6.87: Interlude – Found




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6.86: Interlude – Lost

Note: NSFW screenshot in this one

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With a soft sigh, Harper rolled over onto her side, curling her legs even closer to her chest as she did so.

She wanted nothing more than to just disappear.

Her parents had forced her to go to another therapy session that morning. But it was completely pointless, just like Harper knew it would be.

It wasn’t that she didn’t like Dr. Cunningham. It was that Dr. Cunningham just didn’t understand her. I can’t talk to her the way I’m supposed to… Or the way I WANT to. Harper wished she could try opening up more… But she just didn’t trust this new doctor. She wasn’t comfortable with her.

I wish I could talk to Dr. Savage again. Harper sighed softly to herself. He was probably the only shrink in the whole world she could even halfway trust. But there was no way she could ever be his patient again. Not unless I get my ass thrown in jail again…

And right now, that was what was scaring the hell out of her.

Last week, it had been a pack of gum. Yesterday, it was a bottle of nail polish. For the first time in two years, she was stealing again.

It was this urge she just couldn’t shake. It would creep up on her so fast, it felt like she didn’t even have time to think. She just did it. And she hated herself for giving in.

Sometimes it even made her think of Ivy. Was that what it was like for her? That awful impulse she just couldn’t fight?

Yeah, and look at what giving in to that urge cost her. Harper felt so sick imagining what she almost cost HERSELF too. If she’d been caught, she’d be back in jail in a heartbeat. She’d lose her little boy all over again. What the hell is wrong with me?!

It was a question that had often kept her up all night.

Everything was just falling apart so fast. It felt like she had no control over her life anymore. It was almost like she was on autopilot or something. She was standing on the sidelines, watching someone else live this pathetic shell of a life. And Harper hated what she saw. So much. But she felt so powerless to change any of it.

Even just getting out of bed was so hard some days. Phoenix was literally the only thing keeping her going anymore… The only person in the world who could make her forget how much everything still hurt.

But Phoenix was with Erik and Rubi all afternoon, so she didn’t even have him there to help make her feel better. She didn’t have anything.

Harper was supposed to leave for her world-building class in a little over an hour, but she just didn’t feel like going. In fact, she’d only gone to her writing class twice since Ivy’s death.

Most days, she just couldn’t bring herself to do it. Walking those same halls they used to frequent together was just too painful. Remembering that Ivy was the only reason she’d even tried going to uni in the first place… It was too much.

Maybe I should call Rylie. Harper wondered. After all, that was probably the only thing that could possibly make her feel better, wasn’t it?

As much as it sickened her, it felt so damn good whenever they were together. It had been less than a month since the funeral, and they’d already hooked up three or four times since then.

It just felt so good to be able to forget. It was like she was actually connected to somebody else, even if it was just for a little while. Even if it was completely meaningless sex.

It was afterwards that was the hard part. No matter how amazing the sex was, Harper would always go back to feeling just as empty as she did before… Sometimes even worse. Like she was cheap or something. Or cheating on Ivy. Or using Rylie.

Harper used to wish she’d convinced Devin that night after the funeral… But looking back, she was glad she didn’t. I would have broken his heart… And probably my own too, maybe even worse than it already is. At least with Rylie, she knew it didn’t mean anything.

It made her so sick to think that she was using her friend like that… But Rylie let her do it. Harper knew she was enjoying the sex just as much as she was.

But did that really make it okay?

I’m such a fucking screwup!

The knocking at her bedroom door was so faint, Harper almost thought she was imagining it. She’d turned off her hearing aid before lying down. It was so much easier to drown out the rest of the world that way.

It wasn’t until the third round of muffled banging that Harper realized it was not all in her head.

“Go away!” She called out, still hugging her knees to her chest. “I’m fine!”

Zayne and Hope had been so persistent in checking up on her during days like today. And while a part of her appreciated their concern, mostly Harper just wanted to be left alone.

Even without her hearing aid turned on, the high-pitched creaking of the opening door was loud enough to reach her good ear.

With a heavy sigh, Harper swung her legs over the side of the bed at last. “Papa, I told you, I’m –” Her eyes widened. “Oh. Hey, Dev.”

What the hell is he doing here?! Despite her confusion, the sight of his face still managed to warm her heart a bit. She reached up quickly, flicking the switch of her hearing aid so she could hear his reply.

“Hey, Harper.” He did not smile. “Sorry for barging in like this…”

“It’s fine.” Though his expression remained pained, she tried her best to force a smile. “What’s up?”

“Nothing, I just… I wanted to come say hi.” Devin lowered himself onto the bed beside her as he spoke. It was immediately clear that he was hiding something.

Harper narrowed her eyes in suspicion. Just decided to drop in out of the blue, huh?”

“Well, um… your Papa did tell me he was worried about you.” He confessed softly. “He said you were talking about skipping your class again?”

Harper’s brow furrowed instantly in anger. Devin and her Papa, talking about her behind her back?! “Seriously? Do you have him keeping tabs on me for you or something?”

“No!” Devin put his hands up almost defensively. “That’s not it at all! I think he just wanted a little… help. Talking to you, I mean.”

“Why? Is he really so afraid that he can’t come talk to me himself?”

