It was Leah that suggested it, which is probably why Fatin attempted it more than believing it would actually help.
Journaling, or even writing in any form, was never her forte. Why waste time noting down the arbitrary details of the day when the events could be snapped and saved on instagram? Or easily replicated the very next day if need be?
Leah told her to only write about what was important to her.
It didn’t need to be an exact play-by-play of her routine. She could write about the bitchy Karen that had cut in front of her at Starbucks. She could write about her favourite perfume brands. She could write about the parties she went to and the guys she fucked. She could write letters to her brothers. She could write down all of Dot’s quips for posterity.
She could write about anything , Leah insisted.
It didn’t need to be good, it was only for Fatin’s benefit anyway. It was a place where she could safely pour out the pieces of herself she was too tired or too scared to share. A place where she could live without feeling judged.
Then Leah kissed her forehead and left the new notebook, pink with a gilt ‘FJ’ in cursive, debossed on the front, with a quality fountain pen beside it on her bedside table.
It was one of many loving attempts to try and curb Fatin’s self-destructive tendencies. They had all gotten the house in LA that they had talked about in hushed dreamy tones in the bunker - a safe place for them to live when they inevitably vanquished the monsters that had harmed them.
Fatin had attempted to play cello to appease her parents when they first returned, to try to reduce the tension that permeated their relationship. They hadn’t sent her away as they originally threatened, but there was no apology for their unintentional involvement in causing what she had gone through. They just… pretended the island, her Dad’s affair and the whole toxic shitshow they lived in had never happened.
Fatin’s drinking and partying skyrocketed as a result.
The only person that could pull her back was Leah - mostly because Dorothy was in Texas and unable to whack her round the back of the head whenever she was being abhorrently stupid.
Leah would pick her up after every party without fail, regardless of the late hour or how far away; regardless of if she had plans or was exhausted or struggling herself. Fatin would drop her a drunk text or call her in hysterics from the bathroom of the apartment owned by the guy she had gone home with and Leah would always come and get her. Would pick her up and clean her up and hold her close into the next morning.
She would invite Fatin round constantly, knowing if Fatin was with her she wasn’t drinking and being reckless.
It was bad during their senior year but it was survivable, because Leah would reach out for her and Fatin would always reach back.
The year after that was when it became a catastrophe.
Fatin moved to LA with Dorothy, Shelby, Toni and Martha, after telling her parents to suck a dick when they threatened to cut her off if she didn’t attend Juilliard. She also smashed up her cello in their front garden as her final fuck you on the way out the door.
Her and Dorothy shared a crappy apartment, whilst Shelby, Toni and Martha shared one across the street. Dorothy worked as a waitress at the local diner whilst studying at UCLA, hoping to go on to study medicine in the future. Fatin tried multiple jobs but either quit in a rage or was fired in disgrace after failing to turn up on time or turning up inebriated.
The trial was moving forward and they were looking at a hefty payout, but that money wasn’t going to be theirs for at least another year at best.
Dorothy tried to look after her, but she was juggling so much already: a long distance relationship with Mateo, studying to fulfill her own dreams and working to cover a rent that Fatin barely contributed to. Dorothy didn’t complain as much as Fatin knew she should, shouldering yet another burden out of love for someone that was slowly fading before her eyes.
Leah was still in the Bay, studying writing at Berkeley and loving it from the sounds of things and was even in a steady relationship with a girl studying biosciences. Fatin heard all of this secondhand from the other girls, she’d ghosted Leah as soon as they separated, ashamed by how quickly she fell apart without Leah there to hold the broken pieces of herself together.
The magnetic bond between the two of them seemingly snapping when not within touching distance.
It all came to a head in March.
Fatin went out partying, drank more than she should, got behind the wheel of her car and crashed it.
She was in a coma for two days and when she awoke it was to Dorothy furious beyond anything Fatin had ever seen before, and a Leah with eyes darker than they had ever been on the island. Dorothy raged and yelled, whilst Leah stayed silent and brooding.
Absolute inversions of one another.
Leah moved in after that - they never discussed it, at least neither Leah nor Dorothy discussed it with Fatin. It just happened.
Car Crash. Blink. Leah moving in.
She stayed in Fatin’s room caring for her injured body with a tenderness that made Fatin feel so unworthy, all whilst finishing her school year out online, only going back for a couple days to finish her exams. Then Leah was transferring to UCLA and helping Dorothy scout out a new apartment for all three of them.
(Fatin never asked what happened to the biosciences girlfriend and Leah never brought it up).
Leah and Dorothy tag teamed her for the rest of the year; got her to attend alcoholics anonymous and therapy, whilst also supporting all of her different attempts to find an outlet for all her now untapped energy. Dorothy was the one that helped her get a job at the diner, putting her reputation on the line to give Fatin a safe and stable environment to try again in. They tried to coordinate their shifts as much as possible, and when not possible, Leah would grab a booth in the corner to work in and order something every hour to ensure she would be permitted to stay.
It was Leah that took her to the shelter, guiding her through the cages until they both saw Casio, the withdrawn black cat that captured their hearts. They brought him home the next day, much to Dorothy’s equal amusement and annoyance.
Fatin recovered, and grew with the support of the two women she loved most in the entire world, and a cat that curled upto her side, purring happily, no matter how much of a fuck-up she felt like that day.
They got their money soon after, and the house not long after that - Rachel and Nora finally folding under the peer pressure and moving across the country to join them.
Fatin finally had a home, but she still felt lost. Without purpose.
She kept the waitressing job despite not needing the income from it anymore, she needed something to do whilst her friends all chased their own dreams and passions.
She tried music - guitar, piano, even drums - but it didn’t ease the tension under her skin. Didn’t anchor her like it used to.
Leah bought her the journal not long into their second year in the house.
For a week, Fatin wrote nothing in it, she would pick it up every night, open it up to the first page and hover - uncapped fountain pen in hand - over it for ten minutes before snapping it shut and going to crawl into Leah’s bed.
(She slept in Leah’s bed more often than she slept in her own, pretending it was merely a habit she simply hadn’t gotten around to breaking from when they shared a room after Fatin’s accident.)
The first time she wrote, put the actual pen to paper and poured out a piece of herself onto the blank canvas; Leah was out of the house.
On a date.
She’d been set-up with a nice guy by Martha, and Leah had been a frantic mess - ripping clothes out of her closet without any sense of order, allowing the discarded clothing to cover the floor.
She didn’t date often, her longest relationship since moving in with Fatin and Dorothy was a month, all of them seeming to fizzle out and die after a handful of dates. Despite having firsthand knowledge of this track-record, any new date that Leah went on was a special kind of agony for Fatin.
Because there was the constant fear that this one could be the one.
The one that takes Leah away from her.
The one that Leah falls in love with.
The one that isn’t Fatin.
Fatin wasn’t stupid or oblivious. She knew she was in love with Leah. Knew she’d been in love with her since the island nearly five years ago. Knew she would love her forever, probably to the exclusion of all others.
Fatin also knew that she was a mess.
Whereas Leah had pulled herself together, grown and come out of the most horrific and traumatic experience imaginable, a stronger person; Fatin came out of it a broken wreck that found a steep downward slope and thought she could descend it faster with rockets strapped to her shoes.
“How does this look?” Leah demanded, smoothing down the green strappy top and black denim skirt.
Fatin swallowed thickly before putting on a flirtatious grin, heart cracking down the middle, “Absolutely gorgeous. Sure I can’t tempt you to stay in? Maybe add those clothes to the piles already littering the floor?”
“Fatin.” Leah groaned, rolling her eyes, turning to check her appearance in the mirror in the corner of the room. “You know, one day I might take you up on that offer and you won’t know what to do with yourself.”
