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The Bottle Cap

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Daisy wrestled with sleep that night, and lost miserably. It was one of those nights where you slip in and out of consciousness to the point where you can't separate the sleep from the wake, nor the nightmare from the reality. When she closed her eyes, all she saw was the way Olivia looked at her-- or rather, the way she hadn't. She replayed her brown eyes, darting just past the camera; her hands, hugging her waist and tugging her hair; her cheeks, still damp, still red. The logical side of Daisy wanted to believe that it was because the group had mostly missed her birthday party. But the small voice tucked deeper in her brain had a hunch that there was something more to it, and that small belief killed her.

Olivia, who always wore a sunshine smile. Olivia, who was the first at your side when you needed someone. Olivia, who she'd never seen cry before.

Daisy eyed her cell phone with underlying dread, toggling between her DMs with Felix to hers with Olivia. Who to approach first? She bit her lip until the familiar taste of copper hit her tongue, and she winced. She really needed to start working to break that habit.

NotDaisy: hey felix can we talk pls

 

FelixJacobs1: Sure. What's the problem?

 

NotDaisy: it's about olivia

 

FelixJacobs1: Oh? What about her?

 

NotDaisy: ur kidding right?

 

FelixJacobs1: ...No?

 

Daisy's grip on her phone tightened as she tried not to flip her shit on Felix. She needed to give him a little grace; he wasn't the only one who didn't show up. Besides, it's not like this was the first time his stupidity has led to situations like these. The dude was crazy book-smart, yes, but that didn't exactly translate to emotional intelligence.

 

NotDaisy: why didn't you show up to her meeting thing?

 

FelixJacobs1: Aw man... I totally forgot about that. I was busy studying for an exam I have on Friday.

 

Screw giving him grace-- Daisy was prepared to kill a man. She ground her teeth together as she typed her next message, fingers flying across the screen.

 

NotDaisy: holy shit felix. what do you mean you forgot, how the hell could you

 

Daisy took several deep breaths, clenching and unclenching her fists. This was something to address as a group, not something to drag Felix for.

 

NotDaisy: you know what, it's not my problem

                I need your help to set something up for her 

 

FelixJacobs1: Set something up?

 

NotDaisy: yeah,, I was the only one who showed up. she was really upset about it. really upset

                 I've never seen her like that

 

FelixJacobs1: Oh. I don't think I've ever seen Olivia upset before.

                       Sure, I'll help.

                      What do you have in mind?

 


 

group chat: the sweet shop six (6)

 

FelixJacobs1: Hello @everyone. Daisy and I wanted to set up a time later today for the six of us to get on call and play UNO, considering most of us were unable to go to Olivia's birthday Zoom last night. What say you?

 

BESTOFTHEBEST: "what say you"🤓

 

FelixJacobs1: That is what I said.

 

KingJulian: lmao cut him some slack naya

 

NotDaisy: um,,, did you all miss the part where felix was inviting you to an Olivia Birthday Do-Over? or are we ignoring that too?

 

PrincessKath: Omg!! Sounds like fun, I'm in!!!!! ❤️

 

NotDaisy: thanks katherineanyone else?

 

olivia<3: Guys it's ok, I get it. It's alright. You don't have to plan a do-over or anything. I mean, Daisy was there!! :)

 

NotDaisy: I know we don't have to. but we are

 

BESTOFTHEBEST: wait what games are we gonna be playing???

 

KingJulian: I was wondering the same thing ^^^

 

PrincessKath: Oh also! What time? Just so I know 🥰

 

FelixJacobs1: It will be at 3:00.

 

KingJulian: 👍

 

olivia<3: Wait, you guys are really doing this?

 

NotDaisy: yes

 

BESTOFTHEBEST: can't wait guys

                             cya

 


 

Olivia's eyes didn't leave the chat for a good while. She didn't know what to make of it; it was a tempest of mixed signals and hypocrisy. She wasn't crazy, right? One minute, everyone's missing her birthday, and the next they're all eagerly agreeing to get on call? What's different this time? Is it because Daisy's asking and not her?

Probably. Why would they want to celebrate your birthday anyway?

No. Daisy said this was a do-over of her birthday. As in, this was still for her. Right? Olivia's brow furrowed and she massaged her temples, rising off of her bed for the first time that day. It was all too much to think about. She paced her room, trying to untangle the mess she was presented with. What was the motivation here? Did something shift and she missed it?

Do they care?

"Daisy, why would you do this?" she muttered to herself, approaching her bathroom. Her eyes avoided her reflection in the mirror in a practiced fashion, gliding over to the cup by the faucet. After filling it with water, she splashed it on her face, letting it down her cheeks like icy fingers. It was oddly comforting, in a way. It felt familiar, like staring up at the sky and letting the rain soak her to the bone, knowing she had a warm house to run back to. Where was the house now?

Olivia sunk to the floor by her sink, still holding the cup in her hand. The plastic rolled between right and left, and she watched it intently: chin on knees, hair in front of eyes, expression blank. She stayed this way for a while, but it felt like no time had passed at all. Time is a weird thing, right? She thought of her clock, wondering what time it was. Her mind flickered to what was pinned to the wall beside it. Involuntarily, she flinched. What time was it? How much was left? She wish she didn't know the answer.

