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Emotional Outlet

Reflections [Working Title]

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Tangential Notes:


To keep myself from despairing too deeply over the editing and rewriting process of 39

[cries deeply], I'm going to be working on a rather self-indulgent story.


When I was 13, I started working on my first large-scale story. I finished it at just under 45k--or, rather, I finished the first part of it at 45k. I have an outline that I had made with over 100 points and it is batshit insane (as one might expect from teenaged me)--there's time travel and at some point it calls for the characters to establish a secret base on Pluto.


The whole thing is pretty inane--why Pluto? Why not any of the other planets? Why do I have a planet with 36 moons? We just don't know. (The answer, of course, is that I liked to start millions of projects too big for my intellect and attention span.) Why are they even time travelling? (This is never addressed in the outline, yet they travel to the past at least four different times.)


Still, I felt bad I had this huge cast of characters left in limbo, and because they were my very first original characters, they have been in limbo for ages. Although I doubt I'll ever return to the original storyline to salvage it, I'll be treating it as mostly canon.


Anyway, the title is lame and will probably change.


I might do a sign-up type story later set in this universe, once I figure out how to make my aliens less lame. I like bandwagons. I wanna be cool too.




Chapter One [Part One]


The bedroom was cosy, bordering on spartan with its limited personal touches. A glass vase with two sun-faded paper flowers attached to bits of wire. An errant comb, a few strands of hair woven into its teeth, next to a small stack of dogeared magazines long since out of date. Windows curtained and shut, the bright sunlight outside was barred entry. The walls were blank, a faded beige that might have been white at some point.


Blank, save for the wall behind the bed. A mirror, wall to wall and floor to ceiling, reflected the room in its entirety. Its surface was clean and unbroken, not a single scratch or speck of dust to be found despite the headboard pushed directly against it, the sheets and comforter on the mattress in disarray.


Felicia’s voice came through the closed door from the hallway, words dampened to murmurs. The door was pushed open, marked by a slight pop as it moved past the frame. She pressed her phone to her ear with her shoulder, a bowl of cereal in her hands. Shadows had formed beneath her eyes, her dark brown hair pulled back into a messy ponytail.


She set the bowl on the nightstand and pushed the blankets aside. “No, I just got back from the lab. What’s up?” She sat down on the bed, perching her feet on the edge of the bed frame.


“Tim.” She let out a breath. “Tim, stop. I don’t think she hates you. Your sister just turned, what, thirty? Thirty-one. She’s been in the spotlight since she was your age—that’s an entire decade in front of the camera, of her name being plastered everywhere in magazines. She’s not as young as she used to be.”


Felicia switched the phone to her other ear and picked up the bowl. She popped a few spoonfuls of cereal into her mouth. The flakes were beginning to get soggy. “Much as I love to hear you suffer,” she said, putting the bowl down, “I don’t think that’s why you called me this early on a Sunday. Early for you, anyway. What’s going on?”


There was a pause as she listened, a grin spreading across her face as she snickered. “Are you kidding me? Come on, isn’t Steve going? Aren’t you guys—” Another pause. The smile on her face immediately disappeared. “Oh. Oh. Shit, I’m sorry. I didn’t… I hope they work it out. Have you asked Amy to go with you? Not my sister, Le—Bev’s daughter. She’s in town for a few weeks, isn’t she?”


Another pause. Felicia rubbed her forehead. “Figures she’d already have plans. All right, all right. I’ll go with you. It’s tomorrow night? Okay. I’ll see you at seven.” She hung up the phone and sighed, staring at the blank screen for a while.


Her eyes flicked to her reflection in the mirror. She put a hand to the glass and, for a moment, she thought that it began to ripple beneath her fingers. Something in her stomach seized and excitement crept up on her. She closed her eyes.


All she felt was its surface, solid as ever. She scolded herself silently for getting worked up and turned on her phone.


The background was somewhat distorted, just a touch too wide for the phone’s resolution. It was a picture of her as a teenager, with a ridiculous head of multi-coloured streaks she absolutely insisted was vital to her personality. Leon was carrying her on his back, a goofy grin on his face.


She frowned.