“That’s okay, as long as you know what to do with me.” Fatin winked salaciously.
Leah paused, blue eyes meeting hers in the mirror for a long moment, “I know exactly what to do to you.”
Fatin’s mouth dropped open slightly in surprise and confusion.
Fatin didn’t flirt with Leah, not like she did with the other girls. It hurt to play that part, to have it played back in kind, when she wanted it to be true and knowing it wasn’t. It meant whenever they accidentally slipped into those roles Fatin was left off-keel, windmilling wildly to regain her feet.
“Nothing to say?” Leah asked curiously when Fatin had remained silent for far too long, her hands adjusting the loose ringlets she’d put in her hair over and over again without seeming to make a change.
“Umm…” Fatin startled, hands clenching the bedspread tightly. “You're going to be late for your date.”
Leah froze for a beat before nodding, “Yeah…” She exhaled, “Yeah, I guess I am.”
Fatin suddenly felt like she had missed an important sign, like she had selected the wrong dialogue option in those videogames Toni and Shelby loved so much.
It reminded her of sitting on a beach with a spiralling Leah that she couldn’t reach - sending her pacing and feeling misunderstood when Fatin had tried so desperately to claw for the right words to make it all better.
“I’ll see you later.” Leah mumbled, grabbing her clutch handbag before coming over to press a kiss to Fatin’s forehead. “Don’t stay up too late.” Leah reminded her sweetly, hand stroking Fatin’s cheek before stepping away, even in her pre-date jitters aware that Fatin had an early shift at the diner tomorrow morning.
“I won’t.” Fatin promised.
“Good, I’ll be there at six for a coffee.”
“You don’t need to-” Fatin began, trying to dissuade the other girl from ruining her sleep like always.
“I’ll be there, Fatin.” Leah repeated stubbornly.
“Okay.” Fatin accepted, knowing better than to argue.
Leah nodded and then she was gone.
Fatin listened for the front door downstairs to swing shut, before getting off Leah’s bed and dragging her exhausted body back to her own room.
She couldn’t get the moment out of her head.
Leah looking at her in the mirror, waiting for a response that Fatin didn’t know how to give.
Leah staring out to sea, needing Fatin to say just a few magical words to make her feel seen and not completely alone in the darkness created by her own mind.
Fatin paced the room, the conversations in both scenarios playing out again and again. Her fingers itched with the need to be busy, her mind too loud. This was where she would normally drink or seek out Shelby - the only person out of all the girls who she’d told about her feelings for Leah, but tonight was Shoni date night and Fatin refused to throw in the towel of her sobriety.
She just needed to let out this pent-up emotion.
This would normally be where she went out and found a hot guy and spent the night in his bed, trying to push down the disappointment that it wasn’t Leah.
It felt wrong to do that tonight, though, to hide or share those emotions that Leah triggered with someone else.
She picked up the notebook because it made her think of Leah more than anything else - gave something concrete to channel her memories toward.
The first sentence she wrote was stilted and awkward.
It set the scene on the beach, the moment before Fatin sat down next to Leah and failed to provide support.
She stared at it for a long time, cheeks hot and embarrassed, glancing sheepishly at her bedroom door as if someone would storm in and snatch the book away to peer at the half-formed thoughts she was writing. The door remained resolutely shut and she could barely hear the sound of the baseball game Dorothy and Rachel were watching on the television downstairs.
She could write about anything.
A place where she could live without feeling judged.
Leah’s words echoed in her mind and suddenly she exhaled, a pressure her entire body had been under for years releasing.
She felt free .
She could write about anything .
And so she did.
And what she wrote about was this.
A girl born into a family with expectations and goals . A girl that loved flowers and talking to strangers, making them laugh and smile, with little more than a bright grin and a witty comment far beyond her years. A girl who didn’t understand why neither of those things was enough to generate even an acknowledgement from her mother. A girl who adored her father, who lifted her up and spun her round and treated her like she was the most important person in the whole world.
A girl who was dressed up and primped before being taken to an event where the music was slow but also captivating. A girl who was curious about the instrument that dwarfed their player but was effortlessly controlled to release the sharp sounds that amplified the whole event. A girl that begged and pleaded and pestered for a chance to play the instrument - a cello.
A girl that winced at the shrieky and squeaky noises she generated. A girl that played tirelessly, late into the night, until her fingers bled and toughened - her scabbed knees healing over as she gave up soccer and rough-housing. A girl who studied sheet music in the way she used to read fantasy books. A girl who played at a small concert and finally, finally, finally saw pride in her parents’ eyes.
A girl who was no longer a girl but a cellist.
A cellist that loved the idea of being a big sister, who cooed over her younger brothers, reading to them in bed when her father was too busy elsewhere. A cellist that sat alone at lunch whenever she managed to free herself from practice. A cellist that was lonely, who’s best friend was her father who wasn’t always there when she needed him - eyes on his phone and mind sometimes drifting… he always made it upto her though, with ice cream smuggled in on the weekend and a horror movie he would let her stay up to watch with him.
A cellist who knew she was pretty as men’s eyes wandered to her and stayed far longer than was respectable. A cellist who was able to smother pangs of loneliness with the thrill that came with attention and attraction . A cellist that experienced her first crush - something potent and overwhelming that felt like love - on a grocery bagger that liked her short skirts. A cellist that slept with a boy in the backseat of a car - the connection that it created making her feel grounded and real in opposition to how she had always felt: raised up and untouchable.
A cellist that realised connections were fleeting and temporary. A cellist that sought out quick, easy and dirty (when the occasion called for it) to ensure she didn’t lose herself in the expectations of perfection. A cellist that didn’t realise that she had never had a chance to find herself in the first place - going from a child to a singular identity without any self-discovery.
A cellist destined for Juilliard, for greatness, for a future she wasn’t sure she wanted.
A cellist whose reality was shattered upon discovering that heroes could actually be villains. A cellist who attacked and destroyed upon discovering her whole world was merely a set made out of plywood. A cellist who had once desperately hoped to be like her father, now wishing she could pluck out each one of his genes from the individual strands of her DNA. A cellist who was hurt and therefore caused hurt.
A cellist who was still just a girl when it really came down to it, thrown away and tossed aside.
A cellist who became the prodigal daughter.
A prodigal daughter who crashed onto an island with people she had never had the chance or desire to understand - girls her own age. A prodigal daughter who didn’t agree with the bleak outlook and survivalist extremes the other girls immediately descended to. A prodigal daughter who believed everything would be alright.
A prodigal daughter that made a connection with someone wholly different to herself: a strong, reliable survivor. A prodigal daughter that felt seen by the survivor in a way she hadn’t felt since her father was still her hero.
A prodigal daughter who recognised fleetingly one of the girls: blue-eyed, brown hair… plain, boring and ordinary . A prodigal daughter who was intrigued by the ordinary girl breaking the mould, deviating from expectations during a game of Never Have I Ever.
A prodigal daughter inexplicably drawn to the anomalous ordinary girl and finding… something not quite right, something which flicked a switch in the prodigal daughter that she didn’t know she had. A prodigal daughter who became tense and combative in response, looking to push and poke at the boundaries of the ordinary girl.
A prodigal daughter that seethed with each written revelation - each blatant manipulation - that she couldn’t believe the smart ordinary girl couldn’t see through. A prodigal daughter that showed her teeth and then flinched when the ordinary girl bit back.
A prodigal daughter outcasted for failing to accept a reality she wanted no part of. A prodigal daughter wandering lost and alone, seething in the darkness… anger turning to guilt and shame. A prodigal daughter pausing… pausing… before nodding once, firm and fervent. A prodigal daughter setting off with a goal and aim.
