah’s hand.

“It’s super fucking cheesy.” Leah pointed out; her assessment helpfully underlined by the arcade off to the side, loud and over-the-top, and the sticky floors beneath their feet.

It was mid-morning so there was barely anyone else there, and the bored balding man behind the counter had only spared them a mildly curious look when Leah - who had insisted on paying - purchased two games, before returning to watching the reruns of jeopardy playing on the small television on the wall. There were only two other lanes in use by guys that looked like professional bowlers.

“I like cheesy.” Fatin declared.

Leah side-eyed her as she tugged her hand free to start typing their names into the electronic scoreboard, “You hate cheesy.”

“But I love you and you’re cheesy.” Fatin blinked up at her innocently, smile widening all the further when her words made a pink tinge appear on Leah’s cheeks.

Leah shook her head and sighed, “It’s just…”

Fatin waited patiently but Leah remained silent.

“It’s just?” Fatin prompted, eyebrow arching.

Leah ducked her head, and mumbled darkly, “This is technically our first date and I’ve taken you to the crappiest bowling alley in town.”

Fatin frowned, reaching out and turning Leah round so that she could wrap her arms around Leah’s neck, pressing their bodies close. 

“Did you know I am fucking awful at bowling?” Fatin asked, pressing a kiss to Leah’s cheek in encouragement when Leah placed the hand not on her cane on Fatin’s hip. 

“I didn’t, but I’m not surprised.” Leah admitted. 

Leah had told her on the way over how she used to go bowling with her Dad when she was younger, even winning a few tournaments here and there. Fatin listened intently despite already knowing this; she’d seen the trophies in Leah’s room and Kurt had eagerly regaled her with a play-by-play of each tournament with very little prompting.

Leah had asked if they could go bowling after Fatin had stayed over the night previously - they’d done another family games night; this time, however, whenever Leah answered a question or won them a point Fatin didn’t resist the urge to lean over and kiss her cheek. (They lost again but Fatin didn’t care because Leah’s hand was on her thigh the whole night and she went to sleep in Leah’s arms and with kisses pressed to her neck). 

Fatin had said yes giddily, seeing it for the long overdue date it could be and excited that Leah had suggested a place to visit for the first time since returning home. A place that meant something to her and that she wished to share with Fatin.

“Not surprised?” Fatin repeated accusingly.

Leah winced, “I just mean… it doesn’t seem like your thing?”

Fatin tilted her head coyly, “What part of sticking my fingers into holes did you think I wouldn’t enjoy, baby?”

“You are awful.”

“You love it.” Fatin winked.

“Yeah… yeah, I kinda do.” Leah murmured softly. “Have you ever been on a date to a bowling alley before?”

Fatin hesitated, considering lying but fearing that if it came back and bit her on the ass it would ruin something incredibly precious. 

“Yes, I have.” Fatin answered honestly.

“Oh.” Leah deflated.

“I went on a weird group date with this guy in the year above us, there were like eight of us and I could not name a single one of them if my life depended on it. I didn’t even fucking bowl, I just sat on the side and scrolled through my phone the entire time.” Fatin explained, fingers trailing up the back of Leah’s neck and combing through the short baby hairs hidden underneath the longer locks. “And then this other guy - again can’t remember his name - took me, and he got so angry at how shit I was. I walked out halfway through the game and left him to it, pretty sure I went to a party and slept with a friend of his. Awkward but well-deserved.”

Leah’s brow furrowed in concentration as she listened to the stories; the hand on Fatin’s hip tightening protectively at the second one.

“So…” Fatin drawled, leaning forward to press kisses along Leah’s jaw, “I may have been on a date to a bowling alley before, but I’ve never really been bowling - at least not properly… and I could do with a proficient teacher, who doesn’t mind getting hands-on…” Fatin nipped at Leah’s earlobe before pulling back to find Leah breathing faster and her blue eyes noticeably darker. “Think you could help?” 

“Ummm… yeah… I can… I can do that…” Leah stammered.

“Perfect.” Fatin beamed, heart settling more comfortably in her chest after fearing she might have ruined this for them with so many firsts wasted on guys who meant so little to her. 

(The only firsts that Fatin wanted to count, wanted to believe mattered, were those she experienced with Leah.)

It quickly became apparent, however, that Fatin was terrible at bowling. 

Not just terrible. But shit.

And maybe if Fatin had been with the other unsinkables, her inner competitive bitch would have reared its ugly head which meant that rather than face repeated defeats, she would have feigned disinterest, claiming concern for her nails and ducking out of all her subsequent turns. 

But she was with Leah and only Leah.

(Leah who made her feel safe, even if the other girl didn’t realise it.)

And Leah laughed so brightly when Fatin pouted petulantly about her instant gutterball that Fatin would happily have sunk every ball after it without hesitation. Leah, though, immediately limped over to Fatin - cane willingly abandoned - to direct her through the motions: one hand on Fatin’s hip, the other curling round her wrist guiding back and forth, their cheeks pressed together and Leah’s breath warm on her skin.

Fatin, unsurprisingly, didn’t really care about the score after that.

Though, that didn’t stop Fatin from making an impassioned speech that Leah should have a handicap considering how much more experienced she was - Leah had pointed to her bad leg and asked jokingly if that was sufficient, Fatin had replied no and on her next turn Fatin ordered her to bowl backwards through her legs. It was the first time Leah joked about her leg, or even brought it up without a snarl or a flinch, which ensured their date would be a success far more than anything else.

It wasn’t until they were halfway through their first game, Fatin’s ribs aching and tears in the corner of her eyes from laughter that she realised how young Leah looked. Leah who was trying to bowl in the most ridiculous positions possible - hopping on one leg, ball raised up high in parody of the classic karate kid pose - as dictated by Fatin. 

She just looked like a teenager on a stupid, over-the-top date. 

And it was with a jolt that Fatin realised she probably looked exactly the same. It was this thought that prompted Fatin to retrieve the camera Leah had gifted her from her handbag, and pull Leah close as she did a truly terrible victory dance. Fatin kissed the side of her head, arm holding the camera away and snapped a photo.