Here she found herself, sitting on a bed that had seen more people than she would like to admit, a mostly full bowl of cereal waiting for her on the nightstand, staring at an old picture…


And all she could think about was what she was going to wear tomorrow. A welcome distraction to be sure; it would be nice to be able to get away from the house. Felicia cast a sidelong glance at the mirror. Among other things.


She couldn’t shake what had happened. The mirror moved—she was convinced of that much. She dropped the phone on the bed and stood up, taking the bowl.


What more was there for her to do? Wait in front of the mirror for days like she used to? She was years away from sixteen—talking with Tim reminded her of that much. Of course, she was also years away from thirty. A small smile touched her lips.


She left the room, closing the door behind her, pulling it roughly to get it to stay shut.

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Excellent attention to detail, although I am still a bit lost due to the onrush of characters without faces or any real personality traits. Still, will read on as you post more.


Also, time travel is always necessary when used. It doesn't need a reason other than that it is time travel and it is awesome. Same for cool planetary bases, even Superman had one since they are awesome.

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Yes, I'm trying to break my habit of keeping characters mysteriously unnamed until someone says their name, haha. I don't know why or how I picked this habit up, so now I'm going in the opposite direction where it's just names everywhere.


Unfortunately, my writing is and always has been beige, and character description has always been a low priority of mine. Since I'm not especially serious about this endeavor, editing is less of a concern. It's probably going to be an on-going problem until I stop being terrible. The next bit should be a bit better, though.


I haven't written much more than the first couple thousand words and I'm still ripping out extraneous bits, but the pile of meaningless names should get better. Or worse, because this universe has a lot of characters and I'm contemplating murdering a few.




[Part Two]


Tim had texted her when he arrived. Felicia glanced out the window as she packed her purse and saw him in his car, face illuminated by the faint glow of his phone. After a final once-over, she left the house and slipped her keys into her purse.


She tapped at the passenger side window, chuckling to herself as he jumped, the phone tumbling from his hands. Tim leant across and pushed the door open, offering her a roll of his eyes as she got in. The radio was turned low, the banter between the jockeys barely audible.


“Nice dress. You aren’t looking to take anyone home tonight, are you?” He grinned at her.


“Is this a trick question?” Felicia clicked her seatbelt on and settled into her seat as Tim started the car. “Steve’s really not going to be there? Is Ella—”


“She’ll be there later tonight. Or, at least, that’s what she told me when I caught her on lunch the other day.” He rolled his window down. “Venue’s about thirty minutes from here. You used the bathroom already, right?”


Felicia crossed her legs, placing the tips of her fingers primly on her knees. “Drive, good sir, drive. I assure you I have made use of the water closet in anticipation of a lengthy journey.” She settled back into her seat and sighed, pressing her forehead against the cool glass. “It’s been a minute since I’ve seen Erma.”


“You’re telling me. She doesn’t even call to let us know she’s in town. Not that, you know, I blame her.”


They sat in silence for the rest of the trip, the radio still turned low. Felicia stared out the window, watching the blurred shadows of trees and guardrails go by as they travelled down the highway, the last of the sunlight disappearing for the night.




The wind started to pick up when they arrived at the parking garage. Tim slid the stub onto the dash and got out of the car. “Hope you don’t mind a bit of a hike in those shoes. Least the walk back will be sobering.”


“Are you planning on getting drunk?” Felicia followed him to the elevator, her heels clicking loudly. “You’ve been twenty-one for all of two days.”


“I’ve been twenty-one since February, thank you.” The elevator dinged and the doors slid open.


“Forgive me,” she said, leaning against the wall of the elevator as it descended. “I forgot you’re old and wise now. Next year you’ll graduate college and you’ll have infinite knowledge. Tell me your secrets, Tim. Enlighten my mind.”


He grinned, shoving her ahead of him through the elevator door. “I’m sorry, you seem to have gotten some of that sarcasm on my shirt. It’s expensive.”


Felicia slipped her arm around his as they walked to the hotel, just down the street from the garage. People streamed in and out of the building, the sound of music playing beneath their mixed conversations. A gust of wind bit at Felicia’s bare arms and she tightened her grip on Tim.


