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Maria’s life had always been rough. She had been born in a small town, with an older brother, her parents always fighting. Her earliest memories were of her father beating her mother, and then her father leaving when she was five. It was rough, thinking back on those memories, and the sound of her mother screaming and begging him to leave her and her brother out of it. Those were the more difficult memories she lived every day with.

 

But when her father left, the screaming and shouting finally went away. Being so young, she didn’t understand what her mother did to put food on the table for them, but thinking back on the dozens of men who would come into their home every week she could recognize it. And she was so grateful for everything her mother gave to give her and her brother a decent chance at life.

 

So when her mother got sick and passed away, it was the hardest thing Maria went through. Her and her brother were separated and sent to different group homes, which at the time was the hardest thing she had yet to go through. She was scared and alone, spending each and every night staring at the window, feeling as if it were her fault her mother passed away. Maria was only 10 at that time.

 

Eventually she got more comfortable and started talking to the other kids in the group home, which was when she met a quiet, yet reckless boy named Alexander. The day they met was a day she would never forget, because she had finally met someone who understood how scary life was.

 

Maria ran down the stairs to get to breakfast when she knocked into a boy, who was also running. She knocked him over and fell on top of him, and jumped to apologize, only to see the boy laughing. His hair was dark and long, and his eyes were a bright green. He was pretty, Maria noted, but she just smiled and got up, holding her hand out to help him up. “I’m Maria.” She introduced, pulling the boy up, who was still smiling after the fall.

 

She noticed he was missing a tooth in the front of his mouth, and assumed falling down was something that happened often for him.

 

“Alexander, but everyone just calls me Alex.” The boy introduced, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “And you’re my new friend.” He declared, causing the young Maria to giggle.

 

“I don’t remember agreeing to this.” She snickered, poking his side.

 

“You never did. I decided it for you. Most girls don't run around and knock into boys without freaking out and apologizing. I like you.” Alex smiled to her, and for the first time since she had moved into the group home she felt safe and welcome.

 

“I guess I’ll take it. I don’t have any friends here, so I can’t complain when someone wants to be my friend.” She shrugged, Alex frowning.

 

“What? Who wouldn’t want to be your friend! I just met you and I already think you’re amazing and pretty.” He seemed genuinely shocked by this, Maria just shrugging.

 

“My mom recently died, what was I supposed to do, not be sad about it?” She asked, raising an eyebrow.

 

“That makes sense. My mom died recently died too. I miss her, but now I have you!” He smiled, starting to lead her to the dining room for breakfast with the other kids. “I think we’re going to get along really well.” Alex looked to Maria, who was smiling for the first time in a long time.

 

“I think we’re going to get along well too…” She said softly and happily, leaning into him.

 

From that moment on, the pair were inseparable. They were always together, always getting into some trouble or another. More than a few times they were caught skipping school and got in trouble with the people who ran the group home because they had to be watched going into the school to be sure they didn’t slip away and skip that day.

 

They were happy though. They didn’t care that they both had lost so much in their lives, because at the end of the day they had each other to rely on, and each other to turn to. Someone by their side all day every day, even if they weren’t supposed to be sometimes.

 

When Maria got her first boyfriend at 12, Alex was the one who gave him the shovel-talk, and threatened to hurt him if he hurt Maria. They didn’t last very long, but Maria was the one to dump him, claiming he turned out to be a bit of a jerk.

 

Alex got sent home later that day for beating up the poor guy.

 

When they moved on to high school, they only grew closer. It was nice having Alexander through everything, and whenever they needed to get away they would meet in a bathroom and smoke pot together. When Cheer tryouts came around Maria decided to try out Alex was there to support her, teasing her all day that if she made the squad she would have to wear skirts, though Maria didn’t care. She had seen a few of the cheerleaders roaming the halls and thought they were hot as fuck.

 

And they were. When they walked out to the field for tryouts, Maria smiled when she saw the captain, her long, dark hair tied up in a ponytail, a bow holding it all together. She was truly beautiful, and there were the two girls she had learned were her sisters standing next to her and talking with her about how things were going, all three smiling and laughing together.