“He’s not ‘afraid’, Harper!” Devin sighed heavily. “I just think sometimes your parents feel a little… I dunno. Lost or something?” He shrugged. “They love you. And they wanna help you, but you’re… You’re being kind of…” He looked almost guilty as his voice trailed away.

Harper could only imagine how he was planning on finishing that sentence. She rolled her eyes. He’d wasted no time in going into one of his usual lectures. “Come on, Dev.” It was her turn to sigh this time. Despite her anger, she tried her best to soften her reply. “I don’t need this stupid speech.”

“Yes, you do…” His voice was pained. “Look, I didn’t wanna just barge in here and dump this on you, okay? But someone had to say it sooner or later — You can’t keep doing this, Harper.”

“Doing what?!”

THIS!” Devin snapped, gesturing in her general direction. “Look at yourself! Hiding yourself up in your room, skipping your classes, pushing away everybody who tries to help you, manipulating the people you care about…” He paused for a moment. “This isn’t you, Harper. It’s who you used to think you were, maybe. Or who you tried to be. But it’s not you. And I thought you’d figured that out a long time ago…”

Harper shook her head she tried her best to ignore the truth behind his words. “You’ve got it all wrong, Dev. I’m not ‘manipulating’ anybody or ‘pushing them away’, okay?” Yes, you are, a small voice in the back of her mind whispered. “I call you all the freaking time, don’t I? Katie too. And Rylie.”

Devin rolled his eyes. “Booty calls don’t count.” He muttered bitterly.

Harper felt all the blood drain from her faceShit. Did she tell him?! How did he know about that?! “I… I don’t…” She paused for a moment. “What are you talking about?” She asked at last.

Don’t.” He shook his head. “Don’t lie to me. I thought we were past that shit.”

Guilt washed over her instantly at his words. How could she even think of lying to him, of all people? “Fuck. You’re right. I’m sorry.” She suddenly felt as though she were about to cry. “It’s true. Rylie and I are…” She let her voice trail away.

“Katie’s been telling me for weeks that I should say something.” Devin continued, ignoring her apology. It was hard to tell whether he was talking to himself, or to her. “But I didn’t wanna get involved… I promised myself I wouldn’t.” 

“Then don’t.” Harper replied seriously. “I get that you’re worried, Dev. And I appreciate your concern. But I don’t expect you to get wrapped up in all my shit. That’s not fair to you. I’m gonna be fine.” She tried her best to sound confident. “I’m dealing with this, okay? In my own way.”

Devin stared at her for a few moments before replying. His expression was so difficult to read. “You’re not ‘dealing with it’.” He said at last. “Running from it, maybe. Or hiding from it. But definitely not dealing.”

There was a strange heaviness in Harper’s chest at his words. He doesn’t even know the half of it.

Devin was already so ashamed of her for hooking up with Rylie. It sickened her to imagine what he’d think if he knew she was stealing again too…

Shit. I can’t keep that from him. If there was anybody in the world she could trust, it was the man sitting next to her on that bed.

“You’re right.” She admitted sadly. “I’m… I’m kind of a fucking mess right now. And I don’t just mean the shit with me and Rylie… I, um…” She glanced down at the floor. “I took a couple things from the store last week. Without paying.”

Devin’s face dropped into one of his hands. “Christ.” He muttered helplessly. “Harper… You can’t do this shit anymore! Think of Phoenix! He needs you!”

“I know! And I feel so fucking sick. I don’t wanna do this anymore. I don’t wanna be like this anymore either… But I also don’t want you worrying about me, okay? These are my mistakes. This is my fucked up life. And I’ve gotta deal with it on my own.”

To her surprise, Devin nodded in agreement. “I know. And that’s why I’m not gonna try and tell you what to do about it. I’m not gonna try and force you to do anything. I’m gonna let you figure things out your own way.”

“You are?” Her eyes widened slightly. “I was so sure this was gonna be one of your classic interventions…” For a moment, she almost smiled.

“It’s not.” Devin assured her. “It’s… a ‘push’, maybe? Or a plea?” He stared down at the floor for a moment before continuing. “I was so proud of you when you finally got out of jail. It kinda felt like I finally had you back again, if you know what I mean. The real you. The sweet, funny, amazing girl Mr. Asche paired me up with back in History class.” His lip curled slightly into a small smile as he spoke. But when he opened his mouth once more, it was gone.

“But then after what happened with Ivy… I guess it’s like the old Harper’s back or something. And to be honest, I was kinda hoping we’d never see her again…”

Harper felt the painful heaviness return to her heart at his words. Because she knew he was absolutely right.

“I know.” She admitted softly. “I… I feel it too. And I hate it. I hate being this way.”

“Then you’ve gotta do something about it, Harper!” Devin cried in frustration. “Sitting around feeling sorry for yourself isn’t gonna do shit. And I know it’s hard, okay? But I’ve seen you do it before. You can do it again.”

When she remained silent, he continued. “Harper, I can’t even pretend I understand what you’re feeling right now. I know I can’t. But what I do understand is that Ivy would want so much more for you than this. She’d want you to keep getting better. And she’d wanna see you keep on living, not just going through the motions. She’d want you to be happy.”