The photo captured their youth and their sheer happiness. (Fatin knew she would treasure that image for the rest of her life).

They finished their first game, and Leah excitedly started the next after they had gone to get drinks. Fatin continued to be guided through each go until Leah realised she was now feigning being terrible to keep Leah close. To incentivise her to actually try, Leah promised her a kiss for each pin she knocked down.

Fatin’s score in the second game subsequently skyrocketed. 

“Hey Leah?”

“Fatin, I promise the pins are not jumping out of the way of your bowling ball.” Leah chuckled, leaning back in her seat, hand seeking out and settling comfortably on Fatin’s thigh - a recent habit since their renewed declarations of love that Fatin was living for.

Fatin frowned, “You don’t know that for definite though.”

“Fatin,” Leah murmured with an amused shake of her head, “I readily believe what is already an unhealthy number of conspiracy theories but even I think the bowling alley working against you is a little too far.”

Fatin inhaled sharply in faux-offence. 

“Bit-” Fatin cut the word off that had risen instinctively to her tongue, before awkwardly transitioning to an uncertain, “Whore?” 

Fatin and Leah both winced; Leah’s hand fluttering for a moment as if thinking of pulling away but managing to stay in place.

“I need to work on my insults.” Fatin grumbled.

“I’m sorry.” Leah sighed, head ducking down and body deflating.

Fatin pursed her lips, ordering sternly, “Don’t you ever apologise for that. Not ever.”

Watery blue eyes met fierce brown, “If-”

“Baby, no .” Fatin soothed, cupping Leah’s cheek before leaning in to press a comforting kiss to the corner of Leah’s mouth. 

She held the pose, pressing light kisses over and over again until she felt Leah detense and turn her head so that they could share a short, sweet kiss.

“Anyway,” Fatin breathed, leaning back, “I wasn’t going to bring up how obviously the pins are being moved by magnets-”

“For what purpose?” Leah inquired, brow furrowing even as her expression eased back to the lightness that had marked their day so far. “Why would they be deterring their customers?”

“Not all their customers. Just me.” Fatin corrected haughtily.

“Why?”

“My potent sexuality, obvi.”

Leah blinked at her, utterly dumbfounded, “Yeah… I’m going to need you to talk me through this one.”

Fatin took a deep breath before sweeping her arm around the area as if all the evidence she needed was laid out in front of them. 

“Look around, look how seriously they’re bowling. This is their gym, their sanctuary, their arena! They want people who appreciate how important bowling is. They want serious bowlers.” Fatin emphasised, relaxing into her speech as Leah’s amusement grew more and more apparent with each ridiculous declaration. “And I am not a serious bowler, but if I realised I wasn’t bad, hmm? What if I came back just for fun? Their sanctuary would be invaded by someone so hot ,” Leah kindly nodded in agreement with this, that I would totes attract a crowd of other non-serious bowlers. And then… and then … their bowling haven would be unrecognisable from what it once was. It would have been invaded and taken over. So… magnets… To make me think I’m terrible and never want to come back. Though…” Fatin murmured, wrapping a possessive arm around Leah’s shoulders, “they failed to consider that the worse I am, the more you touch me and the more I really, really want to come back.”

Leah giggled, rolling her eyes, “What happened to you whilst I was away?”

“I spent a lot of time with Ian,” Fatin shrugged, “and he may or may not have gotten me into like fifty different true crime podcasts. And no,” Fatin declared, holding up an index finger in warning, “you can’t listen to any of them. You’ve gone down the rabbit hole far too many times, Alice.”

“Fair enough,” Leah accepted easily, blue eyes flickering over Fatin’s face, so obviously taking in every detail, “I’m kind of liking reality at the moment so I'm happy to stick around.” 

Fatin couldn’t help the beaming smile that lit up her face.

Leah tilted her head thoughtfully to the side, “What were you going to say… before we went down the bowling conspiracy rabbit hole?”

“Oh.” Fatin muttered, brain jolted back to near functional. 

She paused before answering, slightly concerned her original question might change the atmosphere, but Leah was already looking at her expectantly, face steadily shifting towards seriousness the longer Fatin delayed. 

“You said technically earlier.” Fatin said, “ Technically our first date .”

Leah’s brow furrowed as the memory resurrected itself before she nodded.

Fatin bit the inside of her cheek before asking, “Do you want it to be?”

“I’m happy to count it, it’s just…” Leah said slowly before trailing off.

“Don’t break off after ‘it’s just’ again.” Fatin whined. “It gives me heart palpitations.”

“Sorry.” Leah smiled ruefully, “I was just thinking, remembering.” Leah straightened up, turning so that she was facing Fatin directly, expression quizzical and eyes misting over with too many thoughts. “Does the night we spent together count? Or are we starting afresh? Which one do we count?”

Fatin knew she should be on alert at the hint that Leah may be starting an emotional nose-dive, but it was hard to worry when the questions she wanted answers to were so starkly familiar.

 “What? Why are you smiling at me like that?” Leah inquired, making Fatin aware that she was smiling in the first place.

“I was thinking earlier how I’ve shared parts of myself and my life with people who didn’t really deserve it and how I wished I could’ve shared them with you first.” Fatin answered honestly, causing the growing fog in Leah’s eyes to retract, bringing back Fatin’s favourite blue. “But that’s ridiculous. The first one doesn’t matter.” Fatin proclaimed decisively. “The one that matters is the one that you say matters. The one that makes your heart race, the one that makes it special just because it's with them. The one that makes you say ‘I don’t want to share this with anyone else’.”

Leah exhaled shakily, “When did you become so romantic?”

“Around about the time I fell in love with you. I will admit, it was quite a shift, a lot to get used to. Worth it, though.” Fatin winked, running an appreciative hand down Leah’s bicep producing a rosy hue on pale cheeks. “So… when do you want our first date to be? Which one matters?”

Leah bit her bottom lip, and considered the question.

