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Month: April 2017

Chapter 26 – Sounds Like Something Out Of A Comic Book

Three Months Before Impact Day

Being cut out of solid concrete was just about the second least fun thing to ever happen to me. The first was spending a month trapped in a block of concrete.

It was impossible to keep track of the time, of course, but my captive wasn’t the brightest. He wore a watch with the date on it. His attempts to keep me in the dark weren’t entirely successful.

Three months, I’ve been waiting. How much longer does Rachel need?

An entire month of not being able to move, not being able to breathe, not being able to see. The entire first week was basically one extended panic attack, and after that, it was just crushingly, despairingly dull, and very, very uncomfortable.

They weren’t gentle when they cut me out. It wasn’t like they needed to be. I was going to be fine, regardless of what they did.

When they finally did have me completely freed, and I was sitting back down in that bloody interrogation room, there was just a hint of fear in my captor’s eyes. He tried to mask it with smugness, but the fact that I’d made it through what he’d done unscathed had gotten to him.

You ain’t seen nothing, yet, arsehole.

“Ready to resume your narrative?” he asked.

“I think I’d rather just take another concrete nap,” I said.

“Don’t tempt me.”

“Fine, where did I leave off?”

“Your girlfriend’s mum locked you out,” he said dryly.

“Right. Turns out my adoptive father was very supportive, approved of the relationship, gave me a phone, Rachel taught me to shoot, and then we came out to her mum, who took it very badly.”

“That was… blessedly brief,” he said, raising an eyebrow. “Maybe the concrete did you good after all.”

“Oh, and I took down a safehouse,” I said.

“Ah, yes. I recall.” He leaned across the table, and it would have been so easy to headbutt him. I tried hard to resist the temptation. “So tell me, did it ever occur to you to research the origins of your power?” he asked, leaning back slightly, relaxed and casual.

“No,” I answered with a completely straight face.

Seriously? You weren’t the least bit curi- oh. Sarcasm.”

“You’re very perceptive,” I mocked him.

“Did you ever learn anything about yourself?” he asked, ignoring the taunt.

“Have your scientists learned anything?” I asked, already knowing the answer.


“I’m impossible,” I told him.

“Evidently not,” he replied, raising an eyebrow.

“I did find something. Or rather, someone.

“Colour me intrigued,” he said, suddenly interested. His attitude towards me had become almost friendly, and I did all I could to encourage that. I’d managed to strike the right balance of sarcastic and standoffish, and honesty and implied trust.

“I can’t tell you who they are,” I said.

“I can be very persuasive,” he said, and it almost sounded like a threat.

“I was wondering how long it would take before you started threatening me.”

He held his hands up in a show of surrender. I didn’t buy it, but it meant he was playing along just like I was. That was all I needed from him.

“Fine. Tell me as much as you can, and I’ll decide what the rest of the information is worth,” he said. Good enough for me.

“Okay.” I took a deep breath, more for dramatic effect than anything else. I wanted to have his attention. “I’m not the only supernatural in this city.”

“You said there wasn’t anyone like you,” he said, a dangerous glint in his eye.

“She’s not like me.”

“It’s a woman, then?” he asked, just like I knew he would. Better he focus on that than the fact that I lied.

“Either that or I’m lying to make it harder for you,” I said. He shrugged.

“Okay. Tell me about this woman.”

“Imagine a person who could lift a car,” I said. “Or move fast enough to punch you in the back of the head before you realised they weren’t standing in front of you anymore.”

“Sounds like something out of a comic book.”

“So does a lot of my life,” I pointed out.

“Point taken. So, you can’t tell me who it is, but you found this person?” he asked, desperate for any scrap of information I would give him. It was obvious just from looking at him.

“I did. And she knows what I am,” I added.

“Which is?”

“She wouldn’t tell me,” I said, which was only half true. “She wouldn’t help me.”

“Why not?” he asked, sounding almost personally slighted.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“So you just gave up?”

“Gave up? Not a chance. I decided to twist her arm,” I said, enjoying the intense curiosity on his face.

“And how did you do that?”

“I’m getting there,” I told him.


