The last talk she had with her brother didn’t go well. Harry stood on the swimming pool deck to tell her he would be back the next day. Olivia didn’t even leave the water, he probably didn’t want a wet goodbye hug, anyway. “Alright,” she said, instead.
“Is anyone coming over to stay with you?” her brother asked. “Maybe I’ll call Ros, or Celia,” she lied. Harry picked up on it, and snickered. “So Ted’s not spending the night?”
“What? No!” she lied a lot more intensely. Harry just stared at her skeptically, waiting for her to say something. “You guys all need to drop that joke. I hate it.”
Harry’s laugh was an angry one. “What do you get from lying about it?” he questioned, without waiting for an answer. “Do you think I’m stupid? That everyone’s stupid? That we don’t see his car parked by every other night?” She was angry at Harry, but also speechless, which he took advantage of to go on making his accusations. “Ted’s our friend, why are you being so shitty to him? Just tell everyone about it. What’s the big deal?”
“Stop it!” she screamed. “There’s nothing to tell, there’s no deal. And you have to stop saying there is. It’s not funny anymore. It never was.”
Her brother let out an exasperated huff, and shook his head. “So you’re not lying?” he pretended to buy her bullshit, as usual, or so she thought. “Good. That’s better. You know, if it were true, those things would have consequences. I mean, I’m glad I got things wrong. If you were having something with Ted and keeping it secret… I’m just glad you’re not that much of a bitch.”
“Ha, ha, love you too,” she said, and at the moment she hated her brother, but later she would be glad she had at least said it, even if sarcastically.
As soon as he left, she ran to the phone. “My brother saw your stupid car. If you can’t be discreet, I’m calling things off.”
Ted didn’t answer immediately, and when he did, she didn’t feel like he was taking matters as seriously as he should. “Sorry about that. Harry just picked up Tito, so I guess we don’t have to worry about it tonight.” But he was also right: they didn’t have to worry.
Time always disappeared in Ted’s company. That’s why she needed him. It was a hot summer night, so they went naked to the swimming pool, where they stayed until the lit up sky announced it was almost sunrise. That was when they fled to her bedroom, where they drew the curtains shut, and ignored the rest of the world, drinking red wine, taking naps and having fun for so long, the world finally caught up with them.
Her phone said it was late in the afternoon, as she checked her texts. She could hear some heavy rain falling outside. The same rain that had canceled her friends’ flights, and now they were all coming over to some impromptu Christmas party Harry had allowed Toby to host in their house. Olivia facepalmed as she put the news together from various text and voice messages.
“Can we run away together?” she asked Ted. A big smile came to his face, but then he pointed at the window. “I don’t think we’ll get very far in this weather, I mean, that’s why they couldn’t get away, isn’t it?”
“I don’t like Toby’s parties. Let’s just go to your place, okay?” She suggested.
“You sure? Your friends are coming, too. You’re just going to ditch them?” Olivia laughed at his scruples. “Like they wouldn’t do the same!” Ted knew she was right, so he laughed with her. But that’s when they lost track of things again. They had time, so why not some more playing, some more napping? After all, being together felt so good, and the idea of leaving in a hurry later, running the risk of getting caught, just sounded more fun.
It starts with a storm, or: how Feste met Olivia
We're dealing with indecently, filthy, rich people here, so let Feste, a working class character, explain what it looks like
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Toby, the chubby, rich guy who took them to sing in a party and let them crash at his place the night before, told them there would be an impromptu party tonight at his cousin’s, since all flights had been canceled on account of the rain, and Feste should stick around and go with them. “Do you have to be anywhere tonight?” Maria, his girlfriend, joined in.
“No,” they admitted with a shrug. “No one wanted the band for Christmas eve. I could go to this party.”
“I think you’re gonna be a hit,” said Andrew, the third member of the rich kid trio. “Olivia is gonna love your voice. I just know it. Everyone will.”
It wasn’t the singing Feste was worried about, they knew rich people, as long as they kept being entertaining, they wouldn’t care about their looks. But they knew once they got down from the stage, those people usually expected Feste to go on acting like a character for their entertainment. It didn’t mean they weren’t going to the party, but they couldn’t be wholeheartedly optimistic about it, it was a matter of principle.
The rain had begun late in the morning, and became even heavier in the afternoon. It had been terribly hot and humid in the last few days, worse than usual, so the rain was no surprise, but it was an unexpected amount of it. There wasn’t too much traffic but it was slow and very hard to see more than a few meters away. Feste sat next to the driver, who was shocked by the sight of a six feet person with a rainbow afro, wearing fishnet stockings, and high heels, but wasn’t stupid enough to say anything about it. He just complained about the slow traffic and low visibility. He stopped at the gates of a property with high walls, where Toby identified himself and they were allowed in. Some twelve feet tall palm trees with Christmas lights wound all the way up stood along the driveway, and at the end of it a mansion, which Feste was pretty sure they’d seen on tv.
Inside, it was even more impressive: the chandelier was the first thing that caught their eye, then came the portraits on the walls, and that was just the entrance. They went through a corridor, also with portraits on its walls, and got to a wide room, bigger than most houses Feste had ever been to. It took them a while to see it was decorated for Christmas because everything was in shades of gold, not red and green. Was that a living room? It didn’t feel right to call it that. Not when it had its own bar, an even more sparkly chandelier, and a grand piano.
The hosts were nowhere to be seen, and didn’t respond to Toby’s shouting of their names. “Harry said he’d be home by six,” it was eight o’clock. “Let me call him and see where he is. Maybe he’s upstairs.”
Toby got no answer on his phone, so he shrugged, made his way to the bar, and poured four glasses of scotch, which he handed over to them. Andrew started talking about the right kind of glass to serve scotch in, sounding like he had a lot to say on the matter, so Toby cut him off: “Merry Christmas or something!” he said, raising his glass. They all cheered.
“Can you play?” Andrew asked Feste pointing at the piano, which they had been throwing longing looks at.
“I can, but may I?” they arched their eyebrows.
“Of course,” Maria answered instead.
“Yeah, show us how it’s done,” Toby encouraged.
Feste played timidly at first, it was just a warm up, and it was far from their best. The trio, however, was patient, and didn’t demand their best, allowing the exercise without complaints. Chama found the spot in their memory where all the dirty songs for piano were stored, and decided to try one out.
They were singing, and making Andrew laugh loudly, when more guests arrived, but the hosts didn’t show up. The three young men who entered the room were clearly brothers who shared similar features, there was also a girl, and one who didn’t fit such descriptions.
Feste just moved on to playing Queen while the rich kids engaged in conversations that were mostly speculation of their friends’ whereabouts. After a little while, however, they needed a break.“Pause for a drink,” they announced getting up from the piano.
“Another scotch?” Andrew offered, playing bartender.
They were approached by two of the brothers and their dates, who wanted to talk music with them. Feste was happy to have that kind of conversation. They were showered with praises, asked about their contact information and some very polite questions about their influences, the band, and their rehearsals. It was such a great kind of attention, Feste wasn’t surprised that it didn’t last.
“You guys hear anything weird?” Andrew interrupted them.
They went silent and tried to find the sound they could call weird. Feste heard the distant sound of loud female orgasm. Nothing weird about it, there was no such a thing as sound privacy in the cluster of thin walled houses that made the neighborhood they’d grown up in, it actually gave them more Christmasy feelings than anything else in that place. They were the first to laugh, but the others joined them after exchanging a surprised look among themselves.
“Is that Liv?” Toby asked no one in particular.
Very loud metal music started blasting all around the room. “I love this band! Aren’t they great?” Maria shouted over the noise, her voice unable to conceal the discomfort.
The others laughed even harder, and then they were quiet for a little bit. After that, the whispers began, until finally the group was fighting about whether or not they should pretend they heard nothing starting at that very moment. It wasn’t so simple, even the ones who argued the girl deserved her privacy couldn’t help but wonder who was there with her.
“I bet it’s Big Mouth,” Ros said, making everyone laugh loudly.
Feste might not know those people, but this was a tale as old as time. Always entertaining. They just watched the comedy unfold. “Who’s Big Mouth?” they asked Andrew, and learned about the most famous admirer of the hostess, always persistent, always rejected.
“Ted hasn’t said a word about Liv in months,” said Lando, the muscular middle brother. “He said he wasn’t even coming tonight.”
“Not coming?” Toby repeated like the idea was absurd. “He should’ve been the first to arrive. Also, Tito’s coming with Harry, Big Mouth wouldn’t forget the kid here.”
“Sure, but I don’t think she would’ve invited him of all people into her bed,” Andrew argued, sounding more than just a little jealous.
“Why not? Didn’t she kiss him that one time and then pretended it never happened?” Ros insisted, and this time the others didn’t laugh, they looked worried.
“She called him a teddy-bear,” Oliver, the older brother, reminded the others. “I don’t think it gets less sexual than that.”
“Then who the hell is there with Liv?” Toby shouted impatiently.
“Maybe it’s none of our business?” Celia, the girl dating the oldest brother suggested.
“Of course it’s not,” Toby agreed in anger, “but I still need to know.”
“This is getting creepy, Toby!” his girlfriend protested.
“Creepy? Yeah, that’s what we need!” He turned to Andrew. “Paleface, you can climb up her balcony, can’t you?”
“No!” most of the others shouted in response.
“You’re not killing Andrew over this,” Maria stopped him.
“But I can make the climb, it’s easy!” Andrew protested. “No!” they said again, and the boy was disappointed in that. They told him to stay where he was and leave the hostess alone.
“I’ll just ask Fabian,” Toby announced. “Let’s go, Paleface!” The group let them go.
Feste might be lost among those strangers, but at least it was funny watching how they dealt with their discomfort. “I think we’d better head out,” the oldest brother suggested. “We can still find something to do. There’s gotta be a club or something.”
The discussion went on. Some argued there had obviously been some misunderstanding, and there was no party. Others insisted on waiting for Harry and Tito. Feste just walked to the glass doors and watched the rain pouring out, obscuring even the Christmas lights decorating the swimming pool deck. And then their eyes caught a movement outside: there was a guy dancing away from the house unbothered by the rain. “Is that the lover boy?” they called out for the others, who ran to see it.
“That is Big Mouth!” Ros shouted in a shrill celebration of being proven right.
Lando opened the doors in a hurry and ran into the rain shouting: “We can see you, Ted!”
They saw the first one run even faster and Lando chased him into the dark. Both figures disappeared, and they stood there in expectation. It was a surprise for everyone when the music’s volume was turned down and a female voice greeted them by saying: “What are you guys looking at?”
They all turned around in a startled jump. There stood a pretty girl in a red silk dress. Feste was awed. Was that the hostess? They couldn’t tell if they wanted to ask her where they could get a dress like that, or just ask her out, but either way they would have to wait.
The girls and Ros ran to the new arrival, greeting her with kisses, complimenting her dress, obviously trying to divert her attention from everyone trying to see the guys outside. “Why are you here so early? Where’s Toby? He’s always the first to arrive,” the girl said, still confused.
“It’s almost ten, Liv,” Maria told her.
The hostess looked both surprised and amused by the information. “Harry said he’d be here by six, where’s he?” she changed the subject.