"Nineteen." Her voice sounded like sandpaper against a stone.

They say time flies when you're having fun, but Olivia wasn't. So why was it all slipping through her fingers? It felt weird, wanting everything to freeze. Weirder still, wanting for something she knew would not happen. She had wanted so desperately to prove herself wrong, only to have played the fool for four aching years. Four years full of ignorance, interrupted. 

She could be Hollywood famous for all of the acting she had done.

Too bad she didn't have the time.

 


 

Daisy watched the clock with an intensity that rivaled that of a volcano. She certainly felt like one, bubbling and stewing, pressure building up as she stared down the passing seconds. It was two minutes to three, and she sat alone in the group call.

Suddenly, a small ding pierced the tension.

"Daisy!!" an unmistakable voice squealed. "It's been so long! How are you? I've missed you!"

Daisy gave a small smile in return. It was weird to see Katherine so excited to see her-- the two had a history of not particularly getting along. They were still friends, of course, but they rarely hung out one-on-one. The likelihood of a fight breaking out went up the longer they were alone together. She couldn't deny, however, that for a brief moment she forgot all about her anger and was glad to see her idealistic friend.

"I missed you too, Kath. Your hair's gotten so long."

"Yeah, I'm having a bit of a Rapunzel moment. I don't trust myself to try cutting my own hair." She giggled at her comment, covering her mouth with her hand.

The other group members filed in one after another after that, Felix joining first, then Eugene, then Naya, and finally, Olivia. She entered with her camera off and her microphone muted, and it took a couple of minutes before she turned it on. Daisy tuned out of the conversation to observe her.

Olivia was back on her bed, cross legged, wearing her signature smile. Her hair was tied up neatly, unlike how it'd been the prior night. Overall, she looked fairly normal, and most would see nothing but everyday Olivia-- but Daisy had seen her the night before. She witnessed the breaking; she knew to look harder. Upon further inspection, she noticed the circles under Olivia's eyes, like bruises, hidden beneath her strategically placed bluelight glasses. Her clothes were heavily wrinkled, and she was wearing the same outfit she'd been wearing yesterday. Her bedroom was dark-- the curtains were clearly drawn tight. Daisy also noted with curiosity the pile of books and letters shoved haphazardly into her bookshelf barely in frame behind her.

"Excellent, we're all here." Felix adjusted his own glasses, and grinned at the group. Eugene and Naya whooped and hollered through the screen, and Katherine applauded gently.

"Yeah! Sorry I didn't make it to the OG party, Livs." Naya shrugged and stuck her tongue out at her comment. Daisy bit back her sharp reply, knowing that it wouldn't help. That didn't stop her from noticing the way Olivia's smile flickered.

"Livs? When's the last time you called me that, Naya?" Olivia rolled her eyes jokingly, and Naya laughed along with her. Daisy's eyes narrowed. Her interactions with her friends had never felt as staged as they did right then. It made her wonder: had things always been like this?

"Anyway," Daisy interrupted the odd interaction, "we should get started. I think Felix mentioned Uno? Does that work for everyone?"

The group all exchanged nods, agreeing to the classic game. In no time at all, a match was fired up and the friends were thrown into the heat of battle. In moments, Daisy was all but distracted from her main goal of observing Olivia, more focused on bringing an end to Naya's reign of terror; she'd won two consecutive rounds and stood to win a third if she didn't take her down. She gave herself excuses: Olivia seemed to be having fun too. Maybe Daisy had been reading too much into things? If people missed her birthday she would've been upset, too. Olivia crying doesn't automatically mean something deeper was afoot.

But that's all they were: excuses. And deep down, Daisy knew that, too.

"WOOOOO!!" Naya's victory cheer was loud and grainy through the speaker's of Daisy's laptop, and she rushed to turn down the volume. "Another victory for the reigning champion! Bow down, plebs! Up for another round? Just be prepared for me to kick your asses yet again!" Naya cracked her knuckles and started running in place in front of her camera, as if gearing up for battle. The girl was relentless.

"You're going down this time! I swear it. Your luck is running out, Jensen," Eugene cried dramatically, waving his fist at Naya, who had begun doing a victory lap around her bedroom. Felix rolled his eyes and muttered to himself about cheating and something about the luck of the draw. 

"This is so much fun!" Katherine clapped her hands, and the others stopped plotting vengeance to agree with her.

"I really missed you guys, I'm glad we could do this." Eugene gave a thumbs up to his screen, and Felix nodded enthusiastically, giving a thumbs up back. Katherine smiled.

"I'm almost glad we all missed Olivia's birthday yesterday so that we could all come together to do this as a group instead!"

Daisy had been watching Olivia's screen absently when the words left Katherine's mouth. She'd seen everything. The way Olivia's face dropped. The way her eyes turned dull and glassy, the same brand of hopeless they had been when Daisy found her, broken and lifeless alone on her birthday. The way her hands found her waist, her hair, pulling and tugging at her body like she could pull the skin right off of it. Like she wanted to disappear into the mess of it all.