“We’re on the list this time, right?”


“’Course. Wouldn’t drag you out here if Erma didn’t invite me herself.”


They waited in line in the comfort of the hotel, the music louder and the scent of food plying at Felicia’s appetite. Slowly they moved forward, the line growing ever longer behind them, until finally they stood before the bouncer. She looked at them expectantly. Tim pulled out his wallet and handed her his ID, fidgeting as she checked it.


“Timothy Lee.” She gestured towards Felicia as she handed back his card. “This your plus one?” He nodded. “Go ahead.”


They went through the double doors. The scene before them made Felicia feel, for the first time since arriving, under-dressed. Delicately painted lips and nails, slicked hair and tresses woven into convoluted shapes, tailored suits and sparkling dresses. Tiny hors d’oeuvre and stemware carried on trays were transported between groups, the low rumble of conversation melding with the music. Felicia turned her feet inwards, wishing she hadn’t worn open-toe shoes with unpainted nails.


Tim patted her hand. “You look fine.”


She sniffed. “You’re only saying that because you look more out of place than I do.”


He laughed. “Maybe. Don’t worry so much. Have fun—there’s an open bar, yeah?” Tim started towards the buffet, but she pulled back, shaking her head.


“I’m going to look for Erma.”


He shrugged. “Go ahead. You’ll know where to find me.”


“Masquerading as a pile of women?”


“Can’t fake this charm.”


He grinned and walked away, leaving Felicia to her own devices. She bit her lip, scanning the crowd for familiar faces.


Some she had recognised from other parties, their names a vague jumble at the back of her mind. She wove around groups and passed by tables, trying to listen for Erma's voice midst the others. Hunger gnawing at her, she paused to partake in what appeared to be popcorn and bits of cheese speared onto a toothpick.


It wasn’t long before she found Erma sitting at one of the tables. She spoke intimately with a young man at her side, the rest of the group seeming to ignore them. There was a moment Felicia considered turning away and pretending she hadn’t seen anything, but the more she watched Erma play with her hair and stroke the man’s arm, the less she wanted to turn away. Pulling in a deep breath, she walked up to the table.

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UUUUUUUUUUH! TIme travel's not my favourite but you've got my attention with this one!!!!!!! Wanna read some more soon!!!!!!!!! (Please don't mind my exclamation marks......I'm missing a certain precious book of mine and I can't rest easy until I get it back into my hands - sorry for my blabbling :( )

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I heard that line from somewhere before, but I can't remember where. Tim is my favourite, though, even when he was twelve. He deserves more than he got (which, I think, was to fade into obscurity as the rest of the cast took over the plot).


There is actually no time travel in this story, or probably ever. I am not treating my insane outline as canon, haha. There are a lot of things wrong with the universe I built up, so the aliens and all that are undergoing a bit of a makeover as I progress on this magic carpet ride. Time travel would be more of a headache, lul. There are only so many flagrant abuses of science a fantasy story can take, and I think unexplained interplanetary travel is all the abuse I can afford.




[Part Three]


“Erma,” she said, in a voice she hoped came across as friendly and sincere. The woman looked up at her and, without missing a beat, stood up and smiled, holding her arms out for a hug. She stepped into her arms and tried desperately not to be too stiff.


“Felicia.” She pulled away. If she suspected anything was wrong, there was no indication that she thought so—as might be expected of a seasoned actress, Felicia supposed. “How are you, dear? I haven’t seen you in ages.”


She shook her head. “I’ve been fine. Tim brought me along for tonight.”


“Oh? Where’s he at? Too good to talk to his big sister?”


She smiled. “No, he specifically told me he would be at the bar for the night.” Felicia glanced down at the young man, who had turned his attention to the woman on his other side. She cleared her throat. “Mind if we go somewhere to talk? I’d love to catch up for a few minutes.”


That caught her off-guard, if only momentarily, and Felicia was glad she caught the slight twitch of her eyebrow. Erma gave a smile and nodded. “Of course, darling. Let’s step out to the gazebo.” She picked up her drink and together they headed outside, stopping occasionally when Erma was flagged for a brief conversation.