“The waterfall.” Leah finally replied; Fatin’s eyebrows rose in surprise - it wasn’t the answer she had expected even if it was the one she wanted to hear. “I know it wasn’t…” Leah stammered, suddenly shy. “I know we weren’t together. But we were. I was yours, I was just too afraid to say it at that point.”

“Now who’s romantic?” Fatin murmured accusingly, voice scratchy with held back emotion. “I was yours, too.”

The waterfall was where Fatin had practically begged Leah to see her, ‘bigger, better, different’, but was too afraid to actually say the words - feelings still a confused mess even if her heart would gallop whenever Leah came within touching distance. Leah had dived into the water, so vibrant with life that Fatin’s heart had sung loudly in her chest, so much so she didn’t mind when Leah tugged her into the cold water - the two of them splashing about. 

They had dried off on the rocks, lying next to one another, Fatin telling her all about her brothers as Leah listened eagerly to all of it, asking questions and telling her that she was a good sister. They’d walked back to camp, hands brushing every now and again - and Fatin had almost worked up the courage to take Leah’s hand in hers the next time they touched when they ran into Martha heading in the same direction.

“I hoped so.” Leah admitted; she kissed Fatin deeply then, tongue coaxing a moan from Fatin and encouraging her to shuffle forwards only for Leah to pull away and grin cheekily before asking, “Another game?”

Fatin bit back the groan of disappointment, her libido held tightly in check by promises of extended Lil Leah time later.

“Sure,” Fatin agreed, not ready for their date to end, “Pay close attention this time, though - we’re evidence gathering. Magnets, baby, magnets!”



SUGGESTED TRAVEL DESTINATIONS FOR DOROTHY

 

  1. London: take in a show, see a castle, all those boring things I’m sure you’ll love.
  2. Edinburgh: more castles for you to fawn over.
  3. Paris: think of the pastries, all those delicious, delicious pastries. Also, where else for an eiffel tower, hmm? 
  4. Rome: pizza, rich pasta, lasagne and ice cream (or is it gelato?). Italian men are also hot af - you know if things with Mateo don’t last.
  5. New Delhi: the curry will be incredible. (I think the island may have made me far more food-oriented than I used to be. Nothing like starving to develop a food obsession.) 
  6. Australia: eww, spiders. I’m sure you can do a survivor victory lap quite easily there.
  7. New Zealand: Leah’s request, could you get some photos of middle-earth (????) which I assume is some sort of nerdy reference?
  8. Peru: supposedly hiking to Machu Picchu is pretty cool, but considering how much hiking we’ve already done, just get the train. (I expect photos of you with alpacas).
  9. Hawaii: you deserve it, woman of leisure remember?



3rd June 2021

 

Fatin watched the windscreen wipers move back and forth, pitifully attempting to fight the seemingly torrential rain. She slumped back down, aware of people sprinting to the shelter of the airport terminal, bags splashing through puddles as they were dragged behind them.

“I’m so not fucking ready for this.” Fatin mumbled, swiping away the traitorous tear that rolled down her cheek with the too long sleeves of Leah’s hoodie she had snatched before leaving, knowing the smell would provide much needed comfort.

“Fatin.” Dorothy sighed, from the passenger seat, watching her with a soft expression. “You know we’ll still talk like every other day. And I promised the Rilkes I’d come back for Christmas.”

“You know I never had a friend before you.” Fatin confessed, finally turning her head to meet Dorothy’s gaze. “I never realised how… how lonely I was until you came along.” 

“Same.” Dorothy muttered in agreement. “I love my Dad… loved my Dad.” Dorothy corrected softly. “But he kind of became my whole world, which I don’t regret or anything, but I missed out on a lot of stuff. And you… you made up for that. Getting to know you, becoming your friend… made up for that.” 

Fatin swallowed back the lump in her throat, not that it reduced the quantity of tears, “I know it’s fucked up to say it… but I don’t regret the island. I can’t… not when it gave me you, Leah… the girls.”

“I think,” Dorothy said slowly, “I think that’s one of the least fucked up things you’ve ever said, need I remind you of that day you said you were going to whittle a dildo for yourself?”

“I wouldn’t have actually used it.” Fatin defended. “I’m not a fucking idiot, can you imagine the damage a stray splinter could cause?”

“I really don’t want to, but the image is there now. Ugh…” Dorothy gagged, “Vagina splinter.”

Fatin’s eyes lit up immediately, “We should so start a band called ‘Vagina Splinter’.”

“Fuck no.”

“Fuck yes.”

“I can’t even play a fucking instrument.”

“You can learn.” Fatin shrugged. “Oooh, you would be so hot on drums, think of all the banging jokes I could make.” Fatin wriggled her eyebrows suggestively.

“That’s exactly what I’m thinking about.” Dorothy grumbled, rolling her eyes.

The conversation and the easy banter that could last hours hit a quiet lull and suddenly all Fatin could hear was the continued squeak of the windscreen wipers again, and all she could focus on was the sight of a plane disappearing in the distant clouds.

“I need to head in soon.” Dorothy said, the reminder like a kick to the gut.

“You’re sure you don’t want me to come in with you?” Fatin asked.

“Nah, you’ll hover and I feel like a kid heading off to their first day of school. It will be awkward.” 

Fatin nodded in understanding.

Leah, Shelby and the Rilkes had said goodbye to Dorothy at the house; the Rilkes had offered to drive, to do a big send-off at the airport, but Dorothy wanted something quieter so it was just her and Fatin that made the trip. Shelby had cried and Leah had frowned, but they’d hugged Dorothy incredibly tight, all demanding regular texts, calls and photos.

(Leah had stepped up to Fatin’s side, kissed the side of her head and said she would be there for her when she got back from the airport - even offering to go for a long walk with her, despite it being obvious that Leah’s leg was paining her terribly that morning).

Shelby was set to leave in a couple of days time, flying to be with Toni and Martha, and it was clear the Rilkes were going to miss having a full house.