 

In a moment of bravery, Maria walked up to Eliza, smiling to her. “Hey! I’m Maria.” She greeted, holding her hands behind her back.

 

“Eliza.” She greeted. “Are you here for tryouts?” she asked, smiling a bit.

 

“Yeah! Your hair is really pretty, by the way.” Maria said, flushing and biting the inside of her cheek.

 

Eliza flushed a little, smiling to Maria. “Thank you.” One of Eliza’s sisters blew a whistle, Eliza looking up. “Well, I wish you luck. I’ll put in a good word with the captain.” She teased, walking off. Maria smiled and looked to her, getting in line with everyone else.

 

The tryouts went well, with only a few hiccups. By the end of it, Maria was laughing, joking around with Eliza. Alex walked over to them and wrapped an arm around Maria’s shoulders. “How’d it go?” He asked, smiling to the girls.

 

“Pretty good. She’d make a good flier.” Eliza commented, smiling to them. “Are you her boyfriend?” She asked curiously.

 

Maria flushed, looking between them. “No! He’s basically my brother though, so he came to see how things went. Plus he doesn’t trust me to walk home alone. Acts like I’m gonna die without supervision.” She smiled softly to them, leaning into Alexander.

 

“I wouldn’t worry about you so much if you weren’t so small. But here we are. Someone could just grab you and take you away.” He shrugged, smiling to Eliza. “I’m Alexander, by the way.” he greeted.

 

“Eliza, but I’m sure you already knew that.” She chuckled. “Well, it was nice meeting you two. I’ll probably see you next week for practice, Maria.” She winked, walking off again.

 

When she was gone, Alex turned to Maria. “She’s pretty.” He commented, Maria nodding. 

 

“Yeah, definitely.” She replied. “Come on, I’m tired and I wanna pick up something to eat on the way back.” She grabbed his arm and started to lead him off.

 

Maria found out a few days later that she had made the cheer squad, getting excited for her first practice. And the second. Before long, Maria was spending all her free time with Eliza and Alexander, feeling eternally happy. It was nice to add another friend to their duo, making it a trio. Their days were spent causing trouble around school and messing with each other. It felt perfect to Maria.

 

Throughout the days she grew even closer to Alexander, and while they got in trouble for it, she would sleep in his bed with him at night. She adored spending her time with him. He made her happy, truly happy, and it was comforting to not sleep alone anymore. When the nightmares came, Alexander would be there for her, and when Alex would have nightmares Maria would be there for him.

 

Eventually, Maria and Alexander would spend their nights at Eliza’s with her, all three of them sharing a bed. None of them minded it in the slightest, and they would all support each other when one of them was struggling. It was probably the best relationship Maria had ever had in her life, when she was with the two of them. 

 

At some point, one of Eliza’s childhood friends transferred to their school, and Eliza was the first person to decide to befriend him again. The first time Maria met him, Eliza had invited him over for dinner. That night she learned that his name was John Laurens, he loved to draw, mostly birds and nature, and that he got along with the trio exceptionally well, and was able to put up with their usual bullshittery.

 

Maria noticed throughout the night, Alexander and John getting a bit closer than she and Eliza had, but she thought nothing of it. They got along, and Alexander’s happiness was one of the most important things in her life.

 

Over time, John spent more time with them, Alex progressively growing closer to him. It didn’t hit Maria how close they were getting until Alex got to Eliza’s late one night, and he was grinning from ear to ear.

 

“John kissed me.” He told them happily, flopping on Eliza’s bed.

 

“No shit!” Eliza squealed. “You two are gonna be cute together. I’ll start planning the wedding for you two.” She joked, sitting next to him.

 

Maria smiled and sat next to him and flicked his nose. “What, you wanna fuck him or something?” She teased lightly, ignoring the tightening in her chest. She had no right to be jealous about this. Alexander was her brother. He was her brother and nothing more. That was all he needed to be. That was all he was to her. She didn’t want him to be anything more.