Next Week: You Are Genuinely Afraid Of Me

Chapter 25 – I’ve Let You Down

10 Months Before Impact Day

I woke up to my phone buzzing loudly beside me. Sadie was curled up on the far side of the bed, and even though she was still close enough to reach out and touch, it felt like she was on the other side of the world.

Right, phone. I reached over and picked it up. Rachel? What was she doing calling so early in the morning? I answered immediately, a worried smile spreading across my face.

“Hey!” I said, trying to keep the concern out of my voice.

“Hey,” Rachel said back, her own tone surprisingly calm. “You free to talk?”

“Sure, what’s up?”

“Well, I have good news and bad news,” she said cryptically. “Which do you want first?”

“I want them both at the same time,” I said, sticking my tongue out, knowing that even though she couldn’t see it, she would know I was doing it.

“Of course you do,” she said, and I could almost hear the eye roll  I knew she was giving me in return. “Okay, so the bad news is, Mum wants me to go see a counsellor, on account of me being so mentally ill.” Her voice was dripping with sarcasm at the end of that sentence.

“Wow, she really doesn’t want you to be gay, huh?”

“Not if she has anything to say about it, no,” Rachel said irritably.

“And do you have a say in the matter? Can you just, like, not go?”

“Actually, I don’t have to go see the counsellor if I don’t want,” Rachel said, surprising me.

“That doesn’t sound like your mum. What’s the catch?” I asked, smelling a trap.

“No trap. Actually, it’s really more like a… Well, it’s basically a bribe.”

“I’m listening…”

Rachel sighed audibly, and I wished I could reach through the phone and hold her hand. Sometimes even good news can feel like bad news when it’s not the news you were hoping to hear.

“If I do go see the counsellor, she’ll lift some of my restrictions,” she said carefully.

“How much?” I asked, just as cautiously.

“I can stay out after school until eight, and I can invite friends over. Well, friends that aren’t you,” she added reluctantly. I wasn’t surprised, but it still annoyed me.

“It’s still an improvement,” I said, trying to be positive for her. “Why on earth would she offer you that?”

“I don’t know. I want to think maybe she’s starting to reconsider things,” she said wistfully.

The two of us were silent for a while, and I just listened to the sound of her breathing. It was nice, almost relaxing. It made me feel like she was in the room with me.

“So do you want to take her up on her offer?” I asked, breaking the comfortable silence.

“I kind of don’t see a bad side,” she said after a brief pause. “I mean, seeing someone who’s trying to talk me out of being gay doesn’t exactly sound fun, but it’s not like it’s gonna work, right?”

I had to laugh at that. Something about the way she said it was just so … her.

“History would suggest not,” I said, grinning. “Also, common sense.”

“So what do you think?” she asked.

I didn’t even need to think about it. I just wanted to offer her the same support she had unquestioningly given me.

“I think if I can see you more often, I’d be thrilled. And I trust you to know what’s going on in your head.”

There was another pause, and I thought maybe I’d said the wrong thing. What did she want me to say?

“So, about that…”

My breath hitched. She sounded reluctant, nervous. My mouth went dry as possibilities starting whirling through my head.

“Which part?” I asked breathlessly.

“The seeing you more often part.”

Breathe, Charlie. Just breathe.


“I was thinking of trying to get a job,” she said. I found myself blinking at nothing for a few seconds, not entirely sure what to say. That wasn’t what I was expecting at all.

“Oh,” was all I managed to say.

“I know it won’t leave us much time to spend together…” she said apologetically., and I could picture her biting her lip as she said it. I forced myself to calm down.

“Rachel, half the stuff in your room is built out of scraps. Which is cool as hell, but if you want to have some money for a change, I’m hardly gonna hold that against you.”

She was quiet for a bit again. Then, in a quiet voice, she started to talk again.

“Well, I can’t deny that being able to buy stuff for myself would be nice, but I was thinking of putting most of it towards funding, you know, your stuff.”

God, she was a sweetheart. There was no way I was going to let her waste her hard earned money on me, though. Not when she’d lived the way she had for her entire life.

“What? No, you should absolutely do it for yourself!” I insisted.