Without warning, Harper’s eyes were wet and stinging with tears. Hearing him talk about Ivy hit her so much harder than she’d anticipated.

Was what he said true? What would Ivy want for her? Or, more importantly, what would Ivy think if she could see her now? If she could see how low she’d fallen?

Rarely had Harper allowed herself to give it much thought before. After all, it didn’t matter, did it? Ivy was dead. Gone. Who cared what she’d think of any of this?

I do. She suddenly realized. I care.

Harper blinked against the new round of tears that fell down her cheeks.”I get what you’re saying… But how can you know what Ivy would have wanted? You didn’t know her, Dev…”

“You’re right. I didn’t.” Devin sighed softly. “But Ivy loved you. And… maybe that’s something I do know a thing or two about.” His cheeks reddened slightly as he spoke.

Harper said nothing, her own face growing warm. Did he just say he…?

With a small shake of his head, Devin continued. “I hate to say it, but really I can’t stand seeing you like this, Harper. And I know Ivy would feel exactly the same.” He said gently. “You’ve gotta pick yourself up out of this pit, okay? You’ve gotta find a way to start moving forward again. I know you keep saying Phoenix is the only thing keeping you going right now… But you have so much more to live for than just him. I hope you don’t forget that.”

Devin seemed to hesitate for a moment before finally allowing the corner of his mouth to curl into a smile. “Sorry for the big speech. I know how much you hate shit like this.”

“I do.” Harper couldn’t help but smile as well. “So fucking much.”

He chuckled softly before replying. “I’m just worried about you, Harper. Because I… I really care about you. A lot.”

“I know. I get it.” She assured him. “And I know I suck at showing it… but I appreciate all of this. Seriously.” Harper confessed. “I don’t know if there’s anyone else in the world who would’ve stuck by me through even half the shit I’ve put you through…” She smiled warmly at him. “You really are the best, Dev. I don’t know what I ever did to deserve a friend like you.”

He simply smiled at her in reply. Neither of them spoke for a few moments.

“I guess I should probably let you go…” Devin broke the silence at last. “You’ve got your class this afternoon, right?” He eyed her significantly as he spoke.

She nodded. As painful as it would be, Harper knew she had to go. For Dev. And for Ivy too. “I’ll text you later though, okay?”

Devin smiled, rising to his feet. “Sounds good.”

Even after he’d closed the door behind him, the weight of his words still hung so heavily in the air. Harper knew that he was absolutely right. She was being so awful right now — to her parents and her friends… even herself.

And it was no one’s fault but her own.

He’s right. I can’t keep doing this. I can’t keep hiding from my problems… and I can’t just sit here and keep feeling sorry for myself. Harper told herself firmly. The only one who can change any of this is ME. I’ve gotta face this shit head-on… That’s what Ivy would want me to do.

She would get dressed and go to her class. She’d stop screwing around with Rylie. She’d stop stealing shit. She’d find a better therapist. She’d start letting people in again.

And she’d stop sitting around waiting for someone to come and save her.

For once, it was time to suck it up and learn to save herself.

6.85: Once Upon A Time

NSFW Nudity Warning

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Once upon a time, far across the shimmering sea, there lived a sad and lonely young girl.

All the others who lived beside her in the floating kingdom were so full of joy. They were whole. Day after day she watched as they sailed by her in their huge, beautiful ships while she drifted aimlessly in her little rowboat, all alone.

For a long time, things seemed so hopeless. Would anyone ever come to save her? Was she doomed to drift away forever?

 Eventually, she came to realize that she was not quite as alone as she had thought. There were others who drifted too. Others who felt lost, or lonely, or out of place. And they welcomed her into their boat with open arms.

For the first time she could remember, the girl was happy. She wasn’t afraid or alone anymore. She could finally be herself. And every day she spent with these new friends, she felt herself growing stronger. More confident. Transforming into the person she always wanted to be.

And for a long time, she thought that was enough.

Until she met him.

He emerged one day from beneath the crystal blue waves. Handsome. Charming. Perfect.

 

Each day he rose from the depths and sang to her of a beautiful, perfect life beneath the sea. His words intoxicated her. Enchanted her.

How could she possibly resist this beautiful siren’s call?

Her friends begged for her to resist his charms. They pleaded with her to stay with them. They warned her of the terrible darkness that lurked below — of the poison that flowed within his veins.

But she did not listen.

 

And finally, one day, he reached for her hand and pulled her down below the surface of the sparkling waters. She did nothing to resist as he carried her with him into the darkest depths, opening her eyes to a world she never even knew existed.

Her lover breathed fresh life into her lungs. He made her stronger. He transformed her. He brought out something from deep within her. Something confident and powerful and beautiful.

But he brought something else out of her as well. A darkness. A poison. For unbeknownst to her, the very poison that flowed within him had been flowing within her veins too.

The dark poison slowly seeped from their pores. It encapsulated them, trapping them within its thick, impenetrable walls. It was suffocating… But the two lovers clung desperately to one another, both too afraid to let go. Both pulling each other deeper into the darkness.

The girl thought it would consume them. She believed that they would both be destroyed beyond repair.

But then, something incredible happened.

