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What Might Have Been (AndNich123 & Reydan)

AndNich123

Pulsar
Joined
Jan 22, 2014
“Damage to the right engine!” The sounds. The sounds were almost deafening. Screams. Screams that a person never forgets. Lights flashing. The face of the person beside her so frantic, and yet amid all of this, for a few seconds, precious seconds, it seemed as though she was in her own bubble, contained and untouchable. “It’s okay.” She heard the words uttered from her own lips, though she didn’t fully believe them.

“Mayday Mayday. This is flight 4012. We are headed to..to JFK International.”

Flashes of light. The noise grows louder, something that was seemingly impossible. She felt a jolt, a hard….jolt. Her eyes flashed up, noting all the flashing lights. Again, a moment where everything moved in slow motion.

“There’s a fire! Left engine out! Madeline! Left engine out!”

She could see her hands shaking as she spoke softly, calmly. “My plane.” Her hands trembled slightly, surprising her for a moment, before control of the plane shifted to her controls. Through all of this, she could see it looming closer and closer. Her gaze shifted from side to side, as if she were checking the road before crossing. Her fingers gripped the controls tighter as she guided the gliding steel bird.

“Madeline!”

The voice was frantic. Her own came through a stark contrast as she held the microphone to her lips. “This is..the pilot. Brace for impact.” The plastic hit the floor, bouncing as the green in front of her grew closer still. One quick glance over to her co-pilot. She nodded, as if to silently tell her one last time everything would be okay, before looking forward again. The voice from the flight attendants filtered through to the front as they yelled, instructing everyone to keep their heads down. ‘Head down,’ she thought, lowering her head slightly, as one hand left the controls to grip the belt that restrained her tightly in her seat. Then…..

She sat straight up in bed, covered in sweat as the thunder crashed outside her hotel window. The lightening lit up her cold surroundings, and the reporter’s voice came through clearly.

“The ill fated flight never made it to it’s destination of JFK International. The right engine suffered an uncontained engine failure during the flight that resulted in a puncture to the left side of the fuselage, causing a loss of cabin pressure and damage to the wing. The flight was diverted to small airstrip in Sawyer county, but we now know that the left engine began to disintegrated due to production defects in the engine’s bearings, which have been found to have been caused by a misaligned counter bore within a stub oil pipe leading to a fatigue fracture. This in turn led to an oil leakage which was followed by an oil fire. With both engines completely destroyed thrust was impossible. With sizable damage to the fuselage combined with zero thrust, the plane went down in a field just shy of the landing strip in Sawyer. Out of the 128 souls onboard, the death count is at 12. the name of the pilot has not been released as of yet as the crash of flight 4012 is still under investigation. The black box has been retrieved. Accounts from the flight crew are indeed that there was no thrust, and that the pilot had no alternative. As of now, the reports that have released corroborate those stories. The surviving flight attendants have stated , “that during all the chaos, the pilot’s voice remained calm, clearly trying to be a soothing force to the passengers as the plane went down.” Back to you Tom.

She rested her hands against her face, her trembling fingers covering her eyes. The scrapes and bruises still made her face tender and sensitive. Wincing she uncovered her eyes just in time to see the lightening once more illuminate her hotel room.

She cleared her throat. “Negative. We’re not going to make it..to..Sawyer. We are going..down..now. I have..we have..no..thrust.” The last two words repeated back to her. “Yeah. AFFRIMATIVE. I mean affirmative. No thrust. “ She heard the words that an emergency crew would be dispatched, but it was only a matter of time.

“It’s okay,” she whispered, covering her face again, realizing the voice was in her head. Shaking, she threw the cover back and slowly made her way from the bed over towards the window. The rain cascaded down it, blurring the city beneath her feet. It was a city that knew of what had happened, but that was it. They didn’t the details, the sights, the smells, the sounds that plagued her mind. It was more than that though that weighed on her mind now. Even now she could see it. The green grass growing closer and her mind flashing with memories, thousands of them, of her childhood, of her teenage years, of her family, of her past, all of it. It really was true. Your life truly does flash before your eyes, and while the world around her was falling apart, on the verge of literally crashing to the ground, she seemed caught in her own space absorbed by what had happened. Now she was left with regrets, tons of them. Maybe I shouldn’t have had a drink, or two, when a teenager. What if I had listened more to my parents? Perhaps I needed to apply myself more when I was in school. What could have happened if I hadn’t….She shook her head, trying to push the thoughts away. ‘Yeah. Push them away. You’re good at that,’ she thought before heading over towards the bar. Something caught her attention, halting her in her tracks. It was her reflection. With the lightening dancing across the sky, she could still see her reflection despite no lights were actually on in the room. She drew in her bottom lip, still split, still slightly swollen. Her eyes were littered with reds and purples. The bruises indicative of a street fight. Her forehead scraped into her hairline. Her eyes glanced down to her arms as her fingers softly grazed the tender bruises there as well. She could feel the tightness still in her chest where the belt had held her firmly upon impact. It was a startling, harrowing sight, enough to draw tears to her eyes. ‘Water. Yeah. Water. That’s what you need. Nothing more.

“Coming up, our own Debbie speaks with one of the survivors of flight 4012.”

She snapped her head back towards the television. Her eyes were wide. ‘No. I don’t want to hear this. I can’t hear this.” Quickly making her way over to the set, she turned it off and switched a light on. Her face came into view in the nearby mirror once more. Sweeping her hair back it became clear to her. Water was not going to be what she needed and neither was staying in this hotel.

The staff, as well as the airline, had gotten her some clothes to wear while she stayed at the hotel. Simple sweats, but it was enough. Wearing them, she made her way down the still busy sidewalk. It was one of the attractions of the city. No matter the hour, it was always busy outside. People didn’t know each other, and frankly they didn’t care to. Coming from a small town, she liked the anonymity it provided. People filtered out from various establishments, but once she found what she was looking for, she pushed past the ones exiting to make her way inside. Inside it was dark. Good. Just the way she wanted it. Taking a seat at the bar, she nodded to the older man behind the bar. “Whiskey.” He returned her nod as he pulled a glass from beneath the bar and poured her drink. “I hope the other girl looks worse than you,” he mused, unaware. “She does,” she said, raising the glass to her lips. “Turn that up,” a voice called from the shadows behind her. Waving his hand in their direction, he then turned and raised the volume on the television. “The name of the pilot of flight 4012 has just been released. Madeline Maclean, is a seasoned pilot with an impressive zero incidents on her record.” Madeline downed the whiskey. ‘Everybody knows,’ she thought. 'Even him.'

She thought it funny to be thinking of him now. He had been on her mind several times since that day. He was the one thing that even in being in the air, that even facing death, she could not escape from. That had been why this has become her life. In the air, everything was left on the ground, but that day, as she faced her own mortality, for some strange reason thoughts of him had come back to her. Amid all the flashes and memories of her life that played out in her mind, he had been a constant. “Another one,” the voice called out to her. Clearly he asked more than once. “Yeah,” she said, nodding her head. As she looked up at the screen, images of the wreckage of the failed flight seemed to stare back at her. ‘Everybody knows,’ she thought once more. ‘Even him.’
 

Reydan

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Supporter
Joined
Oct 15, 2014
Location
UK
Charles was wiping his hands down with a dirty rag, doing little more than smearing the grease and soot around, when the crop-duster took off. The tall mechanic, eyes ringed with dark circles, scowled, the expression breaking his usually upbeat face, as the familiar putt-putt-putt of the small engine whined overhead. He watched, through the open doors of his family garage, as the small plane climbs lazily in the cloudless rural sky. He followed it with his green eyes, paused now and leaning on the pickup he was almost finished fixing, as it gained height and slipped from the bonds of gravity. Free as a bird.

She had always like that freedom. Liked it too much, he thought, watching the vapour trails slowly fade. If crop-dusters had been the limit of her ambition he could have lived with that. They could have lived with that. But it wasn't enough. The sky, ultimately, had been the limit of Madeline's desires. And he had been left earthbound.

'You done in there?' It was Jim Hodges, his neighbour, come about the pickup.

'Yup' said Charles, tossing the rag aside and turning his back on the past. The pickup hummed beautifully when it turned over, a far cry from the grinding gears of a few days ago, and Jim Hodges hummed almost as harmoniously when he read the bill. Charles Lerwick was the third generation of Lerwicks to run 'Lerwick's Family Mechanics' and carried on the proud tradition of high quality at affordable prices. There was almost no-one in the small town who didn't bring their family vehicle to Charles, as they had to his father and grandfather before him, and the young man was kept busy.

Which suited him fine.

'You alright?' his sister said, leaning against the outside wall when he emerged into the sun. They both waved to Jim as he pulled onto the road and moved into the sparse traffic of their little slice of middle America. Jenny was a red-head, like him. Same green eyes, same freckled face, same slightly amused face. No beard, of course, just as Charles lacked the waist-long hair of his younger sister. But they were cut from the same cloth in more ways than one.

'Only you don't seem to be sleeping' she said, responding to his silence with the practised ease of one used to the taciturn man. Charles was famously quiet, especially after taking over the family business when his father died a few years ago, and most who knew him just took it at face value. Didn't read anything into it. Jenny didn't leave the subject, pacing alongside him as he walked back to the house, and running her index fingers around her eyes in imitation of his dark bags.

'I'm fine' Charles said, casting her a ''leave-it-alone'' look and she shrugged.

'Just remember we're all due at Mom's tonight' she said, before skipping over to where her motorcycle leaned against his porch. She was off, speed-demon that she was, before he even climbed the steps into his house. He lived next to the garage, having snapped up the old Leeman property last year so as to move out of the family home. It was a fixer-upper that Charles never had time to fix. Everything needed a lick of paint, a tad more furniture, a little more comfort. But it was just him and he didn't care that much.

A quick shower, a quick chance into a checkered shirt and jeans, and he was driving into the centre of town as the long summer afternoon gave way to an equally bright evening. His blue sedan, an old run-around with the family business's logo on the sides. The radio stuttered to life as he drove and, for the second time that afternoon, the past came bubbling back. '...there are many rumours about the pilot of Flight 4012' the ragged voice crackled and Charles groaned. His brother Daniel like to switch the radio to the local libertarian conspiracy talk-radio nutcase when he knew Charles wasn't looking, winding his older brother up on purpose. But his hand stayed at the dial as the host continued his rambling rant. '...chatter that its a woman, maybe even from our state, but folks let me tell you...'