“Have you seen the rain?” Oliver, the oldest brother, said. “There’s no way he’s driving down the mountains in this weather.”
Olivia finally noticed the new addition to the group, and walked up to Feste to introduce herself and welcome them in her house. And then add: “Didn’t you use to sing in the choir, in Saint Anne’s? I know I saw you there.”
They laughed, really impressed. “I almost forgot about Saint Anne’s. Yeah, I used to sing there. It’s been over two years, you have a good memory!”
“My dad would point you out every sunday and say ‘that kid’s going places’, and I really mean every sunday.”
“He sounds like a good guy,” Feste said, while smiling at her, and admiring her looks. “Yeah, he was,” the girl muttered, turning away from them before the message actually hit Feste.
By the time they realized what the girl had just said, she was already away from them, engaging in a conversation with Jack, the youngest of the brothers. Feste was having an internal debate on whether they should acknowledge what the hostess had said, and give her their condolences. But it didn’t suit them. Death was too awkward a subject.
Then a soaking wet man was pushed inside through the open glass doors. The rest of the group shouted “Big Mouth!” to the wet guy, who stared at the room in embarrassment. Lando, also dripping wet, came right behind him, looking really proud. “Guys, look at what I found!” he announced.
The hostess stared at him horrified. Lando’s doubt was visible now. He hadn’t expected she’d be there, and now he didn’t know if he’d gone too far. Feste was loving it. “What the hell are you doing?” she asked Lando, whose face went completely blank.
“Merry Christmas?” he tried.
The others laughed, and the girl huffed in frustration. She stared at the one they called Big Mouth, like she expected some explanation. “Yeah, Merry Christmas,” he repeated, nodding exaggeratedly.
The group’s laughter was interrupted by Toby’s return. “You guys won’t believe it!” He stopped short, taking in the scene. Andrew, who was right behind him, bumped into him. “Liv! Finally!” he went to his cousin and gave her a hug. “Now we can get this party started.”
But Andrew wasn’t nearly as graceful. “Wait, that’s Big Mouth. You and Big Mouth?” he asked the hostess like he was accusing her of something.
“No!” she shouted back, her face scarlet. The roaring laughter from the group brought an even darker shade to her face. The guy accused of being with her just looked away silently.
“I knew it!” Ros gloated. “Love expert, people!”
“That’s like a Troll, right?” Big Mouth said, looking miserable in his wet clothes, with his arms crossed over his chest.
“You like Frozen, Big Mouth? Tsk, tsk, tsk.” Ros shook their head in mock reproval, and got a huge laugh from the others.
Feste just watched, wishing they had popcorn, detached from the whole scene, like a play interacting with the audience sometimes, his favorite character so far being the diva whose father thought Feste was going places. The old man had probably never thought his house would be one of those places when he said that, which made it even better.
They were however a little frustrated with the group’s lack of focus. They’d spent so much energy on the impossibility of their hostess being entertaining Big Mouth (who looked perfectly suitable for boy toy, to be honest), so why were they so intent on talking about who liked Frozen and who didn’t?
Fortunately, Toby opened a bottle and made Andrew hand the drinks over to the others. “Okay, okay, let’s stop with the drama already, and drink, damn it! To Liv and Big Mouth!”
Feste drank to that, and so did most of the group except for Olivia, who threw a panicked look at the wet guy, who answered in a slow motion shrug. As soon as the general laughter dulled down she said: “Seriously, guys, there’s nothing going on between Ted and I. You’re jumping to conclusions here.” They laughed even harder, which angered her. “Say something, Ted!”
“Say what? They know it!” he shouted back at her, arms still crossed, clothes and hair still dripping.
As the group laughed and applauded, she got angrier and attacked her boyfriend bringing an aimless fist down on his shoulder. “You fucking moron!”
They just laughed harder, and she got even angrier. No one tried to pull her away from the boy who covered his head from her blows and protested the attacks. Instead, Toby raised his glass again, and declared: “True love, everyone!”
“Shut up!” the hostess yelled at her cousin, forgetting about her attacks on Ted, who didn’t even take the opportunity to run away, he just stared at the girl looking more confused now than when she hit him. “You take it back!”
“Which one? Shut up or take it back? I can’t do both,” Toby teased.
She threw her glass at him, missing by a lot, and left. Their reactions were mixed. Toby laughed, some tried to call Olivia back, others tried to ignore it completely. Feste hoped some action was finally going to happen when Ted went to Toby and accused: “You just have to make it worse, don’t you?”
“Hey, now that we’re cousins, you have to be nice to me.”
The man fought a smile on the corner of his mouth, but managed to hold on to his bad mood, the wet clothes probably helping at that. “Oh, yeah, keep saying that!” he threw his hands in the air as he spoke. “We all know how much she loves it!”
“Oh, come on!” said Ros. “Is that what this is? She’s too rebellious to date a guy her family approves of?” Ted just shrugged, and história cousin concluded: “Sounds about right.”
“I’ll go check on her,” he announced.
But then the landline received a call, and everyone guessed it was bad news. Suddenly the comedy was over, when Olivia got the news of a car crash involving the two missing members of the group. A few of them rushed to the hospital, while Feste stayed behind with the silent remainder group.
“I should’ve gone with them,” Andrew repeated over and over, pacing nervously, and hitting himself on the head.
“There’s nothing we can do, Paleface,” Oliver told him, from the other end of the room, where he assured his little brother the others would be okay.
“No, I should’ve gone with them,” he insisted, looking like a crazy person, pacing around and hitting his own head.
After a while of that, Feste was so disturbed by Andrew’s attacks to himself, they had to do something. So they said the first thing they could think that would distract him: “Hey, Andrew, is there vodka in a sidecar?”
“Are you crazy?” he said very intensely. “Step away from the bar.”
Feste laughed, and raised their hands: “Don’t shoot, I didn’t do anything.”
It stopped Andrew from hitting himself, so that was something, but now they had to listen to him rambling about cocktails on and on, which wasn’t nearly as interesting as Andrew thought it was. The rain was still pouring out heavily, so even if Feste wanted to leave, they probably wouldn’t be able to get home.
Andrew hitting himself on the head is taken from Richard E Grant's Andrew, but I think all the characters he plays hit themselves on the head at some point of the movie. He isn't a caricature, but it'll be a while until we get to his chapter.
You already know the news Olivia’s going to get, so this is more about her feelings.
This is the chapter that I wrote right before an anxiety attack, about a year ago. I don’t think it will give you one, but I think it’s a bizarre enough reaction to be worth mentioning.
Christmas was a cursed date. She’d learned it last year, when her father died. Now, whatever was happening confirmed it. She was silent during the long ride to the hospital. Ted and Toby were angry at the driver, who explained the roads were flooded and he had to take the longest route. Olivia didn’t care. In her heart she already expected the worst.
She was cautiously numb when they finally arrived. She had prepared her heart for the most terrible news, so when they sat her down to explain that by the time the paramedics were there, Harry was already dead, she didn’t show pain. Olivia barely acknowledged them. Sure, she nodded when they asked if she understood, but it was mostly so they’d leave her alone, which they did, because Ted had a fit. He attacked the doctor who gave him the news, which Olivia found so disgraceful of him, she didn’t want to associate with that. So she retreated to a restroom.
Not here, she told herself, not yet, she decided. And now that it was decided, Olivia knew she wouldn’t let herself feel anything during her time in that odious death building. She didn’t know how long she stood by the sink, staring way past her reflection. It was long enough that Maria came looking for her.
“Is it still raining?” Olivia asked her.
“Yeah, it’s all over the news. The whole city’s flooded.”
“I wanna go home. Is Ted done being crazy?”
“He’s quieted down, if that’s what you mean, but he’s not being crazy, he’s grieving.”
“Well, I refuse to grieve like that!”
“Okay?” Maria said confusedly. “I’ll see if I can find a car. Do you want to eat something, while we wait?”
“I don’t need food.”
“What do you need?”
“I think it’s gonna be me next year,” she said instead.
“No, it’s not!” Maria said, sounding angry. “Okay, I get it, I know why you’re thinking that, but it’s not how it works.”
“How do you know?”
“Because death isn’t elegant, Olivia. Why in the world would you get a death that makes sense when no one else does?”
“Do you think they’ve got alfajor dbownstairs?” She changed the subject abruptly, because Maria’s words were close to making her feel something.
“We should go and find out,” Maria suggested, sounding serene, but looking at her like she was crazy, Olivia noticed.
They left the restroom and made their way to the bomboniere. Once there, however, standing before the only kind of alfajor for sale, she realized if she ate one now, it would taste like death. She knew she couldn’t say that to Maria, enough weirdness had been said in the restroom, she had to act human now.
Olivia didn’t eat or buy anything, she said she didn’t like that particular brand and went back to Ted, who pretended to sleep on a chair, but he didn’t breathe like someone asleep, and to Toby, who texted furiously on his phone, and stood up when he saw them. “You’re here, good. Uncle Duke’s on his way.”
Ted very clearly sighed in relief in the middle of his fake sleep. Olivia couldn’t allow herself to think too much about anything. But then again, uncle Duke would take care of the details, he always did, and she wouldn’t have to think about any of that.
She thought Ted would go home with her, and take care of her like he had when her father died. But as soon as uncle Duke arrived, Ted ran to his arms and started crying. Ros and Lando had to pull him off at some point so the old man could take care of the paperwork.
“Our car is here,” Maria told her. She saw Ted crying in Lando and Ros’s arms, and it was obvious he wasn’t coming along.
She refused to attend her brother’s funeral, or Tito’s for that matter. She refused to leave her bed for a long time. Ted didn’t text. Not that she ever texted him, but she still hoped he would show up in the middle of the night and make her forget how truly pitiful she was. But he didn’t come. She only heard about him from Ros and Lando when they came to visit, but that wasn’t very often.
She didn’t say a word when Toby moved in. At least Maria would be around more often. She hardly ever saw her cousin, anyway, even after Maria started making her exercise and stay out of her room for as long as possible. Toby slept all day and partied all night, it was like he wasn’t even there. She came to think of him as a vital organ in her house, something she needed to live but didn’t think about unless it caused some kind of pain.
Of course Andrew followed her cousin around everywhere, which meant he was in her house often, and to make things worse, Toby thought it was hilarious to encourage Andrew’s crush on her. That was one of the pains. But it wasn’t all bad. Toby also brought Feste over sometimes. Although Olivia didn’t take part in their noisy fun, she was glad there was life in the house and she wasn’t technically alone.
She still missed Ted, but in time, she had come to understand he, too, had lost someone he loved. He needed to sort things out, like she did.
Whenever Feste parties with Toby, they wake up at Olivia’s. The two of them soon become friends, but Feste wouldn’t mind being more than that.
Feste ran into Andrew, by the end of January, in a club they’d gone to for fun and not work, and ended up hanging out with him and Toby again. That’s how they found out Toby had moved into his cousin’s house. “How’s she doing?” they asked, thinking about the beautiful girl, and the way she had looked before the damn phone call. But Toby frowned. “She’s not good,” he admitted.
They crashed at Olivia’s house that night, in a guest bedroom Toby said they could use. It was almost sunrise, so they didn’t see the hostess until the afternoon, when they were leaving. Feste opened the door to a corridor, and didn’t remember which direction they had come from on their way in. After a minute looking right and left, unable to guess, they made a choice at random, and looked around. The place was like a hotel, too big and flashy, but none of the numbered doors to help navigate with ease.