“Don’t forget to ask for extra sick bags, Shelby won’t be there to catch your vom this time.” Fatin said, earning her a light shove which merely made the feelings of loss rattle in her chest, ping-ponging around the space.

She’d never done this before: say goodbye to a friend. She’d missed that critical development milestone, superglued to her cello and forming attachments with the known life expectancy of a Mayfly. 

How do you say goodbye to someone who had impacted her so much?

How do you say goodbye to someone who’s everyday presence was as comforting as the knowledge that the sun would rise?

How do you say goodbye to a friend like Dorothy?

“God,” Fatin sobbed, “you really fucked me up, you bit- whore.”

“Dude, you really need to work on your insults.” Dorothy chuckled, even as her own voice cracked, turning into a sob.

“I know.” Fatin lamented. 

“Here, this might help.” Dorothy opened up the backpack stowed at her feet and pulled out a book, dropping it in Fatin’s lap.

“A book of insults, really?” Fatin grumbled, blinking her vision clear through the tears, nose wrinkling as she flicked through the pages. 

“Without the ‘b’ word in your repertoire, you’ve been off your game. It’s pretty fucking depressing, like watching an illterarate kid forced to do the spelling bee.”

“Ugh, you…” Fatin opened the book at a random page, “Blunderbuss.”

They both grimaced simultaneously.

“At least it might help your vocabulary,” Dorothy remarked, “you’ve got a literary genius for a girlfriend now; you might need more than two syllable words to keep up.”

“I take it all back,” Fatin said, “you can fuck off and I won’t miss you.”

“Fucking liar.” Dorothy laughed.

“Yeah, yeah I am.” Fatin admitted far too readily, reaching out to hold Dorothy’s hand tightly.

“You’re not losing me.” Dorothy murmured seriously.

“Then why does it feel like I am?” Fatin asked.

“Because you never fucking developed object permanence.” 

Fatin returned the shove from earlier. 

“Because we’ve lost a lot already.” Dorothy answered honestly once the wise-crack was out of the way. “And our hearts don’t deserve to lose anymore.”

“I’ve barely lost anything.” Fatin frowned.

“Just because Leah came back doesn’t mean you aren’t marked by the loss.” Dorothy said gently. “We all lost stuff on the island and some things - some people - before it.”

Fatin tried not to think about how, in a way, they had both lost their fathers, it was one of the few things they didn’t talk much about. Fatin felt guilty - even though responsibility lied more on the adult party - for how broken her relationship with her father had become when Dorothy would give anything for five more minutes with her own Dad.

“Yeah…” Fatin exhaled.

“Fatin?”

“Dorothy?”

“I need to go now.” Dorothy said solemnly.

Fatin squeezed their linked hands all the tighter for a heartbeat before easing her grip, “Yeah…”

Fatin straightened up and stared right at her best friend, raising her chin high.

“Listen,” Fatin demanded, “I want you to see so many fucking wonderful places. I want you to meet amazing people - not as amazing as me, obvi.”

“Obvi.” Dorothy repeated dryly.

“I want you to be safe. I want you to be brave. I want you to be happy. And most importantly, I want you to call me every day and tell me all about your adventures.”

“We agreed every other day, Fatin.” Dorothy grumbled, even as her expression glowed with fondness.

“I’m a pushy-” Fatin glanced down at the book again, “sauce-box, who never stops negotiating.”

“Still don’t know how Leah puts up with you.” 

“Orgasms.” Fatin replied with the instant go-to answer.

“We both know it's not that.” Dorothy said softly before letting out a heavy sigh, “I’ll try to phone every day-” Fatin let out a squeak of excitement, “but no promises.”

“I’ll take it.” Fatin agreed.

“So, are we hugging this out?” Dorothy inquired.

“Fuck yeah we are.” Fatin nodded, before stretching across the centre console and wrapping her arms tight around her best friend who did the exact same.

“You’re getting snot on my jacket.” Dorothy grumbled.

“Marking my territory.”

“If you even think about pissing on me-”

“Not quite my kink, you’ll have to ask Mateo for that one.”

“Fuck you.”

“Fuck you, too.” Fatin whispered, fully aware that what they were really saying was ‘love you’ and ‘love you, too’.



POTENTIAL PSYCHIATRISTS FOR LEAH:

 

  1. Dr. Clark: Specialist in trauma, very intelligent if we’re using scholarly papers and college transcripts as a barometer. Outcome: DOA - Looked way too much like Faber, Leah was practically clawing at the walls to get out of there. Note: check their photo first.
  2. Dr. Jackson: Friendly, came recommended by someone at the support group Maryann and Kurt attended. Said he helped their daughter and has a very kind demeanour. Outcome: Fucking hell, Leah ripped through him in one session. Note: need someone with a fucking spine.
  3. Dr. Zola: Classic therapist, no bells and whistles, not a push-over, smart but not ‘I need to dissect your brain or put you in a deeply traumatising experiment to create a revolutionary theory’-type. Outcome: Leah made it two sessions and then broke down. Turns out Faber hid his manipulation under some very classical CBT methods and Leah gets triggered by similar approaches. (When I get my hands on that ginger motherfucker there won’t be anything left by a cracked pair of glasses.) Note: I don’t even fucking know anymore, but she needs help.
  4. Dr. Ivanov: credited as being ‘out of the box’. Anything is worth a go at this point.



8th June 2021

 

Leah wasn’t all there.

Fatin didn’t mean that in the sense that there was something missing within Leah ; instead, it was like Leah went missing - her mind or soul escaping her body to seek refuge elsewhere.

There were beautiful moments - flashes - where Leah was present and real, and Fatin could convince herself that her worries were groundless. Moments like their second first kiss, their first date, playing Lego with Kemar, helping Shelby learn lines for the end of year school play, helping Kurt fix up a car in the garage, baking for Dorothy to earn her critique and gardening with Maryann.

But then Fatin would leave for a couple of minutes - to the bathroom, to check in on Dorothy, to catch up with Rana - and she would come back and Leah’s gaze was dark, dark, dark and her eyes would move around as if she was reacting to something, but when Fatin looked all she saw was shadows.