He shut it off as he pulled into downtown. Stupid. But...what if....

No, he thought, closing the door and smoothing down his clothes. What would be the chances? There must be plenty of female pilots. Besides, she had forfeited his concern a long time ago.
 
OP
AndNich123

AndNich123

Pulsar
Joined
Jan 22, 2014
In the days that followed, she sat before the NTSB board explaining her actions, her decisions, knowing these people were judging every word that came from her lips. From the moment she walked into the room, she was under a microscope. A plane, costing an astronomical cost, had been destroyed. She knew that in their eyes, that was far more important than her life. That easily took the place of lives that had been lost that day. She wanted to hate them, to lash out at them. Granted they were doing their job, but they could have stopped and had one ounce of respect for the lives lost that day. They were lives she would never forget. Someone had to pay for the aircraft that had been lost. As far as she was concerned, the debt had already been paid. It was paid with her nightmares. It was paid with loss of life from those that had perished that day. Where they wanted to see green, she only saw red.

She knew the decision would not be handed down within a week, or even a month for that matter. It always took a long time for board to reach a decision. In that time, she would be allowed to fly, but that was the last thing she wanted to do. Nothing seemed to fit. Nothing seemed to be what she wanted to do. She left the courtroom on the last day of the trial that involved her presence. A decision would be handed down was what she had been told. That literally gave nothing away, and in a sense, she was relieved. If she was found at fault, it would mean she would have time before those words were spoken. On the other hand, she had to deal with not knowing. That was a small factor in comparison to everything else she had on her plate. Cameras flashed, capturing her expression of forced relief and some semblance of happiness. Once more things seemed to be moving in slow motion. Each flash illuminating the space and blocking out the faces behind the cameras. Voices shouted out questions to her, questions that caused the man beside her to raise his hand. He was charged with escorting her from the courtroom to a waiting car just outside. “No,” she whispered to him, drawing his attention. “I wanna..speak.” He lowered his hand and gave a nod to her and the crowd of reporters. “I want to thank..everyone..for coming. All the statements..have been given, and I don’t..want to talk about that. What I do want to talk about..is the loss of life that day. To the families..I can’t imagine your pain. I am..so sorry..that I couldn’t save them. To say I tried..doesn’t bring them back..or give you much support..but know that I did..try..with everything I am. There’s not a day..a moment..a second..that goes by..that I don’t think of them. I hope you find peace.” She felt the hand of the man beside her on her back, comforting her and yet urging her towards the exit. “What will you do now,” a voice called out to her. It was something she hadn’t made up her mind about yet. She looked up towards the crowd, and as the flashes once more lit up the space, she began to realize that this city would never let her rest. It would never slow down. It would never want to hear her words of sorrow to the family. They, it, would only want to hear the harrowing story of the failed flight. She would never be able to begin to move past this, to move forward. “Home,” she whispered. It had occurred to her, in that moment, that would be the only place that she could find some sense of peace. It was the only place she could try to reconnect with who she was and remember where she came from. “I’m going home,” she told them before allowing the man to usher to the car.
 

Reydan

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Joined
Oct 15, 2014
Location
UK
It took a couple of days for the news of Madeline Maclean's crash, investigation, and announcement that she was returning home to filter through to Brownsville. Even in these days of internet news and immediate updates, news was slower in the remote midwest.

For Charles it was a blend of concerned messages from friends and family worried that he might take the return of his former fiance poorly and the whispered interest of the wider population of the town. Nothing was private in a place like Brownsville. Everyone knew everyone's business, and most were aware already that Madeline had skipped out on Charles practically on the morning of their wedding. Broken his heart. Embarrassed and ashamed. Bed-bound for weeks. Or so the stories went. To be honest, if it hadn't been so personal Charles would have found it funny. Everything seemed to have been exaggerated in the retelling and remembering over the intervening years. You'd have thought, the way that people whispered and eyed him with wide, sympathetic eyes, Madeline had blown out of town after gunning down most of his family at the Church, her wedding dress spattered with blood as she drove into the sunlight. It had been nothing like that.

It had been a normal sort of awful. Much more mundane and hurtful. To be honest Charles was fine with the distraction of the whispers and sympathetic stares. It kept him from thinking too much. Had he thought about Madeline? What she must be experiencing? How this awful event must have shaken her? Potentially destroyed the dream she had left him for and driven her back to the hometown she had been keen to leave? Of course. He was only human. But it had been almost a year since he had opened the box to look at the engagement ring she had returned to him and he had worked hard to get to that point. The box remained closed.

'You got a message to go out to a broken down van on Bossman Street' Hank said as he returned to the mechanic's from a supply run to the out-of-town depot. The twin of his younger sister Jenny, Hank was about as far removed from the young woman as was visibly possible. Stocky, quiet, slow to act and slow to anger, if it wasn't for the Lerwick red hair and freckles you'd have thought Hank was adopted. Home from agricultural college, he was helping Charles out in the garage on an occasional basis.

'Sure - say who it was?' Charles asked, loading some essential tools and parts into the pick-up.

Hank just shrugged. 'Out of towners' was all he said before returning to the stock-check he was taking.

That should have been a clue to Charles, but maybe he was distracted by the rumor mill in the town. The street address too, so familiar to his dating days, should have given it away too, but he drove distracted, thinking about something and nothing, and it wasn't until he was halfway there he suddenly realised that he was on the way to the Maclean family home.

'Oh hell no' he muttered, but his foot remained unbidden on the pedal. As the pickup closed in his worse fears were confirmed. The broken down news truck, a national brand no-less, was on the curb outside Madeline's family home. A blond reporter, preening in front of a portable mirror, was standing next to a leathery-faced camera man. A third figure, a man with a clipboard, flagged him down.

'Of course it would be' he groaned. They were here to cover the story. To cover Madeline. All he could hope, as he stepped out of the van, was that they had no idea who he was. And, he hoped, that Madeline wasn't actually home behind those twitching curtains.
 
OP
AndNich123

AndNich123

Pulsar
Joined
Jan 22, 2014
Once inside the car, she knew she would have quite a journey before her. “Book the flight for you Ma’am,” the hired escort asked. “No,” she told him, her voice sounding more firm and assertive than it had since the crash. “No. I don’t think..I want to be in the air anytime soon.” She told him, looking up and forcing a smile. “I’ll take a train or a bus.” She knew the fatality rates, and yet they still seemed safer to her than being in the air. Her head rested against the glass as the car made its’ way through the city. She felt the faint smile on her lips. For the first time in a long time, she was going home.

A few days later, she found herself on a bus winding closer to home, her home. The fields of crops growing were a sure sign she was almost there. She had forgotten what the air smelled like there. You can actually smell the grass here. She smiled seeing rows and rows of corn on either side of the long, straight road. It was paved. It was a strange thought to have, but there it was in her mind. The bus itself was quiet. The passengers all content in their own little worlds. She was glad for that. If any of them did recognize her, they were keeping it quiet. Quiet. That’s what she wanted. That’s what she needed. Already she could the connection deep inside with this place starting to awaken. The water tower came into view with the name of the town painted in big letters. You could see where the local teens had climbed it and painted various things as well. It was a tradition there. Only the bravest would dare do it they all said. Her smile grew. The bus continued on its’ way until the rows of corn gave way to small buildings. The town itself wasn’t huge. A few stores littered main street that were filled with older women shopping. There was a ice cream shop there now. Funny. It hadn’t been there before. The local drugstore was still there. A few office for lawyers. Even in a small town it appeared things were progressing. The mural on the side of one of the buildings was still there. It was in desperate need of care, but the image was still there, peeling. It was of a sunrise with people walking towards it, holding hands. The flowers were blooming, and a few birds flew overhead. The word Welcome was in big, bold, black letters at the bottom. ‘Welcome,’ she thought. For the first time since the crash, she actually felt welcomed.

The bus pulled into the depot. It was nothing more than a small, wooden covering to protect the passengers in the event of rain. The driver was already retrieving the bags for the passengers. His eyes made contact with hers’ as he handed her the bag she had stowed away for the trip. With a sigh, she moved away from the bus. Something drew her attention upwards. It was a plane, a crop duster. He must have been heading out to the fields. She watched him as he faded away in the distance. The driver tapped her on the shoulder. “Taxi can take you out to the hotel.” She nodded. “Thanks.” He pushed up his hat as he looked at her. “You from around here, ain’t ya?” Another nod. “Yeah. I finally came back home.” All the things from home she loved were flooding back to her. All of them. Especially..him. She wondered if he was still here. Was he married? Would he even want to speak to her? She had tried to make things right with the families with her statement. She wondered could she try to talk to him. Would he even listen? Would it matter? “Excuse me,” she called to the driver. “Can you tell me where I might find a car I can rent, and please don’t say Lwick’s Family Mechanics.”


Now Madeline sat there behind the wheel looking ahead. Her fingers tapped on the leather wrapped steering wheel of the 84 pickup truck. It certainly wasn’t her first choice, but with this small town lacking a proper rental car business, her choices were limited. Sure Charles probably had a better car he may have been able to let her rent, but it would have been too much to go and see him. Ironic considering he was, right through the windshield, down the street. She had parked on the side and watched him, not sure of what her next move should be. Even now she wasn’t sure. There were four people there, ad only one of them scared the hell out of her. He was the reason she came back, and now faced with the chance to speak to him, she found that words did not exist, at least not the proper ones to say to him. There were no words that would even begin to make up for what had happened. Was that what she even wanted? Perhaps it was more to explain what had taken place. No. Still no words to do that either. Her hand came up to brush her hair back away from her forehead and rest there. With her he elbow propped up on the open window, she took a deep breath. Sitting here forever was not an option.