A prodigal daughter that found hope and salvation in the form of a waterfall. A prodigal daughter planning to make her glorious return only to hear her name shouted to breaking point from the ordinary girl who looked at her with… relief, joy … A prodigal daughter who for the first time in her whole life felt fought for… felt like she mattered to someone. A prodigal daughter that wanted that feeling to last forever.
A prodigal daughter with the help and good-natured bantering of the reliable survivor worked to become a friend to all, caring and productive.
A friend that reached out to the other girls, caring for them when their hope of food turned against them. A friend that soothed and unashamedly admitted her failings.
A friend that leaned into the feelings of compassion and interest she had felt for the ordinary girl, who for some unknown reason entrusted the dark secrets of her mind to the friend. A friend that wanted to listen and help the ordinary girl with her brilliant and beautiful mind that seemed constantly to be on the verge of falling into the abyss.
A friend that faced terror beyond anything she had experienced when she watched the ordinary girl steadily disappear on the horizon.
A friend that shattered and cried, longing for her broken home if it meant them all being spared of this nightmare.
A friend that learnt how much blood was too much, how flesh blackened and burned. A friend that promised herself she would not allow any of the girls in her care to ever come to harm again. A friend that could not find the right words to make the ordinary girl just stop… stop hurting herself, stop running away, stop leaving the friend. A friend that knew she was failing the person who needed her most and missing her more than she knew how to say.
A friend that felt like she had to choose between the ordinary girl and the other girls - failing to realise that it wasn’t until this moment, arm pressed to a pale neck and words she didn’t mean spewing forth, that the friend actually failed for the first time.
A friend who became a failure, stone-hearted and protective to prevent more pain.
A failure that recoiled from the ordinary girl because she wasn’t strong enough to fail again, wasn’t strong enough to survive hurting the ordinary girl again. A failure that watched the ordinary girl bond with another - the indomitable girl. A failure who bit down on her tongue and buried her head in a notebook so that no one would see the loss reflected in her eyes.
A failure who felt like there was no road back, no hope until…
The ordinary girl - who she could now admit was simply the most beautiful girl the failure had ever seen - cupped her face and sang to her about home, unaware that the failure would come to associate home with twinkling blue eyes and soft palms forevermore.
Fatin’s head snapped up to find bright, affectionate blue and a soft smile; she blinked and then finally registered the red notebook being held out to her. She quickly snapped closed the pink notebook, tilting it to hide the vulnerable words meticulously written out inside, only a single page left blank - not that such an action was necessary.
Leah would never even consider sneaking a peek. She respected the girls’ privacy more than anyone with the expectation that hers would be treated the same. Leah’s mind and inner thoughts had been prodded at far more than the others in the bunker, and they all understood her need to keep some of herself back.
Fatin placed her notebook to one side before accepting the red one being offered. It was identical to the pink one except for the colour - gold FJ debossed on the cover.
“It looked like you’d nearly finished that one so…” Leah explained carefully, reaching out to scritch behind Casio’s ear, who had slunk away from Fatin’s side to seek affection from his other mother.
“Thank you.” Fatin replied, smiling gratefully up at the girl she adored.
“No problem.” Leah shrugged, like it was no effort whatsoever but Fatin knew how high quality the notebooks were, knew they were personalised, knew she hid how much she wrote so Leah had to have been keeping a thoughtful watch to time her present perfectly.
“Has it helped?” Leah asked curiously.
Fatin considered the question.
She’d spent the last three months writing a little every day, a paragraph here or there, two or three pages when struck with inspiration. It had become a safe retreat, a memory would resurface and where she would normally feel the itch to drink and sink into another person, she was able to redirect it towards the notebook, pouring out the emotion and energy through pen and paper.
She didn’t just write about her past, about the island…
She put musings and random thoughts whenever the fancy struck. She’d taken to carrying the notebook in her bag, writing a quick sentence here and there: between orders at the diner, during a shopping trip, on the car journey back from the supermarket, after her morning coffee, after dinner, before bed and everywhere else she could.
She wrote about how a gentle touch from Shelby made Toni take a deep breath - the couple exchanging a look before Toni went for a walk, removing herself from the queue at the supermarket were an aggressive businessman kept tutting and making an exaggerated display to show how he felt his smaller basket should be jumped in front of the Unsinkables full cart.
She wrote about Nora stepping back when Rachel came home frustrated from physical therapy, allowing Leah to step in as a support, and instead focusing on getting ready for her own outing with some friends she had made at college.
She wrote about Dorothy tearing up at the dinner Fatin and Shelby planned to celebrate Dorothy coming top of her class.
She wrote about Martha going on her first date, coming back to flop on Fatin’s bed and gushing endlessly about how it was everything she’d hoped it would be.
She wrote about Leah…
She wrote about Leah constantly.
She wrote about Leah coming into the diner after going for a run with Rachel, sweat-slicked abs on show and skin flushed pink with exertion, ordering pancakes and setting up shop in the corner - Fatin watching her pour the maple syrup and writing below the counter what it would be like to lick the syrup of Leah’s pale skin (hot, sticky… probably not the best of ideas, but fun whilst it lasts).
She wrote about Leah, the relief she felt when the set-up date only made it to two outings before disappearing into the ether, no one appearing for the foreseeable future to try their luck.
She wrote about Leah carrying her to bed when she fell asleep on the couch following a Survivor marathon with Dorothy - waking up curled against Leah’s chest and Casio asleep by their feet.
She wrote about Leah’s smile, her touch, her laugh, her insight, her intelligence, her strength, her beauty, her humour (all the reasons Fatin loved her).
She wrote about how proud she was when Leah’s first book - a speculative science fiction novel that explored a crew of strangers thrown together and travelling into deep space, unsure if anything awaited them - was published and then soared up the list to being a bestseller.
She wrote about the future she wanted, a house with only one other occupant, maybe two cats and room for their future and family to grow.
The notebook had helped. Had given her a safe place to vent, to remember.
But more importantly, it had given her a place to hope. To dream. To imagine more for herself after feeling trapped.
“Yeah,” Fatin breathed, “yeah it has.”
Leah grinned, eyes twinkling with pride. “Good.”
Leah nodded to herself, hand falling away from Casio’s fur as she scuffed her toe, and jerked her thumb to Fatin’s bedroom door.
“I’ll leave you to it.”
“Or you could stay.” Fatin offered shuffling over and lifting the quilt up. “Casio is a needy whore. Don’t be an absentee parent or I will sue for child support.”
Leah chuckled, shoulders that were tight with tension dropping low as she slipped in beside Fatin, Casio immediately waltzing into Leah’s lap, head butting against Leah’s chest for attention.
“I think he takes more after you than me.” Leah mused with a smirk.
Fatin let out an exaggerated gasp even as she shifted closer, head resting on Leah’s shoulder. “Don’t be a bitch during family time.”
“Sorry.” Leah chuckled, “Sorry, Casio.” Leah bent and pressed a kiss to black fur between pointed ears. “Sorry, Fatin.” Leah then turned and kissed Fatin’s forehead.
“I guess we can forgive you, but I get to pick what we’re watching.” Fatin declared, moving to pull her laptop, that had been playing a mix from spotify, into her lap, allowing her to hide the pleased smile that the press of Leah’s lips evoked.
“No horrors; Casio is sensitive after all.” Leah reminded her
“He gets that from you.”
“Not all of us were raised on slashers.”
“And not all of us were cool in high school,” Fatin rebuked with a huff even as she lined up the netflix documentary her and Leah were halfway through, “I wonder if those two are mutually exclusive?”