Instead of a reply, I just heard Rachel grunt. She sounded annoyed. I was confused. Was she expecting me to say thank you? I probably should have.

“What?” I asked.

“Do you not want my help?” she asked shortly, and I could tell she was pissed off. I cringed.

“Of course I do, I just—”

“Do you think I’m helping just because I care about you?” she asked, cutting me off. I didn’t know what to say.


“Charlie, I actually believe in what you’re trying to do. I really think you can make a difference, and I want to be a part of that,” she said, forcing herself to speak slowly and patiently. I felt like an idiot.

“I’m gonna be honest, I hadn’t even considered that,” I admitted, looking sheepishly at the wall.

“Well thanks a lot.”

“You’re right, I’m sorry,” I said, annoyed at myself for not being able to say more.

“That’s it?”

“That’s all I’ve got,” I said, shrugging to nobody. No, that wasn’t good enough. I took a deep breath, and tried again. “Rachel, I wouldn’t be able to do this without you, and if I haven’t made you feel like you’re essential, then I’ve let you down. I’m sorry.”

She was silent again. When she spoke again, her tone was a lot lighter, and there was a hint of amusement behind it.

“Can’t you at least be a little defensive?”

“You get less mad at me this way,” I said jokingly, as my heart rate slowly returned to normal.

“That is so manipulative,” she growled cutely.

“So where are you gonna work?” I asked, changing the subject.

“Don’t change the subject,” she said immediately.

“Will it have a cute uniform?”

“Stop it,” she growled again.

“Can I come make puppy dog eyes at you while you work?”

“You’re the worst,” she said, but I could hear the laughter she was trying to surpress. I giggled.

“Can you go out on weekends?” I asked, more seriously.

“No, I have chores,” she said.

“Want to go on a date on Monday, then?” I asked, in my most seductive voice. It was terrible, and I heard her laugh on the other end of the phone.

“…Yes,” she said, trying to sound as reluctant as she could. I stuck my tongue out at her again.

“Wow, that was easy,” I teased.

“Shut up.”

“I love you, Rachel,” I crooned.

“I love you too, idiot,” she said, and hung up. I spent the rest of the morning with a huge grin on my face.


Next Week: Sounds Like Something Out Of A Comic Book

Chapter 24 – I’ll Try Not To Give You A Reason To Scream

10 Months Before Impact Day

Unsurprisingly, Sadie was waiting up for me when I get home. She looked up with reserved enthusiasm when I walked in, using the front door and not bothering with the window, but as soon as she saw my face, her expression turned sour.

“You okay?” she asked, compassion in her eyes.

“Not even a little,” I said, collapsing into my bed.

Sadie climbed onto the bed beside me, sitting with her knees hugged to her chest. She placed a hand on my arm.

“Hey, what’s wrong?”

“It’s about Rachel,” I said, my tone suggesting she probably wouldn’t want to pry any further than that.

“You can tell me,” she said. I craned my neck up to look at her. She smiled back gently.

Sometimes I had to remind myself that Sadie was a genuinely caring and compassionate person. It was difficult when she disagreed with me on so many things, but I did know that she was a good person, and when I wasn’t mad at her, I was proud to have her as a sister.

“We kind of came out to her mum,” I said, my head collapsing back into the bed so I could stare up at the ceiling. Sadie knew enough about Rachel’s home situation to know what that would have entailed.

“The abusive alcoholic? How did that go?” she asked, worried.

“About as well as you’d expect.”

“I’m so sorry,” she said, sounding like she really meant it.

“I don’t know what’s gonna happen now,” I said. I felt completely powerless. I was scared Rachel was going to be taken away from me.

“You’ll make it work somehow,” Sadie said confidently.


“Charlie, I know you,” she said seriously. “You’re the most loyal person I’ve ever seen. You’re resourceful and tenacious. And Rachel is as tough as they come, and she obviously cares a lot about you. If anyone could make this situation work, it’s you two.”

That was a surprise. I hadn’t expected her to be so supportive, not with the way she’d been acting. It was really nice.

“That’s surprisingly optimistic of you,” I said.

“I know I haven’t been your biggest supporter lately,” she said. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. Life’s been crazy lately, and there’s been a lot to adjust to.”