Her attention shifted as she saw her uncle come from the house yelling at the poised blonde who looked as though had just stepped from the pages of a magazine, clearly out of place here in this town. “Get out of here! She’s not even home yet and you people won’t let her rest!” Her fingers gripped the keys as she started the truck up once more. “Uncle Jake,” she breathed, throwing the truck in gear and starting towards the caravan of people. “Uncle Jake,” she yelled, climbing from the truck and slamming the heavy door. “Get back inside. It’s okay. I’m here. I can handle this.” The blonde started asking questions right away, paying no mind to what she was saying to her uncle. The cameraman lunged forwards as well, trying to get a good shot. “It’s okay uncle Jake. I’ll be inside soon. Just go back and wait for me. Alright?” He nodded before giving the reporter one last look. With that he turned his back to them and headed inside. “Now listen,” Madeline said, spinning on her heels to face the blonde. “You want a story, my story? Fine. You’ll get it. An exclusive, in your studio, not here, not now, and let this be a warning to anyone else thinking about coming here and disrupting my family’s lives. Do it, and nobody hears a peep from me. You got that,” she asked, looking right into the camera. “I’ll talk, but on my own time. Now get out of here. I know the truck isn’t broken down. I’ve seen the ploy before. Buys you time so you can sit here and wait for me.” The blonde lowered the mic she held and pursed her lips. Nodding she yelled for them to, “Pack it up.” Madeline glared at them as they quickly loaded up and left the curb by her family home. Then it was silence and….him. “I’m sorry,” she told him quickly. “The media is nothing but piranhas. Sorry she tricked you and wasted your time. I can still pay you for coming out here. I know,” she paused, finally looking at him, taken aback by seeing him, by the fact she was actually talking to him, “you’re a….busy man,” she continued. “It’s good..too see you..again. Real good.”
 

Reydan

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Supporter
Joined
Oct 15, 2014
Location
UK
The dark hair. Despite all the action of Madeline turning up and confronting the reporter, it was the dark hair that he noticed. It hung loose and messy, flipping as she jerked around and took the camera crew to task. It had been the hair that he had fallen in love with. Ever since he had sat opposite her, once, in lunch at high school and watched Madeline twirl one long dark lock around her thin finger. Up, the pale digit curling the strands into loops, before it slipped back down and released them again. Her hair was a natural asset. It looked beautiful out of the shower wet, splayed out over a pillow, with your fingers running through it.

He pulled himself out of it. It had looked good, too, pinned up on her head that morning in the small whitewashed wooden church where she broke his heart.

She was speaking to him. Charles hadn't realised, for a moment, completely lost in his own thoughts and feelings. Her soft lips were moving, her eyes darting about with nerves. He could hear the tv station truck in the background, making its slow way back up the main street. Had they noticed anything? Did they suspect any sort of connection? His face burned, hot despite the relative cool of the day, and he found it hard to look directly at her.

He was cross. With himself. Why was he finding this so hard? It was her who should be feeling embarrassed and awkward. In his self-absorption, of course, Charles didn't even pick up on the nervous stutter of the girl in front of him.

'You don't owe me anything Madeline' he said, picking up his tool box. He hadn't meant it to be harsh, merely a statement of fact regarding her offer of payment for time wasted, but as it tripped of his tongue he realised just how harsh it sounded. How it could be misinterpreted. Still, he didn't want to be there. He almost stormed off, but at the last moment relented and turned back.

'I'm glad you're alright Madeline, what happened to you was awful. I hope you find some peace staying here'. And with that he turned back towards his own truck intent on driving away.
 
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AndNich123

AndNich123

Pulsar
Joined
Jan 22, 2014
It was harsh. His words had sliced through the air leaving no doubt in her mind how he felt. There was a coldness there, one that she deserved. In fact, she knew he should have been far worse with her. He should have screamed. He should have told her things, things that most women should never be told. He should have called her names, names that she had more than earned. His anger, his hurt, he should have let it show more. This? This was something she didn't expect. This was something she was prepared for. This….was far worse.



He walked away, and every fiber in her being wanted to call out to him, but her mind was drawing a blank. What could she say? There were no words to make any of this right. Apologize for the news crew more? Tell him..tell him..tell him something, anything to make him..stop..walking away.



Some unseen force held in the spot where she stood. Another force, one she couldn't have imagined would be there, caused him to stop and speak. Her lips parted as she inhaled sharply. She could feel it, the reaction within. It was pain. It was joy. It was a thousand tingles rippling through her body. It was strong and undeniable. It was surprise.



"Peace," she said softly, not even sure where she was going next with her words. "Peace? Can I really find..peace? Can any of us," she asked quickly. "Charles," again his name came quickly, as if uncontrollably. "Please. Can we..talk..have a cup of tea..or something? Can't we at least..be…..," her voice trailed. She didn't want to say friends. No. That word would not be appropriate. It wouldn't be fitting. There was no way they could be friend, but at the same time, there was no way she could let him leave. Not yet. No. He couldn't yet. He couldn't leave yet and take this feeling with him. It was the first time she had felt..alive..since..it happened. "Civil," she blurted, not wanting the awkward silence to continue. "Please. I still make..a good cup of tea, and I'd like to know how you're doing." Her feet began to slowly carry her towards him. She was aware of it on some level. In a sense, she wasn't sure she could stop it. She knew she didn't want to. "You're still working on cars. That was..a passion for you. You're good at it. You're good with your hands. Please tell me I don't sound like I'm reaching for conversation here. Tell me I'm not trying too hard. Even if it's the truth, lie to me. Lie to me an say we can still talk. Lie to yourself and say it's okay to come inside." She had reached him, and her hand rose to touch his shoulder softly, briefly. The connection was electric, causing her to twitch slightly and lower her hand. "Lie Charles. Lie to both of us, for both of us, but please, don't go."
 

Reydan

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Joined
Oct 15, 2014
Location
UK
He looked at her small hand on his shoulder. That familiar connection. Her digits were small, soft and warm as he remembered, and there was a wave of familiar affection that threatened to overwhelm him. Those wide eyes, normally so vivacious, were dark-ringed and filled with sadness. Clearly the events of the past few weeks had taken a toll on her. She was begging him, he realised, begging him to just...talk to her. Was she really that lonely that she needed to reach out so desperately?

Madeline always had a way with words. Even as he tried to think about the heartache that he had mused over for the past few years, her soft words tugged at something deep within him. Memories of stolen kisses on the porch behind them, trying to dodge her parents. Of notes passed in high school. Of tender moments in the soft light of a Sunday morning. The feel of her skin on his.

He sighed. God's sake. Why couldn't people leave him alone. Or, rather, why couldn't he resist this sort of thing?

'Madeline...' he said. He didn't quite throw her touch off, but he did make it clear from his body language that he didn't appreciate it. '...not here' he said softly. 'Come to the Garage. Tomorrow morning.' He needed to meet her on safe ground for him - he didn't need a world of hurt again, regardless of what she was going through. Plus, he told himself, it would be good for her to get out of the house and avoid the journalists.

'I'll see you there.' He chuckled, shaking his head despite himself. 'You can bring your Mom's car for a tune-up'. It had been a code, a code when they had first been sneaking around. An excuse for her to see him at work...and steal kisses. With that he stepped back reaching for the door handle of the pickup.
 
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AndNich123

AndNich123

Pulsar
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Jan 22, 2014
Pain had become a familiar foe over the past few weeks. Each day brought new healing, but the healing did not come fast enough. Every ache, every sore muscle reminded her all too vividly of the terror she had lived through. Even now she could still feel the remains of it through her body, and yet it paled in comparison to the agony that ripped through her the moment it became clear he did not want her touch. It was something she had told herself over and over to be ready for, to expect, but nothing could have prepared her for how it actually felt. She swallowed hard, pushing the lump that threatened to release emotions she wanted to keep hidden behind an unbreakable barrier. He couldn't see. She wouldn't let him.

Still she heard those words, the code words, come. His voice gave nothing away, but she was still stuck on how he had reacted to her touch. Her mind was conflicted. He wanted her to come but not touch him. He wanted to talk….but not here. She glanced back towards the house as he moved further away. It was as if a movie played out in front of her of two young lovers. The swing swayed slightly in the breeze, as if two people had just leapt from it. The stain was far more worn now. Time had left it's impressions on more than the wood of that old swing. The paint on the porch was peeling now, lifting with it the memories of two lovers long lost ago.

She looked back at him as he reached for the handle of his truck. "Okay," she said softly. "Not here." If she had been honest with him, she would have told him that she had considered just getting in her car and driving away, but running away hadn't solved anything in all this time. Why would this time be any different? This was not something she was going to run from. Not this time. This time she would face what she had caused. No matter how far away she got, no matter how high she soared, it always found her. He….always found her.

She would watch him drive away, with thoughts of leaving still trying to win a war the war within, the war she would not retreat from. Looking around she expected to see people assembling, watching, wanting to talk. Instead she found neighbors peering from behind curtains. With a sigh, she shook her head and returned inside the house.

The night brought no relief. Sleep seemed to be an elusive creature. Often she awoke, covered in sweat, reliving that fateful day. It would take tears and time before she could embrace sleep once more. A cup of coffee was all she could stomach before heading towards her mom's car. It too showed the wear of time. Nothing was safe from it. Her fingers traced along the hood as she moved towards the driver's side door. In her mind, she could hear their conversations as they stood by the car years ago. They talked about everything. From the most silly things, like which ice cream flavor was the best, to the serious life events, such as getting married, they talked about it all by this old car. Her mother never locked the door. She always said that if anyone wanted the old thing, they could take it. The door creaked in protest as she opened it and climbed inside. It was still there, in the ashtray, a spare key. Madeline laughed as she took it out. "Really making it easy for people mom."

The key brought the car to life, and she backed from the driveway, but Madeline had other ideas besides going straight there. She took a trip of sorts. That morning she went to various places that were special to the two of them. There was the old water tower where they had climbed up more than once. She took a stroll through the old open field by Mr. Camper's place. The old man would never plow over this one field that was covered with wild flowers. It was still as vast and beautiful as she remembered. There were many afternoons they had spent on a blanket in this field talking….and other things. The pond still smelled of algae, and different insects still flew about. The old willow tree seemed to hang further now. It's branches were older and weighted with age. Her hand rested on the bark remembering all the times they came here, skipping rocks….and classes….and ditching their families. She drove by the old diner they once went to. It was now owned by someone else, and it had changed. The paint was different. The name was different, but the feeling she got as she sat there with the engine running had not. As she looked at the building, alive with all the people coming and going, the car made a terrible sound and smoke began to billow from beneath the hood. "Oh shoot! Don't you dare! Damnit!" Madeline threw the car in gear and floored it. "Don't you do this to me! Come on baby! Make it!" She kept repeating those words the entire way. As the car rolled up into his yard, close to the garage, it finally came to a stop. "Thank you," she whispered as she rested her head on the wheel for a moment. Throwing the door open, she climbed from the car, and slammed the door shut. "Hello," she called out, before kicking the tire. "I need some help! Please!"
 