The darkness slowly began to melt away. There was a warmth that hadn’t been there before. A light. And, as her eyes finally adjusted to the brightness before her, the girl realized that her lover was nowhere to be found. Instead, he’d been replaced by the most amazing creature she had ever laid her eyes on.

As toxic and poisonous as it had been, their love had created something beautiful. Their child was a miracle, perfect in every way.

But she did not deserve him.

A pain ripped through her entire body as the cruel current of fate wrapped itself around her, pulling her away from her precious gift. No matter how hard she fought or struggled against it, she could do nothing to escape its clutches.

There was nothing she could do but watch as the bright light of her child’s face faded from view, and the darkness enveloped her once more.

Was this the end? Would she ever see her child again? Was she doomed to perish here beneath the waves?

She awoke to the sharp taste of salt on her tongue and the feeling of coarse sand beneath her cheek.

  

She heard voices then, soft and gentle… almost comforting. But the girl could not fully shake the fear and loneliness in her heart. She knew that the tides had carried her far away from home. 

And she was right. The island she found herself on was completely alien to her, locked in on all sides by tall, rocky cliffs in the middle of a blue lagoon. 

But at least she was not alone.

As she rose shakily to her feet, she was greeted by the familiar face of an old enemy… And the enchanting smile of a new friend.

They both shared her fear and confusion, she soon learned. The tides had carried them here as well — countless miles from home, separated from the rest of the world.

“This is our punishment,” they told her. They both suffered from the same terrible affliction as her own — the darkness and poison within their souls that had caused harm to so many. Including themselves.

“But how will we ever find our way home?” The girl asked. “Can we escape the darkness? Will we ever be free?”

Her old enemy smiled. “Of course,” she said. “But first, we must find the light… together.”

And so they did.

It was impossible to tell how long the three of them spent on the island. Was it weeks? Months? Years?

The answer mattered little. But in the time they spent together, the girl could feel a change in her soul once more, just as she’d felt with her friends on their rickety old boat, and her handsome lover beneath the waves.

The darkness no longer called to her the way it used to. She could feel it evaporating from within her veins, replaced by… something else. 

  

It filled her with the hope that she would one day see her friends again — and, more importantly, the precious child she’d left behind.

And her hope only grew stronger on the day the little rowboat appeared on the shore. But the moment she set her eyes on it, she knew it was not meant for her.

It was meant for someone else.

Her former enemy’s darkness had been expelled from her at last, and fate saw fit for her to return home.

Despite the sadness that filled her heart as she said farewell to her friend, it filled her with so much happiness too.

“If she can do it, so can I,” the girl told herself.

But there was still so much work to do. And luckily, she still had someone to help her through it.

Before long, that friendship she and her companion shared grew into so much more.

For so long, she had thought she understood what love meant. She had believed the beautiful words of her handsome siren’s song. She’d let herself fall under his spell…

But there was no magic at work here. This was something deeper. Better. Real

It was unlike anything she’d felt in her entire life.

She felt confident. Strong. In-control. Her new lover helped to fill her with so many things that had been missing from her life.

Including the strength and light she needed to finally earn her passage home.

But it was a journey she would have to make alone.

Her beautiful new lover told her not to worry. “We will see each other again one day,” she promised. “When I have found the light myself.”

Encouraged by her lover’s promise, the girl made her way into the waiting boat, and back into the loving arms of her precious child. 

She knew she had left a piece of her heart behind on that island… But she had faith that it would be returned to her one day, when she and her lover were reunited once more.

But it was a promise neither of them were able to keep. 

Alone on the island, it was impossible for her lover to resist the sweet whisper of the darkness.

It called out to her. It drew her close. It made false promises of joy, and freedom.

And she wasn’t strong enough to resist.

The news of her lover’s fate did not take long to reach the girl’s ears.

And hearing it changed everything.

That was when the girl realized that she was truly cursed. The darkness that had poisoned her soul would continue to mock her for the rest of her life. She could never escape her punishment. She could never be happy.

The darkness called out to her more than ever after that.

Every day, its whispers would rise up from the shimmering waves, begging for her to dive in once more. To find release from her torment. To join her beautiful lover in the depths of oblivion…

And, as time went by, it became more and more difficult to ignore.

She tried desperately to find ways of staving off the darkness. She wanted nothing more than to be free of it. She longed for the happiness and light that fate so cruelly stole from her. But finding it proved impossible.

At first, she sought comfort in the arms of one of her dearest friends. He was one of her very first companions, and perhaps the one person in her life who knew her better than anyone.

Even after all the ways her long journey had changed her, he alone knew the shy, terrified girl who lay beneath. He understood her. And, despite it all, he loved her too.

But he helped her see that she was not worthy of him. He deserved better than to be used as a means for comfort. To fall victim to her vicious poison.

But there was another.

Another whose heart was less fragile, and whose body was more than willing to give the girl what she so desperately needed.

This time, her friend’s protests and uncertainty were so much easier to overcome… Before long, the two women’s bodies melted together.

And, for a few fleeting minutes, everything finally felt okay again.

If only it were enough.

But it never is.

She’s crawled back to her companion’s eager arms more than once since that first night. And no matter how may times she does, nothing gets better. Nothing changes. 