“It’s a bit chilly,” Erma said.


The area around the gazebo was well-maintained, the flowers appearing to be perfect pictures of health as leaves on the trees were already turning colours. As they walked, Felicia plucked a leaf from a low-hanging branch, spinning it between her thumb and forefinger. “They have a fire over there. We should be fine. I do so love early autumn, but sometimes it just reminds me that winter is around the corner.”


They sat down next to each other at the gazebo. Erma leant in towards the fire while Felicia leant back against the support beam. There was a moment’s silence between them, interrupted only by the occasional crackle from the fire. Felicia began to pull the leaf apart, smiling at the slight crunching it made. She dropped the rest of the leaf and looked at Erma.


“Tim tells me things are rough with Steve.” She looked at Erma, trying to gauge her reaction.


“Big mouth, that boy.” Her tone was fairly even, though perhaps tinged with some annoyance. “Did he tell you why? Or what he thinks is the problem?”


“No. I know… I know how different things can be from the inside. What’s going on?”


She sighed and leant back, looking over at Felicia. A half-smile was on her lips, though it looked more sad than anything. Her eyes had lost that social twinkle she saw earlier, replaced by exhaustion.


“I’m getting older, honey. I want to have kids.”


Felicia quirked an eyebrow, but said nothing.


“Can you imagine?” She let out a harsh breath, lifting her eyes up to the gazebo’s ceiling. “He always told me, ‘Little star, there’s nothing we can’t overcome.' Lot of good that does now.”


Felicia crossed her legs, suddenly interested in smoothing out the fabric of her dress. Erma’s story wasn’t heading down a path she had anticipated. Every gust of wind and rustling of leaves set her at edge as she listened.


“I very well couldn’t try to reach out to them. They would just want me to come… home.” She laughed bitterly. “Of course. Long lost daughter finally decides to drop the facade and return home to her real family. To be honest, I thought about it.”


“Erma, you—”


She waved her away. “I wouldn’t, don’t worry. Ella would have my head if I left her. I couldn’t leave my sister even if I wanted to. But there were nights I sat up late, holding my necklace, knowing that if I just…” Her hand went to the chain around her neck briefly before dropping back to her lap. She pursed her lips, eyes still turned upward.


Felicia could see the tension in her jaw, the way the corners of her mouth quivered as she breathed. She leant forward and took Erma’s hand.


“So what’s going on now?” she asked softly.

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The necklace is something which can be used to travel to any place? Hm.........

The necklace's function will be explained, or at least made more obvious, but you aren't far off.


Sorry for the short chunk of text. I'm trying to keep it in easily digestible pieces while breaking at appropriate locations. This whole chapter is broken into only three parts on Scrivener.




[Part Four]

“Now?” Erma sighed and her expression softened. “We’re taking a break. I don’t resent him, I certainly understand his concerns.” She shook her head and pressed her free hand atop Felicia’s. “I’ll survive, dear. Simply a clash of culture, you know. How have you been?”


“Oh, I… I’ve been working.”


“Ami tells me you haven’t been at the lab in years.” Felicia turned away, feeling the heat rise in her cheeks. This definitely wasn’t where she had hoped the conversation would go. “She worries about you. After Leon disappeared—”


“I don’t want to talk about that right now, Erma. I’ve gotten… better.” The word slipped from her uneasily, false even to her own ears. “I’ll go back when I’m ready. I came out here, didn’t I?”


Erma smiled. “He really cares about you, darling. And not just because you look like your sister.”


Another flash of warmth hit her cheeks as her chest tightened. Erma giggled, a hand held over her mouth. “Don’t tease me like that,” she said, a quivering smile on her lips. “I couldn’t. Not after that.”


“Oh, honey, hush up. That was years ago.” She pulled Felicia into a tight hug, planting a faint kiss at her temple before pulling away. “You’re not a bad person. He knows that. Come on, let’s go inside. I imagine people are curious about our absence.”


They stood, taking a moment to brush the dirt from their dresses before starting back towards the hotel. Erma was about to pull open the door when Ella caught sight of her and rushed up to her. Her excitement quickly faded to concern. She glanced at Felicia briefly, offering an acknowledging nod, before turning back to her twin.