Fatin could feel Leah shake her head in amusement, even as she wound an arm around Fatin’s waist, pulling her close.
“Both ended up in the same place.” Leah noted dryly.
“That’s Casio’s fault, he’s not a picky bitch.”
“And you are?” Leah asked quietly, the opening credits starting to roll on the screen.
Fatin hesitated, chest tight and Leah’s palm that had slipped from the dip of her waist to her hip feeling hot, hot, hot.
She knew what Leah was alluding to, Fatin’s list of conquests was plentiful and somewhat indiscriminate. Fatin knew they slept in Leah’s bed instead of hers because Leah didn’t want to know how many had occupied the space she was sitting in. She knew there was a hint of something there, something she really wanted to believe was jealousy but could merely be a friend wanting to know they were of higher value than the acquaintances Fatin so easily made.
“Very.” Fatin declared, voice an odd warble of flirty and vulnerable. “Especially when it comes to who I watch documentaries and adopt a cat son with.”
“Then I’m honoured.” Leah murmured, words whispered directly into Fatin’s ear causing an imperceptible shiver.
“You should be.” Fatin said, swallowing thickly, tilting her head to return to resting on Leah’s shoulder, the room suddenly only filled with the sound of the documentary and Casio’s purring.
A failure became an investigator, determined to find the truth, to prove the ordinary girl right, to help her reclaim her own mind as a safe space. An investigator who pondered the jumbled words and numbers written by the owner’s predecessor.
An investigator who celebrated the survivor, wanting her to find some joy and see how valued and loved she was despite how lonely this birthday would be for her.
An investigator that stumbled with the empathetic girl, turned hunter, missing the damage her words could cause when said without thought. An investigator that worked to repair things once broken, to fix rather than abandon - seeing the value in rebuilding.
An investigator that reached out to the ordinary girl, in the hope of evidence and testimonies, unaware that she was shoving the ordinary girl back into the dark pit that the indomitable girl had helped her crawl out of.
An investigator whose hope faltered when the empathetic girl cracked - pushed past breaking point by the girls' need to survive, unaware how their requests and dependencies weakened the hunter.
An investigator who watched her family splinter and strain under their failings and miscommunications.
An investigator who found the hopeful girl heartbroken and lost in the woods, offering to share the mission of seeking knowledge and truth. An investigator whose case bounded forward at the speed of light when supported by just one other person. An investigator who thought back to the ordinary girl who did it all alone, the ordinary girl who was actively discouraged to stop her investigation.
An investigator that listened to the hopeful girl’s declaration of love for the fiery girl and recognised those words for how they encapsulated the feelings inside of herself that she had never been able to define. An investigator that finally had answers and realised that she was little more than a girl in love.
A girl in love with an ordinary girl who was the strongest person she’d ever met. An ordinary girl who was never the damsel in distress, but actually the knight in shining armour, the hero of the story.
A girl in love that knew sanctuary was not their next destination.
A girl in love that waited and waited impatiently for the chance to provide the hero their vindication. A girl in love that spent days in silence only broken up once by the sounds of the hero’s screams, which were then overlapped by the girl in love’s own screams - knuckles turned bloody by how she pounded against the door.
A girl in love that realised she missed her family - a family made of girls she had never intended to love - and would sooner die than leave a single one of them behind.
A girl in love that was suddenly in darkness only to be saved by the hero who ensured she knew everything would be okay with a simple hug. A girl in love that followed the hero into the darkness and a hundred new mysteries.
A girl in love who was reunited with the survivor, her sister and best friend, in a room which angered the hero. A girl in love who could finally breathe upon finding her family all safe and back together.
A girl in love who spent the ensuing days, keeping the hero’s spirits and resolve strong. A girl in love who snarled at anyone else that wished to bask in her hero’s light. A girl in love who listened and believed and trusted in her family and their ideas.
A girl in love who watched the hero take charge, deploying a plan to capture the outsider in his high tower with so many levels and red herrings the outsider stood no chance to keep up.
A girl in love who cheered at their victory, and finally felt a weight leave her shoulders as they made their final escape. A girl in love who slowly realised, as her family separated - thrown to the four winds - that the weight she was carrying was actually the weight of the tape that was holding the broken pieces of herself together.
A girl in love that looked in the mirror which revealed the damage, and thought it ugly and so unworthy of the hero. A girl in love that wished the hero would sweep her off her feet and carry her away into the sunset, despite all that.
A girl in love that had forgotten how to fix things without her family and fell back to self-destruction.
A self-destructive girl that spent a year screaming inside her own head for the hero - and a family that had rejected her - to love her unconditionally, and the other half screaming for them to hate her.
A self-destructive girl that was saved countless times by the hero, who only ever kissed her forehead and cheek - ineffective at breaking the curse upon her which required the fairytale kiss to the lips. A self-destructive girl that flew away from the hero and only to suddenly realise she didn’t know how to save herself.
A self-destructive girl that was finally free to tear herself apart, only to find the survivor and hero forming an alliance with the goal of keeping her whole.
A self-destructive girl that simply wanted to be a loved girl when it really came down to it.
“What do you write about?” Dorothy asked, sprawled out on the couch - the living room claimed by the best friends for their Bachelor marathon. Fatin was flicking through her notebook, adding minor annotations and clarifications to her previous entries. The majority of the heavy events in her life were now documented and required polishing.
“Everything, nothing…” Fatin replied, pen pausing before she corrected, “Anything. The island mostly…”
Dorothy perked up at that, shifting herself up onto her elbows to tilt her head curiously at Fatin who was at the opposite end of the couch, balancing her notebook on Dorothy’s legs.
“The island?” Dorothy repeated in surprise.
Fatin shrugged, not meeting her best friend’s scrutinising gaze, “It helps… It puts things in perspective, I guess.”
Dorothy hummed thoughtfully, pausing for a long moment, before asking tentatively, “Would you ever… let me read some of it?”
Fatin jolted at the question, finally glancing round to meet Dorothy’s gaze.
“I… I don’t know.” Fatin answered honestly, surprising even herself by how she was genuinely considering it.
She’d started going back through her journals - she was on her third one now, a royal blue that Leah had simply handed to her without comment as they got into bed one night - improving the language and mentally re-structuring the various entries into a more logical order.
Why would she be considering transferring it into a word document and pondering each the acceptability of each adjective if there wasn’t a background consideration that someone else in the future might read it?
“Maybe?” Fatin offered out.
Dorothy nodded, “Cool, keep me posted.”
And then Dorothy was slumping back down, attention turning back to the television, continuing their marathon without any further acknowledgement of Fatin’s writing.
Fatin started transferring her entries to a word document that night, crafting a narrative, painstakingly describing her family and recapturing her feelings from those early days. She toned down her own inner thoughts, removed the overt statements that were too direct about her feelings. She was softening it, making it acceptable for an outsider view.
Leah noticed her transferring her writing to an editable format but made no comment, neither did any of the other girls.
Fatin was doing so much better.
She’d been given a shift lead role at the diner, managing the other waitresses’ and taking responsibility for ordering stock and managing schedules. She liked the job, liked having banter with the regulars, liked being someone that others trusted and came to. She liked how the owner didn’t mind if she wrote when it was quiet.
She went out to parties less and her therapy sessions had dropped from weekly to fortnightly to once a month. She felt empowered and passionate, finally having something to direct her energy into in a non-self-destructive way. She was quick to joke again, and seek out the girls’ company. She felt settled in her skin and more comfortable with who she was, and it was clear the girls had noticed.
So they didn’t ask, they knew the notebook and the writing had helped and none of them wanted to invade Fatin’s safe space without invitation.