Leah would come back with a touch - always a touch; sound didn’t work. In response to a call of her name or a question, Leah’s brow would merely furrow and her head would tilt to the side as if puzzling over a musical note that didn’t fit in the composition.

(Fatin would touch her and Leah would blink and the darkness would vanish but the unsettling feeling remained like a spectre.)

Fatin wasn’t sure if it had gotten worse or if simply the chaotic white noise surrounding Leah’s return was starting to fade, allowing them to finally see the long-term damage without the short-term turmoil to overshadow it.

Fatin remembered walking into the kitchen the day after Dorothy had left - Leah was up early (she slept for short, limited bursts that meant it was rare for Fatin to be awake any time before or after the brunette), and was making breakfast for the house. Fatin frowned when Leah laid out six plates, jokingly reminding her that Dorothy wasn’t there to steal all the bacon that morning.

Leah had frozen, shoulders tense and eyes landing on a spot across the room.

“My bad, working on auto-pilot.” Leah laughed, but the sound was faltering and forced rather than high and uncontrolled.

Fatin nodded, glancing at the empty chair Leah had been staring at, and continued on.

It became a recurring thing, catching Leah speaking as if Dorothy and Shelby (who left a day later) were still around, as if they had merely stepped out of the room. 

It was as if, without them there, Leah’s mind worked to fill the gap.

Fatin found herself thinking about what Leah had revealed far more than she cared to admit. Leah had created company in the form of the girls, and there was something sweet and complimentary in that, but all Fatin could think was how Leah was so alone in the first place, so scared and without comfort she had created her own support system.

Fatin wondered when she wasn’t there if the alternate version of herself stepped in.

She wondered if the alternate version of her knew how to soothe Leah better than her.

She wondered if the alternate version of her knew how the scars that littered Leah’s body and mind were formed.

She wondered if the alternate version of her was kinder, funnier and prettier.

She wondered who Leah preferred and then realised that she never wanted to know the answer. 

It wasn’t just shadows that Leah would lose herself to.

It was also time.

In this regard, Leah had gotten better. 

In those first couple of months it was like Leah had developed alzheimers, she would lose track of what she was doing, would forget things that had happened only the day prior or even that morning, but would - strangely - have perfect recall of what happened a week previously - only for that memory to vanish the next day. Kurt and Maryann had been working on some grounding techniques, lightly reminding her of the events of the day before at the start of each morning and then recapping the day at night.

It seemed to be working, Leah’s memory seemed more robust but she would still occasionally falter and she would repeat any prompt that Fatin had given her under her breath until it seemed to stick.

She also seemed blind to her own darkness - not the panic attacks or nightmares, but the quiet darkness. Whenever Fatin had hinted at Leah talking to ‘alternates’ since returning, she would merely stare blankly back, either not understanding or firmly believing it wasn’t the case. But when pressed, she would find the memory slot - poking at it like a gap between teeth with her tongue - only to find nothing there. 

It would all be forgotten not long after.

A protective memory eraser that worked on the small moments, keeping Leah’s inner mental sanctum safely shielded.

The problem was Fatin and Leah’s family - and Leah, herself - had no idea how to combat these issues, what actions they could take that would help. Nor did they know what was triggering all of it - at least, Leah wasn’t sharing that information if she did know. 

And the one group of professionals that could potentially help Leah in an effective way had been corrupted in Leah’s mind by Faber. All the therapists had fallen to the wayside, unable to overcome the cliff face of trauma that stood in Leah’s way of help.

Which is what brought them to Dr. Ivanov and what could only be described as her murder manor.

“This place looks like Hollywood’s fucking dream location for a psychological thriller.” Fatin grimaced, holding Leah’s hand all the tighter as they looked up at the brooding, stone building set in the Grimm’s tale woods. 

Kurt and Maryann had headed inside to let the doctor know they were here, giving Fatin some time to check in on Leah before her next attempt at therapy.

“Aren’t you meant to be like…” Leah’s nose wrinkled in consideration, “encouraging me to get on in there? Not telling me that I’m being set-up as a victim in a slasher movie.”

“Baby, you’re no victim. You’re a final girl. Your survival is, like, guaranteed.” Fatin reassured her.

“How is that helping?”

“I’m meant to be helping?” Fatin inquired innocently.

Leah raised an eyebrow at her when suddenly her gaze narrowed in sharp understanding. “You’re distracting me. Keeping me out of my own head.”

Fatin pouted, “I don’t need words for that. I wore my shortest skirt for a reason, Leah.”

Leah blushed instantly, “I noticed.”

“I know you did, baby.” Fatin teased, remembering how Leah’s gaze had wandered throughout the car journey, hand shifting in Fatin’s gentle grasp with the obvious urge to reach out and explore.

Leah rolled her eyes, smiling shyly at her, “Thank you for coming with me.”

“Always.” Fatin promised firmly.

Leah cleared her throat, “And thank you for wearing the skirt.”

Fatin winked, “You can reward me for that later.”

Leah arched an eyebrow, gaze flickering over Fatin’s body assessingly, “Oh, I will.” Leah asserted, voice a husky whisper which made Fatin shiver, suddenly assailed with a host of images by her over-excited libido.

“We should probably head in.” Leah said, pulling back and leaving Fatin with a sudden sense of whiplash and loss of control that only Leah was ever capable of producing.

“No need.” A rough, accented voice called out.

Fatin and Leah both looked up to see an older woman, hair silver and features pinched approaching with a staccato gait. She was dressed in walking trousers and a comfortable jacket; hands clasped behind her back and smile that was all sharp teeth and harsh lines.

“We shall have session out here.” The woman declared, coming to a juddering stop in front of the two girls. “We go for walk.”

“Uh… hello?” Fatin greeted uncertainly.

The woman - Dr. Ivanov, presumably - ignored her, gaze honing in to instead meet wary blue eyes.

“You are Leah, correct?” Ivanov inquired.