 

But she did, didn’t she? She loved being around Alexander. She’d grown up with him by her side. That’s what it was. She decided. She didn’t like the thought of John kissing Alexander because he was her brother. She was just being protective over him because they were so close for so long.

 

“Just don’t forget about me when you’re married, you promise?” She joked to him, relaxing a little when ALex hugged her.

 

“Of course not. You’ve gotta be my best man, or woman. Whatever. You’ll always be my little sister, no matter what happens to us.” He assured, ruffling her hair. Maria smiled to him, leaning into his side happily. She would be okay. As long as she had him as a brother she would be happy and content.

 

Maria had thought she was okay with John and Alexander being together when it was just occasional dates, kissing, and hand holding. But eventually it progressed. Alex spent more and more time with John, and John spent more and more time with their group. Not that she minded John. he was fun to hang around with. That was until him and Alexander started making out in front of Maria and Eliza. 

 

She was happy for him, there was no mistake in that, but the demon that clawed inside her chest every time she saw them being all sweet and lovey dovey with each other said differently. While Maria continued to tell herself this jealousy was just because Alexander was her brother, the progression said otherwise. She really did love Alex. She could come to terms with it.

 

But how did she love him? If you had asked her that before Alex started dating John, she would have said as a brother. Always and forever. But now? She wasn’t too sure. To cope with the monster in her chest she started hooking up with more people, having a few pregnancy scares before Eliza convinced her to slow it down a bit and start spending more time with her instead.

 

It was nice, hanging out with Eliza. She was fun and sweet as always, but even together her thoughts drifted to Alexander. She really did care about him, but she refused to admit it. How could she? Alexander had been a lifelong friend, he had a boyfriend, putting something like that on him might mess up their friendship.

 

So she decided to remain quiet about it. What Alexander didn’t know couldn’t hurt him and she had convinced herself this would. She loved him and John too much to put that kind of wedge on their relationship, and like she had always told herself, Alexander’s happiness was important.

 

One day, while sitting on Eliza’s bed, laying with her silently, Eliza spoke. “You love him don’t you…” She said softly. “I’ve noticed it lately. The looks you’ve been giving Alexander and John. You look at Alex like you love him.”

 

Maria hesitated for a moment before speaking. “Of course I love him. He’s like a brother to me.” She deflected.

 

“No, you know what I mean Mari. You love him romantically… It’s not a bad thing. I’ve just been thinking about it. You only started going out with those other guys after John started dating him.” She pointed out, hugging Maria.

 

After some silence, Maria nodded a little. It was true. She could be honest to Eliza. She wouldn’t say anything to him if it would hurt him. “I do…” Maria said softly, tearing up. “I just… I don’t want to scare him out of my life or hurt him, so I’ve been staying quiet about it. If I don’t say anything I can’t hurt him or John.” She buried her face in Eliza’s neck, crying silently. “He’s so important to me I just… It hurts a little seeing them together, you know? They’re both so happy. It would make me an asshole to say something now…”

 

“I know…” Eliza said softly, running a hand through her hair. “Trust me I know all too well… But like you said. They’re happy together. Hell, they were practically made for eachother. They’re always so, so happy together…” Maria heard Eliza’s voice crack at the end, and she squeezed a little tighter.

 

“You love him too, don’t you?” She mumbled into her neck.

 

“Yeah…” Eliza said quietly. “I do.” She admitted, and Maria held her just that little bit tighter. They stayed like that for a while, crying into each other and holding each other for support, and Maria felt the monster that had been living inside her chest crawl into her stomach, and at some point begin clawing its way up her throat. It came out, and she vomited on the floor, all the emotions she’d been bottling up coming up with it. She gasped for air, barely recognizing Eliza climbing out of bed.

She felt someone with soft hands wipe off her face and change her into some soft pajamas, and the last thing she noticed before slipping into a dream world was someone holding her close.