Fatin finally had something structured - an amorphous draft - within a month, which fucking terrified her.
Here was this thing she had created. This thing that she had poured herself into, had lovingly crafted, had fretted over and even cried whilst writing.
Here was her in written form.
And she didn’t know what the fuck to do with it.
So Fatin took it to the person she always went to when she needed stability - she went to Dorothy. She gave her selected sections - the first part about her life before the island, her initial interactions with Dorothy and their developing friendship.
She was sitting on Dorothy’s bed, scrawling her nervous energy into her fourth notebook - an emerald green one that Leah had slipped towards her at work one day, pressing a kiss to her cheek before retreating with her coffee to the corner seat that she always claimed.
Dorothy was sitting at her desk in the corner, reading Fatin’s work - her heart and soul - quietly, letting out thoughtful hums every now and again that made Fatin’s heart rate kick up another notch.
“Fatin?” Dorothy eventually said - invoking what felt like a heart attack in Fatin’s chest.
“Yeah?” Fatin prompted, swallowing thickly, awaiting the swing of the executioner’s axe.
Dorothy turned away from her desk, feet lifting to prop up on the edge of the bed, arms folding decisively across her chest, “I know I’m not a literary critic but this is like… seriously good .”
Fatin’s jaw dropped, and the words that escaped were strangled and dripping with disbelief, “It is?”
Dorothy shrugged, smiling softly at her, “Yeah, I mean… Fatin, have you ever thought about getting it published?”
“My journal?” Fatin checked, instinctively pulling the unedited, messy green notebook closer to her chest.
“No,” Dorothy began before frowning, “well… yes. But I mean… your story of the island.”
“I’m not selling us out.” Fatin responded sharply.
Dorothy got up and moved to sit on the bed, reaching out to squeeze Fatin’s forearm, “Of course not, but maybe… maybe it would be good for our story to be told.” Dorothy pointed out.
Fatin pursed her lips, thinking about those shitty documentaries that had been made which got so many details wrong, about the gossip columnists that sought to sow discord and add drama where there was none. She thought about how people viewed them on twitter - the girls all leaving social media, except for Fatin who kept a secret account to see what people were saying.
How they said Rachel’s injury made her fragile and assumed she was a passive force.
How Nora was the devil incarnate who didn’t deserve to be part of the girls’ family.
How they talked about Dorothy’s Dad and only ever called him a burden rather than someone who adored Dorothy.
How the two political extremes screamed over Shelby’s history and family, forgetting that she was a person with feelings and not a cause.
How they only ever saw Toni as the angry one with no discipline and no empathy.
How they saw Martha as utterly innocent, adding nothing to their survival.
How they said Leah was crazy, easily manipulatable and little more than damaged goods.
How they called her slut and a danger and reckless.
She thought about how fucking wrong everyone was. She thought about being the one to give them their voice back and reclaiming their own history.
And just as she was about to ask herself whether she should be the one entrusted with that responsibility, whether she could do it - them - justice, Dorothy squeezed her forearm again, drawing back her attention.
“And I can’t think of anyone better to tell it than you.” Dorothy said sincerely.
Fatin blinked away the tears that immediately sprung at the declaration, biting her bottom lip, “What about Leah?”
“Leah will never write about the island, you know that.” Dorothy reminded her, expression turning downcast, which made Fatin wonder if the girls had all secretly hoped that Leah would be the one to give them a voice. Whether they had discussed the potential of Leah writing a novel, whether they had discussed approaching Leah to do it - they would never have included Fatin in that conversation, she would have shot down the idea within seconds, protective of Leah’s mind and boundaries.
The island was too much of a trigger for Leah and whilst she had made her peace with it; they all knew how she spiralled and deep-dived into her writing projects and the obvious danger that would come from mixing the two together.
Dorothy shrugged, chin lifting in faux-challenge, “But yeah if she would, she would definitely beat you for top spot.”
Fatin rolled her eyes, gently whacking Dorothy’s leg with the back of her hand in admonishment, “Bitch.”
Dorothy grinned, and Fatin felt her confidence swell under the coaxing of Dorothy’s honest encouragement.
“You really think it's that good?” Fatin whispered shyly.
“Yeah,” Dorothy answered simply, “but don’t ask me. We have an actual literary mind in our midst.”
“Leah?” Fatin began nervously, shifting under the crook of Leah’s arm to glance up at the other girl. The two of them were in bed, watching a new horror film that Fatin had begged for them to watch together. Casio was hidden behind the other side of the screen, popping up every now and again, his reflective eyes in the darkness scaring the shit out of them far more than the jump-scares.
“Yeah?” Leah replied, happy to look away from the brutal murder being carried out.
“I…” Fatin started before trailing off immediately, bravery deserting her like it had on the last twelve occasions where she’d come close to asking Leah to read her draft.
Every time she had come close, though, she’d found soft blue eyes staring fondly back at her and suddenly she re-evaluated all her hard work as being equivalent to a five year old writing random words down in crayon.
What if what she’d written was shit ? Well and truly shit ?
What if Leah hated it?
So instead of sharing a piece of herself that she was desperate for Leah to cherish, she found herself asking, “Do you want popcorn?”
Leah blinked at her in surprise - it tended to always be Leah that went to get them snacks. “Sure.”
Fatin sighed in relief, even as she felt weighed down by another failure, “I’ll be right back.”
Leah smiled softly at her, snuggling down further and making Fatin’s heart clench with sheer want .
“You better be.” Leah threatened adorably.
Fatin rolled her eyes in amusement, though she already found herself walking all the faster to ensure her return as soon as possible.
She took to editing and re-editing and cutting out useless words only to go back and cut more. She pondered how each girl was described, ensuring their turmoil and pain was handled with as much sensitivity as she could muster. She worked on it every chance she got, she went back to Leah’s sections the most - deliberating over every word, wanting - needing - it to be perfect.
The amorphous draft shifted and elevated until it was something that, if you squinted, could almost be called a novel and Fatin no longer knew what needed to be changed. She sat on it for a month, returning back to her written journal where she had an ongoing pros and cons list of attempting to get it published.
The biggest concern was the girls, more specifically their reaction.
Dorothy, finally grew bored of Fatin’s to-ing and fro-ing, and told her if she didn’t speak with the girls and start working to get it published, Dorothy would call her own house meeting and make them sit there until Fatin grew a pair - which Fatin immediately replied to with a dirty joke about how Dorothy would finally be interested in her if she achieved that.
Dorothy merely rolled her eyes and gave her a week.
“Guys? Girls? Whores?” Fatin called out, striding into the living room where all the unsinkables were sat, bickering over what to watch that night - there was a reason why they tended to watch things in smaller groups, they could never achieve consensus and the whole evening would pass by shooting down every suggestion raised.
“Yeah?” Rachel acknowledged, barely looking up as she clicked through the trending list on Netflix disinterestedly.
“Sup?” Toni replied, from her slumped down position in an armchair.
“Whores, really?” Shelby remarked from the floor, nose wrinkling distastefully as she leant back against Toni’s legs.
“Guys, really?” Nora asked, mostly to be a smartass.
“Fatin, everything okay?” Leah inquired, brow furrowing in concern, immediately seeing through Fatin’s cocky facade to the anxious one hidden beneath.
Leah’s worried question ensured all eyes instantly turned towards Fatin, all of them trusting Leah’s instincts without hesitation.
Fatin flinched at the intense scrutiny she was suddenly under, meaning her statement came out faltering when it was meant to be clear and determined, “I… I wrote a book.”
“You- what?” Shelby began, head tilting to the side in surprise and interest.