After coming so far, she’s right back where she started.

She can feel herself changing… Becoming cruel and selfish again. Impulsive. Bitter. Angry. Empty. Just as she was before.

She wants nothing more than to transform once again… To rediscover the strength her beautiful lover had given her, and free herself from the darkness forever.

But no matter how hard she tries, she can’t.

She’s trapped. Lost and adrift at sea.

Empty. Alone.

And this time, she knows no one will come along to save her.

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That was probably the most bizarre A2A chapter I’ve ever done… but I wanted to do something kinda different/special, because it’s also our 450th chapter, if you can believe it! (I know I can’t! Haha) Here’s a sweet little picture of all our heirs to celebrate! 

 Thank you all so much for your support and love through these past 450 chapters! The Rosebrooks and I truly appreciate it, from the bottom of our hearts ❤

6.84: Interlude – Lonely

Harper’s hands shook slightly as Devin handed her another glass of amber liquid. “Thanks,” she muttered hoarsely as she lifted the drink to her lips.

The alcohol burned her throat even more than the long bouts of heavy sobbing that had plagued her for the past few hours.

The moment Harper saw the casket, something inside of her completely broke. It killed her to know that it held the cold, lifeless body of the woman she loved. Her beautiful, perfect Ivy… Though she was neither of those things anymore, Harper knew.

She was grateful that Ivy’s brother had opted for a closed casket. It was bad enough to just imagine that terrible sight… There was no way Harper could ever handle seeing it with her own eyes. Instead, her final memory of Ivy’s face was vibrant and beautiful. Her bright blue eyes glistening with tears; the very corners of her soft, full lips curled every-so-slightly into a sad smile as they said goodbye…

Harper already dreaded the day when she could no longer remember that beautiful sight.

“Hey… Maybe you should slow down a little.” Devin said gently as he took a seat beside her on the couch.

She finished this drink in nearly half the time of her first. Her head was already pleasantly fuzzy, and her cheeks had begun to grow slightly warm. It felt nice. For the first time all day, it felt like some of the pain was finally being numbed.

“I’m fine.” She insisted. “In fact… I wouldn’t say no to a third?” Harper smiled slightly.

Devin shook his head. “Getting drunk isn’t gonna help.” His voice was pained. “I know how much it hurts, Harper. But that won’t make it better.”

“No… You don’t know.” She replied, her voice quiet but firm. “You have no fucking idea what this feels like.” The sharp sting of tears had suddenly returned to the corner of her eyes.

So much for numbing the pain…

Pain…

Harper suddenly found herself thinking back to one of the most terrible parts of that afternoon… Talking to Finn. Until now, she’d only met Ivy’s brother in passing, maybe a handful of times in the year the two of them had spent in prison together.

Harper had always liked him. He was kind and warm like his sister… Maybe not quite as introverted as she’d been, but still so gentle and soft-spoken. She enjoyed the brief time they’d spent together.

But talking to him that day had been torture. He’d tried to put on a brave face, but Harper could tell just how broken and empty he truly was… Probably even more than she was. The thought made her heart break even more than it already had. He had no one now. Literally no one. Ivy was his only living family member he had contact with… And now she was gone.

Ivy had loved her little brother more than anyone in the world. And if she could see him now… She’d be so worried. Harper knew she had to do something.

So at the end of the funeral, she gave him her phone number, and encouraged him to reach out to her. “If you ever need to talk to somebody, please… Call me.” She’d said.

Finn accepted her offer gratefully. And then he’d said something that haunted Harper even now, hours later. And it would probably continue to haunt her for a long time. It was something that should have brought her great joy, but instead, it simply broke her heart.

“Thank you. You’re so sweet… Just like Ivy always said,” he’d told her. “Thank you for everything you did for her. I’m sure you already know this… But she loved you so much, Harper.”

He’d said the words with such certainty… And Harper knew it was true. Maybe she always had.

And maybe if she’d told Ivy she felt the same way, none of this would have happened.

Before Harper knew it, the floodgates were open, and she found herself sobbing and wailing once more.

“Shhh… It’s okay.” In an instant, Devin’s strong arms were around her, pulling her close to him. “You’re right. I don’t know how it feels… But I’m so sorry. It kills me to see you like this.”

She buried her face in his shoulder, unable to reply as her tears continued to flow. Harper tried her best to calm herself once more, taking a few slow, deep breaths. Devin’s arms were so strong and warm… It was hard not to feel safe in his embrace. Loved. Just like the way she’d once felt with Ivy. Harper had missed feeling this way so much more than she realized.

She nuzzled gently against Devin’s neck as she inhaled the musky scent of clay and cologne on his skin. She’d always loved the way Devin smelled. It was just as intoxicating as the alcohol she’d drank a few minutes before. 

“Thank you.” She whispered at last, her head still resting on his shoulder. “You’re the best, Dev.”

His shoulder shook slightly with a small chuckle. “Best? I don’t know about that…” 

“I’m serious.” Harper continued. She finally sat up once more. “Don’t ever tell Rylie this… But you’re the best friend I’ve ever had.” She had no idea where these words were coming from, but Harper meant every single one. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.  You’ve always been there for me, even when no one else was. And I’m… I’m just so lonely right now.” Her voice was suddenly thick. “You’re the only person who makes me feel okay again.”