Reydan

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As she shouted, hollering and kicking the tyre of the beaten up old truck, two redhead figures emerged from the garage. Figures from Madeline's past, just as Charles was. But not Charles. Different.

'You have got...some...fucking nerve' swore Jenny Lerwick, the petite redhead almost ablaze with indignation, as she stalked out of the family garage dressed in jean dungerees and a white t-shirt. Her sharp little face scanned Madeline's like a computer. When Madeline had skipped town, skipping out on her husband-to-be, she had lost more than Charles. Jenny had been one of her closest friends, ever since the early years of school, and the two had been thick as thieves. She had squealed the loudest, groaning and mock-retching when a teenaged Maddy had confided in her that she thought her brother Charles was hot, but eventually had come round to the idea of the pairing. It had been Jenny, dressed in her bridesmaid's dress, who had had to comfort Charles on that fateful day.

And now....

'I mean...what the actual fuck. I knew you were back but I didn't think you would be dumb enough to...'

'Hey hey hey hey hey'. That was Daniel, the youngest sibling. He had been barely been 14 when she left, but now he was a gangly, lolloping youth of 20. A younger, thinner, boyish version of Charles. His goofy, wobble-toothed, smile was still the same though, and he held out his hands in a pallacting way. Stuck between an older brother who tended towards brooding and an older sister who was highly-strung emotionally, Daniel had grown up the quiet peacemaker.

'Well hell, it is you' he said, cracking a wide smile. Ignoring his glaring sister, he stepped over to Maddy and hugged her. 'Heyyyy' he said, his voice a mixture of sympathy and familiarity. Disentangling himself, he shot a look back over his shoulder at the house that adjoined the garage.

'He's inside' he said. 'I'll take a look at this old rust bucket if you want to head in...'

'WE ARE NOT FINISHED' stormed Jenny, although the redhead made no move to stop Maddy if her former friend chose visiting Charles over resolving whatever beef Jenny had with her in that moment.
 
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AndNich123

AndNich123

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Jan 22, 2014
The words, the tone, both cut through her like a knife. She turned, literally gasping at the sound. She wanted to say something, to react, but aside from her mind literally being nothing more than a blank, she knew it was best to keep quiet. There was such a fire in her expression. Perhaps it was imagined, but Maddy was certain it wasn't all in her head. No. Jenny had every right to be angry, to hate her, to be surprised she was even here. So it would be wrong of her to deny her the right to unleash whatever emotions and unsaid things she had been harboring. Sure it stung, cutting to the bone even, but she deserved this. Maddy couldn't imagine what it must have been like for her to be the one to be there and put the pieces back together, not just for herself but for Charles as well. In that moment, she felt sorrow for her, and the person she was once with Jenny, her best friend, wanted to reach out and embrace her, but instead of Daniel who touched her. In that embrace, she wanted to open the flood gates that had been holding back so much, far more than even she realized, but the pain from Jenny's words still pierced her failing amour. There was a comfort there in his words, in his body being so close to her. He even smelled the same. Had she closed her eyes for a moment and taken a deep breath, it may have made everything fade away for just a second, for a brief moment in time, but reality would have came crashing down, yanking her back to this place she was rooted in.

He stepped back and looked towards the house. She knew Charles was inside, even before Daniel spoke, she knew. There was a large part of her that wanted to just run inside, pushing past Jenny and all the emotions she held, but there was also a part of her that wanted to give her former friend a chance to say what she needed to, to address how she was feeling, and if nothing else, she deserved that.

"No. Yes. I mean," she began, clearly rattled by what had taken place. "Thank you Daniel. I much appreciate your….help. You've grown up to be….a truly nice guy." Her eyes glanced over to Jenny. Though she wanted to force a smile, even that was out of her realm of capabilities. "I guess I am dumb enough to come back here. The car..it won't..it's having some issues. There's nobody better than Charles. I'm sure you agree." She returned her gaze to Daniel, hoping to find that same understanding he had shown before. A forced smile finally appeared on her lips. "Thank you again." For a moment, she thought about telling him maybe it would be better if she simply left. It was clear her presence here was upsetting and not wanted, but something inside of her wanted to see Charles. Something inside of her needed to see him. "I'll just go let," she began, motioning towards the house, "Charles know the car is here. Thank you again," she told him before giving Jenny a quick glance and then heading inside.

Once inside the house brought back a flood of memories. It didn't seem to have changed much. Maybe her memories were clouded by her emotions. Perhaps they were even failing, but something about it felt familiar, even comforting, and yet painful. It was wrenching to be there again. She could the hear the laughter, the conversations, the jokes that had been told within the walls that surrounded her now. A soft smile played on her lips for just a moment. The same pictures still decorated the walls. Well. Almost the same pictures. She noticed the ones with her in the them were gone. She certainly didn't expect him, or his family for that matter, to keep them up. There were new ones there. She could see how Daniel and Jenny had changed since she had been gone. They both had become such a sight to see. Her fingertips traced along the glass of a frame that hung at eye level. It was of all them together. They looked so happy. 'Maybe coming here was a bad idea,' she thought. Turning she headed back towards the door. 'No. I ran away once. Not again. This time I have to stay and see.' She turned around again and softly called out. "Charles? Are you here? It's me. Maddy. I brought the car. Charles?" She looked around searching for some sight of him. The urge to just leave rose once more, but she fought it and stood her ground. "Please," she whispered. "Just be here. Please."
 

Reydan

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'There's no need to yell' his voice came, floating through from the little laundry room off the kitchen. Charles was half-naked, stripped to the waist and toweling himself off. The Jurgensen's clapped out van had been leaking transmission fluid all over the place, and although a morning's hard work had finished it off, it had also written off his shirt and coated the mechanic in sticky, slimy, fluid. His upper body was toned, a soft sculpting of youthful muscle not yet slipping into middle-age. Still carrying the poise from when he'd played on the High School baseball team. A time when Maddy had worn his athletic jacket around school and town...and occasionally around the very house they were in now...with very little else on.

He grinned at her as she entered the room. It was hard not to. That little face, so familiar, even after a couple of years. Framed by that dark hair that bobbed around her face. How long had she been scraping it back, he wondered. She'd always worn it down when they'd been together. and was she only wearing it down now to hide the bruises still slowly healing on her face? Charles looked at her for a moment, silent, a smile caught in time on his lips. He wasn't intending to give her a show - indeed he'd forgotten he was topless - but her face had stopped him. A thought had occurred to him last night, as he lay in bed, thinking about...her. Which he hadn't done for a long time. And it was a thought now confirmed by the sight of her face.

Time had passed. Years even. They were different people now, with different pathways and different contexts. The more he looked at her the less he saw the young woman, barely an adult, who had left him at the altar. The more he saw just...a young woman, who'd had a hard time, who was trying tentatively to reach out. Like a child wobbling on a balance beam reaching out for support. No...he thought, correcting himself as he caught those dark eyes...not a child. That wasn't the relationship between them. Would never be.

'Maddy' he said, warmly following it quickly with an 'oh shit' when he realised he was half-naked. Tossing the towel aside, tugging on an old t-shirt, he grimaced an embarrassed apology at her, gesturing her back into the kitchen to a seat at the table.

'You look tired' he said, his voice warm. He pushed a cup of tea across the table to her. His Mum, now retired a couple of hours drive away to the coast, was English. There was always tea in the house. He watched her wrap her little fingers around it....just as Jenny stomped in, trailing Daniel.

'Its done Jenny...water under the bridge now' he said, their eyes meeting. She fumed, like a smouldering candle about to reignite, before turning on her heel and walking out. Daniel simply grinned lopsidedly.

'I'll get started on your Mom's heap of junk' he offered as he left.

They were alone again. 'Maddy...' his voice was low. Caring even. The tension, the venom, all gone. Washed away as he looked into those troubled eyes. 'What do you need? I mean, really need?' It was a hand, extended, to a friend.
 
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AndNich123

AndNich123

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Jan 22, 2014
His voice called out to her, like a beacon of hope, a light from a lighthouse bringing her back from the edge of her own anxiety. She searched for him in the direction the sound of his voice came from. 'Of course,' she thought, surprised she had forgotten about the little room off from the kitchen. She knew it was there. It was a room she had been in before. A memory flashed, one of her perched on a surface there, him standing in between her parted legs. They were both fully clothed. It wasn't a memory laced with lust. Instead it was a tender moment, one where his lips had gently, slowly brushed against her own, her fingertips lightly touching his face. It was a memory she couldn't allow herself to get lost in. Not now. Not here.

As she stepped closer, it became clear he had been hard at work, and it appeared as though the vehicle he had been working on had won. She couldn't help but smile broadly. A slight giggle even escaped her lips. It was a welcomed sound, a welcomed feeling. It wasn't long after that, he reached for a shirt and pulled it over his body. In a sense, she was glad he had done so. Seeing him there, like that, it was almost more than she could handle. He had changed. Of course he had changed. Though she hadn't been there, time had marched on. If it wasn't clear enough when she saw Jenny and Daniel, it certainly was now. Time had been good to him. There was no denying that.