After two dead ends, they figured one of those doors had to be the way out. The first unlocked door took them to a narrower corridor, much less flashy, but with windows, which they followed and found stairs, not the huge staircase they remembered climbing on the way in, but at least they were back on the ground floor, which should make finding the way out easier. They tried a door that led outside, and got to the wooden deck surrounding the swimming pool.
Olivia was lying on a sun lounger, under a parasol, wearing silk pajamas. She lifted her sunglasses, squinted, looking at Feste, and then some recognition came to her face. “What are you doing here?” They already had the feeling they shouldn’t be in that house, but her words made it more than a feeling. “Toby let me sleep here,” they explained, hoping it was enough. “I’m leaving, I just got lost.”
“You got lost?” She made a confused face, and for the first time Feste could tell for sure that she was actually related to Toby.
“I did. Your house is huge.” She let out a shy snicker, and got up, coming their way. “Do you want to have lunch?” she invited, and Feste agreed, of course, they were hungry and would have agreed to much worse in her company.
“What did you and Toby do last night?” she asked, serving them some fancy-ass sandwiches that were waiting for her inside. As Feste told her the tale, they looked at her more closely, and noticed that her cousin had told no lies, she really didn’t look well. Sure, her pajamas were silk and her hair products expensive, but she was still disheveled and wearing pajamas in the middle of the afternoon. She was probably using Feste to make the others think she ate her food, too, they realized, once she offered them the second sandwich, which she never looked about to eat. They had only seen Olivia once before, so they didn’t know if had always looked skinny like that, but Feste thought she could use some meat on her bones. And for someone with so much time to lie by the swimming pool, there wasn’t much color to her.
They didn’t think she was all that interested in Feste’s adventures with Toby, and asked: “So, what have you been up to?”
“Stuff,” she said, sounding impatient.
“Secret stuff?” they asked, suspecting she’d been busy doing a whole lot of nothing. “Maybe,” she shrugged. “Like that secret boyfriend of yours I met?” Feste risked asking, wondering if they were still together. But she looked more sad than angry, so probably not. “Ted has his own stuff to deal with,” she shrugged. “And we weren’t really boyfriend and girlfriend.”
“Of course,” they nodded, remembering how she had insisted on that. “I’m serious,” she pressed. “It was just a joke our parents had when we were little, you know? Like, ha, ha, my kid will marry your kid. And I made the mistake of saying I hated that joke, so everyone started repeating it.”
“So that’s why you had to date him in secret? You didn’t want to prove them right?” Feste concluded.
“They’re not!” she yelled, and looked surprised by her own outburst. “I mean,” she lowered her voice, “we obviously didn’t get married.” She waved her hand at the absence of a husband in the room.
“I see,” Feste said, but they didn’t quite understand if Olivia was trying to convince them she’d never had anything with the guy in the first place, or giving a confusing explanation of her reasons for hiding that boyfriend.
“Do you still sing?” she changed the subject. Feste started telling her about the band, and Olivia kept them talking about that, and not her, for long enough that Toby showed up, making plans that included Feste. They ended up sleeping in her house that night, too.
The next afternoon started in a similar way, but thas time Feste felt a little less like they shouldn’t be there, so they straight up asked Olivia: “How long do you go without eating?”
“Until I feel like it,” she yelled at them, and left the room. Feste decided they should probably go home. Well, maybe not home, but somewhere else.
Two weeks later, they ended up crashing there again, and when they saw Olivia on their way out, she surprised them by smiling, and inviting Feste to watch a movie with her. And soon they were both lying on her bed, singing along to Beauty and The Beast.
It wasn’t that way Feste wanted to be invited to her bed, but they could work with that. Or so they thought, at first. But it soon became clear Olivia had taken a sabbatical on those things, which she hinted at every now and then, saying relationships were too much drama, and people were exhausting.
“Even me?” Feste mocked disappointment, which was only half a joke, because their friends would accuse them of being too dramatic and exhausting with a certain frequency.
However strange it was, Olivia’s answer surprised them. “No, not you, just... people.”
Both my modern Olivias like Beauty and The Beast, I have no creativity for details, I guess.
Things will get dark again next chapter, when we take a look at what’s going on in Ted’s life.
Ted and Ros are family, not friends. In Ted’s darkest hour, help doesn’t come in the shape he expects, but it does come.
Ros’ pronouns are He/she/they, let’s stick with “they” for this chapter.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Life should’ve gotten back to place in two months, he considered. He knew he should want to go outside and be around his friends. He knew he should read the books assigned in college. He knew he should eat and not drink. But what he knew didn’t make him feel any better. At least he didn’t have anyone to disappoint with his stillness.
If Tito were alive, Ted would’ve been ashamed of himself for doing nothing, but now he was gone, there wasn’t anyone modeling after his bad behaviour. There was no reason for showering, shaving, eating. There was no reason he should keep off the corridor floor, where he would lie flat, or sometimes curl into a ball, and wish time went by faster than that. But now two months had passed and it only got worse, not better.
That day, however, he found the greatest source of entertainment his home could offer: dad’s cabinet. Ted had avoided his dad’s things for so long, but he couldn’t have two rooms in his own home that he refused to enter, and that was what Tito’s room had become.
He wondered if the collectibles could still be put to use, and watched a few videos about maintenance, busying himself with that. Then he went through the drawers until he found what was missing. When he did, he just stood there, holding the box in his hand and feeling hopeful for the first time in months.
A second of clarity made him put the thing down, and leave the room. Once in the corridor, he was confused again. Better leave, he told himself. It was only much later that he started wondering what he was doing, and where he was going. So he decided to visit uncle Duke, since he was already headed in that general direction, anyway.
The house staff knew him, and let him in. One of the girls offered him some water, so he followed her to the kitchen, and talked about the weather: it was unbearably hot. A few glasses of water later, Ros showed up wearing a bathrobe and leaving wet footprints on their way. He hadn’t seen any of his friends in so long that even one who never liked him much, was a sight that warmed his heart. He hugged them affectionately, but Ros pushed him away. “Why do you smell like that, Big Mouth?”
“Do I?” He knew the reason, but it was too embarrassing, he couldn’t tell them. “Sorry about that. I need to talk to my uncle.”
“Did you walk here?” they asked, like the idea offended them. Ted just nodded. “It’s hot like hell out there. Why would you do that?” they said, a bit judgemental.
“I told you, I need to see my uncle.”
“You know my dad’s in the office all week. What do you want from him, anyway?”
“Nothing,” he said, getting ready to leave. “It’s not important,” he informed, as he patted his cargo shorts, trying to find which pocket had his phone. A sudden wave of panic hit him when he couldn’t find it. He tried each pocket again and still nothing. “Shit, I think I lost my phone!” he said, so Ros wouldn’t think he was a crazy person, going through his pockets for no reason. “It must’ve fallen. I need to find it. I’ll just go back, and look for it. Bye, Ros.”
“If you dropped it, someone took it already, just use your insurance,” Ros told him, using that impatient tone they always had when talking to Ted.
“No, I need that phone. It’s important. I need to find it. I have to go. Sorry.”
“No!” they shouted, to Ted’s great surprise. “You’re not leaving like that.” He just stared at them, without the slightest idea what to do now. “Come here,” they beckoned him into the library, and closed the door. “You need to tell me what’s going on with you, Ted,” they said, in a very business-like tone, that made them sound a lot like uncle Duke, an idea reinforced when they took his usual chair, and waved their hand for him to sit down.
Ted stared at his cousin in total confusion for a few seconds, and Ros returned the gaze in expectant silence. “I think I left my phone home. Yeah, I think it’s home. I mean, I left in a hurry, don’t think I took it. I don’t even know if I closed the door.”
“Why were you in a hurry?” Ros asked him in such a calm voice, it was unnatural, and Ted felt a twinge of annoyance in the pit of his stomach. “I was home for days, I just had to leave, I couldn’t stand it anymore.”
“But why you left in such a hurry?” Again that unnatural calm. He hated that his cousin was acting like they were in control. “I’m not going insane, Ros, you don’t have to pretend you’re my shrink.”
“I never said you’re going insane. You’re the one who’s bringing that up,” they told him, sounding too serious this time. That made him angry. “You’re looking at me like I’m crazy, and you said I can’t leave.”
“I just want you to tell me what’s going on with you. What happened at home?”
“Nothing happened. I just got bored.” But Ros wasn’t satisfied. “So bored you forgot about your phone?” they doubted. “What happened, Ted?”
He sighed, and sat back. Now he had to tell them. “I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad lately, I don’t really know why. I had completely forgotten about his collection, but I found it this morning and I was so happy making sure they were functional.”
“What did your dad use to collect?” “Guns,” Ted shrugged.
“Were you going to tell my dad about those guns?” “Of course. That’s why I’m here.”
“And what do you think he would say?” “That he wanted them?”
“You don’t want them?” Ted just shook his head. “Why not?” “Because I was just too happy!” he admitted unwillingly.
“Happy?” they repeated it, but it made even less sense when said again.
He couldn’t stand it anymore. His head felt heavy, and under attack, so he rested it against the desktop in front of him, with his hands on top for protection. But the attack didn’t come from the outside. He tried very hard to find the courage to confess to Ros what the problem really was, but only found the need for crying. He didn’t want to come off as crazy, but the only thing he could think of was what he needed to say, and thinking about it was already too painful.
He struggled to voice out the words that already plagued his thoughts. “I was happy because I was going to shoot myself in the head!” he voiced the terrible words out, a little relieved just for getting rid of the secret. “I had the bullets in my hand, it would’ve been so easy!” He sat up again, but couldn’t look at Ros. “And then I thought how pissed at me Tito will be if there’s an afterlife,” he tried breaking the tension by laughing at his own stupidity, but he didn’t have the energy for it.
Ros kept looking at him with narrowed eyes. “Can’t you think of one living person who would’ve been crushed if you died?” they asked, beginning to lose their unnatural calm.
“If I were dead, the living wouldn’t matter.” He wished they accepted that as an answer, and stopped getting mad at him for being honest, but Ros was still angry. “What about Olivia? It would destroy her.”
It wasn’t what he expected them to say. Ros should know he wasn’t responsible for Olivia. “Who cares?” he said bitterly, thinking about Olivia’s silence, and how she most likely didn’t care about him.
“What about Lando? What about my dad? You don’t care about them either?” Ros didn’t even pretend they weren’t angry.
“Of course I do! That’s why I’m here,” Ted defended himself the best he could.
“Ted,” Ros started again, in a very serious tone, “my dad will be here tomorrow night. You have to tell him what you told me. And I can’t let you go home after what you said. My dad will be really mad if I do. So you’re staying here, and for god’s sake, don’t kill yourself in my house.”
He nodded, and tried to laugh at the very idea of doing something so gross, but found himself too tired for that. He just sat there, staring off into space. He heard Ros’ heavy, tired sigh, and was going to apologize for ruining their afternoon, but when they sat back, he saw something he’d never noticed before: Ros had boobs, they were wearing a bikini under the bathrobe, and that bikini top wasn’t empty.