“Seriously?” Rachel asked, eyebrows shooting upwards - equal parts shocked and impressed.
“What about?” Martha inquired excitedly.
“I wrote an autobiography about my life… about the island…” Fatin explained, barely resisting the urge to fiddle with her bracelets.
“Is it any good?” Toni questioned bluntly.
“I liked it.” Dorothy revealed with a shrug, causing seven pairs of eyes to swivel towards her.
“You’ve read it?” Nora asked.
“Excerpts.” Dorothy answered simply.
“Okay…” Shelby said slowly, looking back towards Fatin with a wondering expression, “do you want us to read it?”
Fatin hesitated, shifting her weight from foot to foot.
“She wants to get it published.” Dorothy kindly intervened for her.
“Not if any of you aren’t okay with that.” Fatin rushed to reassure, hands flapping wildly as if to slow down a speeding car, “It’s your story too and-”
“I’m fine with it.” Toni declared, slicing decisively through Fatin’s well-practised speech with total nonchalance.
“Ditto.” Shelby and Nora chimed in-sync causing the two of them to high five gleefully.
Fatin merely gaped at them, at how at ease they all were.
“You’ll make sure I’m like a badass in it, right?” Rachel asked, side-eyeing Fatin, providing Toni a chance to try and snatch the remote out of Rachel’s hand.
As if she had prescient knowledge, Rachel’s hand shot into the air, keeping the remote out of reach and leaving Toni awkwardly scrambling not to fall out of the armchair.
“I don’t think it’s possible to make you anything but a badass, Reid Senior.” Fatin replied honestly.
“Then I’m cool with it.” Rachel declared, smirking at Toni who let out an aggrieved huff.
“I trust you.” Martha reassured sweetly.
“I’ve already given the okay.” Dorothy hummed.
Fatin rocked backwards on her heels, feeling like the hour she’d spent pumping herself up in front of the mirror and putting in her biggest hoop earrings for confidence might have been overkill. “Don’t any of you want to read it first? Make sure I haven't got anything wrong?”
“Nah.” Toni waved a dismissive hand.
“What she said.” Rachel agreed.
“Fatin,” Martha began getting to her feet and coming over to give Fatin a hug, “we know you love us and you’ll give our story the care it deserves.”
Fatin swallowed back the lump in her throat at that, mumbling a ‘thank you’ into Martha’s ear before letting her go.
“I’d like to read it,” Shelby confessed, smiling up at Fatin excitedly, “not because of not trusting you or anything. I just think it will be a good read is all.”
Fatin nodded at her, “I’ll send you a copy.”
Shelby beamed, which then left just one person.
One person who had remained quiet this entire time.
One person who wasn’t even looking at Fatin anymore and instead was focusing entirely on her phone.
One person that Fatin wanted to hear from more than any other.
“Leah?” Fatin asked, voice barely above a whisper.
Leah jerked in her seat, eyes wide and apologetic upon finding everyone watching her, awaiting her reaction.
“Sorry, I was just texting my publisher, have you got a draft you can send them?” Leah questioned, her whole face lighting up eagerly. “They can meet with you tomorrow morning, if that works?”
Fatin’s jaw dropped as everything suddenly accelerated out of her control.
She’d expected some push back from the girls, expected demands to read and change things. Expected to work tirelessly with them all to ensure it was something they were all comfortable with. And then she was expecting to spend months sending it out or making inquiries with publishers, left waiting in the void for a rejection.
But now she had approval and there was already a meeting to discuss publication… what the actual fuck?
“Uh… yeah… I have a draft.” Fatin replied, voice high-pitched and veering towards panic.
“Cool. I’ve messaged you their email. Any trouble let me know.” Leah affirmed, getting to her feet and crossing the room until she was within Fatin’s space.
“But… but are you okay with this?” Fatin whispered, reaching out for Leah’s hand, intertwining their fingers, as she peered into clear blue looking for so much as a hint of discomfort that would make her turn heel and delete every single word she’d ever written. “I know this… is hard for you.”
One corner of Leah’s mouth lifted up into Fatin’s favourite lopsided smile, her free hand rising to tuck a loose strand of black hair carefully behind Fatin’s ear, fingers brushing the large hoop earring on their retreat.
“You always make things easier for me.” Leah revealed, “Maybe this is something I need. To see it through your eyes, not just my own.”
And then Leah leant forward, pressed a quick kiss to Fatin’s forehead before stepping past her towards the kitchen - Fatin knew without needing to ask that Leah was making her a hot chocolate, Fatin’s signature comfort drink after a stressful day.
“Okay…” Fatin muttered to herself, cheeks flushed and warm.
She glanced up to find the girls furtively watching her, all of them secretly observing her interaction with Leah.
“Yeah… so, thanks bitches.” Fatin announced, awkward yet earnest, before turning on her heel and making to leave - knowing Leah would come find her and talk her through what the meeting tomorrow would entail.
“We expect signed copies.” Toni yelled after her.
“You can expect a signed fuck you, Shalifoe.” Fatin shouted back.
Fatin met an editor aligned to autobiographies - Nicolás - at Leah’s publisher in the morning, he was young and Latinx, and boundlessly enthusiastic. He and Fatin got along immediately; he was aware of the unsinkables history and saw the opportunity that publishing a story by one of them would be. None of the girls had ever gone on record, some of the boys had and the girls didn’t begrudge them that especially since they didn’t share any of the girls’ story when they did so. Fatin sent him a draft and he promised to review it and have an answer on if they could move forward by tomorrow.
Leah had been waiting outside the meeting and whisked Fatin away for a day on the beach, keeping her brain distracted - not that Fatin was particularly capable of much thought when Leah stripped down to a black bikini.
Nicolás called her the next morning and told her they would love to offer her a contract - Leah reviewed it, getting her agent to also check it over before giving Fatin the nod that it was a good deal.
Contract signed, it was all a go.
Fatin and Nicolás worked together, emails and revisions flitting between them seemingly endlessly. Nicolás told her that her work was fantastic and she couldn’t detect any insincerity; it was more about polishing and smoothing out her somewhat clunky phrasing and overly repeated words.
However, Fatin started to suspect something was awry when Nicolás began to repeatedly ask if she was ‘certain’ about passages where she’d described Leah. The questions made her frown, those were the sections she was most proud of and she said as such. Nicolás reassured her that they were by far the best part of the entire novel.
Fatin let the subject drop, not wanting to appear stupid, despite knowing she had missed some critical piece of information.
The revelation occurred when they were nearing the end of the entire process. An intern that had been assisting Nicolás approached her at the end of a meeting to ask if she’d ever told Leah.
“Told Leah what?” Fatin asked, brow furrowed.
The intern blushed, “That you’re in love with her?”
And it wasn’t until that moment that it dawned on Fatin.
That her autobiography, for it to truly be her heart and soul in written form, would be a living, breathing declaration of love for one Leah Rilke.
A declaration that was about to go fucking public.
Fatin had left hastily, reading through her work in the backseat of the Uber, scrutinising each incriminating word to work out how guilty it painted her.
“How obvious is it?” Fatin demanded, pacing back and forth in Shelby and Toni’s bedroom - she’d stormed in and unceremoniously booted Toni out so that she could talk to Shelby alone.
Shelby, who knew how deeply Fatin’s feelings for Leah ran. Shelby, who had read her draft novel two weeks ago and since then had been watching her every interaction with Leah like they were in the process of building a bomb.
Shelby crossed her legs and leaned back against the pillows, not bothering to look confused by Fatin’s question and what she was referring to.
“What answer do you want me to give?” Shelby asked seriously.
Fatin pursed her lips, hands curling into tense fists at her sides. “The truth.”