“You look rough.” She took her sister’s hand and gestured towards the door.


“Will you excuse us, dear?”


Felicia nodded, not that they had given her much choice in the matter, and let the twins head inside without her, opting to stay outside a moment longer and let the cool air calm her down. People may have wondered about Erma’s absence, but the only person she figured would worry about her was likely too busy nursing several glasses of liquor.


As she walked around the area surrounding the gazebo, the cold became more noticeable, almost unnaturally so. Her skin prickled at the wind. She told herself it was just her body finally cooling down after what had just happened, that she finally noticed because her head was everywhere else but the weather. Nonetheless, not wanting to spend the rest of her night frozen outside, she went back towards the hotel.


She watched her reflection in the glass as she walked up, trying to gauge her appearance. When she was close enough to pull the door open, she thought the glass by the handle had moved. No, it definitely moved. That was almost too much for her to bear. Felicia quickly stepped inside and searched for Tim. A distraction she needed, and a distraction he often was.


The last thing she wanted was to lose herself again and have to be carried away kicking and screaming because she wouldn’t leave that door in the hopes of seeing it happen again. Something in her stomach turned at the thought and she made a beeline for the restroom.

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Ahahahaha, I'm reaching the end of my buffer.


[Part Five]


The bathroom was softly lit and lavish. There was a small waiting area by the door, comprised of a loveseat and a small stand by each with a vase of flowers on them. A rack hung on the wall behind the loveseat—it seemed they were fastidious in updating the magazines.


Felicia washed and dried her hands, pressing the cooled pads of her fingers to her cheeks as she paced the room.


The facility itself was not as well-decorated, but equally well-kept. At each end of the row of sinks sat a basket with complimentary hygienic products, small bottles of lotion by each sink. A long mirror occupied the wall above the sinks, and though it lacked any obvious signs of dirt or streaks, Felicia noticed there were still bits of dust on its surface.


Turning her attention to her own reflection, she nearly fell backwards.


A dark shadow hovered behind her, tendrils curling around her, snaking up her arms to her neck.


She turned to find nothing there, just the line of dusty pink stalls. Looking back at the mirror brought her no further scares and the shadow was gone. Felicia shook her head, chiding herself for letting that kind of Hollywood horror get to her.


After splashing her face with water, she took a moment to breathe and get her heart rate under control.


“If only I were drunk,” she muttered, drying her hands once again. The machine’s steady hum calmed her, filling in the blank spaces of her thoughts. As she felt her hands warm up, she felt more in control of herself and she stepped back out into the party.


Felicia let out a long breath before taking up her search for Tim once again, wanting nothing more but for the rest of her night to proceed as normally as possible, tall order though it was. Still, there might be hope yet in one regard.




True to his word, Felicia found Tim sitting at the bar, rolling a half-filled glass between his hands as he spoke to the bartender. He looked a bit bored and she hoped it was because she had been gone so long he didn’t know what to do without her. The thought made her smile, but she suspected a better explanation would be he simply exhausted his current choice of prey and was taking some time down before trying again.


When she sat down at the bar next to him, she asked for a glass of water and looked over at Tim, smiling. “Have a good time without me?”


“Only the best, of course.” He took a few drinks before continuing. “I struck out maybe… three times? I got close with one, least I thought I did. Her agent slash boyfriend came by and suddenly I found myself hiding behind an old woman, saying my face is too pretty. Not my best moment, but certainly not my worst. That I can remember.” Tim laughed before taking a deeper drink.


The bartender placed a glass of water in front of Felicia, offering a professional smile before departing. She ran a finger around the glass’s rim as she listened to Tim.


“Erma and Ella found me and told me you were going to be on your way. That was about… forty-five minutes ago? Maybe an hour. Needed some time to scope out the scene, eh? Fare any better than me?”


“Charming, but no. I walked around for a bit after talking with Erma. Just needed to cool down.” She sipped from her glass and set it down, staring at trembling water. The ambient music faded out until there was nothing but the mixed murmurs of the attendants. “How much did she tell you?”