“What the fuck you’re staring at?” Ros yelled, rearranging the bathrobe over their chest, and throwing back a murderous stare.
“Are those new?” he asked. Ted was genuinely curious, he was sure he would’ve noticed them before, if they had been there the entire time. “Where do you hide them?” But his cousin had no patience for that.
“Shut up!” Ros rose from the chair as they shouted, like they were about to attack Ted, but then they just made an angry sound in their throat, and said: “Listen, I’m calling Lando. We’ll do something tonight, the three of us, okay?” Ted nodded. “Good. So please, please, go upstairs and take a shower.”
Ted stood up, ready to obey. He couldn’t look them in the eye, he was too embarrassed about it, but he knew he had to say it: “Thank you, Ros. You-- You’re great, thanks.”
“Well, I’m trying to save your life here,” they said, sounding angry about it. “Of course I’m great.”
“I’m sorry I stared at your tits,” he added awkwardly, standing there and avoiding eye-contact.
“Yeah, never do that again,” they said, crossing their arms over their chest, protectively. A second later, they shrugged. “But I guess that’s not really the most important thing right now. You wanna know what matters to me? There are some people I love that for some unfathomable reason happen to love you. And I swear, I’ll get a ouija board and never let you rest in peace, if you leave me to deal with that kind of shit.” Ted chuckled, too tired to laugh. “Now go take a shower.”
He went to the guest bedroom he usually took, whenever uncle Duke invited him over. Ted didn’t need help to find his way around. After a long shower, he sat on the bed and stared at the wall, wondering what he was supposed to do now. Maybe he should stay put until Lando arrived. Ros had been nicer than he had any right to expect, but they didn’t like him, they shouldn’t have to stand him in their house like a punishment for a good action.
“Ted?” Ros knocked on the door. “You better be alive. And dressed,” they added, entering the room.
He was both of those things, so he just waited for Ros to walk in and look relieved. They handed Ted their phone showing someone’s contact information. “I want you to call and schedule an appointment,” they said. “It’s a therapist,” they insisted, when Ted showed no reaction.
“I don’t need a therapist,” he refused.
“You’re talking about shooting yourself, what kind of help you think you need?” they said impatiently.
“I don’t want a therapist,” he fought the suggestion, though he had no arguments against Ros’ reasoning. “Just call, and I’ll leave you alone,” they bargained. Ted tried imagining himself doing something as mundane as scheduling a therapy session, and he knew he wouldn’t do that. “I can’t,” he told Ros, looking them in the eye, so they knew he wasn’t lying.
His cousin shrugged. “I don’t know what else I can do, Ted. Here, you can hold my hand.” They put their hand out for his taking.
“How is that supposed to help?” Ted snapped, shouting at them.
Ros looked at him very serenely, unmoved by his outburst, and said: “I don’t know if it helps. But it’s my best.” They offered the hand again.
Ted felt terribly embarrassed now that Ros said it like that. They were helping him, when they didn’t have to. He didn’t want to admit he hoped it would work, but the offer was still there, so he took Ros’ hand, and made the call.
“There. It wasn’t impossible” they said, once Ted was done, letting go of his hand.
He was surprised Ros was taking such care of him. The two of them had an old habit of antagonizing each other, and even though the opposite was happening that day, he still expected Ros to laugh at him for being weak, not help. Before his cousin could leave, he trapped them in his arms, hoping they wouldn’t say anything mean, because he knew he couldn’t take it right now. Fortunately, Ros just hugged him back, and promised things would be alright.
Let's shake things up and get Ros' perspective next chapter
Ros cares more for Ted than they like to admit.
I changed Titus for Tito, because I don't know of any XXI century people named Titus, but I know one Tito, which is a nickname, not a first name, that implies he was the youngest in the group.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Ros couldn’t think of a time when they had been friends. Even when they were very little and had no choice about spending time together, Ros and Big Mouth had never liked each other much. They would’ve drifted apart long ago if not for the ones they loved in common. But dad and Lando kept forcing them together.
She had tried very hard not being jealous when dad first took him under his wing, after all old man Orsino had just died, and Ted was family. They were both fifteen then, and Ros tried to be mature, which in reality meant crying and bitching about it to Celia, who finally had too much and made Ros see a therapist. Now she was doing the same for Ted. It would’ve been funny under different circumstances.
She was worried about him. Her stupid cousin was contemplating the ultimate stupidity, and had to be stopped. Ros was really afraid he might try something in the next room and she wouldn’t be able to stop him. No, he wouldn’t. Ted had asked for help. He had walked all the way there to ask for help. Sure, he was looking for dad, not her, but help was help, right?
Lando would be there soon and that should make things easier. He and Ted actually liked each other. In a sense, Lando had been his gift for Ros. They had been best friends since kindergarten, and because Ted was around often, so was Lando.
Ros didn’t remember exactly when she had started hanging out with him without Ted, but she remembered very well telling Lando, in the middle of Resident Evil 4: “You should ask me out on a date.” It was like he didn’t even notice it. He just kept playing. All that fluttering in her stomach, only to be ignored.
“I thought you liked this,” he finally said.
“I love killing zombies with you, but I was thinking something more romantic.”
Lando paused the game and turned to her, a wide grin on his face. “You know what’s romantic?” He kissed her.
Ros didn’t think making out on her bedroom floor was romantic, but it was hot as hell, and only the first of countless times. Sure, years later the two of them were still negotiating the differences between hot and romantic and how they needed both, but Ros didn’t think it was a bad thing. Maybe they didn’t read each other’s minds like Celia and Oliver, but they had negotiated their way through their relationship so far, how was that not as good as Celia’s “I just know”?
She threw herself in Lando’s arms as soon as he stepped out of the car. She hadn’t been able to wait for him inside, even if she should have been keeping company to her cousin. Lando looked worried, of course. He held her tight in his strong arms until she felt brave enough to face the real world. “How are you holding up?” he finally asked.
“I’m scared,” Ros admitted. “I’m afraid he’ll try something.”
“Where’s he?” Lando made like he was going in, but then froze. “Ros, his house is a dump. Everything is lying around. So many bottles!” She didn’t know what to say to that. The confirmation that Ted was as bad as he looked, was only more troubling. “And there’s Tito’s room. It’s the same. It’s like he’s coming home any minute now. It’s depressing!”
“Did you see the guns?” she changed the subject, because it really was depressing thinking about Ted living alone in that apartment, full of reminders of the dead.
Lando’s voice became even more urgent. “Shit! He has a whole arsenal in that room. I mean, it’s mostly relics, but some are not. He shouldn’t have those things at home.”
“I don’t think he knew about them. You have his phone?”
“Sure,” he motioned to the backpack on him, “it’s all here.” Once more, he looked ready to go inside, but hesitated. “What do we do now?” he asked, looking more distressed than she had ever seen him.
The question was the last thing Ros needed at the moment. She already felt useless for not having a solution, she didn’t want to have to say so aloud on top of it all. But Lando was waiting for an idea. “We keep him alive,” she said, shrugging. But at least, Lando nodded confidently in response, as if that was an entire plan.
They went in, holding hands, and found Ted sitting on the deck of the pool, staring at nothing. When Lando talked to him, he looked up and smiled, but didn’t shake his hand or stand up to hug him as usual. Lando sat down next to him, handed Ted the backpack, and promised him everything was in order in his place. “Thanks,” Ted said, holding onto it a little too desperately, but not even checking for his phone.
“Ted, wanna play FIFA?” Lando suggested, making it sound like an exciting thing to do.
“I don’t know,” he said, but he stood up and added: “Let’s find out.” Ros was relieved for now.
Lando didn’t go home that night. He and Ted started marathoning some dumb series, and they were still doing that the next evening, when dad came home.
Ros wanted to just tell him everything right then and there, but he looked so tired. It would have to wait, she decided. But he noticed something wasn’t right. “What’s the matter, kid?” he asked when she took longer than usual to let go of his hug.
“I’m ok,” she shrugged.
“Are you sure?” She nodded. He almost believed it, except Ros kept following him around, which she never did. “What’s going on?”
“Ted’s here,” she began, wondering what to say and what to leave for Ted to tell him on his own.
“That’s good,” dad said, with a slight edge to his voice, worried that Ros was going back to complaining about Ted’s presence in their house.
“You’re right,” she agreed, which the old man found even more suspicious.
“Ros?” he said very seriously, and his face delivered the rest of the message. “Start talking,” it said.
“Ted needs help. He showed up yesterday, looking for you. And he’s not ok. I told him he had to talk to you before he can go home.”
Dad’s face was full of concern. “Where is he?” She took him to Ted. The boys paused the screen, and Lando left with her to give them privacy.
Later that night, dad came to see her, and told her Ted would be staying with them until he was feeling better. She wasn’t surprised by that decision. “Ted said you took care of him.” She just shrugged, wondering if dad would agree to never mentioning again that she’d helped. “Good job,” he said, with an emphatic hand on her shoulder. Well, now she couldn’t make jokes, or it would ruin the moment.
Ted stayed for almost a month, by the end of which he had gone back to attending classes, and made new friends he started hanging out with to Ros’ relief: Lando had never spent so much time in her home as he had in the first two weeks of Ted living there, and Ros had never seen so little of her boyfriend as in those days. She was relieved to see him go.
Is this chapter actually important to the story I'm telling? Probably not, but I wrote it before I knew what story I was telling. And I guess it gives more depth into the question of who is friends with whom in the group.
But if you don't know who Titus is in Twelfth Night, you might still be wondering. He is mentioned in one line, as Orsino's young nephew, who lost his leg in an Antonio related incident. I have killed him here, because I kill fictional characters for kicks sometimes, it was one those days when I was like "how can I make this worse?"
(I'm still debating if the absolute worst I can write should be shared with the world. It may not even be that bad from a reader's perspective, but I'll always know the amount of dark arts used in its making, and that holds me back.)
Olivia goes to a club for the first time in months. All she wants is to enjoy Feste’s music, but that’s not all she has to deal with.
Feste playing her mom’s piano and singing Queen was the most fun Olivia had had in a while. She couldn’t believe Feste’s singing voice could reach such a wide range of notes, and she couldn’t believe something other than classical music was being played on that thing, which Harry had always treated as too important for anything else. Not that Feste didn’t play classical music, they played Chopin, saying “What’s up, doc?” a few times as they went.
“Sing one of yours,” she asked next. They did, but then said: “It wasn’t made for the piano. You should hear me with a band, it’s a lot more fun.”
It was obvious from their tone that Feste didn’t expect her to be tempted by the idea, but she was. “Maybe I should go. Where are you playing this week?” Feste looked a little surprised at her question, but it was Toby, all the way from the bar, who asked: “Are you really talking about going out?”
Olivia was embarrassed that she’d been acting so reclusively that it justified his surprise at her considering going to a club. But Feste answered him in her place: “She didn’t say she was going, she asked where it’s going to be.”
“For a reason,” her cousin insisted.
Toby was right about that. Olivia did go. But it didn't take long for her to regret it.
Although she really liked the music, Olivia wasn't used to clubs anymore. The place was too noisy, and full of cigarette smoke. Maria helped her find a place to sit by a window so she could get at least some partial fresh air. But then she went to get drinks with Toby. When they finally came back, Toby brought along no one other than Ted Orsino himself.