Leah frowned, “Yes.”

“Hmm…” Ivanov hummed, jerking her chin pointedly at Leah’s bad leg, “can you keep up with that cane?”

Fatin bristled at the aggressive, almost demanding tone of the doctor, moving to step forward and shield Leah. “Hey, maybe-”

“Are you bringing yours?” Leah inquired in return, voice cold and cutting, as she grabbed Fatin’s hand and kept her in place by her side.

Ivanov’s smile widened and all Fatin could think of was the wolf in the Little Red Riding Hood story.

“Astute, with a sharp edge.” Ivanov remarked, leaning back and tapping her chin appreciatively with an index finger. “I heard you tore through Jackson. Lovely man but soft like wet cardboard. You need some steel.” 

“I’ve been told I’m rather fragile.” Leah smiled darkly at the doctor.

If Fatin didn’t love her so much, she would have been intimidated by the glimmering darkness in blue eyes that reminded her far too much of Leah’s more vengeful scheming in the bunker.

Ivanov chuckled - a rasp like sandpaper over dry wood. “No, not fragile. Brittle.” Ivanov corrected excitedly. “Still strong metal, but forged in a certain fire. You no longer know how to adapt to anything other than pain, stress or torment.”

Leah’s lips pressed together into a thin line and her grip on Fatin’s hand tightened infinitesimally, “And you can fix me?”

“No.”

Leah’s top lip curled back into something approaching a snarl, “Then why fucking bother?”

“No fix. Nothing broken.” Ivanov explained, head tilting thoughtfully to the side, “Maybe… maybe… make a bit better, hmm? Make your head a little quieter, unpick the mess and start to… lay to rest the demons .”

Fatin watched the tension of a second ago drain away from Leah’s features to be replaced by interest overlaid with only a thin layer of suspicion.

“Are you going to make me talk about it?” Leah questioned, “The wilderness?”

“Right now,” Ivanov began, leaning forward to whisper, “I want to talk about birds.”

“Birds?” Fatin repeated, unable to stop herself.

“There are many pretty ones here and I like to show them off.” Ivanov revealed, clapping her hands together as if all their plans were now settled and they could proceed. “I shall get cane, then we walk, hmm?”

Ivanov then turned and abruptly walked away, Fatin now able to see the stiff movements to the older woman’s legs that revealed the need for some support.

“What the actual fuck?” Fatin said slowly, shaking her head once the doctor was out of ear-shot. “Leah, I don’t know if-”

Leah squeezed her hand again, turning and ducking forward to kiss Fatin, stopping the concerned words from escaping. 

“I’ll see you in an hour, right?” Leah asked upon pulling back, letting go of Fatin’s hand to lightly rub her thumb under Fatin’s bottom lip, removing smudged lipstick and making Fatin inhale shakily.

“Baby, are you sure-”

“Come now, little Raven,” Ivanov yelled as she exited the door of the manor house, lifting her own cane up and waving it through the air, “let us hobble down the forest path!”

Fatin grimaced, a thousand and one reasons for why this seemed like a truly terrible idea running through her head.

“I’ll see you in an hour.” Leah repeated, kissing the side of Fatin’s head and whispering into her ear. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.” Fatin replied instantly; stomach in knots as Leah smiled encouragingly at her before moving to meet Dr. Ivanov for their walk. 



POST-ISLAND HABITS ALL THE GIRLS HAVE

 

  1. Stockpiling useful items (as Dorothy calls it, I think of it more as fucking hoarding). I’ve put aside so much random crap since coming home. Why do I think I need a soup can lid??? My brain just went, ‘it's sharp and would make a good replacement tool’. A replacement tool for what, huh? When we and all the stores in the fucking bay run out of knives? 
  2. Food portioning. We all do it. Putting food to one side on our plate as if to save it for later. To save it for when we inevitably run out. I keep going to the fridge late at night and just staring at all the food, mentally working out how long it would last, how it could be rationed. I wonder if that will ever go away? The fear of starving.
  3. White noise. I sleep better with the sounds of someone else nearby, just breathing or light murmuring - since Leah’s returned, I’ve slept better than I have in a year. Dorothy, Martha and Rachel prefer sounds of the ocean, whilst Shelby and Toni need forest sounds. Odd how that place was the stuff of nightmares, but we can only sleep soundly once reconnected to it.
  4. Claustrophobia. I don’t think any of us handle the idea of being trapped or contained very well. The Rilkes bathroom door jammed when Shelby was in there once, she nearly broke her hand trying to smash through it. (All the parents have removed locks where possible).
  5. Clinginess. I don’t think any of us can go more than four hours without contacting one another.
  6. Emergency kits. We all have one, contents vary slightly. We take them everywhere. I have a first aid kit, a spare pair of underwear, flashlight, some rations and a toothbrush always kept in my bag.



12th June 2021

 

Leah’s session with Ivanov seemed to have helped, she was quieter on the journey back but far more present; she was booked in for weekly sessions and she didn’t seem uncomfortable at the prospect of returning.

Fatin and Leah spent the next couple of days helping Rana prepare the house for Ahmad’s tenth birthday party, a summer barbeque with his friends and the extended family.

The party rolled round and Fatin found herself tugged between cousins, helping her mother and keeping a weathered eye on the pool that the kids were diving in and out of with abandon. 

The Rilkes arrived and Fatin’s brothers swarmed them before Fatin even had a chance to cross the yard. She greeted Leah with a soft kiss which her brothers made exaggerated vomiting sounds at, only scurrying away once Leah handed over Ahmad’s present. Fatin stuck by Leah’s side as much as she could, the Rilkes going over to help Rana and talk with the other parents, and gradually introducing Leah to the rest of her family who were accepting of their relationship - mostly because it finally gave them something to tease Fatin about which actually made her blush.

Fatin left Leah in the safe company of her grandma, who seemed to instinctively know to look out for Leah, promising to get them all some drinks. As she was making her way inside, she noticed that her father had arrived, accompanied by a young, leggy blonde who couldn’t have been more than a few years older than Fatin, both dressed up like they were at a Hamptons summer party rather than a ten year old boy’s birthday.