Following his lead, she went into the kitchen once again. The smell of the cleaner hit her senses once again. It was familiar, comforting, perhaps more so now since he was with her. She could hear the clinking of the cup, and she knew what he was doing. Tea. It was staple in the house. A thought of his mother came to mind. Again she smiled, but this time her back was to him as she was looking around the room that at one time felt like home. She quickly took a seat. "Thank you," she told him softly, not even sure if it was loud enough for him to hear, as she took the tea from him. Her fingers wrapped around the cup, and she starred at the liquid it held. The words drew her to the edge. She could feel a lump in her throat. All he had said was that she looked tired. She wanted to tell him she was and that she hadn't been sleeping well. When Jenny came into the room, she was actually glad. It took the focus from her to someone else, and it gave her to time to force the growing emotions back down where she wanted them. She didn't have to look at Jenny to feel the daggers that were coming from her. They were well deserved. That was a fact she would never deny. Her steps related her feelings even more. "Thanks," she told him, looking up in time to catch Daniel's exit. She watched him disappear, returning her gaze to Charles when he spoke. There it was again though, brought back to the surface with such ease by a few simple words. It wasn't the words. It wasn't even the tone. It was the person speaking them. She had never thought she would see him again, and now here he was, right in front of her, talking to her. This seemed impossible. He should hate her, and perhaps he did. Charles always was a better person than her. Again, that was a fact she would not deny. He was kind. Certainly he had a good heart and was a caring person, but it was his kind nature that she had noticed first about him. Through everything, through the years that had passed, he had not lost that. His eyes looking into hers' reflected that. It was a moment where she could through all that happened and see the boy that she had been so in love with inside the man before her. What was it that she needed? She needed…..

"For you to take a shower maybe," she teased, trying to lighten the mood. It was a futile attempt, or so she thought. "I wish I could fix bridges," she told him softly, her eyes darting to the direction Jenny and Daniel had disappeared to. "She hates me," she began, lifting the cup to take a sip. "I don't blame her, but….I'd like to try….and fix things. Well..make them better..somehow, but I know..she'll never fogive me..and I don't blame her." Again she took another sip. "I really don't blame her, but if you..will tell her how sorry..I am..and that I never meant..to hurt..her. I never meant..to hurt..anyone..most of all you, Charles." Hearing the words finally come out of her mouth brought such a feeling over her. It was one she couldn't even put into words. "I did what I did, and I don't blame you if you never forgive me, but Charles…..," she looked around the kitchen quickly, gathering her courage. "Would you like to take a walk with me?"
 

Reydan

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He took mouthfuls of hot tea as he watched her struggle through her feelings. Charles hadn't perhaps thought how hard this room might be for her. He, of course, had suffered through their breakup in familiar surroundings. Embraced and fussed over and soothed by those that he loved. She? She had run, putting everything behind her - that meant a clean break, but it also meant she had been operating without a safety net. Unless...unless she had found something...or someone... else to fill that role. He tried to put that particular thought out of his head, but it hovered, in the background. Wanting to be answered. Biding its time for now.

'She hates you...but she'll get over it' he said, although to be honest he wasn't sure he meant it. Jenny had taken her leaving even harder than he had. In many ways theirs had been the closest relationship and the lack of trust - the sudden, lifechanging decision taken without including her best friend, had broken Jenny's heart. Nevermind how people had, over the years, tried to rationalise it to her - that Maddy couldn't have told her without putting her in the most awful position about whether to tell Charles. Jenny's heart was hard to her now. Maybe hard to everything that wasn't her family or her studies. He sighed, blowing the steam off the top of that cup of tea before glancing up at her suggestion.

'A walk?' he said, surprised, somewhat taken aback at the suggestion. But he could see the hurt in those eyes, the desperation for some sort of human contact. Some sort of forgiveness.

'Fine' he said, a soft, comforting, smile on his lips. They stood, leaving those empty mugs still warm from a pair of hands so used to intertwining but so long parted, and stepped out into the backyard. Clanking from the adjacent garage suggested Daniel was working Maddy's Mom's car up on the lift to slide under it and check the workings. Up above them, on the upper floor of the old house, a curtain swished. Jenny, possibly, checking on them. But no face appeared at the window to confirm or deny that...

If they were hoping for relief, though, the outside warmth of the afternoon offered little of it. Every sight their feet took them too had memories. The swing in the backgarden, which they knew was a seat big enough for two. The bubbling brook that ran, from his house round the back of hers across town, connecting their homes. The swaying trees of the copse through which they had run as breathless children.

Each step was hard for her, it seemed. Not only did Maddy seem to ache, as if from ages-old bruises, but there was distance between them. A foot or so, never any less. Something that had, before she left, never been a thing.

He sighed. 'I forgive you Maddy' he said, smiling. Not sure if he meant it, but knowing it was what she needed to hear in that moment. He glanced at her, not sure how she would take it. She was a drowning person in desperate need of a lifebelt....but the old Maddy he knew had hated the very idea she was being pitied. 'Now talk. Forget that I've seen the news, or read the papers, or talked to other people...tell me what happened with that plane and why you're here now. Not the details, but the big picture.'

They stopped, on the crest of the small hill maybe ten minutes walk from his house. Behind him, as he looked up at her on the crest, was the small town laid out below. 'I don't care about the crash, Maddy. I care about you...and what you need right now' he said, the wind whipping through his auburn hair.
 
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AndNich123

AndNich123

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Jan 22, 2014
Stepping outside, the warmth greeted her. It ushered in a much welcomed moment, one that didn't come often. For a moment, just a brief moment in time, there was peace as the sun touched her skin. She closed her eyes for that moment, drinking in the radiant beauty. Slowly she inhaled, filling her lungs with fresh air. It's a small, simple pleasure that she had forgotten about living in the city and traveling about. Being back home had reminded her of enjoying these pleasures. It reminded her how that no matter how busy you are, you should take the time to literally stop and just breathe.

Opening her eyes, she saw that he had continued on. Taking a step, once more she paused. Something in her mind whispered to her. Looking back and over her shoulder she saw the curtain softly sway back. 'Jenny,' she thought. Jenny had always been on her mind. How could she not be? There were reminders of her at home. She kept a photo of the two of them on a bookcase. There was the tee shirt from the concert the two of them had gone too. The very thought brought a slight smile to her lips. They had everything arranged so beautifully. She was to spend the night, and while they had permission to go to the concert, they ended up staying out far later than they should have. After one too many drinks, the two tried to sneak in the house. They stumbled through her window after scaling the tree outside Jenny's bedroom window. Falling to the floor together, they were as quiet as dump truck. The two had giggled and shushed each other, only to be caught. The punishment had been worth it. It always was when it came to getting into anything with Jenny, her best friend. She kept the teddybear they had won at the carnival. Her keychain that she used to this very day was one that she had bought while on a trip to the ocean with her. They had decided to take a girl's weekend. So many memories flooded her mind as the curtain ceased it's movement.

She had kept up with Charles, despite wanting to stop and linger with each passing memory. They passed the swing where she and Charles had spent countless hours nestling together and talking about anything and everything. Her fingertips grazed the now rusty chains. The wood was in desperate need of fresh stain. It was yet another reminder that time had moved on. She carefully stepped on the stepping stones at the brook. A memory flashed of when she had slipped and fallen in. Another slight smile graced her lips. These memories were bittersweet. While painful, she welcomed them. They felt real to her. They were real. She was removed from this place. Time had moved forward. the people here had moved forward, and it had all happened without her. Still she could feel her connection with this place. Even if the people hated her, if they didn't want her, that connection made her feel....alive.

She took a deep breath at his words. It was a place her mind would take her to against her will, against her pleading and wishing it would just all go away. It was dark, cold, and lonely. Even now she could feel the icy fingers from that moment reaching for her, grabbing her flesh, and starting to pull her backwards away from the warmth, away from the connection. She closed her eyes, welcoming it. Charles had a right to know. "There was....engine failure....due to production defects." She stopped, hearing how technical her own words sounded. This wasn't what he asked for. This wasn't anything he probably hadn't heard already. Opening her eyes, she looked away, unable to bear the sight of him as she talked this moment that she had been running away from since it happened. "There was....a fire....and both engines....were gone. I tried....I tried to make it....to the landing strip....but I couldn't. The plane....it was so damaged....I couldn't....I couldn't control it. So I just....went down....hard. I could smell..the oil..and feel..the heat..I could smell..b-burning....." Her voice faded. She couldn't bring herself to say the words. "Screaming. There was so much..screaming..and..crying. I told my co-pilot..it's ok..but it wasn't. I had to lie..to her..to keep her calm. So many flashing light..and sounds. I tasted..cooper. It hurt..to move. I happened in slow motion..like it wasn't real." Shedding tears, her trembling voice fell silent for a moment. "I couldn't..control it. I couldn't..fly the plane..my plane..I couldn't get it..I couldn't get them..to safety. I lost it. I lost..them. 12 people. Gone..and it's my fault." Her eyes closed tight. It was the first time she had heard those words come from her own mouth. "When I was a little girl, I remember my mom bought me this beautiful dress. She said, 'we're taking you to get your picture taken.' It's the one that sits on the mantle. The pink dress with the ribbons. She fixed my hair so pretty. I remember she got me to sit down to watch tv while she did it. It was the only way I'd sit still long enough," she laughed softly through the tears that she was now fighting back. "As soon as she was done, she told me to sit still and wait for just a little while. It wouldn't be long until we left to go get my picture taken. Well I couldn't wait. I couldn't..sit still. So I got up and went outside to ride my bike. I fell off my bike. When I got up, I was dirty. My hair was messed up. I knew I had messed up. I knew mom was going to be mad, but I knew..I could go home. I've always known I could come home." Finally she turned her gaze back to him. "I messed up. I fell off my bike. I messed my hair up Charles. So I came home. It's the only place that feel real. It's the only place I feel....anything. I'm sorry for bothering you and your family, but I'm glad you agreed to see me. I needed to feel....something. Anything. You asked me what I need. That's what I need Charles. To feel something again. This place has always been here for me. It's always felt warm and familiar. Tonight I'm even going out to Joe's Burger Pit. I saw it on the way into town. It hasn't changed a bit. Everything else in this town has changed, but not Joe's. I want to feel alive again Charles, and not this constant ache or emptiness. So tonight I'm going to go, have a burger, listen to music, and have a drink....or five. Care to go?" The question surprised her. She didn't even realize she had asked him until it was too late. Her eyes widened, and she glanced around. "If you can't, I understand. I had planned on just walking anyway. Really. I understand."
 

Reydan

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When she spoke he could feel it. Like it had seeped into her bones. She was clearly reliving it, her hands twitching and her eyes closed. The sights and sounds, the feelings and emotions, crashing over the small dark haired woman like a wave. Buffeting her consciousness. Threatening to was her away in its swell.

