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sugar, we're going down

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“You ready for this?”

She closed her eyes and took a breath. In and out, nice and slow, as if she had any more deciding left to do. “I think so.” As if she had any other choice.

“You scared?”

“Yeah.” Barely a whisper, then. She kept her eyes closed.

“It’s alright, Olivia. I’m scared too. But we’ll be right beside each other the whole time. Best friends forever, right?”

A hand on her own, cold and clammy.

“You said it. Best friends forever.”

She finally opened her eyes. Liberty was looking at her, teary-eyed but smiling all the same. She was beautiful, like a star burning bright before it extinguished for good.

“I’ll go first, okay? And then you follow. Think of it like...I’ll be there to welcome you home.”

She laughed. “You think Satan will let us have two stories and a white picket fence?” Liberty rolled her eyes, which made her laugh harder.

“Ugh, I’ve had enough of white picket fences to last me an eternity. Give me stuffy inner city lofts or give me death – wait.” A glance over the bridge’s railing. “I guess we know the answer to that, huh?”

And then she was back to crying. Great. “I’ll miss you, Liberty.”

“I know.” One leg over the railing. “But not for long, right?” Two legs over the railing.

“No.” A hand on her own. “Not for long.” A kiss on the knuckles.

“See you soon, Olivia.” A deep breath.

“I’ll see you soon.” An empty space.


“I really don’t know any more than that, officer. She told me she had something to do before she went home, said she’d catch me later. Then I walked home alone.”

“And that was the last time you saw her?”

Her voice caught in her throat, so she nodded instead. The officer didn’t seem to notice her silence, just frowned slightly before writing something down in his notepad.

Last, he’d said. It still hadn’t sunken in yet. Liberty was gone. She was never coming back. And it was all Olivia’s fault.

A new officer was standing in the doorway. He barely spared a glance at Olivia. “Sorry to interrupt, sir, but the preliminary came back.” The officer sat across from her muttered a small give me one moment please before standing up to meet his colleague. They stood outside the not-quite-latched door talking quietly. She still managed to catch most of the conversation.

“No signs of foul play. No verdict on drugs yet, but she wasn’t attacked. She likely either jumped or fell. Did the, uh – her friend tell you anything?”

“Says she doesn’t have the slightest clue.”

“The mother thinks she knows something. You get that feeling?”

“Hard to say. We don’t have anything to hold her, though, and it’s not looking like anything’s gonna turn up.” There was silence for a few seconds. “You go break the news to the mother, I’ve got to send this kid home.”

“Got it, sir.”

And then he was sitting across from her again, smiling like he hadn’t just told his colleague she was a suspect in the death of her own best friend. “Well, Olivia, you’re free to go. Your step-mother should still be waiting out front.”

“Thank you, officer.”

“Give me a call if you remember anything else, alright?”

“I will. Thank you, officer.”

She saw the other cop talking to Liberty’s mom in the lobby. They made eye contact over his shoulder before Olivia quickly bowed her head. She wasn’t quick enough to miss the woman’s furious whispers, though.

“That bitch killed my daughter, I’m certain of it.”

“We don’t know that, ma’am.”

I know it. And you’re just going to let her walk free?”

“There’s no evidence against her.”

Wow, these floor tiles were fascinating. When the fluorescent lights hit them just right...Dirt encrusted linoleum was a good look for them. A lot better than the grieving rage of your dead best friend’s mother.

Fuck.

The car ride home wasn’t much better. Her step-mother didn’t say a word, hardly even looked at her. Probably too busy thinking about all the rumors she’d have to dodge at work to actually care that a girl she knew was dead. Probably just waiting for it to blow over, like she did for all of Olivia’s “outbursts.”

It wasn’t an unfamiliar feeling, but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt. She’d spent the past ten years of her life being blamed for her mother’s suicide, now she’d spend the rest of it being blamed for her best friend’s as well. All because she didn’t have the courage to go with them.

She was born a coward and she’d die one, too. Just not fucking soon enough.

Chapter Text

An alarm clock beeping. Birds chirping. The quiet sounds of employees in cars headed to their morning shifts. A sigh.

Deandra woke up.

A quick glance around the room told her she was still in the one place she did not want to be: that copy-pasted suburban home in the middle of Bumfuck Nowhere, California. A year and two thousand miles away from any semblance of freedom.

It wasn’t pleasant, but she knew there wasn’t much she could do about it at the moment. She’d bring it up to her mom, they’d argue, and nothing would come of it.

...Not that she ever let that stop her.

“Okay, Deandra, I get it.”

“All I’m saying, mom, is if you wanna be a writer in this country you have to live in New York.”

“I understand what you’re saying.” Deandra knew that was probably true. Like, really, how many times can one person stand to hear the same argument repeated? “But you understand our situation, right? If I could let you live with your father for the last year and a half of high school—”

“I can live with my father for the last year of high school.”

“—Then I would let you live with him.”

“He said I could...which should be enough, because he’s my father and my guardian.”

“No, he’s not.” Flat. Unamused. That wasn’t new, either.

Deandra pretended to be shocked. “Am I learning a deep, dark family secret?” Her mother scoffed. “Is my dad not really my dad? Is it a dad I’ve never met before?”

“You’re cute. Especially when you’re argumentative—which, lucky for you, is literally all the time. Anyway, your father is your father, but he’s not your guardian. I am. And I’m telling you, as soon as you graduate, if you get into the right school, with the right scholarship, then you can absolutely move to New York.”

If she gets into the right school. If she gets the right scholarship. If she graduates high school. If she makes it that far.

“I wanna go now , Mom. I’m ready now.”

“I know, but it’s not realistic, okay? I can’t afford boarding school for you there, and with your father out of the country so often...I can’t leave you alone in his empty apartment in New York City. We’re moving to Willoughby because I got a job here, it’s got a great school...and because of what happened at your last school.”

A groan. “Oh my gosh.” She stared out the window to hide her massive eye roll.

“You remember, don’t you? Your little tell-all about the principal having a threesome with both English teachers. And then you posted it on the school paper.”

“Well, it was true. The whole soccer team walked in on him.”

“That may be the case, but it’s not appropriate for a school newspaper.”

“I just think the whole school should know what’s going on, Mom. ‘The truth matters,’ right?”

“Now you sound like your father.”

“Is that a bad thing?” She kept her tone playful.

“No, it’s not.” Her mother glanced at her sideways. “You still can’t go to New York to live with him, though.”

Ugh. “Didn’t you ever watch Ginger Snaps, Mom? The suburbs drive teenage girls like me insane.”

“Film reference you think I don’t get, real cute, Deandra.”

They pulled up to the school as she said that. A knot tightened in Deandra’s stomach.

“So you’ll pick me up at 3?”

“Maybe a few minutes after—”

Mom…”

“Alright!”

She definitely wasn’t being picked up at 3.

Students were milling about the front of the school building, as to be expected of a morning crowd. Some stood off to the side chatting but most dragged their feet to their morning classes. Someone handed her a brochure.

Journal club. Seemed interesting enough.

See Deandra, it’s all gonna be fine. Good school, a writing clubeven if you don’t make friends, you’ll still be able to do what you love!

Her self-reassurances never quite seemed to work.

But it was fine. It seemed like hardly anyone even noticed her.

...She felt eyes watching her, all the same.