“Mom-” Fatin began urgently, striding up to Rana’s side in the hopes of pre-warning her.

“I know, Fatin.” Rana replied, casting Fatin a small, sad smile as she directed the two of them to a quiet corner.

Fatin paused, eyebrow arching, and hands clenching and unclenching at her sides as she glanced pointedly over at Samad. “You know?”

Rana nodded, “He called and told me he was bringing his girlfriend this morning.”

“Told? Not asked?” Fatin checked, nostrils flaring.

“I can’t turn him away from his own son’s birthday.” Rana said quietly, reaching out to squeeze Fatin’s shoulder, voice dropping low to avoid being overheard. “At least he gave me some warning.”

“Fuck him.” Fatin snarled.

Rana sighed, “Fatin-”

“Mom, he’s a fucking asshole.” 

Rana’s smile ticked upwards for a fleeting second into something more genuine, maybe even proud. “Agreed. Still language.”

Fatin rolled her eyes at the admonishment.

“You deserve better.” Fatin muttered earnestly, “You always did.”

Rana’s brown eyes twinkled, and she grabbed Fatin’s hand, squeezing it tightly. “I think I’m doing pretty well, thank you.” 

Fatin shrugged, cheeks warming under her mother’s affection.

“Is Leah doing okay?” Rana inquired, aware that Fatin had been concerned about how Leah would feel around such a large group of people.

“Yeah, she’s good, Grandma has pretty much adopted her.” Fatin revealed, thoughts of Leah calming the bubbling rage inside. “I left to get them both a drink.”

Rana nodded approvingly, “Can you let the caterers know they can start serving when you go in?”

“Of course.” 

Rana reached out and tucked a loose strand of hair behind Fatin’s ear before taking a deep breath and declaring, “I’m so proud of you and the wonderful woman you are becoming.”

Fatin swallowed thickly, eyes stinging at the praise, “Mom…”

Rana merely waved a hand, telling her no response was necessary, “Alright, enough being mushy. Go on back to your girlfriend.”

Fatin quickly leaned forward, hugging her mother tightly before turning to do as she was bid. She retrieved a few cans of soda, tucking them under her arm and stopping to speak with the head caterer, who immediately had the servers spring into action with trays of food. As she was leaving, intent on returning to Leah’s side, she collided with another body, she stepped back to apologise only for the words to die on her tongue.

“Fatin.” Samad greeted with a strained smile.

“Father.” Fatin shot back coldly. She peered around upon seeing that he was alone, “Where’s your girlfriend?” She asked innocently, “I didn’t think she would be due her afternoon nap for a little while longer.”

Samad’s smile died to be replaced by a harsh line, “Kelly is taking a business call.”

“A business call?” Fatin snorted in disbelief.

“She’s a personal trainer.”

Fatin rolled her eyes, muttering, “Of course she fucking is.”

“Fatin,” Samad sighed, sounding weary and fatigued, like he was the hero of the film pushed to his limit. “I’m getting pretty tired of your snide remarks and snarky attitude.”

“How can you be tired of it?” Fatin scoffed. “This is the most we’ve spoken in a year.”

“I had hoped the time apart would allow you to reflect.” Samad continued belligerently, ignoring her comment.

“Reflect? Reflect on how shit a father you are? Yeah… I didn’t need any extended time to come to that conclusion.”

Samad’s jaw clenched and he noticeably straightened up, “I was a great father and a great husband.”

“Fuck off.” Fatin dismissed instantly.

“I put my own wants and desires to one side for years. For years!” Samad repeated, tone harsh, and gaze boring into Fatin’s accusingly. “For your happiness and your mothers. I denied who I am for this family. Something you could never understand. I never made you hide away, I never criticised how you spent your nights.” Samad reminded, as if knowingly letting your daughter go out every weekend to have sex with random strangers was winning him a father of the year award. “You could never do what I did. You’re too selfish.” Samad’s voice had dropped down to a low whisper that made Fatin flinch, striking at the vulnerable parts of her soul. “ You always have been . The only person that you ever cared about was yourself. We both know you would rather chew your own arm off than be tied down to someone.”

“You’re wrong.” Fatin chuckled victoriously, head held high, “I’m not like that.”

Samad merely smiled at her, like she was little more than a naive child. “You may spit on me and disparage my choices but we both know that you were always more my daughter than your mother’s. And you would do the exact same thing in my shoes.”

“Fuck y-”

“Fatin?” Leah’s familiar voice filled her ears as an arm curled comfortingly around Fatin’s waist, lightly guiding her towards the comforting scent of vanilla. Fatin’s rage and hurt lashed inside of herself, twisting in circles, even as Leah’s voice and touch soothed the raw edges enough that the red haze cleared in her mind. 

“Leah, is everything okay?” Fatin checked, eyes snapping away from her father to scrutinise her girlfriend for any sign of distress. “Are you alright?”

Leah smiled brightly at her in return, shrugging helplessly. “Yeah, I just missed you.”

The furious tempest inside of her settled in an instant at that; calm, lulling waves replacing crashing white tsunamis. Fatin felt the tension eek out of her, and she immediately curled closer into Leah’s side.

“Also,” Leah grinned, holding up a beautifully decorated cupcake in her other hand. “I managed to steal you the last red velvet cupcake, I nearly lost a hand to your Auntie,” Leah’s voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper, “she was fully prepared to tackle me to the ground for it, I had to beat her back with my cane. I’ve been trying to hide it but Kemar is like a sniffer dog trying to find more of them and you know how susceptible I am to the Jadmani puppy dog eyes so…”

“My hero.” Fatin breathed, accepting the cupcake and pressing a quick kiss to Leah’s pink cheek.

Leah merely smiled back at her; they both heard a cough, an attempt to gain their attention and pull them out of the little bubble they had created for themselves. Fatin watched Leah’s smile turn steely and her blue eyes darken as she turned to meet Samad’s gaze; the hand on Fatin’s waist tightening.