I reached up with my hand, and felt Sadie clasp it, grabbing onto me like I was an anchor. As always, her, skin felt completely normal. If I hadn’t known better, it really would have been so easy to just assume she was just a normal girl.

“And as usual, I am powerless to do anything about it,” she said with a sigh. “I guess fighting you was the only thing I felt like I could do.”

“You wanna do something else?” I asked, an idea suddenly occurring to me. I sat up, enjoying the confused expression on her face.

“Like what?”

“I really need to punch something,” I told her.

“You can’t punch me,” she said, shrinking back.

“No, I mean I’m heading out. I could use an extra pair of eyes, and you might feel better when you see how much safer Rachel has made it all.”

“I was meaning to ask where all that stuff came from…” she muttered, eying the closet where I kept it all.

“Better you don’t know,” I told her.

“Okay, I’ll come with you,” she said, and I grinned happily. “But you can’t get mad at me for screaming again.”

“I’ll try not to give you a reason to scream, then.”

It felt good to have somebody by my side, even if nobody else knew she was there. She wouldn’t be much help in a fight, either, but just knowing I wasn’t alone made a big difference.

I climbed out the window, not wanting to be seen in my ‘combat gear’ as I liked to think of it, and helped her climb out after me. She stretched out dramatically, making a point of how rarely she was able to leave the house. I ignored her, and started walking.

For once, I actually had a pretty good idea of where I wanted to go. I’d done some research, trawling through old news articles and dozens of forums, and managed to figure out the address of a gang safe house. Once I had the address, I’d done more investigating, just to make sure, and I was completely confident about it.

It was an exciting prospect for me. Stopping petty crimes in progress wasn’t going to make a scrap of difference, not even if I dressed like a bat or left a calling card. They were never going to stop doing what they did because they were scared of one person out there trying to stop them.

Hitting back at them, though, that could really make them think. If they didn’t feel safe in their own territory, maybe they would start to think twice about the line of work they were in. Without the promise of protection, I had to assume the gang life lost a fair amount of appeal.

It was only a theory, but it was a lot more than I’d been working with, and even at worst, it couldn’t make things worse. At least, I hope it wouldn’t make things worse.

Sadie trotted along beside me, enjoying the opportunity to see areas she wasn’t used to being in. It was kind of like taking a puppy for a walk. I smiled at the thought.

It took as us the better part of an hour to reach the address, an apartment complex in a slightly more rundown neighbourhood. It wasn’t anything fancy, and I was able to just walk in and go straight up the stairs.

Realising that we had reached our destination, and the fun part of the night was over, Sadie’s demeanour changed drastically. She kept her lips clamped shut and her shoulders were raised and tense, but to her credit, she didn’t do anything to get in my way.

I stopped in front of the door, taking a second to listen. There were definitely people in there, and I had triple-checked the address. That was all I needed. And this time, I had the element of surprise. I wasn’t going to waste it again.

Slowly, carefully, I checked the door handle. Thankfully, it wasn’t even locked. They were almost making it too easy for me. Not that I was complaining. I grinned at Sadie, who just looked back at me with a confused expression on her face. I pulled a pair of swimming goggles over my eyes.

I opened the door the tiniest amount, listening for any reaction. When nothing changed, I unclipped one of the tear gas grenades, pulled out the pin, and rolled it into the room. I shut the door as quietly as I could, trying to get as much time before they noticed as possible.

It didn’t take long. Within seconds I heard shouts of ‘What the fuck?’ and the pounding of feet against the floor. Show time.

As soon as I heard the door handle begin to turn, I slammed my body into the door, taking whoever was on the other side completely by surprise. They staggered back, and I surveyed the room, keeping my mouth shut. The gas would be somewhat filtered by the ski mask, but I didn’t want to take any chances.

There were eight of them, all coughing and trying to cover their faces. I kicked the door shut again behind me, just as Sadie scrambled inside. No more time to waste.

The guy who was trying to get the door open charged at me, tears streaming down his face. The poor guy never stood a chance. He ran straight into the tip of my baton and buckled over, collapsing to the ground as his lungs struggled to inhale as much air as they could. Unfortunately for him, the air was full of tear gas.