 

Time passed and Maria recovered from the wave of emotions, learning how to manage the monster living inside her chest each and every time she looked at Alexander. He still made her happy as ever when he was around, but it was different now. Instead of the childish friendship they had before, Maria tried to accept she was nothing more than a sister to him. 

 

He was still a support. He still held her when she cried, but again he didn’t know the truth. Sometimes she would cry to him and refuse to talk, simply because he was what she was crying about. Maria did notice Eliza wasn’t much better off, and each time Alex would hug them they would share a knowing look as they hugged back, supporting each other and ranting about how everything was making them feel when it began to be too much inside.

 

The years went by, and Maria had come to accept that Alex wouldn’t love her the way she loved him. She had learned to ignore the monster and just enjoy her best friend again, because that was what she had accepted him as. It was better than nothing, she had realized, because at least at the end of the day he was there to hug her before bed. John got closer with them as well, and graduation came sooner than any of them realized.

 

Prom came and went, John and Alexander went together and were crowned prom kings, something they all thought was adorable, and Maria and Eliza went as friends, spiking the punch and watching the progressively drunk teens fall over one another. It was quite entertaining to Maria, and it kept her mind off Alex dancing with John, the two glued together.

 

Graduation was a whole ordeal, Eliza’s parents taking the four to breakfast that morning and taking photos of all of them in their gowns and caps, John holding Alex close to him. They were a happy group, and Maria watched from her seat as Alex went up, and then John.

 

As John looked to her, Maria started coughing quietly, freezing when she saw a singly, blue petal in her hand after the coughing fit, looking at it in complete shock. A few people around her were whispering amongst themselves, but she didn’t register any of it. All her mind could think about was the petal, recognizing it as the flowers John had given Alex that same morning as a forget me not.

 

Ironic, she thought as she looked to it, tearing up a bit as she looked up to John, who was now walking off the stage.

 

It was only the beginning.

Chapter Text

Eliza had always lived a good life. She was born in Albany, New York, with an older sister named Angelica, and not long after her younger sister Peggy came into the picture. Growing up, Eliza spent most of her time with her sisters. Because their mother passed away when she had their younger sister, Eliza was raised by nannies. Her dad was always working, and with a government job he didn’t have much of a choice.

 

But even if her father wasn’t always around he made sure someone was. While he didn’t make all her cheer competitions in middle school, her sisters and nanny would be, and they would record it for him to watch when he got the chance. He always at least supported her in what made her happy. Her life was nice.

 

Until her father’s work friend started coming around. She was 11, and his son was the same age, or at least, one of them. His oldest was 17. That was something she could never forget. His name was Henry, after his father, and one of the n flights they were staying over, he came into her room. She had tried to scream and ask for help, but he’d only stuffed her mouth and told her she ought to feel lucky he wanted her. She’d cried the whole time, and each time after that. It was the worst point in her life, and the first time she had ever felt completely helpless.

 

It went on for months. Each time they were there he would come in, use her, and leave her crying. It lasted until one night her father heard her crying and came in to check on her. He’d pulled Henry off her, and she’d never seen him again. Her dad took time off work to stay close to her. She appreciated him for it, but for a long time after she would jump any time her bedroom door opened.

 

From that moment on, she became more friendly to those around her, a part of her scared they could be the next Henry in her life. It was scary, but her therapy was cheerleading. After the incident her sisters started to do cheer with her, and while none of them said it, she knew it was because of what had happened. She was seen as fragile. She could break down at any moment, and her sisters wanted to be there in case she did.

 

She would have normally been upset about her sisters being that overbearing, but in this case she welcomed it. She welcomed always having someone there when she needed them. It was scary, and the support was helpful, whether she asked for it or not.

 

When things started to calm down was when the voices began. It started out as hearing people call her name that nobody else could hear, and eventually lead to hearing people have full conversations. When she tried to find someone talking though, she would find nobody there with her.

 

After a while, Eliza went to her father about it, telling him about how she’d heard them and what they would say. Upon hearing this, her father got her a psychiatrist right away, who started trying medications on her. None of them worked though. The voices got angrier when she took the medicine, and were nicer when she did what they said. It was often things about lying or stealing, but sometimes it was how they wanted her to hurt herself.