Shelby nodded and then replied simply, “If Leah reads it and doesn’t immediately see that you are head over heels in love with her she’s going to need to buy actual lenses for those fake glasses she always wears.”
Fatin felt the blood drain from her face, “Come on, it can’t be that obvious? I toned it down from my journals so much.”
Shelby’s eyes suddenly went wide in alarm, her calm composure cracking, “This is it toned down?! Do you just write Fatin Rilke in that notebook over and over again or something?”
Fatin nostrils flared, “Not helping.”
(It was Fatin Jadmani-Rilke, thank you very much).
Shelby winced apologetically, lifting her hands in surrender, “Sorry Fatin, but this - what you wrote - isn’t an autobiography.” She explained gently, “It’s a love letter masquerading as one.”
And fuck… Fatin couldn’t deny the truth of that assessment.
Fuckity, fuck, fuck.
“I need to pull the plug, cancel the release.” Fatin murmured frantically.
Shelby frowned, “I think it’s too late for that.”
Fatin began to pace again, “No, it isn’t, I’ll-”
“What are you going to tell Leah?” Shelby questioned, cutting right to the heart of the matter. “If you cancel it you know she’ll step in, she’ll worry that something happened.”
“I’ll say it’s literary trash, she’ll have to support me upholding her literary standards.”
Shelby shook her head immediately, “You and I both know she will demand to read it for the sole purpose of proclaiming it’s the best thing ever written. That girl is your biggest fan and…” Shelby hesitated, scooting to the edge of the bed and reaching for one of Fatin’s clenched fists, bringing her to an easy stop. “I think she loves you as much as you love her.”
Fatin looked away from Shelby’s sincere gaze, shrugging helplessly, “I know, just not in the way I’ve clearly written it.”
“I think you’re wrong.” Shelby replied softly.
“You also thought you looked better bald.”
“Maybe I could say I find it too traumatic,” Fatin suggested desperately, “you know, putting my story out there…”
Shelby tilted her head to the side, “Are you really willing to lie to Leah about something like that?”
“No…” Fatin deflated, moving to sit next to Shelby, shoulders caving forward as she muttered petulantly, “but it would make it so much easier if I was.”
“You wouldn’t have written a love letter like this in the first place if you were capable of lying to or about Leah in any way.” Shelby pointed out.
“Could we burn down the publishers?”
“Doesn’t stop the kindle versions being released, I’m afraid.”
“Damn you, Amazon for killing off printed media.” Fatin grumbled before exhaling slowly, inevitable acceptance settling over her like a weighted cloak. “I’m going to have to tell her.”
“Look at you picking the mature option…” Shelby grimaced before tacking on, “Eventually.”
“Shelby,” Fatin whispered, voice cracking with fear, “what if she… what if I lose her?”
Shelby immediately wrapped an arm around her shoulders, “I don’t think that’s ever going to happen.”
“You don’t know-”
“I do, actually,” Shelby declared, “it’s a certainty. Leah and Fatin can’t be separated. It’s written into the laws of the universe.”
Fatin liked the sound of that even if she wasn’t convinced. Shelby squeezed her into a tight side-hug before pulling back and patting her back.
“Now, go and deliver your four hundred page love letter.” Shelby ordered with a bright grin.
“Leah, can I talk to you?” Fatin requested, hovering in the doorway of the kitchen - Leah had set herself up at the counter with a laptop and coffee, glasses’ lenses steaming up as she took a careful sip from her mug.
“Always.” Leah answered immediately, smiling warmly at her.
Fatin nervously edged into the room and carefully placed the four-hundred page printed draft (soon to be published novel) onto the counter.
“Is that it?” Leah inquired interestedly, eyebrow quirking up and fingers twitching with the obvious desire to reach out and flick through it.
Leah hadn’t once asked to read it; Fatin knew Leah was waiting for her to offer, waiting for Fatin to give the say so.
“Yeah, this is… this is it…” Fatin hummed, rocking back and forth on her heels and biting her bottom lip - heart hammering in her chest so hard her ribs ached.
“Fatin?” Leah prompted when Fatin had stayed silent for too long.
Fatin swallowed thickly, placing her hands carefully on top of her heart in word form, “I need to tell you something…”
“Okay, I’m listening.” Leah assured, tone noticeably concerned.
“Actually, scratch that.” Fatin exhaled deeply, shoving her novel across the marble countertop until it was directly in front of the other girl. “I need you to read this.”
Leah studied her expression, hands gradually reaching out to accept the document. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, and I need you to know that this is what I chose to write about.” Fatin explained, hands falling limply back to her side, her fate sealed, her heart delivered. “You told me I could write about anything I wanted.”
Leah blinked in surprise before nodding to show she remembered.
“And I chose this .” Fatin pointed at the white pages that Leah was stroking her thumb back and forth over. “This is me. This is everything I am, everything I feel and have kept bottled up. I just need you to know that when you read this.”
“Okay.” Leah nodded again. “Do you want me to start now?”
Fatin didn’t think she could survive prolonged waiting, not knowing when the penny would fall and when her world would shift on its axis forevermore.
“Yes, please.” Fatin replied, trying to not sound like she was begging.
“Alright.” Leah immediately closed her laptop, and gently settled Fatin’s novel in front of her and turned to the first page.
Fatin watched Leah’s blue eyes move left and right for a beat, before shakily turning around and making her escape, “I’ll… uh… leave you to it then.”
Fatin knew Leah was a quick reader, but it was still a four-hundred page book. She knew Leah would likely finish it by the evening, so Fatin just needed to keep herself occupied until then. She retreated to her room, responding to all her emails which barely wasted an hour.
She did a pilates routine - which did little to ease the tension and stress - then showered and cuddled Casio who found her a little too clingy.
She started a jigsaw puzzle, then remembered she hated them and packed it away.
Martha came by and kept her company for a little while but it was obvious Fatin was too mentally distracted to maintain anything resembling a conversation.
She watched the first two Scream films, but found she didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as when Leah was sitting next to her providing dry commentary.
She tried to nap.
She eventually spent endless hours falling down random wikipedia holes - somehow learning way too much about the NASA Challenger Space Shuttle disaster since Nora had been talking about it the previous day.
Fatin’s head snapped up to find Leah in the doorway, expression inscrutable and blue eyes achieving a never before seen level of intensity.
“Leah…” Fatin breathed out before practically vaulting off the bed, hands flicking here, there and everywhere anxiously, “Sooooo… have you read-”
She didn’t have a chance to finish the question.
One second she was standing in the middle of her room, heart thrumming so fast it was close to achieving the speed of light; the next second, she was being pushed up against the wall, one of Leah’s hands on her cheek, the other on her hip… and then…
Lips pressed hard against hers, slotting together perfectly, sharp nips and light sucks which left her panting - allowing a hot, silky tongue to seek and gain entrance. Fatin’s arms flung around Leah’s neck, dragging her closer and encouraging her to have her way.
Leah’s hands immediately dropped low, curling around Fatin’s thighs - she squeezed once in warning - and lifted her up, pressing her back against the wall. Fatin wrapped her legs around Leah without prompt, her own hands curling into brown hair and tugging the locks this way and that so that she could equally explore.
Their lips parted, the two of them gasping for breath, Leah taking the opportunity to drag her mouth across Fatin’s jaw and down her neck, sucking intermittently to leave a treasure trail of marks.
“Did I get the right message?” Leah whispered breathlessly, tongue brushing against the strained muscle of Fatin’s neck.
“Yeah, you did.” Fatin whimpered, hips rolling in a bid for friction and relief.
Leah hummed, clearly satisfied with this answer, her hands now slipping round Fatin’s thighs to squeeze her ass and aid her grinding motion.