Someone was trying to get the window open. I pulled out my pistol, already loaded with rubber bullets, and fired at her. The shot hit her in the side of the ribcage, and she was thrown off her feet, crying out as she hit the ground.

Another guy threw himself at me half-blindly, and it was almost too easy to move out of the way, my foot lashing out at the side of his leg, sending him crashing to the ground. I let him lift his head up just a little, then planted my foot on the back of it and slammed it into the floor. It seemed less barbaric than just kicking him in the head, and less likely to cause permanent damage.

Another person made a run for the door, and I slammed the baton into their throat, their own momentum delivering most of the force. They fell over backwards, the back of their head smashing into the ground.

With half of them already down for the count, and the other half struggling to cope with the gas filling the room, there was no challenge in taking care of the rest of them. When I was done, all eight were unconscious, and though more than one of them would need medical attention, it still felt like a victory to me.

I rounded up every weapon I could find in the place, stuffing them into a garbage bag. I also found wads of cash, and I took those as well, though I planned on actually using the cash. The weapons I was just going to dispose of, so nobody could use them.

A knock at the door surprised me, and I whipped around, holding the pistol aimed right at the entryway. If it was more of them, I was prepared. But what if it wasn’t?

When I didn’t respond, there was another knock, followed by somebody shouting “This is the police, open up!” and more knocking.

“Shit!” I hissed, panicking. What was I supposed to do about police? Getting into a fight with them wouldn’t do me any favours, but there was no way they were going to let me just walk away.

“What are we going to do?” Sadie whimpered. My mind was racing.

“What floor are we on?” I asked her. I already knew, but I needed her to confirm it for me, because I didn’t trust myself.

“Four…” she said hesitantly.

“Alright, good. Sorry in advance, sis. You’re not gonna like this.”

Before she could object, I dropped the garbage bag full of weapons, turned, and sprinted towards the window. I threw it up just as the police burst through the door and vaulted out, trying to at least angle it so I was falling feet first.

A wave of vertigo washed over me, but it was gone as soon as it came, and I hit the ground before I even realised it was there. The shock burst upwards through my legs, but somehow I managed not to break anything. At least, I didn’t think I’d broken anything.

The second I was able to move again, I was running. Looking back over my shoulder, I saw Sadie in the window. She hesitated, then jumped out after me, landing gracefully on her feet. Well, it wasn’t like she could even get hurt.

I slowed down just enough to let her catch up with me, and the two of us ran together even though we knew the cops weren’t chasing us. There was no way they would have been able to get down in time, and with a scene like the one I left for them, they probably figured there were bigger priorities anyway.

When we finally made it home, I stripped off all my combat gear and tossed in the back of my closet, making a mental note to figure out a stealthy way to clean it, or at least let it air out, because it was rank. I grabbed a t-shirt and clean underwear, and treated myself to a long, hot shower.

When I made it back to my room, Sadie was glaring at me, her arms folded across her chest. What had I done to set her off this time?

“What the hell was that?” she demanded, bristling.

“It was the only way out I could think of on short notice,” I said, shrugging.

“Not that, though that was incredibly stupid,” she said. “I’m talking about what you did to those people!”

“I did what I had to do,” I told her.

“Nothing about that was necessary. Charlie, you really scared me in there. It was like you were a different person.”

What was that supposed to mean? A different person? No, she just didn’t want to accept that I was strong enough to do what it took to make a difference.

“I never expected you to understand,” I said coldly. “I just wanted your support.”

“No, Charlie, this isn’t about what you did. I’ve never been in a fight, so I don’t know what it’s like. But Charlie, you were enjoying it. You probably hospitalised half those people, and you enjoyed it. Tell me that’s not messed up.”

“What do you mean, ‘enjoyed it’?” I asked. I didn’t recall enjoying myself. I was just doing what I had to do. “How could you even tell?”

“Because I’m always watching you. I don’t need to see your face to know what your expression is, and I don’t need to be a mind reader to know what you’re feeling,” she said.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said defiantly.

“Well, I’m coming with you next time, too,” she said, just as stubborn as I was. “Clearly you need a voice of reason.”