He shrugged. “Not much. Just said you both got some stuff off your chests and had a moment. I take it by the general lack of details…” He trailed off.


“For the most part,” she said, hoping she answered his unasked question. Felicia sighed and spun on the stool, resting her elbows on the bar. The band was finally set up on the stage and had started to play.


“Gotcha.” He cleared his throat, the levity in his voice gone when he spoke again. “I’ll just tell you what I told her—I know I’m not exactly the best person to talk to, but I was there. I saw a lot more than I care to remember. You don’t have to keep secrets from me, even if I can’t… understand them.”


She smiled, then slapped his shoulder. “All right, that’s enough. That was cheesy even by your standards.”


“It’s what I’m here for. Least I can do anyway,” he replied, shrugging as he returned the expression. “Just remember that next time you blow me off by refusing to take a shower for the first time in a month.” Felicia snorted as she reached for her water behind her.


They sat at the bar a while longer, ordering one drink after another, as they turned their attention to the other attendees. They made snide comments, their laughter increasingly unrestrained. Tim had a knack for ridiculous impersonations, drawing the attention of their targets more than once.


When they ran out of material and the music was in full swing, Felicia pulled Tim towards the band, thoughts of the door fading. He protested for only a few moments, long enough for Felicia to whisper in his ear and coax his arm around her waist. The liquor had loosened her words and her cheeks flushed all the more as they worked their way into the warm group of dancers and slipped into the rhythm.

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I have up to the third chapter written up, I'm just editing a little as I go, haha. This was my 2011 NaNoWriMo attempt before I was swallowed by the spectre that is night shift.


Felicia and Tim are friends, haha. Felicia is very affectionate and comfortable with being close to people, which are features of her teenaged self I felt she would retain after almost a decade of growth. I'll write a little about their past and relationship later when I'm not pressed for time.

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All right, a little backstory on Felicia and Tim. I also tie together some implications made throughout the text, so I guess spoilers ahoy. At the least it might taint your interpretation of the story, especially if you believe in death of the author.


Felicia and Tim have known each other since high school, although she was always a little bit distant since she's a little over four years his senior.


As a freshman, he used to date Felicia's younger sister, Juanita (as implied by Erma when she teased Felicia about looking like her sister), but that ended poorly since he was literally twelve and a bit of a jackass. They couldn't really figure out the whole balancing time together against time with other people without alternating between being distant and being clingy. So at that time, Felicia wasn't fond of Tim, especially since she really only knew him through his older sister and Juanita. Obviously she's going to take her sister's and her friend's side.


It also didn't help that he and Juanita set Felicia's relationship with Leon as their baseline for what a good relationship is, considering that she and Leon were the quintessential angsty high school couple. Tim has always sort of set Felicia on a pedestal, whether he cares to admit it or not, especially given their specific circumstances.


Felicia went through a dark period as a teen and used to self-harm. It was a humiliating time of her life she'd like to forget. Tim, however, wasn't especially tactful when it came to this issue, and frequently got into arguments with Leon over it. It just didn't compute for him. This was another strike against him in Felicia's mind, especially at a time when she needed as much support as possible. After some major events that brought them a little closer together, Felicia still kept her distance because it's pretty weird to hang out with your sister's ex, even if they only dated for like a month or two.


Fast forward a couple years--Tim was about to head off to college when Leon disappeared (roughly three years ago from when this story takes place) and Felicia, unable to wrap her mind around losing him, went into a deep depression over it, the effects of which are alluded to throughout the text. (Not showering, not showing up to work, refusing social calls, making bad decisions.) Leon and Felicia had been together long enough that people had difficulty imagining one without the other, and she was very much one of them.


She ended up cutting herself off from most of her close friends and family. The only person she would give the time of day to was Tim, and only because she assumed he wouldn't take her seriously. It was the kind of kick to the ego she thought she deserved. He ended up turning her expectation on its head. Although she still pushed him away same as anyone else (as Tim himself mentioned), he kept checking up with her. His asking her to the party was just another one of his attempts to get her out of the house that actually worked.


Their sarcastic quips are mostly friendly, but you can't really erase a poor start, so sometimes there's a bit of bitterness hiding in those exchanges.