Charles was silent as she spoke, watching. Listening. He had guessed that it had been traumatic, but it was hard to see it firsthand. Hard to watch it play out over this woman he had known for so long. This woman he had loved... She was in pain, and as they stood there, the wind whipping around them on that hillside, she looked small and lost. A small dark figure in a huge bright expanse, her arms wrapped around her petite form as she struggle with the memories.

'But that isn't right, though, is it?' His voice came as a deep rumble, huskier than he remembered. Or maybe it was just the tension of the moment, breaking the sudden silence as she looked at him with a desperate smile. 'That analogy I mean...' he clarified, before she thought he was questioning her account of the crash. 'You weren't careless or fidgetty in that plane. Not from what I've heard.'

He sighed, running a hand through that messy hair and leaving a slight trace of engine oil in the matted red. 'Look....Maddy....I loved you so much for so long' he said, more honest than perhaps he'd intended to be. But here she was, bearing her heart to him, and he needed to meet her halfway. Needed to support her vulnerability here. 'Look...leaving aside how you left us here, you've loved three things in your life since I met you as a child. Me, Jenny, and flying.' He grinned. 'I'm not going to hazard at what order that was in when we were messy teens all together....but what I'm saying is that you have always been cool and controlled in a cockpit. This isn't you messing up that dress because you were too impatient.'

They stood, for another moment. Just looking at each other.

'I'll take you to Joe's tonight' he said softly, his voice caring. 'We'll sort you out. Take your mind off things'. He reached out an arm for her, offering her physical support as well as emotional. Even though his own mind was churning throughout. 'Come on, lets see if that doofus brother of mine has fixed up your car...'
 
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AndNich123

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"But that isn't right, though is it?"

The words drew an emotion she hadn't felt this entire time. It was something she hadn't felt in a long time if she was honest. Raging through her, the fire from her anger was quickly doused as he began to explain. Four words that he spoke caught her attention the most. They sparked yet another emotion that she had not felt in such a long time where he was concerned. Hope.

"…..From what I've heard…."

She had thought everyone had to know, but now she was hearing the words from him. He had been watching the news. He really did know it was her. Was he keeping up with her? She felt hope that the answer was yes.

A smile spread across her lips as he ran his fingers through his messy hair, the oil ever so apparent. She had to bite her bottom lip to keep from laughing. It felt so inappropriate to be laughing at such a moment. After all, she had just relived the worst moment in her entire life. Well….one of the worst moments in her life. To be laughing now would seem to belittle the entire experience and how it had genuinely affected her. It would be a slap in the face of the emotions that she had just shared with him, and Charles had already had enough slaps to last him a lifetime.

"…..loved….."

It was a slap in the face, a much-deserved one in fact. Her eyes glanced down, not wanting him to see the hurt now ladened within them. Though she had left years ago, though she knew things had ended at that moment, now it seemed so much more final. In the back of her mind, she had hoped that maybe, just maybe, in coming here they could….It was a thought she had to push out of her mind now. It was clear to her. Everything had been left in the past, at the alter, at the church, on that day.

….."I'll take you to Joe's tonight….."

She looked up quickly, clearly surprised by what he said. After all this time, he was still…..Charles. Despite what she had done to him, he was willing to spend time with her and help her through this. In coming home, she had hoped to find so much, and here on this hillside, she was finding something she knew she didn't deserve but needed so desperately. His compassion. His understanding. Her smile spread even further. "You may have to if your brother can't fix mom's car," she teased. Her eyes glanced down at his arm. Softly she sighed before her hand reached for his arm and took hold of him. He was every bit as warm and comforting as she remembered. In that moment, something came over her, and she couldn't help herself. Her other arm reached up, taking hold of him around the neck and pulling him in close, embracing him. "Thank you," she whispered. "I know I don't deserve any of this, but thank you Charlie….Charles! I mean Charles," she corrected herself before reality settled back in, before she realized what she was doing, and she backed away. Her hand still remained on his arm though, not wanting to let go. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have. I mean I should have…..asked…..or something. I'm sorry."

She wanted to shake the moment off quickly and head back towards the house. Gently she nudged him in that direction, hoping that he wouldn't mention the embrace, hoping that it was fleeting from his mind, and yet…..she hoped….just the opposite as well.

The walk back was quiet. She liked it that way. Nothing but her own thoughts, the gentle breeze, and his company. It was enough. For a moment, she wondered why it hadn't always been enough. Why did she have to….It was a question she shook her slightly to push away from her mind. It was a question she knew she would only beat herself up more, and the bruises, both literal and figuratively, hadn't faded from the crash.

All too soon they were back at the house, and she allowed his arm to slip from her grasp. Her eyes glanced up towards Jenny's room. The pull was undeniable. "I'll….I'll be in there with you two in a minute. There's something I want to do first," she told him, allowing her eyes to fall from Jenny's window, certain he would understand what she was going to do. Carefully, slowly, each step was taken as if she were trying to avoid alerting her she was on the way up to see her. Soon enough the familiar door came into view, with the round sign with her name painted on it hanging from a single nail. She couldn't help but smile, remembering the day Jenny got it. Her fingers curled, and she took a deep breath before knocking on the door. Reaching for the doorknob and turning, she didn't wait for a reply. If Jenny knew it was her, she would tell her to go away but with certain choice words added she was sure. "Jenny," she called out softly, her nerves clearly showing in her voice. "I just wanted to say….I don't blame you….for hating me. You have every right to. I can't imagine….what you went through. Maybe some part of my mind….doesn't want to. That sort of pain….it changes a person….and hurting you….and anyone else in your family….is not what I wanted to do. I just wanted….I needed to….I'm sorry Jenny. I had to tell you that. I wanted to tell you that, and if you never speak to me again, I'll understand. Jenny, you were the best friend I ever had. I still have your picture at my apartment. I never forgot you. I couldn't. I miss you," she told her, as feelings of regret and sadness began to take hold of her. It took everything she had to remain on the spot she stood, but she didn't want to advance any closer to Jenny. "You were more than a best friend. You were like a sister to me. You were family, and I….hurt you. I'm sorry. I am so….sorry Jenny. Please. Say something. Say anything. Please," she told her, before falling silent for fear her tears would fall from her eyes if she spoke anything more.
 

Reydan

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She babbled. Grateful. Desperate even in her thanks. It was...sort of upsetting to Charles. To see her like this. In all the years he'd known her, Maddy had never once shied away from a conflict or shown any sort of need for dependence. Fiercly independent, almost unable to back down from a challenge...

...and now she was timid. Anxious. He blew out his cheeks. Everything had changed so much, and here he was offering his arm to an old friend far shakier than he had ever imagined her being. No wonder she was desperate for some normality to anchor herself with. Her hand was soft on his arm, but the fingers felt tight. A firm, almost iron, grip. One fuelled by fear. His larger hand layered over the top as he began the walk back home with her. "S'ok Maddy". His voice was soft. Low. Reassuring. "S'ok right now..."

When they reached the plot on which the house and garage stood, and she announced her haltering intentions to see Jenny, his face grew clouded. "I think you're welcome to try" he began, voice level and with more than a hint of scepticism. "I don't know Maddy though....she was....was...pretty fucking angry". He reached out, unsure of exactly how to comfort her in this new...relationship they found themselves in. After a moment where his hand hung awkwardly in the air, he settled for a pat on the shoulder. "Just...don't expect to work miracles" he said, with a sad smile. "She might not want to be reached".

Jenny's door, the thin old wood with the off-white paint still clinging to it from years before when Maddy had been there, remained resolutely closed through her speech. No reaction shook or moved the door on its frame. No turn of the handle or creak of the hinges to suggest that the room's occupant beyond had been at all moved by the emotional outpouring.

It took a few seconds but, after Maddy has finished and slumped onto the floor in front of the door, it opened. Just a crack. Two inches. But it felt like the parting of the Red Sea. The fall of the Berlin Wall. A momental occasion playing out before her eyes.

A single , emerald green eye, appered in the crack. Its pupil focused on Maddy.

"I can't Maddy". The voice was small. Out of character small for the fiesty little firebrand behind the door. "I can't. You....you were my everything." The words came out, a trickle at first but growing in intensity. "My best friend...my co-worker in our stupid summer jobs...my confidente...my...my...my..." The tiniest of little sobs. "Fuck Maddy you were...you....you were my first kiss."

It hadn't been a lover's kiss. Not at all. But a night of teasing, joking, heart-felt worry, that Jenny was being left behind as they all turned 16. That she'd never have a boyfriend...never know love...be a hopeless shy wallflower (as if!) for the rest of her life...never having kissed a boy. A little tipsy from her parent's stolen alcohol they had kissed, just so that Jenny could say she'd kissed someone (not mentioning any names). It was another closeness. Another shared secret. Another bond shattered by Maddy's leaving.

"...you broke my heart when you left". The eye swam with bright tears in that tiny door crack - which remained resolutely unopening. "You broke my fucking heart".
 
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AndNich123

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It was hard to see Jenny like this. Everything she had said was true. They were each other's....pilots....in the adventures they undertook. There was no one she would rather have flown with, to experience them with, even Charles. Charles has....had....his special place in her heart. So did Jenny. She had found that with this family when she thought she couldn't possibly love them any more than she already did, they surprised her by making her fall even more in love with them still. She had mentioned the kiss. That night, the memory, all came flooding back to her. She could even smell the alcohol. Years had long ago washed away so many memories, but this one came flooding back within seconds. She remembered Jenny as being nervous about the entire thing. Perhaps her memory was failing her. Maybe she wanted to remember it that way. Jenny was never shy about anything in her memories, except this. Her lips had even trembled slightly as she pressed her lip glossed stained lips to hers'. Jenny's perfume had filled her nose. Even the music that was softly playing in the background came back to her. Sadly her words to her that immediately followed the kiss came back to her as well. Even as they played out in her mind, she softly spoke them. "We will never leave you behind." Her eyes closed tightly for a moment before looking up to Jenny. "We didn't. I did, but....I didn't. You were always....right there with me." Quickly she added, "still are," before looking away. "This whole family....still is. It's the only thing....that has remained with me. It's the only thing....." Shaking her head, she couldn't finish the sentence. It was a part of her heart she just wasn't ready to share. "You didn't deserve the pain that gave you. Nobody in this family did."