There was a silence that fell over everyone, as they all took in the words with varying degrees of shock. It took a minute for Daisy's blood to boil-- she hadn't fully absorbed the weight of the words yet. She had time to watch the way Katherine sat, confused at everyone's surprise. The way Felix and Eugene's jaws dropped. The way Naya's hand slapped over her mouth with such a loud noise that it would surely leave a mark. Then, the grace period was over.

"What the hell did you just say?" Daisy's voice was dangerously low. The lack of volume was the worst part; it held the power of a dam within it, seconds from bursting. Katherine realized in that moment that she'd messed up, and the emotions that washed over her face were almost pitiful.

"Oh my goodness, wait, no. I'm sorry. I didn't mean--"

"What? Katherine? What didn't you mean?" Daisy's voice rose with every word, but remained sharp and contained. The threat of snapping loomed over everyone's head like an anvil. "You know what, no. I don't care what you meant. I want the answer to a different question. Why weren't you at Olivia's party yesterday? Hm?"

The lack of response was borderline painful. Daisy's face was a death sentence. Katherine was tearing up, desperately trying to backtrack.

"I... I... My dad, he... he got COVID and--"

"Okay, Katherine. Your dad got COVID. Is he in any real danger from it?" Katherine shook her head. "That's good. I'm glad. Good for him." Her words were laced in sarcasm and they stung like a slap to the face. "So. Why weren't you there?"

"Well, you know, just because he's not in huge danger doesn't mean that I wasn't concerned. He's my dad. I just wanted to take care of--"

"Katherine." Daisy barked. Katherine's mouth shut immediately. Even through the screen, she looked bone white. Everyone else in the call watched in stunned silence; Olivia's camera was off again. "I don't care. You have a phone. Use it. You could have texted." Daisy's eyes raked the other screens, disgusted. "YOU ALL COULD HAVE TEXTED."

"Listen, Daisy," Eugene put his hands up, trying to calm her down.

"I don't want to hear it from you, Eugene! What was your excuse? What were any of your excuses? I don't care. I was the only one there, and I was late. There are five. FIVE OF US. How did none of you think to maybe tell Olivia that you wouldn't be able to make it?" The girl had begun tearing up at this point, but ignored it. There was only one thing she cared about. To hell with anyone who noticed that she was crying. "She sat in that call for forty-five minutes before I got there. Alone. Waiting for her friends, who hadn't even bothered to tell her that they weren't coming. Could you imagine? And now you have the audacity to play games and laugh and talk about how you missed her, when you haven't even said sorry? None of you even mentioned yesterday. I cannot believe you. Any of you."

Katherine sobbed into her hands, and Daisy watched her without remorse. The others were all sitting guiltily, hanging their heads or wringing their hands as they were forced to stare the consequences of their actions in the eye.

"I'm so sorry," Katherine choked out in between sobs, without looking up from her hands.

"We all are," Naya muttered, kicking something in the back of her room, "but that was a really oblivious thing to say, even for you, Katherine." The last part was quiet, intended for no one to hear.

But Naya was never very good at being quiet.

"No. Shut the hell up Naya, you don't get to talk about being oblivious, okay?" Daisy snapped at her, and Naya cocked her head in confusion at the comment. "You, of all people, should have been there." She gave the soccer player a pointed look that Daisy knew she wouldn't be able to decode.

"What does that mean?"

Felix winced and started, "Hey, Daisy, this isn't the best time to bring up--"

"Felix, stay in your goddamn lane." The words were spat viciously, but were effective, and Felix's mouth flattened into a thin line. "Naya, have some freaking common sense. Do you pay any attention at all to the way Olivia talks to you? You ever think about how..." Daisy paused, breathing heavily, as if the words pained her. "You ever think about how it's different than the way she talks to any of us?"

"What?" The words were miniature enigmas to Naya, and it was killing Daisy slowly. She bit her lip as Naya started rambling excuses, and she bit it harder when Felix started talking, and she noticed the blood of an opened wound when Katherine and Eugene's voices layered in. The last bit of Daisy's self control vanished with the silence.

"You are the most oblivious person on the planet Naya Jensen! I hate you! I hate you all!"

"That's not fair!"

"You were late to the meeting! You don't get to talk."

"Let Olivia speak for herself."

"You're blowing this out of proportion!"

"Let's just all calm down."

"Stop arguing!"

"You're an idiot!"

The voices were loud, and hot, and they screamed until the words tangled together into an unintelligible mess of accusations and arguments, until a familiar noise cut through the mess like a hot knife. It all petered out the second Olivia left the call. Everyone stared at the spot on their screens where her black one had been, silent and cold and listening. The realization crept down their spines individually, and a collective shiver overtook them as they registered the severity of what had happened.

And they all sat for a minute.

And they all forgot to breathe.

And they all ignored each other when, one by one, they left the call, soaked in silence and regret and an unspoken shift in what had once been so secure.