Why was Toby like that? She had gone to a club of her own free will, why he had to make it more difficult than it had to be by bringing Ted into it? And then there was the look Ted gave her, an awkward look that reminded Olivia she didn’t look as pretty as she used to. She simply didn't see the point in making all that effort anymore. But she could tell that was the reason he was staring at her without saying more than a few words of greeting.
“Are you sitting with us?” Olivia asked, because he was just standing there, looking like he wanted to run away, but doing nothing. She never meant for him to accept, she was only giving him an excuse to say his friends were waiting. She knew very well he had new friends. Lando had just as big a mouth as Ted, he had confessed within three minutes he was there on his request, and it hadn’t taken much longer than that for him to tell her all the news about his best friend.
She tried hinting at that. But Olivia couldn’t bring herself to ask Ted questions about his mental health, or even admit Lando had told her everything. His presence made her uncomfortable. Which was the reason she fled to the restroom, where Maria followed.
“I want to get out of here,” she told her friend, being practical. Though she felt like wasting time cursing Toby, she would leave that for later. During the ride, however, she complained about him constantly.
Feste texted her the next afternoon: “I’m honoured you made an appearance. I wish you’d stayed to party with me and the band after the gig.”
“I had to leave after I saw Ted,” she confessed. Lately, all her confessions were to Feste. “It was so awkward it hurt.”
“He came to our party, so I guess you wouldn’t like it, anyway. But we could’ve gone somewhere else, you and I.” Feste was really sweet, but it wouldn’t have been right to ruin their fun just because she didn’t remember how to enjoy herself anymore. But saying so would distract from what she wanted to know: “Since when Ted hangs out with you?”
“Since last night, I think. He was all sweet on one of my friends.”
The news bothered her, so Olivia left her phone and wandered aimlessly around the house, thinking about it. Ted was moving on, and she didn’t know if that made her jealous or envious. Was it Ted she wanted? Or was it the will to live he displayed by making new friends and flirting with new people?
She thought she was making progress by going to a club, but when she looked at Ted, she knew she was way behind. Maybe she should follow his example, and find someone to be sweet on.
I think we all know who Feste’s friend is, so let’s get into that next chapter.
Ted meets V.
This whole au started with a version of this chapter in V’s pov that included long dialogues where the ideas for this universe started to pop up.
This chapter makes more sense in Ted’s pov, but he has this self-absorbed perspective that makes me miss the earlier version. There’s a bit of Little Women in Ted’s mouth in this chapter, and that’s why I say his dna isn’t 100% Orsino. Ted as in Ted Laurie. Have I written Jo/Laurie fic that is just as queer as my Viola/Orsino stuff and then never posted it? Don’t be ridiculous! But yea, I have.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
His friend Curio knew all the cool places and artists that Ted had never even heard of, so he had chosen the club, which meant it was all a great coincidence, when he ran into Toby and Maria there. Ted didn’t really keep in touch with those two, so there was no way he could’ve known.
“Guess what?” Toby said. “Liv’s here.” He said, like great news, but Ted didn’t know how to feel about it. Toby didn’t notice that, and started steering him towards a table by a window, where Olivia was sitting. “Look who I found, Liv.”
She looked different, he didn’t know why, but she looked different in some way he didn’t like. The smile she gave him didn’t look right either. “Ted. Hi.” When she didn’t say or do anything else, Ted felt unwelcome.
“It’s good to see you.” He wasn’t sure he was being honest, but it was polite to say so. “How are you?”
Olivia shrugged. “I’m fine. You can stop sending Lando to check on me.” So she knew about that? Ted tried to find words, but nothing came to him. “Are you sitting with us?” she asked with a note of impatience to her voice. He wasn’t going to, but since she asked, he did. Not that it helped ending the awkward silence. After a few minutes, she excused herself to the restroom with Maria in tow, and never came back. Toby got a text a few minutes later, confirming they had left.
He felt so stupid! Why did he even try? What happened to all that therapy talk about accepting that Olivia wasn’t right for him? And he’d been doing so well until then. He left the club through the nearest exit, and just stood there, in that poorly lit alley, where a kid smoked weed sitting on a wooden crater. “You ok?”
“No, not really,” Ted confessed to the stranger.
“I bet it’s a girl,” he guessed. Ted chuckled, and confirmed it with a nod. The guy smiled and blew smoke, looking proud at his own correct guess. “Is there a third person involved?” he tried again.
“I don’t think so,” he said, but now he was actually wondering if that wasn’t it. He didn’t think Toby would’ve brought him to Olivia, if she had been with someone else. But he didn’t know that for sure. “What I know is that she didn’t look happy to see me. I’m not even sure I was happy to see her.”
“Then it’s all resolved,” the guy joked. Ted snorted bitterly. “I wish.”
The stranger finished smoking, and stood up. “You know what always cheers me up? Ice cream. Let’s go get some.” He thought the kid was joking, at first, and gave him a slightly amused chuckle in response, but he insisted: “Aw, come on, I’m too high to go by myself.” That got an actual laugh from Ted, who didn’t think the kid being high was funny, but his admitting to a stranger that he was too impaired to do something as ordinary as going for ice cream, made him sound so helpless, that he found it hilarious. So Ted followed, and placed the order for the guy, who was also too high to talk to the attendant. That's when he decided he might as well have some chocolate sundae, too, while he was at it.
Under the bright lights of the fast food place, he started thinking “guy” wasn’t really the word to describe his new friend. They looked nothing like Ros, but that was who Ted thought of, when he tried to find the word.
“What’s your name?” He hoped the answer would help him find the right word.
“V,” they said. “Just V.” Well, that didn’t help.
“You don’t like the rest of your name?” He started suspecting it was the wrong thing to ask as soon as the words were out, but fortunately, V had their mouth full of ice cream, and just shook their head in answer. Ted kept talking to avoid an awkward silence: “I’m Ted. It’s Theodore, actually, so of course all my friends called me Dora for years. Well, they don’t do that anymore. Now they call me Big Mouth.” He realized he was blabbering, and shut up.
“Big Mouth,” V repeated, trying out the words. “Your friends sound like bullies.” So he had to defend them, though not entirely sure some of his friends deserved to be defended.
V was friends with the band playing in the club, and they planned on having some drinks when the gig was over. Ted was invited. He ended up drunk, sitting on the floor of a tiny apartment with hardly any furniture, in a project building, god knows where, resting his back against the wall, and laughing at everything V said.
“You’re really cute, V,” he said, feeling tired, and lying down on the carpeted floor.
“How much did you have to drink?” they dismissed his words.
“Too much to do anything about it.”
V laughed again. “Why? What would you do?” They laid down next to him, using their own arms as a pillow.
“Cuddle you,” he said, intentionally contrary to the kind of answer V’s tone prompted. He just wanted them to laugh, which they did. After a big yawn, V told him: “You know, if I wasn’t so drunk, I might consent.” Ted hoped they meant it, and passed out.
He started texting V the next day, which soon became part of his daily routine. Whenever he closed his eyes, that was the face he saw. Whenever he found something funny, that was who he wanted to share it with. He was having a hard time playing it cool, so he gave up on that and invited himself to watch movies at V's, when they were texting. They didn't say "yes," but they did send him their address, and the question: "U sure?"
V lived on the opposite side of town, and it was a lot of bad traffic to get there, but Ted was sure he wanted to go. He just wasn't sure V understood why he was coming over. But he couldn't say over text that he was going there to make a move on them. He had to take the risk.
"Cozy place," he said, when V let him in their studio apartment.
"That's exactly what the ad said!" they told him, over acting delight, which took Ted longer than it should have to recognize as sarcasm.
He laughed belatedly, and put down a shopping bag on the kitchen counter. "I brought snacks." Should he start talking now? He didn't know if he had the guts anymore.
"Great." V was quiet too for an uncomfortable moment, and then ended it saying: "So let's get to that movie."
V didn't have chairs, so they just shared the bed. There was too much space between them at first, but little by little they came closer to each other. Until they were touching shoulders.
Ted was nervous, and started laughing, but that wasn't the only reason. "What?" V was confused. "I just remembered something we talked about the other night.” V didn't know what he was talking about. “Now that you're not drunk, do you consent to cuddling?"
They looked at Ted as if his words were coming out of nowhere, but after a beat, something in their eyes changed, and V shook their head slowly. "I shouldn't be allowed to get drunk." They started laughing at the sudden return of memory, hiding their face in their hands for a moment. Ted laughed along, trying to be rid of those thoughts that explained in detail why the question he’d asked was stupid.
V, both to Ted’s surprise and delight, did consent to cuddling. Before the movie was over, they consented to more than that, and he ended up not going home for three days.
And as we all know, three days is all it takes for two.
My point is if canon Orsino had some counseling other than Feste’s, he might’ve accepted Olivia’s “no” and moved on to Viola/Cesario before act one was over. And you might wonder, what about Olivia/Viola?
Feste is in love, but Olivia wants a BFF.
This chapter is brought to you by PROCRASTINATION: keeping you from doing your real job until it all blows on your face. Enjoy!
If you haven’t been in Feste’s place, I might not be able to relate to your experiences.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Feste knew their crush on Olivia was pointless, but that didn’t mean they could make it go away. When she decided to leave her house to check out the band, they were truly flattered. No one else had gotten her to do that much over the last few months. So Feste allowed themself to take some pride in the achievement, which was fine, the problem was believing it must mean something. It filled them with high hopes that ruined moments that would’ve been perfectly good otherwise.
Olivia texted them often, inviting them to hang out, which usually involved watching movies in bed. Until one afternoon, she sent them a picture of a big pile of boxes that had just been delivered, and the text: “This is going to be the unboxing to end them all. Care to join me?”
So Feste came over to watch her show off her fancy, new designer clothes, shoes, handbags, even diamond earrings. They almost wept seeing how much money someone like Olivia could spend in a shopping spree without even feeling guilty about it. But the gifts she’d bought them certainly played a part in helping Feste feel better.
That was another obstacle. Olivia wasn't just rich, she was a millionaire, how was an unemployed musician like Feste supposed to take her on a date? But to be honest, they didn’t know if she would say yes to a date. Not only with them, but with anyone else.
Well, her shopping spree might be an indicator that she was ready for more than just watching life passing. So, when everything had been unboxed and gushed over, and the two of them lay quietly on her bed, they probed: “How’s your heart, darling?” They could have phrased it better, Feste realized, when Olivia raised her head, creased her brow and said: “My heart? What you’re talking about? I’m perfectly healthy. From the neck down, at least.”
Feste laughed at the misunderstanding. “I meant your loving heart.” It was her turn to laugh. Except hers was a dark sound with no joy to it. “I don’t think it was ever a loving heart. Even when it was loved.”
“Aw, please, don’t give me that. I know you’ve been in a bad place, but you never stopped being loved.” She turned on her side, and looked them in the eye, letting on her disbelief. “What? You think I’m lying? I really love you.”
“Thank you,” she said, snuggling up against them, and placing her head on their chest. Feste sighed. President of the friendzone, they realized bitterly.
“Where are you wearing your new clothes to?” they changed the subject.