I didn’t say anything about that. I just stepped past her, getting into bed and turning the light off.


Next Week: I’ve Let You Down

Chapter 23 – We Are Not A Family

10 Months Before Impact Day

My heart was pounding as we stood on the front porch of Rachel’s house, her hand wrapped firmly in mine. It was obvious she was just as nervous as I was, probably a whole lot more. I gave her hand a reassuring squeeze, and kissed her gently on the cheek. She took a deep breath, let go of my hand, and pushed open the front door.

Rachel’s mother was waiting for us, sitting facing the front door like a predator in wait. Rachel stiffened when she saw her, but pushed through it, stepping aside to let me inside beside her. I felt her mother’s glare shift over to me, her eyes running up and down my body, judging me.

She was a surprisingly thin woman, given how much she drank and how little else she did. She looked almost frail, with sunken eyes and slightly gaunt skin. Her hair was thin and messy, the same dark colour as Rachel’s but with none of the same lustre or shape. Her face was a perpetual sneer, and I was having a hard time picturing any other emotion on it.

As soon as Rachel shut the door, the woman almost shouted her questions.

“Where have you been? And who’s this?” she demanded, turning her nose up at me.

“Sorry, Mum,” Rachel said meekly. “This is Charlie. We were hanging out.”

“You know you’re to come straight home after school. And you can’t just bring a friend home with you, especially not at this time of night,” she scolded. It wasn’t even that late, I thought, but didn’t say anything.

“She’s… She’s not a friend, Mum,” Rachel said, wavering for only a second.

“What? Who is she, then?”

“She’s my girlfriend,” Rachel said with equal parts fear and pride. Her mother looked stunned, then furious.

“No, she isn’t,” she said defiantly, shaking her head.

“Mum, you can’t—” Rachel began, but her mother cut her off.

“Don’t you talk back to me. And don’t you dare lie to me, either.”

“Mum, I’m not lying,” Rachel tried again. “Charlie and I—”

“Are too young to know what you’re doing,” she said. I felt Rachel’s hand in mine, and I squeezed it. It was all I could think to do. “And you, get your filthy hands off my daughter!”

“Mum!” Rachel shouted.

“I’m not letting go,” I said, trying to keep my voice even. “You can’t intimidate me.”

“How dare you,” she spat. “In my house, in front of my daughter.”

“Mum, please,” Rachel pleaded.

“No. This is not okay,” her mother said viciously. “I raised you better than this, you ungrateful—”

“Shut up!” I yelled. Rachel pulled on my arm, shaking her head.

“Charlie, don’t.”

“You’re just going to let her talk to you like that?” I asked, stupefied.

“Yes, I am. She needs to say how she feels. Shutting her up won’t change anything,” Rachel said evenly.

“You, you nasty little dyke. Get the hell out of my house, and don’t you ever come here again,” her mother said, practically hissing. “And stay away from my daughter.”

“No, Mum. You can’t do this,” Rachel said, on the verge of tears. Not stepping in was the hardest thing I’d ever done, but I knew Rachel would never forgive me. She had to deal with this in her own way, and I knew it.

“So long as you’re living under my roof, you’ll do what I tell you,” her mother barked.

“I do nothing but what you tell me!” Rachel cried. “I have lived by your bullshit rules without ever once complaining, and I do everything for you!”

“Don’t you use that language with me,” her mother said, shrinking back a little.

“Fuck you,” Rachel said meekly. Then, with more confidence, “Fuck you. I’ve put up with your drunken tirades, your shitty boyfriends and your fucked up rules for long enough.”

That time, the woman actually did hiss. Then she bristled, spreading herself out like a frightened animal.

“How dare you. I have raised you on my own for fifteen years. I have sacrificed everything for you.”

“You didn’t raise me, you tolerated me,” Rachel shot back, her confidence growing. “We tolerated each other. We are not a family.”

I knew how much it hurt her to say that. I knew that she didn’t even believe it, not really, but she wanted more than anything to hurt her mother.

“I am the only family you have,” her mother said.

“I wish I didn’t even have you,” Rachel snapped.