That said, Felicia isn't the type to hold back on acting on her feelings, especially those of a romantic nature, so her confused feelings towards Tim end up culminating in a sort of strange way--she's very physical and affectionate with him, hence the arm holding and the dancing, but she frequently refuses his advances and shuts down anyone who tries to tell her he cares for her, hence the fact they tease each other about taking home other people.


I don't know if I convey that in my writing, but that's how I view their relationship.

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It's no problem, haha. I enjoy thinking about this kind of this kind of thing. Reflecting my experiences and the things I've seen in terms of interpersonal relationships is something I'm always interested in doing in my writing.


Anyway, shortish blurb this time around, and we'll be in on the second chapter.


[Part Six]


Soon the night wore thin and guests filtered out of the ballroom. The band had already packed up and left, the ambient music kicking back in to fill the silence.


Felicia and Tim met up with the twins, who looked like they were run ragged from all the socialising. She was probably no better off, with cheeks that still felt flushed, her dress sticking faintly to her skin, and an uncomfortable heat in her middle.


“I always forget how much I hate doing these things,” Ella said, slouching in her chair. Most everyone had gone, save for a few stragglers by the bar. People were clearing up the remaining cords and speakers from the stage, as other employees cleared tables and swept the area. “My face hurts from all that smiling.”


“I’m not exactly in love with it either, dear sister.”


“Stuff and nonsense,” Tim said. “You don’t even know what you look like without a spotlight on you.”


“I love acting and dressing up. I can do without all this. I fear the day I end up on a top ten cougar list.” Erma shook her head and chuckled. “A fate worse than death, I daresay.”


Ella rolled her eyes and laughed. “You would lose your mind if you didn’t top those lists.” She took a moment to quickly scan the banquet hall, then lowered her voice, curling a finger towards Felicia. “Do you mind if I ask you a question?”


Somewhat confused, she shook her head. “I don’t mind, but—”


“I think this conversation would be best held elsewhere,” Erma interrupted, her voice soft. Her eyes flicked between employees pushing brooms and carrying bags of trash. She grabbed her purse and smoothed out her dress, offering Felicia a smug smirk before turning to her twin.


“Ella,” she said, her voice returning to a normal volume, “would you mind if I rode along? I was dropped off by a friend.”


Felicia rolled her eyes and followed Tim out of the hotel, her head whirling with possibilities. Did Erma do something in a fit of rage? Did Ella? Was it an intervention? Did something happen at the lab? Had she forgotten someone’s birthday? It was September—whose birthday was in September?


She cycled through the hypothetical, her fingers worrying at the strap of her purse. While her mind was miles away, her body brought her to the car and buckled her in.

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Chapter two, what. Small update because cliffhanger.


Chapter Two [Part One]


The radio’s sudden absence brought Felicia back out of her thoughts. It seemed only seconds had passed and now they were at a cabin at the edge of the woods. She turned away from the window and faced Tim, her head still buzzing with unanswered questions. His seatbelt was already unbuckled, the car turned off and keys put away.


He gave her a concerned look before an uncertain smile crossed his lips—it seemed he had a smile for every situation.


“You okay? Seemed like you had a lot on your mind.” He shifted in his seat. “I tried talking to you earlier, but you didn’t say anything.”


“Sorry. I was just…” She bit her lip. “Do you know what Ella wants to talk about?”


He lifted a shoulder, shaking his head. “No idea. I was with you most of the night, remember?” Tim grinned and the heat in her middle flared briefly. He opened the door and stepped out, stretching. “This place work for you?”


“I’ve gone through here often enough. Wait for me out back, yeah?”


Felicia pushed open the cabin door and closed it behind her, pressing her back against it as she buried her face in her hands. This small building wasn’t high on her list of places to be tonight, but she supposed there was little she could do to help it. They were there now, and it may well have been better than the alternative. Just what was she hoping to accomplish on that dance floor?


As her eyes adjusted to the dark, she forced out a long breath and slipped off her shoes. Her fingers fumbled briefly with the zipper on her dress as a familiar voice spoke to her from the back of her mind.


Is my presence required?

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