“I don’t know,” she said, still using their chest as a pillow. “Do you want to go to the theater with me?” she invited, and although it wasn’t a date, Feste wasn’t saying no to that.
So they helped Olivia choose an outfit for the evening, which was a harder job for Feste than expected, because she was so unbothered by changing in front of them. They had to look away, or they’d stare at her like a creep. “You can look, I’m not shy,” she said. “No, I can’t,” Feste confessed, “you’re so hot it hurts.”
“Don’t be silly,” she dismissed their words, as usual. The solution was focusing very hard on her many, many options for an outfit. Under any other circumstances, going through Olivia’s wardrobe was fun, but they were working so hard on focusing, they couldn’t concentrate.
She was the one who said: “That top is perfect for you.” They took a closer look. “It is black, and shiny,” they conceded, it was a good start. “What are you waiting for? Try it on,” Olivia said in that commanding tone of hers, that made Feste question why they liked her (for about one second), but they did want to try it on.
They played dress up, and watched each other do their makeup. Olivia took them to a clearly expensive theater to see a very outdated comedian monologuing for an hour and a half. Feste hated it. “You have to let me take you to a real comedy show sometime,” they told her, when the jokes about the differences between men and women began.
“Deal,” Olivia said. But the best shows happened on the same nights Feste was busy with the band. So they tried their best to convince Olivia to come to one of their gigs again.
And then the perfect opportunity showed up: “Your friend Ros got me a gig in this place called Arden. You’re coming, right?”
“Of course,” she said. And like a fool, Feste had hope.
That's right, the whole gang will be in Arden, and it might be the stupidest chapter in this whole story.
V meets Ted’s friends, and not all runs smoothly. Hearts are broken and bonds of friendship are made, or renewed. Andrew is back for a new take on the duel scene.
A non-consensual kiss will happen, so get ready to be disgusted.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
V had no idea Feste’s gig had anything to do with Ted’s friends until he said so, but it wasn't that big of a surprise, Feste knew people everywhere.
They put some effort into the boyish look because Ted liked it so much, and started flirting with their own reflection, like an idiot. Or rather, like Bas always did. V stopped to wonder what their twin brother would think of Ted. But thinking about Ted simply brought them back to flirting with the mirror, and readjusting the bandana around their neck, which they hoped Ted would use to pull them into his kiss, even if they had to ask him to. V was ready for him.
But they didn’t really feel the same about meeting those friends Ted had mentioned. V had met Val and Curio, but that was different, those guys didn’t live in ridiculously wealthy penthouses, even if they weren’t broke like V was. But those other friends? The ones who lived in mansions and didn’t sound like nice people? Those made them more nervous. And they told Ted so on the way to the club.
“It’s just Lando and Ros,” he promised. “They’re cool.” V remained unconvinced. “Seriously,” Ted insisted. “Not fake cool, actually cool. But don’t tell Ros I said that, ok?” V didn’t know if he was kidding, it sounded like a joke, but they agreed to keep secret about that anyway.
The club was removed from the city, surrounded by the woods, and it looked like it had been a farmhouse in another century. V took a deep breath, and put on a smile to be prepared. Inside, the place was one large room, mostly lit by the multicolored lights on the dance floor, and the constant but faint light in the bar, on the opposite end of the room.
Feste and the guys weren’t up yet, they immediately noticed, while Ted tried to spot his own friends. They bought drinks, and took a look around, there were a few tables where the place was least illuminated, so it was a while before Ted recognized the two.
He had forgotten to mention two things that might’ve made V slightly less nervous about meeting them, which they noticed immediately: they were a couple, and one of them was the most androgynous presenting person V had ever met. Ros was very welcoming, asking V their pronouns, and how they’d met Ted, and after a few minutes, turned to him and said: “I already like them more than you.”
Ted laughed. “That’s the bare minimum.” When Ros laughed and agreed, V was reminded of Ted’s comment in the car, and figured they must have some running joke about not liking each other. V didn’t really understand how that was funny, but inside jokes were like that.
Lando shook his head, but his smile showed he thought it was at least a little funny. “So you’re friends with Feste?” V nodded. “We’re from the same neighborhood, and the guys let me sing sometimes, when they’re rehearsing. How did you meet Feste?”
“Toby brought them to the group,” Ros answered. “And then they played at Jacques’ a few weeks ago, and I thought they should play here.”
“Toby said he might come,” Lando added, reminded of that by Ros’s mention of him. Ted made a sour face, and changed the subject: "You think Touchstone is coming?"
"Who knows?" Ros said, shrugging emphatically. "Mark might leave home with every intention of coming, and, you know, the wind blows differently, someone offers him a ride, and suddenly, he's on a stage doing one man sketches for a select group of sixty of his best friends."
Both Ted and Lando laughed. "I hope he comes, he left some really good weed with me last time, " Ted explained.
"Ros has some," Lando told him. "Ros, why don't we step outside and you let Ted smoke some of that weed? High Ted is so funny!"
The outside was wide open and green, brightly lit around the swimming pool, and V could see that in the opposite direction, there was a tennis court. There were pathways lit with Christmas lights around the trees along either side that looked like they led into the woods, and V was surprised to see they didn’t follow that direction, and instead sat by the pool, where anyone could see them. "Aren't we going to get in trouble smoking here?" they wondered.
"As if!" Ros scoffed. "You should’ve seen my dad’s friends last time they were here. I think we're being pretty discreet about this."
Lando facepalmed and shook his head no, but didn't say anything. He simply passed the cigarette V had handed him on to Ros. "You don't smoke?" V asked, taking a mental note. "I have a fight in two weeks, I have to be clean for that," he explained.
"Two weeks?" Ted was immediately interested. "Who you're fighting?"
"His name's Charles." "He's been undefeated for two years," Ros added. And then a mischievous smile took over their face. "You know what that means, right?"
And V could see the exact instant the understanding hit Ted. A huge smile took over his face, and he looked like he was having a dangerous idea: "Everyone will be betting on Charles!"
"My own brother is betting on Charles," Lando complained.
"Not me, pal, I'm betting on you," Ted announced. "And I don't even have to share the prize." "I'm betting on him, too, duh!" Ros reminded him.
"I know you are, but imagine how many people would have to share the prize if this favorite won," he said, gesturing a lot, the first sign he was getting high.
When they returned to the club house, V felt hazy and giggly. Lando told Ted every bad and repeated joke he knew just because his friend couldn't control his laughter when he was high, and he thought it was hilarious. Feste was on stage with the band, singing in a whiskey voice and dancing sensually.
"Let's get closer to the stage, I want to show my support," they told Ted. "I'll be right back," he said in V's ear, "I have to find the restroom." V nodded in agreement.
He kissed them before leaving, and V felt lost for a second among the colorful neon lights, the booming bass, and both their high and the lingering sensation from the kiss fusing into the same euphoria. V went closer to the stage and waved to Feste, who approached even more perfomatically than before, singing and dancing just for V for a little while.
Even though they weren't much of a dancer, V's senses were being bombarded in so many directions, they didn't care. So now they were high and dancing in public, but it was all right, it was just for Feste, when Ted got there they'd dance together, or something else. So where was he?
V took a look around but didn't see him. There was however a girl dancing a few feet away, smiling at them. V couldn't help but smile back, especially because their face was already set like that before seeing her. So they made eye-contact and smiled at each other.
She came closer, still dancing, with grace and balance, not like V, who didn’t know what they were doing. They danced like that for two songs, without touching, and then the girl took V's hand, pulling them towards the bar. "Let me buy you a drink," she said loudly over the music.
The bar wasn't so crowded that they couldn't reach the counter, but there were enough people that everyone had to do some waiting before being served. V certainly wasn't expecting the bartender to go straight to the pretty girl like the others hadn't been waiting longer. "Tequila shot," she ordered. "Do a shot with me?" V only nodded, still wondering how that happened.
The girl downed her drink in one breath, and shouted in celebration. Her excitement got to V, who laughed in appreciation. They tried to do the shot like her, but the drink burned too much, so they had to take a break before finishing it with a sour face. When they were finally done, the girl applauded sarcastically but V didn't feel offended, they just laughed at themself.
"I'm Olivia, what's your name?" V said their name, and the girl went on: "Cool. Have you been here before?” She didn’t wait for V’s answer. “My friends told me about this place but it's my first time here. Have you been outside? I was looking around when we got here, it must be really beautiful out there."
"I was there for a little bit, it's nice," V confirmed. "You were?" She took their hand again, now guiding V outside. "Please, show me."
V felt something wasn’t right about that, but they weren’t thinking clearly enough to realize what was so obviously going to happen. The girl kept holding V's hand, guiding them to a leisurely stroll along a lit walkway, chattering so fast, they didn’t know what she was saying.
Olivia leaned back against a tree-trunk, and holding both V's hands, pulled them even closer, until their faces all but touched. "Are you going to kiss me or not?" A demand made so naturally, V felt like an idiot for not seeing before why they were out there.
Olivia pulled them by the bandana meant for Ted, and kissed them. V tried to back out, but she held them by the bandana, which made it more difficult to escape without actually pushing the girl away. They wanted it to stop, but not the way that was about to happen.
A tall guy pulled V away from Olivia, calling them a pervert. V staggered back, trying not to fall, and bumped against a chubby guy, who was standing there, looking very pleased with himself. He waited until V regained balance and said: “Don’t run from a fight, man,” like it was a good thing. Then he pushed V towards the skinny guy.
Once again they lost balance, and hit the tall man head-first. He obviously took that as an intentional act of aggression, and was encouraged by the chubby guy shouting: “Show him, Paleface!” The man raised his fists on cue.
“What the hell?” V flinched.
“Andrew, stop that right now!” Olivia commanded very seriously. It was enough to make him lower his fists, and look back at her over his shoulder. “What are you doing here? Are you spying on me?” she scolded.
“I’m defending you from predators like him,” he pointed at V.
“Are you insane?” they shouted. “I know what I saw,” he shouted back, hostile, raising his fists again.
“I think this is a misunderstanding,” V negotiated, lowering their voice and speaking slowly, as they carefully kept their eyes on his fists, and their open hands in front of them.
A hand touched V’s shoulder from behind. A jolt of fear ran almost painfully through their body, but before they jumped in reaction Ted’s voice calmed them down: “Are you ok, V?”
“This guy is trying to pick a fight with me.”
Ted stood inches of the man. “What's your problem, Paleface?”
“That guy assaulted Olivia!” he insisted. “No, he didn't!” she protested. “Teddy, please, it’s Andrew, don’t hurt him,” she asked protectively.
“Nobody’s getting hurt tonight, right, boys?” said Lando, who had just arrived, clearly chasing Ted, and he sounded very confident in his own words. Andrew looked scared and agreed immediately.
“Was it Toby that put you up to this?” Ted asked him.
“He said I should help Olivia,” he explained, with a vacant look to his face that made V wonder how they had ever thought he could hurt them. “Toby is always getting you in trouble,” Ted observed. “He’s not your friend.”
“You’re not my friend!” Andrew shouted, angry again. “Of course we’re your friends!” Olivia promised, placing a hand on his shoulder.