Devin’s expression was almost impossible to read. He seemed at a loss for words.

Harper had no idea what came over her then.

But the next thing she knew, her lips were on his.

And he was kissing her back.

A strange flood of memories came rushing back to her then. That night at the New Years Eve party, when she’d kissed Devin for the first time. The gentle way Erik used to kiss her ‘good morning’ each day, even when he was at his worst. The sweet, perfect taste of Ivy’s lips and tongue against hers…

Harper missed it — all of it — so much. God, I need this.

She ripped Devin’s jacket from his strong arms, tossing it to the floor below them. He groaned softly against her lips as she swung her legs over his.

Her entire body was on fire. And nothing else mattered but him.

But just as quickly as it had started, it was all over.

“Harper… Wait… Wait!” She felt Devin’s hands on her then… But not in the way she wanted to. “Stop, okay? Shit… We can’t do this.” His voice was pained.

She could still feel Devin’s erection pressing against her, even then. It was so fucking hot. Harper knew he wanted this just as much as she did. So why was he pushing her away?

“What is it?” She asked, one of her small hands touching the rough stubble of his cheek. “What’s wrong?”

He gently pushed her from his lap then, rising to his feet. “You seriously have to ask?” Devin shook his head almost bitterly. “This isn’t right, Harper.”

She felt her heartrate rising at his words. All the comfort and joy she’d felt just moments before had completely vanished. Why was he doing this? How could he reject her? She needed him!

“What’s your problem?!” She demanded suddenly. “I thought you wanted this!’

“Of course I do! You know I do… I’ve always wanted this.” Devin paused, shaking his head slowly. “But not like this.”

“Why not?!”

He held his face in one of his hands for a moment before replying. “Because the woman you love just got put in the ground this morning! And because no matter how much I want this, I know that you don’t, Harper. You think you do, but you don’t.” A soft sigh passed his lips. “You’re not thinking straight right now. You’re hurt. You’re grieving. And you’ve had too much to drink, which is totally my fault…” He was almost rambling now. “If we go through with this, we’re both gonna end up getting hurt. Trust me.”

“You don’t know that.” Harper insisted, her voice suddenly small. “I need this, Dev. I need you.”  Why couldn’t he understand that? She needed to feel safe again. Happy. Wanted. Loved. And she knew he could make her feel all of that and more.

No.” This time Devin’s voice was firm. “If you’re looking for some kind of rebound hookup, you’ve come to the wrong place, Harper.” For a moment, he narrowed his eyes at her. But when he spoke again, his tone was much softer than before. “Look, you know how I feel about you. You know I will always be here for you when you need me… But not like that. Not now.”

Harper felt her tears begin to fall once more. I’m being ridiculous. She knew it was selfish of her to keep pushing him like this. He was right… It would be an insult to Ivy’s memory, wouldn’t it? And she’d just end up hurting him. And I’d hate myself if I ever did that to him.

But where else could she go? Who else could she turn to? Erik had Phoenix for the weekend, and she couldn’t stand the thought of being alone in the house with her parents after the funeral… But it was simply too awkward now to try spending the night here.

I’ve gotta get out of here.

“I’m sorry.” She said at last. “You’re right. I’m just… I’m really overwhelmed right now. I never should have tried pushing you like that. I… I think I just need to go home. Head to bed.”

He smiled softly at her. “It’s okay. I know you’re not exactly yourself right now… Which I totally get.” Devin assured her. “This can’t be easy for you…” He paused for a few seconds before speaking again. “Do you want me to give you a ride? Are you okay to drive?”

“I’m fine.” She promised. “Don’t worry about me, okay?” Harper leaned forward, planting a soft kiss against his cheek. “And I really did mean what I said before… You’re the best, Dev.”

Harper headed for the door then. And thankfully, he did not follow.

She only made it to the sidewalk outside Devin’s apartment building before she stopping herself. Fuck… I can’t go home. She knew she couldn’t.

So where would she go instead?

It didn’t take long for her to find the answer. What she needed right now was a friend… A shoulder to cry on. Someone to comfort her.

Maybe even in the way Devin wouldn’t…

Harper shook her head. Dev’s right. I’m being stupid. That’s not what I need right now! So why did her heart seem to be telling her otherwise?

Trying her best to shake the thought from her mind, Harper headed straight for her car.

She knew exactly where she needed to go.

6.83: Two Hundred Milligrams

Note: This chapter contains mention of suicidal thoughts.

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Two hundred milligrams.

Do you know how much that is? Practically nothing at all. 

Barely a pinch. Less than the amount of sugar I put in my coffee every morning.

And that’s all it took.

WHY? Why the hell did she do this to herself?! She always swore she was never gonna touch that shit again. She promised!

They told me she didn’t leave a note. They don’t think she did it on purpose. She just took too much… The same dose she used to take back when her body was used to it. But it wasn’t anymore. Because she was clean! She hadn’t touched a needle in over a year!