“No, fuck you,” she said again. I’d never heard her swear so much in one conversation. If you could call this a conversation. “I wish you were dead, you spiteful old hag!”

Rachel was shaking, tears running down her face. I squeezed her hand again, and with my other hand, rubbed her back, instinctively wanting to calm her down.

“Okay Rachel, just remember to breathe, okay?” I whispered, and she nodded, taking a deep breath.

“Get your hands off my daughter!” Rachel’s mum shrieked.

“Don’t talk to my girlfriend like that!” Rachel shouted back.

“She is not your girlfriend, you’re just confused, and that’s why you’re saying these things—”

“I am not confused!” Rachel bellowed, loud enough for the neighbours to hear. “I love her.”

Her declaration surprised me, though not as much as the voracity with which she said it. Her hand was still in mine, and she squeezed me tightly even as the rest of her body trembled.

“I don’t believe you,” her mother said, shaking her head.

“I don’t care. I don’t care about anything you say,” Rachel told her, still shaking.

“And what about you, girl?” her mother asked, addressing me. “Do you love her, too?”

I felt like a deer in the headlights. Why was she trying to drag me back into things? How was I supposed to stay quiet when she did?

“You’re talking to me now?” I asked, avoiding the question.

“Leave her out of this,” Rachel said coldly.

“Answer the question,” her mum said, ignoring her.

“Yes, I love her,” I said, feeling it more strongly than ever before. I did love Rachel, and I would do anything to protect her.

Her mother shook her head, a look of defeat on her face. She looked like she was on the verge of tears too, though I didn’t exactly have a lot of sympathy for her.

“Then there is nothing more I can do for either of you,” she said wearily. “Charlie, go home. Rachel, go to bed. I will decide how best to deal with this in the morning.”

With that, she walked out of the room. Rachel looked like she was going to say something, but held her tongue. Once we were alone, she fell into me, burrowing into my chest and sobbing. I held her against me, wrapping my arms around her, trying to shield her from anything else that might hurt her, and just let her cry.

After a while, the crying began to calm down, and we just stood there, holding each other. When she stopped trembling, I rubbed her back.

“Hey, it’s okay. You did your best.”

“Why does she have to be like that?” Rachel asked, her voice hoarse.

“I don’t know. People aren’t usually that simple. There are probably a lot of complicated reasons why she is the way she is,” I told her. Personally, I would have preferred to just call the woman a horrid bitch and be done with it, but I knew that wasn’t what Rachel needed.

“Why do you have to be so rational about it?” she asked, sniffing.

“Because otherwise I would just want to punch her in the face,” I answered, semi-seriously. Rachel laughed softly.

“Heh. Thank you for being there for me,” she said, hugging me tightly.

“Sorry I couldn’t keep my mouth shut.”

“I’m impressed you lasted as long as you did,” she said, laughing again.

“I shouldn’t have said anything at all,” I groaned, remembering telling her mother to shut up. Not a great first impression.

“I’m glad you did,” Rachel said warmly.


“It was nice to hear, whether or not it was true,” she said softly. I was confused. What was she talking about?

“What are you talking about?”

“You… You said you loved me,” she said timidly, blushing and burying her face again.

“I do love you,” I said, still surprised.

“Heh, idiot.”

“You said it first,” I countered, holding her against me.

“Not exactly how I thought it would come out,” she said a little morose.

“Kind of suits us, though,” I said.


“You know, you don’t have to stay here,” I said, hopefully. “You can stay with me, I’m sure Mark wouldn’t mind.”

“No, it’s okay. This is my battle to fight, and I’m going to fight it. I’ll make her understand eventually. I can’t just leave things like this.”

I nodded, disappointed. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I understood why she did. All I could do was support her.

“Well, I am always here if you need me, okay?”

“Thank you, Charlie,” she said, hugging me again. “Now, go home before she comes back to yell at us again, okay?”

“You sure you’re gonna be okay?” I asked.

“No, but I’ll survive,” she said, brutally honest. It hurt to hear, but I was still glad for it. “Just like you.”

“I love you, Rachel,” I told her, squeezing her into me.

“I love you too, Charlie,” she whispered back.


Next Week: I’ll Try Not To Give You A Reason To Scream