 

When her dad found out about that he cracked down on her safety, watching her take her meds. This made the voices go away, which was scary for her, but without the voices telling her to do things, it was easier to be safe. After that whole ordeal she was kept under a close eye, despite her good grades and performance in cheerleading.

 

At some points she would hear one of the voices shouting at her to do something, but her meds were just raised and she was hugged by her sisters, who seemed much more concerned about her bandaged arms than she was. It was hard and scary, but she got through it each and every time. She was strong, and she managed it well enough that her father mostly trusted her.

 

As Eliza stood, leaning against one of her sisters during cheer tryouts, she looked around at the group forming. She noticed a cute boy hugging a pretty girl before stalking off to the bleachers, and as her sisters walked away the girl approached her. Eliza wasn’t stupid. She could recognize a beautiful girl when she saw one.

 

“Hey! I’m Maria!” the girl greeted, Eliza smiling softly to her. She noticed the girl holding her hands behind her back, assuming it was nerves.

 

“Eliza.” She responded, a smile on her face. “Are you here for tryouts?” She asked curiously, looking to the girl, glancing briefly at the guy the girl had brought with her 

 

Maria seemed nervous, which Eliza found adorable. “Yeah! Your hair is really pretty, by the way.” Maria flushed, causing Eliza to grin. She seemed like such a sweet girl, which Eliza couldn’t help but find adorable.

 

Flushing a bit, she responded, “Thank you.” Eliza heard Angelica blow a whistle and she looked over before turning back to Maria. “Well, I wish you luck. I’ll put in a good word with the captain.” She teased, walking to join her sisters. She smiled as she watched Maria line up with everyone else, whispering with Peggy.

 

“The girl with the red top. She’s pretty sweet. And her friend is cute as fuck too.” She grinning and giggled with her sister as she pointed out Alexander.

 

The tryouts went well, and though a few people who showed up were absolute garbage, there were a few naturals. Eliza was happy to see that Maria wasn’t half bad, which made her feel a bit better about her decision to let her join the team. By the end of it, Eliza was laughing and joking around with Maria. Eliza watched as the guy who had come with Maria walk over and wrap an arm around her shoulders. “How’d it go?” He asked, Eliza smiling when he smiled to them.

 

“Pretty good.” Eliza complimented. “She’d make a good flier.” She looked to them and smiled. “Are you her boyfriend?” Eliza asked, noticing Maria’s flush right away.

 

“No! He’s basically my brother though, so he came to see how things went. Plus he doesn’t trust me to walk home alone. Acts like I’m gonna die without supervision.” Eliza watched her smile softly to him, and after watching Angelica flirting with people she knew what that look was. She could tell that whether Maria knew it or not yet, she loved the boy as more than a friend.

 

“I wouldn’t worry about you so much if you weren’t so small. But here we are. Someone could just grab you and take you away.” He shrugged, smiling to Eliza. “I’m Alexander, by the way.” He greeted.

 

“Eliza, but I’m sure you already knew that.” She flushed and chuckled. “Well, it was nice meeting you two. I’ll probably see you next week for practice, Maria.” She winked, walking off to her sisters to head home.

 

When Maria came to her first practice, Eliza was more than happy to see her, and before long, she was spending all her free time with Maria and Alexander, who seemed to accept her with open arms. When they found out about her issues, they just shrugged and promised to be there for her if they ever needed her, which was all that mattered to Eliza.

 

Her father and her sisters seemed to notice the change in Eliza when she started spending time with Maria and Alexander. She was happier and much more alive than she had been in a long time, which was a relief for her family. They hadn’t seen her this happy since she was young, and they all welcomed the change with open arms. 

 

After a while Eliza started to invite them over and let them stay the night, which none of her family minded. Alex and Maria were respectful when it came to ehr family, and would help out, claiming they were there so often they felt bad not doing anything to help out. It was nice having people close at night, which was when her nightmares got bad. She quickly discovered that both Alex and Maria had nightmares as well, and they would all help each other when they needed it.