The things she was telling her were the truth, but she couldn't help but feel as though the words sounded like nothing more than a script from a movie or a television show. She couldn't help but feel as though they were coming across as nothing more than words. There was feeling behind them, but they felt muted and dull. If they felt that way to her, then she could only imagine how they must be coming across to Jenny. Taking a deep breath, she hauled herself up to her feet. "Jenny I never deserved you or Charles. This family gave me more love than I thought possible. Even saying those words, I wanna say how cheesy, how fake, they sound, but they are the truth. There is nothing I can say that won't sound that way. I can say that I kept Charles'....." Again she stopped, not ready to share this part of her life with anyone. "Hate me for the rest of your life Jenny, if you want to. I honestly wouldn't blame you." Finding courage she didn't know she had, her eyes meet the gaze that Jenny allowed her to have. "I made a mistake leaving the way I did. I thought that....." Again her voice trailed. There it was again. That brick wall she just couldn't get past yet. "I didn't....think. Clearly....I didn't think," she told her, her face, a painted picture, showing the emotions were catching up to her. Her eyes were glassy, and her cheeks burned red. "I'm sorry Jenny, and I'll say I'm sorry for the rest of my life." She took a deep breath. "For the rest of my life Jenny. My life. It was almost.....it was almost....and all I thought about....was this family. Still, whatever time I have left on this earth I will spend apologizing to you, and if you never....ever....forgive me....then that's ok. I understand, and....I deserver it."

The thought of running away again came to mind, but quickly she pushed it away. In talking to Jenny, she had found some sort of strength. It was keeping her to the spot she stood instead of racing down the stairs and away, away from the pain, away from the responsibility of owning up to the consequences of her actions. She had left the way she did, shattering lives, and now it was time to begin to put the pieces back together of that. Perhaps it was time to start putting the pieces back together....of everything. She wanted to push the door open and embrace her, hold her tight, and try to push all of this the back burner for just a moment, but she would respect Jenny's wishes. If this crack in the door was all she was willing to give her, then she would take it. If this moment would be the only time she was willing to talk to her, then she would gladly take it and hope that her words had reached her somewhere deep inside. If this was the last time Jenny was going to talk to her, then she wouldn't fight what she wanted to say. "Jenny, Charles and are going out tonight. Nothing fancy. Just hanging out at Joe's. You don't have to answer now, but....if you want to....would you like to come with us? For one night, all of us together again, hanging out, having good food." She knew it wouldn't be enough to put everything back the way it was. After all, it was only one night. At the same time, it was a step forward, and if she was honest with herself, a step forward felt....good. "Think about it Jenny, and if you decide to come, I'll see you then. Okay?" She turned and headed for the stairs. Before starting down them, she glanced back to Jenny's door. "Thank you for listening to me. It meant a lot. I am so sorry Jenny. Really." With those words, she gave her a smile and began down the stairs. For the first time in a long time, she felt....lighter. There was a smile on her face. Could it have been from finally speaking what was in her heart? Maybe it was from telling a truth that she knew needed to be spoken. Perhaps secrets that she held in the shadows of her heart needed to be brought to light. Maybe it was time.

Charles came into view as she entered the garage. Her smile grew. The light illuminated her frame standing there in the doorway as she gazed at the two men inside. "Just like old times. You two out here hard at work. It's a good sight. It's a really good sight." She shifted her focus to just Charles as she stood there, not moving inside the garage. "I'm gonna head on home while you two work on mom's car. I think the walk home will do me good. Nothing like the fresh air of this place. Believe me. I think it's healing....being here. So I'll see you later." She turned to leave, but stopped, spinning on her heels. "Daniel, we're going to Joe's tonight. I asked Jenny if she wanted to would she come along. That goes for you too you know. It would be great to have everybody there. Think about it. Bet I can still drink you under the table," she teased, allowing the smile on her face to be accompanied by a laugh. It was a genuine laugh. It was real, and it felt....amazing. "I'll see you guys later....I hope," she added. Pausing for a moment before taking off, she softly sighed. "I hope," she said, her voice gaining a warmth that spread into her being. With that, she began the trek back home with a smile on her face and hope in her heart.
 

Reydan

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The emerald eye swam with emotion in that door crack. Not a peep came from the other side of that door, not a word at all, even as Maddy poured her heart out through the gap. Laid herself emotionally bare in the hope that it would repair the burnt and broken bridge between her and the other girl. But not a sound came. All there was were the tears, trickling down those freckled cheeks, and the slight sight of fingertips white with the tension of holding the door in place.

Even at Maddy's final invitation there was no reaction. The green eye followed her as she sat up and, regretfully, trailed down the stairs back to the garage.

Charles turned at her voice. Maddy sounded like before, and the familiar, confident, playful, tones took him back a number of years. The sight of her standing there, in those jeans that clung to her gorgeous body, silhouetted by the dying sun outside, made his heart leap for a moment. There had been times...times where the eager teenagers they used to be had clung, hot and desperate, to each other's bodies in this garage, lingering and luxuriating in one of the few spaces where they were often uninterrupted.

"You'll be seeing us later" joked Daniel, slapping his gobsmacked brother on the back. "I'll make sure of it".

"As stunning as ever" he smirked to Charles once she had left. "If you aren't going to can I have a crack at..."

"Shut up Danny" Charles muttered, tossing an oily rag at him.

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The two men had secured a corner booth in at Joe's by the time she showed up. Charles had changed into a clean green button down and fresher jeans for the evening, but Daniel had made a real effort. The older Lerwick smiled as he watched the younger propping up the bar, flirting outrageously with Emmy Silverman whilst she served. It was quite the transformation - Danny had been an awkward, geeky, nervous young teen when Maddy had left. Now? Now he was all charm and easy laughter, a nice young man with more than a little skill with the ladies. Thankfully he wasn't too much of a heartbreaker, Charles smiled to himself. There wasn't a trail of tearful girls and irrate fathers beating a path to his garage, which wouldn't have been good in a small place like their's.

He was dwelling too much on the past, he thought idly as he swirled the beer in his glass. Or maybe, just maybe, he had been like that for a long time. Maybe since Maddy had left. He sighed. Spending time with Danny was useful insight. He had been just fourteen when it had all gone down, and whilst not a child had nevertheless not really understood the events of her running away. Now, as a strapping young adult, he saw it all as ancient history. Something to be worried about, in terms of Charles's feelings of course, but something a long time ago.

Danny wasn't the only one. He knew that all manner of people in their small hometown wondered about it. From the young women whose attempts to flirt he brushed off to the older members of the community who wondered why an eligible bachelor like himself was still alone. Even Maddy's Mom - he'd heard her, once, talking to someone after church. Wondering how long it would be before Charles stopped darting down aisles to avoid her in the local supermarket.

The only person who shared his obsession with the past was Jenny. His eyes fell on the empty seat opposite. They had waited, but she never appeared. Not even answered their knocks on her resolutely locked bedroom door. Maybe, he wondered for the first time, they kept each other back. That their sympathy had locked them into the past in an unhealthy way.
 
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AndNich123

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Blue. It would be the first thing she would notice. The neon's for Joe's still gave off a brilliant glow, lighting up the night sky, leading the way for those in search of the best burger in town. The parking lot was gravel. Joe would never upgrade and pave it. It wasn't his style. He had told her that himself. No, he preferred the place to a small town, home-like feel to it, and it did. It really did. The paint was peeling now, faded as well. The once pristine white paint now showed the passing of time. It was just another reminder. Time had not stood still. It would not stand still. Though she had left, this place, like everything else, that was here, had not been frozen in time. She could smell the fresh flowers that Joe always kept by the front door entrance. It was an homage to his late wife. She had loved them so, and even after passing, Joe couldn't bring himself to stop buying them. Everyone who came here knew they were for her. There was a certain amount of respect for the flowers. No one threw trash in them, or even around them. For that matter, no one threw trash anywhere on the premises. There was a certain fear of Joe chasing them down with his trusty baseball bat screaming, "I'm not your father, but I'll teach you a lesson!" Joe had his own style and flair that was for certain. No one ever picked the flowers. There was only one time where a girl picked one of the flowers. When she noticed Joe had seen her, he approached her and told her, "Take it. She would want you to have it." It was such a sweet gesture that no one ever dared to take from her or Joe. So as she stood beneath the blue hue, listening to the familiar hum, Maddy looked down and gently touched the soft petals of the flowers. "Hello, Mrs. Jameson. I haven't seen you or Joe in a long time. I'm sorry I've been away. I've missed you." Standing upright, Maddy had to wipe away a tear. Seeing the flowers had reminded her of just how close she got to joining Mrs. Jameson. She had been spared. Her life was not over, and now it was time to get it back. It was time to live.

She pulled on the metal handle and heard the ringing of the bells. Joe kept a small cluster of metal bells hanging just over the door. He loved the sound they made.
Once he had said it was the sound of money. Of course, his wife had said it was the sound of someone in need of something. Perhaps they could help them. Either the way, the bells still hung above the door. The sound drew an instant smile to her face. Glancing up, she noticed Joe had added a small blue ribbon bow. It was perfect. Her eyes scanned, searching for someone familiar, searching for him. When she couldn't find him, the memory came back to her. There was a table, their table, and it hit her like a ton of bricks that she would find him there. Moving through the maze of tables and bodies, she found them sitting there, like a beacon of comfort. Her smile grew wider as she slowly approached, but it would soon fade as she noticed Jenny wasn't there. Still, as she reached the table, she forced her smile once more. Her fingertips grazed the chair slightly before she gripped it and pulled it out. "Hi guys," she said, slipping into her seat. The question was there, and she couldn't
ignore it. It begged to be asked and answered. "Jenny didn't want to come, did she?" As soon as the words left her lips, she realized she didn't want to hear the answer. It was painful enough to know she wasn't there. "It's okay," she added on quickly before they could answer. "I understand. Just tell her she was missed." She knew the words would probably fall on deaf ears, but she felt they needed to be said. It was a sentiment she felt and wanted to convey to her once best friend.