Fuck, this is all my fault. I should have told her I was coming to visit. I should have taken the time to listen when she called me that day. I should have told her a story like she wanted…

Maybe then she would have held on longer. Maybe she wouldn’t have given in. Maybe I could have saved her.

But I didn’t. And now she’s gone. Forever.

I’ll never hear her voice again. I’ll never see her face… I don’t even have a picture of her. I don’t have anything. Just the empty hole that she left behind. And there’s nothing that will ever be able to fill it again.

Christ, she was only twenty-three years old! She had her whole life ahead of her. She was gonna get out in less than a year. She was gonna be an artist.

And you know what? Maybe she was gonna be the person I would spend the rest of my life with too.

But now I’ll never know.

Did she have any idea how much I loved her? Did she love me too?

I haven’t slept at all in the last three days. I just lay there all night bawling my fucking eyes out, asking myself these questions again and again and again.

My parents are so worried. They keep trying to get me to talk to them… But I can’t. They know my “friend” died. They know Ivy and I were close. But they’ll never understand what she meant to me. They’ll never know what I lost.

My friends know, though. Of course they do. And that also means they haven’t left me alone.

They’ve been practically stalking me ever since they heard the news. I tried to tell them I wanna be alone, but none of them would listen. Not completely, anyway.

They check in on me every day. They call. They text me. And all three of them even came to visit this morning.

They told me they’re gonna come to the funeral with me tomorrow too.

I guess it’s kinda nice being with them. I love them all so much. The closest I’ve felt to ‘normal’ since I lost Ivy was this morning when they came to see me.

But they’re just so obsessed with making sure I’m okay. I think they’re worried I’m gonna hurt myself or something.

And I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it… More than once.

I swear to God, if it wasn’t for Phoenix, I… I don’t know what I’d do. Sometimes those thoughts scare the shit out of me. But sometimes… they don’t sound like such a terrible idea.

It’s not like I even think I’ll get to see her again if I do it. I don’t know if there’s a Heaven or a Hell or any of that shit they always tell you about.

But it’s not about that.

It’s about trying to figure out how the hell I’m supposed to keep living in a world without her in it.

I know I have to. But I don’t know if I want to.

I don’t know if I can.

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I just wanted to let everyone know that I’m temporarily going back to two chapters a week (Wednesdays and Saturdays) because of some personal/IRL stuff that’s been hindering my writing lately. Hoping I will be back to three a week soon. As always, I’ll let you guys know. ❤

So no chapter tomorrow, but I will have one for Wednesday 🙂

6.82: Interlude – No Easy Way

“Alright, Munchkin.” Harper smiled warmly at her son as she spoke. “Time for Mama to go to work.”

Phoenix stuck out his bottom lip at her words. “Pway, Mama! Pway.” He said sadly, still holding the little yellow car.

As much as the sight of his disappointment broke her heart, she couldn’t help a bit of relief too. Phoenix was growing more and more attached to her lately — something she’d been looking forward to for a long time.

Harper shook her head slowly. “Mama can’t play anymore right now. But I bet Gammy would love to!”

The little boy’s brown eyes lit up at his grandmother’s name. “Gammy! Gammy!”

With a smile, Harper scooped her son into her arms and carried him downstairs.

Her father had taken Tomato to the dog park that afternoon, but she found her mother working on the computer in the study.

“Have a great day at work, sweetie.” Hope said sweetly as Harper put Phoenix down in front of her.

“Thanks, Mom.”

She watched with a smile as Phoenix followed her mother down the hall toward the living room. Harper followed along behind them at first, before turning into the kitchen to grab her car keys from the counter.

Before she could, however, she felt a slight buzzing coming from the pocket of her jeans. Harper pulled out her phone, her smile widening at the sight of the prison’s phone number on her screen.

Play it cool, she told herself as she lifted the phone to her ear. Don’t give it away! “Hello?” She asked, though she knew exactly who it would be.

“Hey, Harper.” Ivy’s familiar voice replied. She sounded so tired. But then, that was how she’d been sounding most days.

“Hey, Ivy. What’s up?”

“Not much… Just missing you, I guess.” Her voice was so soft, Harper had to strain to hear. “It’s silly, but I kinda just needed to hear your voice.” She let out a small laugh.

Harper felt a bit of relief at the sound. “I miss you too… Like crazy! How are things going in there?” As always, Harper tried her best to sound chipper.

“They’re okay.” Ivy gave her usual reply. “Same old, same old, I guess.” There was a beat of silence. “Sorry for bugging you… I know you’re probably super busy!” It was clear that Ivy’s cheerfulness was just as forced as hers has been. “Like I said, I was just kinda having a sentimental moment or something… Wanted to talk to you. Maybe bug you for one of your stories?” She asked almost hopefully. “It’s been a while.”

Harper’s heart sank slightly. “I’d love to… But I’m actually headed out right now. I’m closing down at the library tonight.”

Ivy failed to completely hide her disappointment. “That’s fine. Like I said, I know you’re busy.”

“Hey, but next time we talk, I promise I’ll have a good one for you, okay?”

She could hear the smile in Ivy’s voice. “Alright, deal.” The other girl paused for a moment. “I should probably let you go… But I’ll talk to you soon?”