 

Eliza was more than grateful to have help for her nightmares, especially from people who didn’t look at her like she was weak or couldn’t do anything for herself. And she was right there when either of them woke up from a nightmare. They were always there for eachother, and it was the first time in her life she had people who knew about her struggles who didn’t look at her like she was weak and small. Around them she felt much larger and stronger, and instead of babying her, they just led her in the right direction on how to handle things.

 

When Eliza found out that the Laurens family would be moving back into town, Eliza was hesitant, and it took many assurances by her family that Henry was still locked up and that he would not be anywhere near her for Eliza to calm down when she found out. 

 

She was happy though, upon hearing about John’s return. He had always been sweet to her when they were younger, so she didn’t mind his return. She even suggested he come for dinner one night to meet Alex and Maria, figuring he might get along with all of them. He did, though maybe a bit too well. Eliza noticed throughout the entire night, Alex and John flirting with each other. She ended up just talking with Maria most of the night, doing her best to brush off the voice in her head that was telling her to throw her dinner knife at him.

 

Peggy, who was sitting next to her seemed to notice her hand shaking and tooo the knife away, giving her a questioning look. She just shrugged it off and squeezed her sister’s hand, distracting herself by talking to Maria.

 

At the end of the night, Eliza excused herself from the table to go into the bathroom, clutching her head once the door was shut. Why didn’t you listen? A voice told her angrily, screaming inside her head. “I don’t want to hurt them! They’re my friends!” She argued, wiping away her tears. But you thought about it, didn’t you? Go out there and hurt them! The voice screamed, another one joining on a chant inside her head. Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. She shook, tears rolling down her face. “Go away!” She screamed, barely noticing Peggy and Angelica burst into the bathroom and engulfed her into a hug, coaxing her into taking some medicine.

 

She was shaking for a while, Alex and Maria joining them on the bathroom floor, and by the end of the night she was feeling a bit better, the sedatives they had given her kicking in as she passed out early. 

 

The next few weeks went by without another major incident, though there was still a small voice reminding her how jealous she felt every time she saw Alex and John laughing with each other. John slid into their group comfortably and quickly though, so Eliza kept the problems to herself and Maria, wanting John and Alexander to be happy. 

 

One night, while Maria and Eliza were relaxing in her bedroom, when Alexander burst in excitedly. “John kissed me.” He told them happily, flopping on her bed.

 

“No shit!” Eliza squealed. “You two are gonna be cute together. I’ll start planning the wedding for you two.” She joked, sitting next to him. Eliza was doing the best she could to ignore the dozens of voices whispering to her about how he was going to leave them, and not be friends with them anymore now that he had John. He didn’t need Eliza anymore, and she would be better off dead.

 

Maria smiled and sat next to him and flicked his nose. “What, you wanna fuck him or something?” She teased lightly. “Just don’t forget about me when you’re married, you promise?” She joked to him, Eliza watching them interact silently, taking a few breaths as she focused on Alex’s and Maria’s voices. They were real. They were the real voices and she was happy for her friends.

 

“Of course not. You’ve gotta be my best man, or woman. Whatever. You’ll always be my little sister, no matter what happens to us.” He assured, ruffling her hair.

 

Eliza watched them quietly, smiling to them. SHe really did love her friends, and for once she was able to push the voices away. If Alex and Maria were happy, she would be too.

 

But they don’t need you. One of the voices told her. She had just blinked and pushed them away. She didn’t need the voices, she was stronger than them. So she played the part of a happy friend the rest of the night, pushing out the jealousy and pain she felt. She loved her friends, and that was what mattered. That was what was important to Eliza. That was what she needed to think about, as opposed to what the voices wanted her to think.

 

However, the occasional kissing led to making out, and it slowly crept more and more into their day to day friendship. Eliza and Maria slowly became more and mode like third wheels, and they slowly spent more and more time with just the two of them. 