“You know what?” Lando said loudly, coming closer. “You’re right, Andrew, we should include you in our plans more often. I’ll be your friend,” he placed his arm around the man’s skinny shoulders, and he looked very confused by that. “Tonight you’ll party with Lando,” he said, steering away Andrew, who was starting to enjoy the idea. As they left, Lando looked over his shoulder to the remaining trio, and advised: “You guys play nice, you hear me?”
For a while the three of them made no sound. Olivia looked at Ted, then V, and decided: “I should get back inside too.”
“It’s a very strange coincidence, Liv, don’t you think?” Ted said unnecessarily loudly, with every intention of not being ignored. There was anger in his tone, restrained but present. “This isn’t about you,” she informed Ted coldly.
“If you were here with anyone else, I would have to agree with you.”
“Is she your ex?” V asked, suddenly very worried. “No,” he said, shaking his head. “No!” Olivia shouted like the very idea of it was insulting. In a more conciliatory tone, she added: “And I didn’t know you were together. It’s not like I meant for this mess to happen.”
“It’s hard to believe, but ok,” Ted said in a low voice. “Just give us some privacy.”
Olivia looked offended for a moment, but then shrugged it off. She exchanged looks with V, as if trying to send a telepathic message, but didn’t say anything else, she just left. Now V and Ted were alone, there was a lot they needed to talk about.
“Well, it’s too late to pretend it never happened,” Ted said. "It is," V agreed just to gain some time.
It wasn't easy to convince him they never meant to kiss her. He didn’t believe they had come outside with Olivia because they didn’t want to be rude. “But you kissed her,” he insisted. Which frustrated them, because they hadn’t, but it probably looked like that from the outside.
“Do you want me to go?” V offered, worried there was no other way to solve the problem.
“That won’t help,” Ted decided, crossing his arms, and refusing to face them. “What would help?”
“Do you like Olivia?” he insisted on the question. “No, I really don't, and it’s not even because she’s your ex.” He didn’t deny it, he just kept waiting for the rest of it. V groaned in frustration, and pulled the bandana off their neck, throwing it on the ground. They stared at it instead of looking at Ted. “It wasn’t for her,” they mumbled. “She’s really pushy,” they complained more clearly. Ted let out a little chuckle, which V didn’t expect, and finally looked at them.
“So you don’t like her?” he insisted. “No!” They were tired of the subject.
“Do you still like me?” V was surprised he had to ask, they almost laughed. “Of course!”
He kissed V, putting his arms around them. V was relieved. They kissed him back, ready to put that incident behind them. The kiss turned into a make out session, and the only reason they didn’t engage in a lot more was their surroundings, but there was still room for some fun.
They giggled as they composed themselves, getting ready to go back. Ted placed an arm around V's shoulders, as they crossed the lawn, and stopped to kiss them before they got back inside.
They went back to the dance floor and saw Lando and Andrew doing the goofiest dance steps imaginable, while Ros was apparently glued to the stage, teasing Feste and Mark, who were singing a song together without any rehearsing. Their voices contrasted and complemented each other, and the energy both threw on their singing had a clear effect on the floor, getting people to dance. When the song was over, they were applauded enthusiastically, so they sang another.
Ted stopped their dancing to make out, so they didn’t notice their surroundings until their kiss was done, and someone placed a hand on the shoulder of each. "Ah! Being young and in love!" Mark said, like he was old.
“When did you get down?” Ted asked, showing that he too had forgotten about the rest of the world for a moment.
"You did a great job singing with Feste," V observed, ignoring the heat on their face fueled by the word love.
"Thanks, darling, I just love a chance to shine. And didn't everyone have a good time?" He kissed V and Ted on the cheek and left them, going to whisper something in the ear of a girl, who followed him outside.
V laughed off their discomfort, looking at Ted in both amusement and shock to ask: "What was that about?" And then laugh some more. Ted just shrugged, like he was used to that. "Your friend is really weird. I kinda like it."
"Touchstone? Always reminded me of Bugs Bunny." Ted spotted Lando by the counter, looking bored as Andrew excitedly told him a story. "Let's save him from Andrew."
"What's the deal with that guy, anyway?"
"Paleface? I'm not really sure. That’s just how he is. But don’t worry about him, he’s harmless, as long as Toby isn’t putting ideas in his head.”
They sat with Lando and Andrew. Ted asked for a water bottle and after the first sip, he bragged: “You all having alcohol, I’m the only healthy one around here.” “Not true,” said Lando. “This is orange juice,” he raised his glass.
“Bunch of babies,” said Andrew, who was having beer, like V, and raised his bottle at them,resembling a toast.
That’s when Ros caught up with them. They looked like they were in the middle of something, and not at all like they were about to sit with the rest of them. Ros gave Lando a quick peck to the lips, and asked: “Do you know where Mark is?”
“I saw him going outside with a girl,” he answered. “He’s probably busy.”
“Can you guys roll?” Ros asked the rest of the group, showing the weed. “I can,” V offered.
Before V had finished, Feste got to the bar. V already knew Feste and Ros knew each other, but it was surely unexpected when they started talking to Andrew like they were old friends: “Hey, Paleface, how’s it going?”
“Hey, Shitface, nice show.” “Shitfaced? I’m working on getting there. So where’s Toby?”
“He left,” Andrew shrugged. "He tried to get Andrew in trouble, so I told him to rethink his life choices," Lando clarified.
"What about my girl Liv? She was looking so… fine. What happened to her?"
"Oh! That?" was all Lando managed to say, too loudly and uncomfortably. "Aren't you done, V?" Ros urged them. "Here, it's done." V showed the others the rolled up cigarette.
Once again they went outside, and sat by the swimming pool. After they had smoked, the group got separated again. Ros and Lando went for a walk, Ted and Andrew jumped in the swimming pool, so V and Feste just sat there in each other’s company.
"So," Feste began, in a tone that didn't carry too far, but implied a lot of meaning beneath it, "were you sexy dancing with Olivia? Did you not know who she is?" "No," V admitted.
"And from the silence earlier, I take it you found out the hard way?"
"She just pulled me out here and kissed me," V whispered, making sure Ted, who was floating, staring at the night sky, with his ears underwater, couldn't hear them. "It was a real mess." Feste made a face but didn’t say anything, so V asked: “Is she Ted’s ex? He said she isn’t, but I know there’s history between them.”
Feste let out a dark laugh. “Why don’t we have a drink, and I'll tell you a story?” So the two of them went back inside, to the bar, and V listened to the story Feste had to tell.
So much drama, right? It was a lot more before I managed to edit this. But this story is silly enough without a bunch of unnecessary dialogue.
Olivia is late for the love-triangle party in this story. And you might have noticed I’ve tagged a Malvolio-like character and he hasn’t shown up yet.
Part of my creative process involves questioning why I don’t simply forget I ever wrote the story. It will pass, I know. But right now I wonder what I was thinking that I decided to share this. At this point, I don’t even know anymore. All I have is the feeling I used to like this story. Not the first time it happens, tbh.
Feste procrastinates in unhealthy ways before coming clean to Olivia.
It was a busy week. On their way home from the club, they got a ride with some very friendly and very intoxicated people who ended up driving past city limits in search of a perfect beach to watch the sunrise. Feste’s music attracted another group, once they got to the beach. Those people took them to a party on an island, and left them where they’d found them on the afternoon of the next day.
Feste didn’t have the money to go back home, so they walked to the nearest town, and played the guitar at the square for change. They only got enough for a sandwich, but the business owner took pity on them, and let Feste spend the night on his couch. The guy found them a ride on the following morning, that took them halfway home.
They still didn’t have the money to go home, but they had a friend who lived nearby, and could use some help entertaining three overactive children. Feste played tag, hide and seek, and charades for hours, which gave them food and a place to stay for the night. On her way to work, on the next day, Feste’s friend dropped them a few blocks from home.
They were almost there, but got invited by the old men to join a domino game, which turned into more and more matches, and then beer. They couldn't pay for it, but the guys wanted company, so they didn’t mind Feste drinking on their expenses.
A fellow band member saw them, and took Feste to his home, where they slept until the next day, when the band was supposed to rehearse. It was their first opportunity to charge their phone and steal some wifi in days. That’s how they received all of Olivia’s texts looking for them, asking them to come over under pretenses like watching movies, having drinks, or going to some restaurant or another.
Feste wasn’t entirely sure about their feelings, but they knew they didn’t regret leaving her hanging. Not because they were angry that she had kissed V, but because she obviously didn’t think about them in a romantic way, and they needed to let go. It was the first night they spent at home in a while, and although Feste hated being home, they knew going after Olivia was a mistake.
They drank too much after the band’s gig the following night, and cursed themself for waking up at Olivia’s. They didn’t remember getting there, but it was most likely the result of running into Toby after drinking. Olivia saw them on their way out, and left Feste speechless by running to their arms, saying: “Thank goodness you’re here.”
It wasn't anything they’d imagined. Feste actually expected Olivia to be angry at the lack of response to her texts. So it surprised them to find Olivia so needy. And despite all their previous resolutions, they had to ask: “Babe, what’s wrong?”
Olivia dragged them to her bedroom, and began: “I’m so embarrassed about what I did in Arden the other night. Ted thinks I did it on purpose to hurt him, but I swear I didn’t know who your friend was.”
“Are you sure?” Feste asked, not at all in the mood to be Olivia’s best friend. “Because, you know, it really looks like you don’t want Ted to be happy.” She looked away, and mumbled: “You’re on his side.”
“No, I’m not. If I were a good friend, I’d be on V’s side, I’ve known them longer. But the thing is, whether you meant to hurt anyone with that or not, people were hurt.”
“But that was an accident!” she protested loudly, but Feste just shrugged. “I was trying to be spontaneous. I saw someone I liked, and went for it. How was I supposed to know?” Feste shrugged again, and had to admit: “It does sound like an honest mistake.” And they didn’t even have to add the second part, because she did it herself: “But no one’s going to believe it, right?”
Feste enjoyed her prediction a little more than strictly necessary, and held their laugh in to tell her: “It’s just that people don’t care about the truth, they want to be entertained, and the version of the story that makes you a jealous bitch is a lot more fun.”
“No! I didn't do it on purpose. You have to believe me.” She sounded very desperate. So much, Feste was curious. “What difference does it make if I believe in you or not?”
She stopped her fidgeting to stare at Feste, first in confusion, and then solemnly. “I need my best friend to believe in what I say.” They sighed. “You need a better best friend.”
Olivia scooted away from them. “Are you saying you don’t believe in my version?” Feste shook their head, and got ready to leave. “I’m saying, I don’t want to be your best friend.”
“You don’t like me?” she asked, obviously hurt. Feste couldn’t stand to let her think that, even if it meant embarrassing themself by telling the truth. “I like you a lot.” Olivia only looked more confused. “It was one thing being your friend when you were too depressed for anything else, but I’m not the one you’ll talk about your crushes to.”
“What? You only like me when I’m down? If that’s so, I don’t want to be your friend either.” She exchanged her hurt for anger, and Feste could tell they were seconds away from being kicked out. “Oh, no. I like you a lot more now that you’re better. But you still like me the same, and that’s just not enough for me.”
She was back to confusion. “I really don’t understand what you mean.” Feste took a deep breath, and let the truth out: “I’m in love with you, I can’t pretend I’m your friend.”