The beer in front of Charles drew a mix of emotions. Drinking wasn't something that was new to either of them, but there was that nagging wondering in the back of her mind that maybe he had been doing a lot of this since she left. "So is that any good," she asked, gesturing to it. Part of her wanted to grab it and take a drink, but
she held back. The distance between them was far greater than the table between them. "Can I get you anything," the voice called out as if on cue to break the moment. "Yeah. I'll have what he's having. If it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me. In fact, bring another round for the table. I'm sure Daniel can handle
it." The lady nodded. "Alright, Hun. Be right back with it." Maddy would watch her leave before speaking. "Place hasn't changed that much. I see Joe still keeps the
same stuff on the walls. You know, most places would try to keep up with the times, to change, but not Joe. No, he's pretty set in his ways. He won't ever change."
She returned her gaze back to Charles. "You drink a lot, Charles? Is this an every night thing, or are you just drinking for tonight? Daniel," she asked, looking over to him. "Does he? Do you guys come here a lot and drink, or is there something you do for fun? What do you two handsome men do for fun around here these days?"
 

Reydan

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She edged her way through the evening crowd like the years melted away, and two beers into the evening Charles had a hard time reminding himself that time had, in fact, passed since he and Maddy had been regulars at Joe's Bar. This had been the haunt of their young lives, even before they were strictly old enough to meet their state's puritanical drinking age. In a small town like theirs, it was very much up to Joe to enforce the rules as he saw fit. He and Mandy had always played by the rules...Daniel? Well. Charles grinned at the memory. Daniel had been encouraged to toe the line a couple of times. It wasn't hard for Joe - there were no other bars in town, not that catered to younger people, so if you wanted in on the local "scene", such as it was, Joe's was the only place to be. Behave or miss out.

Her lithe body was wrapped in tight black jeans and an old checkered shirt, rolled up at the sleeves. The sort of outfit that, if he didn't know Maddy better, he would have dismissed as no effort. Except that he knew Madeline Maclean too well for that. Far too well. Knew that she was an expert in the low-key. Her hair was done up, loosely, and his eyes lingered on that exposed stretch of neck that he was more than familiar with.

It wasn't until she sat down and asked about his sister that he realised he'd been staring. "Oh, no...we knocked but....." he began, running a hand through his hair distractedly. He let out a sigh, meeting her gaze and seeing the hurt in her eyes. Jenny and Maddy had been so close, maybe even closer than the two of them had been, and this break-down of friendship must be torture for her. "Give her time, Maddy" he said, sympathetically. "She'll come around". He had, of course, no way of knowing that.

Daniel broke the spell by plonking into the booth seat next to Charles, grinning and flushed. He was, he informed them both as the beers were ordered, "this damn close" to, as he put it, "sliding into the Mackenzie girl's knickers". Charles laughed, rolling his eyes. Daniel was, he reckoned, nowhere near. Nor were his intentions anywhere near as impure. His younger brother was a scamp, not a heartbreaker. A well-intentioned goof who just liked to play the lady's man for laughs.

He brushed her question about drinking, but it caught Daniel unawares and he suddenly looked serious. "He......." he began, looking side-eyes at his older brother who simply nodded his head in weary acquiescence. "He's much better now...when all this began he had to be barred a bit, from here, because of how much he was drinking....." Daniel had, for once, found himself lost for words it seemed as he struggled with knowing how to broach Charles's messed up recent history.

"I coped, and now I'm good" Charles said, succinctly, trying to put the matter to rest.

"How is it back at the family home?" he asked, changing the subject. "Back in your old room, or have your parents turned it into a gym or something?"

"He wants to know if he's still able to climb over your garage roof and in through your window for a booty call" joked Daniel, before Charles swatted him around the head, blushing.
 
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AndNich123

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Knickers. She laughed softly at the word. She hadn't heard it in such a long time. Daniel seemed to be the only person she could recall that even used it. There wasn't a chance that what he was saying was true. Daniel simply wasn't the type. He couldn't do such a thing. Dating Charles, she had gotten to know him as well. Daniel was a kind, sweet, generous soul. Behind his eyes, she believed he believed in real love, that he was a hopeless romantic, and that the thought the right girl was still out there, inching her way closer to him with each passing day. It might take a year, or far longer, but Daniel wouldn't give up. That was the kind of person he was. A pointless, one-night stand just for sex wasn't in the cards for him. Sex, kissing, being close to a woman had to have meaning to him. Mindless didn't exist for him. She admired him for that. Far too many people tossed sex around as if there were not any feelings attached to it. Perhaps for some that was the truth. For people like Daniel, for people like her, it wasn't the case.

The truth came. It was a harsh reality that even though she had asked about, she wasn't ready to hear about. Thinking something is so is one thing. To have it confirmed is another. Charles had turned to the bottle, trying to find whatever it was he was searching for there. Surely she had no room to admonish him for it, but it was caused by her and her actions. Had she only stayed.....It was a random thought that she quickly silenced. There's no telling what would have happened if she had stayed. Perhaps they would have stayed together, gotten married, got a house on their own, had a couple of kids, a white picket fence, the whole nine yards of the dream for so many. Maybe. Then again they could have gotten married, gotten a house, had kids and ended up getting a divorce that would have left all involved with deep, emotional scars that may not have ever healed. They could have split up and watched each other find happiness elsewhere. Only one of them may have been the one to find happiness, forcing the other one to watch and suffer in silent agony. No. There were far too many things that could have happened. There really was no way of knowing what might have been. There was no point in wondering now. Charles had turned to the bottle, yes, but he had gotten better, perhaps even stronger in the process. Maybe these were just the random ramblings of her mind, trying to bring some solace to her, some sense of comfort and closure. Maybe.

"Home is home," she said with a simple shrug. "Things are getting better....easier..I guess. The big lights of the city shine..so bright, but it doesn't make things any clearer. It's a distraction. People in the city need that, I think. They're always in such a hurry, and I never figured out why. Hurry up, get there, and leave. Rinse and repeat. Over and over. No time to slow down. No time to really look at what those bright lights are..illuminating. It took coming back here, the soft glow of the moonlight or a candle in the window, to make a person really see things." Her voice grew quiet with her last few words as she realized what she had said. A candle in the window. There was meaning there. A candle in the window let him know she was thinking about it. A candle in the window let him know she would meet him later. A candle in the window let him know she loved him.

As Charles conveyed his thoughts by smacking his brother's head, she blushed and laughed. "A booty call huh?" Pursing her lips, she looked around the room quickly for a moment. "He never to ask before for a booty call. Why should he now? Besides, Charles was never a booty call." The words, the thoughts, had come out of her mouth before she realized it. Her blush deepened. "Well, at least that is contingent on one other thing really. The fate of the world hangs in the balance, precariously perched on this one factor Charles, are you sure you're ready to hear it? Are you sure YOU can handle it," she teased, using her best impression of a dramatic trailer. "It all depends on one....simple....thing. Can you dance Charles? Can you move those two left feet? If not, then Daniel here will have to accompany me to the dance floor." She gave Daniel a smile, raising her eyebrows. If he was still the same person, he would be more than willing to take to the dancefloor with her. He would have no problem snatching up her hand, leading her out into the music, and making all the worries she had on her mind melt away. If he was still the same person he once was. "That is of course if you're not too concerned about this damaging your chances of, how did you word it, sliding into the Mackenzie girl's knickers." The laughter could not be contained, even if she wanted to. It felt to good to let go. It felt good to be here. It felt good being with them. Finally. Things were feeling good.
 

Reydan

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The way that blush crept over her face, like ink spreading over clean white paper, took him back. They could have been seventeen again. Easily. In that moment time was relative, a conduit that allowed them to remember...The twinkle of her eyes. The way her hair shifted around her face, even though her cut was more professional and tidy than it had been in their youth. The way she rose to an occasion, rather than shied away from it. Same old Maddy.

Same Old Maddy.

Same old Maddy pushing him towards the dancefloor. It had been her aim, her dream, but it had taken months of dating before he agreed to finally dance with her in public. He was terrible. A toe-crushing, arrhythmic, disaster. Elbows jostling other dancers, feet leaden, palms sweaty with embarrassment. Whereas she? She had grace and poise and dresses that shimmied invitingly around her thighs as she swayed her hips. It had been the dresses, or more accurately the promise of what lay beneath, that had enticed him. Made him teenaged putty in her hands and ensured that he continued in his crushingly terrible attempts to dance with her. He was never really sure he'd improved, despite her promises he was getting better with each attempt, but it made her happy. And he lived for that.

Had lived for that, he corrected himself. Maybe it didn't matter. Maybe, in that timeless place, time didn't matter.

His hands were on her hips as they swayed, uptempo country music making it easy to shimmy and hop with the dancers around them. He had, in fact, got better, and the little squeal of delight that he stole from her lips as he picked Maddy up and spun her around before landing her back on her feet, like the other women on the floor had been spun, was well worth the effort. This was where they had been, he knew. In the beating heart of this little hometown community. So quaint and local it was like they had been made by the Hallmark company to sell a perfect slice of Western Americana.

But something changed, in that moment, even as he considered how time seemed to fall away. The music stopped, shifting to a familiar soft ballad. Couples embraced, drawing close. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the Mackenzie girl press her lips to his brother's throat, Daniel clearly well on his way to another conquest. And the sight of his brother, so much older than when Maddy had left, was jarring. Knocking against the timeless feel of her body close to his.

"Maddy no" he said, his voice low. His eyes awash with...something. It was a creeping dread, hot fingers running up his back. Prickling his senses. This was wrong. It felt wrong. The beer tasted sour in his mouth. The warm air of the bar suddenly stiffling.

He pushed out into the night-time street, quiet save for the murmur of the bar behind, and sucked in the cold prairie air desperately. Like he had come up for oxygen. It was a slap in the face. A sudden icy wakeup call. The night was cloudless and, despite the warm weather of the day, the heat had rapidly dissipated, leaving the darkness cool and dry. He knew she had followed him out. Knew it without looking. And he couldn't turn to face her.

So instead, like a coward, Charles said what he knew he had to say over his shoulder. Not looking back.

"Why, Maddy? Why?"
 
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