 

Eliza eventually caved and started listening to the voices. She knew it was bad but she needed help figuring things out. And she did. It helped her see that she does in fact love Alexander as more than a friend, and part of her was okay with it. While she knew she would never have him in the way she wanted him, she was happy to have Alex as a friend. SHe had him in some way, and thaqt would have to be enough for her. 

 

It also made her more aware of Maria, and how she was around Alexander. She wanted to know if her suspicions were true, so, one day, while sitting in her bed with Maria, she decided to ask. “You love him don’t you…” She mumbled softly. “I’ve noticed it lately. The looks you’ve been giving Alexander and John. You look at Alex like you love him.”

 

She noticed Maria’s hesitation before she spoke, noting it. “Of course I love him. He’s like a brother to me.” Eliza noticed the deflection, pulling Maria into a hug.

 

“No, you know what I mean Mari. You love him romantically… It’s not a bad thing. I’ve just been thinking about it. You only started going out with those other guys after John started dating him.” She pointed out.

 

After a moment of silence,Eliza felt Maria nod. “I do…” The other girl whispered to her, warm tears touching her neck. “I just… I don’t want to scare him out of my life or hurt him, so I’ve been staying quiet about it. If I don’t say anything I can’t hurt him or John. He’s so important to me I just… It hurts a little seeing them together, you know? They’re both so happy. It would make me an asshole to say something now…”

 

“I know…” Eliza muttered softly, running a hand through her hair. All too well. One of the vouces told her. “Trust me I know all too well… But like you said. They’re happy together. Hell, they were practically made for eachother. They’re always so, so happy together…” Eliza heard her voice cracking up, tearing up a bit. You’re weak.

 

“You love him too, don’t you?” She mumbled into her neck.

 

Of course you do. You’re weak with your stupid crushes. “Yeah…” Eliza said quietly. “I do.” She admitted out loud. This makes you weak. She felt Maria squeeze her tighter, and they stayed like that for a while, holding each other close. After a while, Maria jerked away, vomiting all over the floor. Eliza ignored the voices as best she could as she climbed out of bed and got some pajamas and a clean, cool cloth to clean up Maria’s face and change her. Once Maria was all bundled up in bed, Eliza cleaned up the vomit quietly.

 

From that point on, Eliza cracked down on herself for taking her meds, not wanting to listen to the screaming anymore. It had become too much each and every time she looked at Alexander, Things got much more manageable. Her breakdowns became few and far between, and things got so much better. She was enjoying all the time she got to spend with her friends, and she was truly happy for Alexander. She liked seeing him and John happy together. She just wished at times that it was her kissing Alex instead of John. 

 

After that night together, Eliza got much closer to Maria than she had anticipated. Maria made Eliza happy, and she enjoyed having someone around to support her like she was there to support Maria. Eliza struggled at times, but everyone was there to remind her to what was real and get her medicine. In all, she was happy.

 

When the time for graduation came, Eliza couldn’t be happier. Her dad took the four of them out to breakfast the morning of, taking photos of all of them in their caps and gowns. Alex and Maria appreciated being included, and Eliza knew it was because neither thought they would have a parental figure there on that day. She only smiled, proud that she had made it that far in life without giving up or caving into the voices.

 

The night before she had seen her mother smiling in the mirror behind ehr, telling her how proud she was before disappearing, and, for once, Eliza was grateful for the voices and the brief view of her mother.

 

During the ceremony, Eliza’s heart ached as she watched Alex walk across the stage, a longing smile on her face as she clapped and cheered him on with the rest of her family, hearing them in the bleachers. More people came up, and as John began to walk on the stage, she coughed up a single, blue petal. She heard whispering, and as she looked around she saw Maria a few seats down, holding a similar petal.

 

It was that moment that it hit her, recognizing the petal as the same one from the flowers John had given Alexander that morning.She tabbed away her tears as to not mess up her makeup, pushing her feelings down as she looked to John and Alexander hugging tightly and holding each other off to the side of the stage, and the newly growing vines twisted in Eliza’s chest. She knew in that moment that this was her new reality.