“You? In love with me?” She obviously didn’t think it was possible, which was bad enough, but then she started laughing. All Feste could do was tell themself not to cry in front of her. “You’re so mean!” she said between laughs. “I thought you were serious.” She laughed some more.
“I am serious,” Feste insisted. “No, you’re not.” Olivia shook her head. “I can’t believe I fell for it!”
“I’m not kidding!” they yelled, angry at Olivia for refusing to listen. “You’re not?” she asked, not knowing what to believe.
“I’m being honest with you.” Olivia studied their face very carefully before deciding she believed in it, and then she looked away. “I don’t like you that way.”
“I should go,” Feste decided.
“No! Wait!” she commanded, like she always did, holding Feste’s hand. “Why can’t you be my friend? You have fun with me, don’t you?” They nodded. “Then why can’t you still be my friend, and just accept how I feel? I don’t believe for a second you spent all this time with me just because you wanted to have sex.”
“Of course not. I love being with you. And I accept how you feel. I want to be your friend, of course I do, but I can’t be your best friend. I have to take care of myself, you know? I see you around.”
Feste performed poorly during that night’s gig, and their bandmates weren’t exactly understanding at first. Only much later, when some amount of drinking had softened their hearts, they showed sympathy for the lovesick singer, and for the band’s sake offered to set them up with some single friend or another. Feste didn’t want a relationship with anyone but Olivia, but the guys offered from a place of caring, and that was good enough for now.
Am I still doubting myself? Yes. But I trust that feeling I had when I first started writing for this fandom: most works here are clean and elegant, so I’m lowering the bar for future writers. Sure, I have moments of weakness, when I want to write clean and elegant stuff like the cool kids, but that’s not really my endgame here. And that, friends and enemies, is how I work around the doubt.
Toby is worried about Olivia, so he won’t say anything about the guy she’s going out with.
These short chapters are a lot easier when it comes to editing.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Drinking was as good a way as any to deal with the feeling he was useless. He had noticed Olivia going quieter and quieter. Again. It was like the small amount of partying she’d done in Arden, almost a week before, had drained her so, that she was still too tired to talk. Toby suspected she wouldn’t want to talk about what was bothering her. According to Maria, she was still embarrassed that everyone had seen her kiss Ted’s boyfriend. He felt a little guilty about it, of course, he’d never meant to attract so many people with his ploy.
In his mind, the plan had looked perfect. It would’ve given Liv time to make sure she liked the guy, and an excuse to get rid of him in case she didn’t. Not to mention it would’ve been hilarious to see clumsy Andrew attempt to fight Ted’s pocket sized boyfriend.
If he had known who he was, maybe he could’ve walked to the guy, and told him Ted was looking for him, or something, but he had no idea at the time, and now the damage was done. It wasn’t as bad as before, so there was that. Olivia still exercised and used the swimming pool, she still ate everyday, but she was back to skipping meals. And to her silence.
She said hello and goodbye, and answered questions, but it was mostly silence that came from her. Toby could tell there was something wrong, but he didn’t think he could do anything about it. He would probably make things worse, like he always did, if he simply turned to Olivia and asked why was acting like that again. So he asked Maria to talk to his cousin. Olivia liked her and Maria had a way with words, she would do a better job than he ever could.
Maria, however, didn’t have much success, she came back with the same story about Olivia feeling embarrassed, which was a reason not to see Ted, but not to stop living. “Maybe I should have a party here, this way she can have some fun without actually going out,” he said for Maria’s consideration.
“She’s not in the mood for parties, that’s just going to make her angry,” Maria advised.
For the next few days, his girlfriend was often busy making sure Olivia was alright. Until one day Maria threw herself on the bed next to him, and confessed: “I may have given Olivia bad advice.” Toby didn’t understand. “I was telling her to go out and meet new people, and she tells me about some guy who went to school with us, who’s been DMing her, so of course I tell her to go out with him, but it turns out it’s Will.”
“Yellow socks Will?” It couldn’t be. “Yes, your best friend Will,” Maria confirmed.
“I hate that guy!” But Maria stopped him before Toby could get too passionate in his hatred. “Yeah, he ratted me out too. But Olivia needs to do something, so we’re not going to say anything about that to her, ok?”
Toby doubted a little snitch like Will could’ve become someone who deserved his cousin, but Maria had a point, Olivia needed to live a little. Drinking also helped make that situation tolerable.
Toby’s pov will come back later, but let’s talk about Will first.
Going out with Will keeps Olivia busy, but there’s no spark. Toby tries to have a heart to heart, but changes his mind half-way through.
About the name Will: “Mal” means evil/bad/ill “volio” means will. He’s not good or bad in this story, he just is. I’m not here to speculate why someone named Will decided he needed to write both a Benvolio and a Malvolio, but that’s exactly what I’m doing.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Will took her to a restaurant, where he spent a long time talking about himself, and the time he’d spent living and working abroad in a hotel, which started as a job and became a passion. He said the experience made him feel like a real grown up now, which actually made Olivia a little curious about it, because she didn’t feel like a real grown up, ever. But the conversation simply hit a wall when he asked about the last two years in her life. There was too much death and very little action in that tale.
She felt varying degrees of discomfort during the evening, but in Will’s defense, some of his hotel stories were pretty scandalous even with the names omitted, and he could tell she didn’t want to be kissed. Olivia expected not to hear from him again, but he invited her for a second date. An afternoon date, he specified, for some reason she didn’t question.
The second date was in a museum, which Olivia chose. She soon found out Will was not the right company for that kind of outing. He acted all serious, said chiaroscuro a lot but not always correctly, and not once cracked a joke about the nudes. She didn’t even feel like making her own silly comments.
In silence, she knew for sure Feste would’ve been much better company, but since that last talk, she knew she couldn’t count on them. Maybe they were right, if Feste really meant it when they said they were in love with her, it was probably better to get some distance. It wasn’t like she could love Feste that way. They were practically one of the girls.
“I don’t get it,” Will said, standing next to her. “What do you like about that?” He meant the painting she’d been standing in front of while her head was miles away. She took one new look at its black, burgundy and blue waves on the canvas. “I feel like there should be more of it.” She was ready to look at something else.
That was her first time inside a museum in six months. Harry had dragged her out of the house last time, for which she had ended up thanking him. This time, at least, she herself had chosen it. “I think I want to study Art History,” she told Will on their way out.
“Really? What do you do with a degree in Art History?”
“That’s a question for the future,” she answered, shrugging, though she did see how Will’s question had a certain practicality to it.
When he took her home, he once more didn’t try to kiss her. He stood there, smiling at her. “I hope you had a good time.” So Olivia kissed him once on the cheek. “I did, thank you.” He looked surprised, and smiled even more, straightening his posture. “I’ll text you later,” he said, before leaving. Olivia simply nodded in agreement.
She had hardly made it to her bedroom, when Toby barged in. “You like him?” He sounded like he couldn’t believe his own words. “I thought you were just bored, but you kissed him. You like him!”
“Were you spying on me?” she shouted, mostly angry at Toby’s tone, even though the idea of being spied on was pretty infuriating.
“I was talking to Fabian, it was the security system,” Toby shrugged. “But don’t change the subject. You like Will!” he accused.
Olivia crossed her arms and became very serious: “Who I like is none of your business.”
Toby shrunk in disappointment. “I know. You can do whatever you want, I know that. I’m not good at this. I never said I was.” “Good at what?” she asked, confused, but he just ignored her. “Harry was better than the two of us together, but he just had to, didn’t he?”
Toby’s voice was still angry, but Olivia began to suspect he was angry at something that had little to do with her. “Better at what, Toby?”
“Living, taking care of us… You know what? This talk is depressing.” As he began to leave the room, Olivia reminded him: “Not even Harry had a say in who I kiss, so stay out of it.” Toby nodded. “And I don’t even know if I like Will that way.”
Now Toby looked interested, turning his whole body in her direction, as if he planned on staying. “Didn’t the kiss help you find out?” he asked.
“It was just a kiss on the cheek. I don’t know if I want to kiss him for real.”
Her cousin opened a big smile. “That’s a relief.” And then he left.
Guess what the rest of the gang thinks about Will?
Ros can’t wait for Lando’s fight to be over.
The week before Lando’s fight was as boring as the week before a fight usually was. They went days only texting shortly at night because he had to sleep early. He said it was easier to stick to his diet if he didn’t go out, which was fine. But he also believed he could focus better if he didn’t have sex, which Ros wasn’t so fine with. It didn’t matter if it was only a week, the prohibition made him insane.
So, on the night before the fight, Ros decided to do what would’ve been unthinkable a few weeks earlier, and went to Ted’s. They only accepted the invitation because V had been the one who made it (and because Celia and Oliver were having a romantic night out). Ros did like V better than Ted. Well, lately Ted had been so busy living his life, Ros almost missed him, to be honest.
V opened the door, wearing their hair in a wolf-tail, and a t-shirt so big that it had to belong to Ted. They hugged each other, V walked them to the living room, where Ted and his friends Val and Curio were already getting started to play. They were surprised to see Andrew was there, but he was obviously the most excited about Dungeons and Dragons, and it was like he had never tried to start a fight with V, in the first place.
“Why Lando didn’t come?” he asked.
“He has to avoid worldly temptations before a fight,” Ros reminded him.
“Does that include you?” Andrew asked, to everyone else’s amusement.
“Unfortunately, it does,” Ros admitted.
After the game, they smoked weed and had pizza, two things Lando couldn’t have participated in. Ros groaned impatiently. “I’m so pathetic, I can’t stop thinking about him,” they confided to V, who smiled and said: “Lando’s a very lucky guy.” Ros didn’t know about that. “My boyfriend's home right now, thinking about another guy,” they said, phrasing it in the strangest way they could think, which made the whole group laugh.
As the night winded down, and they ran out of things to talk about, Andrew started a new topic: “Did you guys know Olivia’s going out with Will?” He didn’t get much of a reaction, two of those people didn’t know who Andrew was talking about, two others had good reason to pretend they didn’t know either. Ros, however, was curious about the second name. “Will from school?”
“Yeah! Yellow Socks, can you believe it?” he said in outrage.
“Ew!” They really couldn’t believe it. Not that Will had ever said or done anything directly to them, no one did, he just twitched his upper lip whenever he looked at them, and that was enough for Ros to remember him in the worst light possible. “When you say they’re going out…”
“Restaurants, museums, those are dates, right?”
“Maybe, maybe not,” Ros said, hoping Andrew was wrong.
But on the following evening, Olivia showed up in Will’s company. He didn’t wear yellow socks anymore, but he managed to make a completely black outfit look as boring as a uniform. Even his careful head-to-toe felt all too familiar. But Ros let that slide, because even her own father was a little surprised at her hyper-feminine presentation. Fortunately she had more important things to worry about.
Things like the very real possibility of Lando getting hurt, or the hilarious panicky look Ted gave her, when Dad all but asked V what their intentions with his nephew were. It was enough, she had no room for anything else in her mind right now. And as long as he didn’t speak directly to her, it was easy to ignore his existence.
I’m on a posting spree, please send help. Or send love. Or money. World wide financial crisis? I have no idea what you’re talking about. Seriously, though, send me cheese and the cheapest liquor your country could offer.
My brain may have hit shuffle mode.