“Mr Jadmani.” Leah greeted politely.

Samad grinned, suddenly looking like the charming man that Fatin had always idolised - it made Fatin’s skin crawl that he could switch that easily.

“Leah, right?”

“Yes, sir.” Leah said, answer short and simple in comparison to the babbling of a moment ago.

“You definitely don’t need to call him, sir.” Fatin murmured to her girlfriend, who inclined her head slightly to show she’d heard but didn’t turn to look at her - gaze firmly fixed on Fatin’s father.

Samad’s smile slowly started to slip away under the scrutiny of cool blue eyes. “I was glad to hear you got home safe and sound.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Samad nodded, hands moving to clasp behind his back before he jerked his chin at Leah’s arm, hanging loose by her side.

“Very nice watch,” Samad complimented, causing Fatin to tense up, “I own one just like it.”

Leah merely hummed in reply, not bothering to give him a verbal answer. 

“Leah,” Fatin rushed to intervene, wanting to get Leah as far away from her father as possible at that moment. “Why don’t we go find somewhere quiet where I can eat this without my Auntie staring daggers at me?”

“Sounds good.” Leah agreed cheerily before dipping her head towards Samad and saying a curt farewell, “Mr Jadmani.”

Fatin led Leah away, letting her subtly lean on Fatin for support, until they were back in the corner where Leah had deposited her cane. Fatin’s grandma was nearby talking to Fatin’s aunt and uncle, she shot them a quick look of worry that Fatin sent a smile back to quell.

“Thank you for the rescue.” Fatin said sincerely as Leah steadied herself back on to her own two feet.

“No thanks necessary.” Leah promised, expression soft, making Fatin’s heart feel sickeningly squishy.

Fatin reached out, arms wrapping around Leah’s shoulders and noses brushing teasingly together. 

“Not even a heavy makeout session and boob grope later?” Fatin offered, biting her bottom lip.

Leah considered this, swallowing thickly, “Maybe some thanks are necessary.”

Fatin threaded a hand through dark hair, and tugged Leah forward over the slither of distance, kissing her languorously, only pulling away when the urge to let her hands wander almost became too tempting to resist. 

Leah was flushed and beautiful, and Fatin didn’t need anyone to tell her that everything her father said was wrong. She would never - could never - do what he did, especially to Leah, because hurting her in any way was incomprehensible. And she was so happy that she couldn’t fathom being with Leah as a trap or a prison in the way Samad made it seem like their family was to him.

The rest of the party passed without fuss, Fatin’s dad and his girlfriend slinking out not much later. The kids started to depart and Fatin left Leah’s side to go say goodbye to her cousins as they made their own exit. She closed the front door behind them as they all shuffled out towards the old beat-up car that her uncle refused to replace, too stubborn to buy something new when the car ran mostly without issue despite back-firing every hundred metres or so. 

She headed back out to the much quieter yard, running into her mom struggling with two rubbish bags; Fatin quickly took the second one and helped her take them out to the trash.

“I’m so glad Kemar wants a quiet trip to a museum for his birthday.” Rana muttered, hand resting on her lower back to obviously ease some of the strain she’d been under as they stood on the patio watching Ahmad and Kemar, along with the remaining children, sprint around the open space playing tag. “I don’t think I have the energy for another party like this.”

Fatin chuckled, patting her mother’s shoulder in commiseration. “We’re nearly free.”

Rana hummed gratefully, “Did you say goodbye to your cousins?”

“Yeah, I caught them on the way out.” Fatin reassured before rolling her eyes. “Auntie Aaliyah is still pissed about not getting her third cupcake.”

“She might be pissed but her doctor will send you a note of thanks.”

“Savage.” Fatin whistled appreciatively, “I love it.”

Rana smirked, “You take after me more than you think.”

Fatin felt a swell of warmth in her chest at that, smiling shyly, “I’m okay with that.”

Rana blinked in surprise, obviously having expected some rejection at the claim - something that would have been immediate and cutting only a year ago. 

Rana took a deep breath before declaring, “Once more into the breach.”

“Good luck!” Fatin cheered as Rana put on her best hostess smile and headed back to check on their remaining guests.

Fatin took a moment, eyes closed, head turned towards the sun, absorbing the heated rays-

BANG!

Fatin blinked her eyes open, glancing in the direction of the driveway where her uncle’s car had inevitably backfired when-

Something slammed into Fatin at full speed, knocking her to the ground hard. Her head slammed back onto the hard patio slabs and everything went dark for a flash and then there were stars and her mind was spinning. 

“Fuck… ow… that hurts…” Fatin exhaled sharply with the pain that started to crescendo behind her eyes.

It took her a beat to register that there was a body on top of her, pinning her down and covering her as much as possible.

The fear and panic started to grow before she became aware of the scent of vanilla and the familiar curves and lines that made up Leah’s body

Distantly she heard yells, “Fatin!” 

“Get off of her!”

Fatin squinted up, to find wide, horrified blue eyes peering down at her.

“Leah…” She breathed, trying to sound gentle but her voice came out as a dazed croak.

Suddenly, Leah was off her, scrambling away with a twisted broken expression, “I- I-... I’m sorry. I-”

Fatin attempted to rise up, to reach out for her girlfriend, “Leah… wait… no…” She winced, the stars blinding causing her to fall back down with a sharp wince, “Ah… fuck …”

Her hazy vision was then filled with the sight of her mom looking frantic, hands reaching out to calm her jerky movements. “Fatin, you’re okay, stay still.” Rana ordered calmly in opposition to the worried lines marking her expression.

“No, I need…” Fatin groaned, “I need Leah.”

Rana pursed her lips, carefully helping Fatin manoeuvre to a sitting up position; the few remaining guests milling nearby watching on overtly.

“We need to get you checked out first.” Rana said.

“No, Leah first…” Fatin begged, jaw clenched tight against the waves of dizziness.

“Fatin,” Rana breathed, “she’s already gone.”