Fatin moaned, head delirious with arousal and heart singing loudly in her chest; regardless, she tried to surface towards clarity, Leah too important to jeopardise. “Should we talk about this first?”
Leah leaned back, eyebrow raised and smirk firmly in place making her far too attractive in Fatin’s opinion. “Didn’t you say everything you wanted to say in four hundred pages?”
Fatin hesitated, biting her bottom lip as she glanced towards her treasured hand-written journals and considered how much she had cut away from them when transferring to her novel.
“Not even close.” Fatin confessed.
Leah’s jaw turned slack and she nearly dropped Fatin in her shock, thankfully she recovered quickly, hands squeezing deliciously in apology.
Leah shook her head, keeping Fatin lifted as she moved away from the wall and headed towards the door.
“You can tell me the rest later.” Leah declared, decisively carrying Fatin across the hallway - uncaring if any of the other girls saw - and into her bedroom where she lowered Fatin tenderly onto the bedspread before turning back and shutting the door.
“Fuck me…” Fatin moaned, as she was turned over onto her front, hips lifted by strong hands guiding her onto her knees. Leah mouthed at the curve of her spine between her shoulder blades, one hand slipping round to her front and the other slipping back inside, driving her relentlessly on to her third orgasm.
“Isn’t that what I’m already doing?” Leah chuckled, breath cool against Fatin’s heated skin.
“Were you always this dirty?” Fatin whimpered; not-so-secretly ecstatic at this revelation and Leah’s uncompromising need to get her over the edge as many times as feasibly possible.
Leah’s rhythm slowed, and Fatin couldn’t help but let a whine of disappointment escape, however Leah was merely curling over her so that she could bite on Fatin’s earlobe and confess, “You just bring it out in me.”
“God, I can’t believe you’re better at writing than me.” Leah mused, head propped up on her elbow, laying on her side and staring down at Fatin who was on her back. Leah’s magnificently talented fingers, tracing up and down Fatin’s chest, from the dip of her collarbone to her belly-button over and over again.
Fatin snorted in disagreement, playing with the loose strands of Leah’s hair, losing herself willingly in the blue depths of Leah’s eyes that were brimming with so much love.
“I’m not.” Fatin replied, “I just got the better muse.”
Leah’s mouth quirked up on one side, “Not possible, I grabbed the best one years ago.”
Fatin rolled her eyes, even as her smile expanded into a cheesy grin that she tried to hide behind a hand, Leah instantly tugging it out the way and ducking down to taste the joy and happiness that Fatin was exuding. They shared kisses, recovering from the energy and emotion expended earlier; Fatin finally allowed to experience her greatest fantasy of bringing Leah to orgasm.
It was late and the other girls must have heard them as none had attempted to collect them for dinner.
“If you wrote me a book,” Leah murmured thoughtfully, as Fatin curled up to her side appreciating how they were now in the normal position they slept in but with the added benefit of no clothes and no fear of their touch wandering into inappropriateness, “does that mean I’m going to have to write you a song? Learn how to play an instrument. Serenade you?”
“Definitely.” Fatin announced, pressing a kiss to Leah’s shoulder - just because she could.
“Any chance Home on the bamboo flute counts?”
Fatin shook her head, “You weren’t serenading me with that.”
Leah said nothing, the atmosphere suddenly shifting from light to heavy.
“Leah?” Fatin murmured, lifting her head to find Leah nervously biting her bottom lip. Fatin’s eyebrows shot up in disbelief, “Leah… were you serenading me on the island?”
“Holy fuck.” Fatin exclaimed, jerking backwards, eyes trailing down Leah’s naked form as she felt the longing that her younger self had carried for so long, “Could we have been doing this years ago?”
Leah smiled sadly at her, hands cupping Fatin’s face, thumbs stroking back and forth soothingly. “We’re doing it now,” Leah breathed, “that’s what matters. We got there in the end.”
And then Leah gently guided Fatin’s face down and kissed her so sweetly; kissed her like they were so much younger and innocent, sharing a first kiss that their past selves should have experienced.
“Morning…” Leah yawned, pulling Fatin’s body tighter against herself as she roused from sleep. “How are you feeling?”
“Inspired.” Fatin answered; she’d been awake for a while, indulging her inner sappy bitch by simply watching Leah sleep and mentally crafting the epically long journal entry she would write when she got a chance. “I’ve got a pretty good idea for a sequel now.”
Leah perked up instantly, sleepiness fading away as the memories of the previous night clearly played in her mind. “Oh, really?”
“Really.” Fatin hummed. “My adoring fans will need to know that I get a happy ending. Multiple happy endings.”
Leah snorted, “You’re going to write about our sex-life?”
Fatin shot Leah a smirk that was equal parts sultry and innocent. “You were the one that said I could write about anything . And I chose you. Anything in the whole entire universe, and you were the only thing worth writing about.”
Blue eyes softened immediately, crinkling at the edges and making Fatin feel like she had finally found her life’s purpose - to make Leah Rilke smile like that every day.
“Who knew Fatin Jadmani was such a romantic?” Leah breathed out, pressing a kiss to Fatin’s forehead.
Fatin grinned mischievously in response, “I was thinking of calling the sequel: Fifty Shades of Rilke. What do you think?”
Leah flopped backwards, releasing a heavy sigh, “I think you’re lucky I love you.”
Fatin froze at the declaration, at how easily Leah had said it. Like it was common knowledge, like Fatin should be certain enough of it to test its boundaries.
And Fatin realised in that moment that she did know.
She had known for a long time, had known from the moment Leah slipped her hand into Fatin’s in the bunker and asked her to stay close when everything was still a mystery. Had known it when Leah had driven for over an hour when Fatin had called her drunk at a party, collecting her without comment, merely handing her a blanket that smelled like Leah and a flask of hot chocolate. Had known it when Leah had gone out of her way to make her feel celebrated at graduation when her family showed little interest.
Had known it when Leah continued to reach out even when Fatin stopped replying. Had known it when she’d awoken in a hospital bed and knew Leah would be there before even opening her eyes. Had known it when Leah had cared for her with trembling hands, making her laugh with terrible jokes and healing her soul with tender words.
Had known it when Leah stayed and stayed and stayed.
“The luckiest.” Fatin breathed out sincerely, voice ragged and cracking.
Leah’s brow crinkled instantly, picking up on the emotional change, she made to sit up but Fatin quickly pressed a palm to the centre of her chest.
“Hold that thought.” Fatin requested, quickly kissing Leah before getting out of bed, grabbing Leah’s dressing gown, putting it on and quickly leaving. She raced back to her room, vaguely aware that she could hear the other girls downstairs and grateful that she wasn’t interrupted on her quest. She snatched up what she needed and hurried back to Leah’s room, closing the door behind herself and returning the dressing gown to the hook on the door.
“Here.” Fatin murmured, shuffling back into the bed, and snuggling into Leah’s side, as she abruptly dropped the four notebooks into Leah’s lap.
“Your journals?” Leah murmured in confusion, picking up each one curiously.
“They’re…” Fatin began, taking a deep, steadying breath, “you told me that these could be a place where I could live without feeling judged . And…” Fatin smiled, reaching out to brush through Leah’s hair that was starting to curl and frizz after their night together, “you’re that place for me. I love you so fucking much, Leah.”
Leah’s eyes instantly watered, the pink journal she was currently holding shaking slightly. Fatin slowly re-claimed it, flicking it open to the very first page, the very first entry about how she felt like she could never say the right words - knowing full well that she had finally found them.
“And I trust you,” Fatin declared earnestly, “with the messy, unedited version of myself.”