Even better than that. Harper wanted to say. “Definitely… I miss you, Ivy.”

“Miss you too. So much. Bye, Harper.”

“Bye, Ivy.”

Harper couldn’t help but smile as she returned her phone to her pocket and finally grabbed her keys from the counter. As always, hearing Ivy’s voice hurt so much… But it was hard not to feel excited at the prospect of seeing her again.

She’d received the director’s response yesterday morning. The letter had worked. He’d approved her request to visit Ivy at the prison.

The day after tomorrow, she’d finally see Ivy’s beautiful face again. She’d get to hold her in her arms. And, above all, she’d get to finally tell Ivy the truth. That she loved her.

It had been so tempting to tell Ivy the good news as soon as she’d heard. Maybe give her something to look forward to? But instead, she’d opted to keep it a surprise.

Harper couldn’t wait to see the look on her face when she walked in the visitors room… She just hoped that Ivy’s reaction to her confession would be something to look forward to too.

———————————————————

A strange wave of anxiety washed over Harper as she stepped through the heavy front doors of the brick building. It felt so strange to be returning to the prison as a visitor. A guest. Part of her had been expecting that it would feel good to be back there as a free woman. But instead, it was just… odd.

The tangled web of nerves and excitement in Harper’s stomach grew even stronger as she approached the front desk. Maia was the one on duty that morning. She’d always been one of Harper’s favorite guards, ever since her first day there.

“Um… hi.” Harper greeted the other woman awkwardly.

Maia glanced up from the computer screen in front of her. To Harper’s surprise, her face fell instantly at the sight of her. “Oh… Harper. Nice to see you again.” Why did her smile seem so forced? “Director Mayer told us you’d be coming. Would you mind waiting for a second?”

Harper shrugged slightly. “Sure.”

She watched as Maia pulled a small walkie-talkie from her belt, muttering something that sounded like “She’s here,” into the receiver.

The reply was much too garbled for her to make out, but the guard seemed to have understood. Maia glanced back up at her, returning the radio to her hip. “He’d like to speak with you in his office… Come with me.”

She rose to her feet then, beckoning for Harper to follow.

Harper’s brow furrowed slightly in confusion. What could this be about, she wondered? Maybe I need extra screening or something, since I’m a former inmate… She chose not to ask any questions, and merely followed the guard down the hall to the director’s office.

Director Mayer was waiting by the door as Harper entered. He was never one for smiling much, but today, he seemed even more serious than usual as he extended a hand toward her. “Miss Rosebrook, you’re looking well.” He shook her hand firmly as he spoke.

“Thanks.” Harper’s voice shook slightly with nervousness… But these nerves had little to do with seeing Ivy again. Something about the director’s demeanor was making her uneasy. “And, uh, thank you again for letting me come see Ivy.”

The man cleared his throat uncomfortably at her words. “Yes, um… Would you mind taking a seat, Miss Rosebrook?”

Her heart was racing in her chest as she did as she was told. What the hell is going on?! “Director Mayer, what’s this about?”

“I just have a few questions I’d like to discuss with you… Miss Rosebrook, when was the last time you spoke with Miss Allen?”

“Um, two days ago… Just for a minute or two. She called when I was on my way out.”

Director Mayer jotted something down on a piece of paper in front of him. “And did she say anything… odd? Or sound any different than usual?”

Harper shook her head, a sickening, twisting sensation slowly creeping its way into her stomach. “Please, Director Mayer. I know something’s wrong.” She fought hard to keep her voice steady. “What is it?”

A soft sigh passed his lips. His expression was suddenly pained as he replied. “I’m afraid there’s no easy way to say this… Yesterday afternoon, Miss Allen was found unconscious in one of the bathrooms… The hospital tells us it was an overdose.”

Harper could no longer breathe. It was as though all the air had been knocked from her lungs. “W-what?!” She managed to gasp.

“They say it was heroin.” He continued uncomfortably.

“B-but… But that’s not possible!” Her breaths were coming in shaking gasps. “She was clean! She hasn’t used in over a year! And where the hell did she even get it from?!”

“We’re still trying to figure that out, Miss Rosebrook.” Director Mayer replied gently. “That was why I wanted to speak with you… Any information you may have would help with our investigation.”

“Where is she?!” Harper cried, banging her fist against the arm of the chair. “I don’t give a fuck about your ‘investigation’! Just tell me what the hell’s happening! Is she okay? Is she still in the hospital? Can I go see her?!”

But Harper knew the answer before he even opened his mouth to speak.

6.81: Does She Know?

Dear Director Mayer,

I would like to thank you very much for considering my application to be added to Ivy Allen’s visitation list.

I do understand that visitation requests by former inmates are often denied, and for good reason. However, if I may, I would like to explain the circumstances around this particular request.

Your facility does outstanding work rehabilitating many women like myself, and preparing them for what’s ahead when they are released. I’m very grateful to the staff there for all they did for me during my time at your facility, and I continue to be grateful for all you’ve done for the other inmates as well.

As I know you are aware, Ivy is a recovering addict who, on occasion, still struggles with her addiction. Making connections with others is a challenge for her, and my concern is that she lacks a strong support system to help her through the remainder of her sentence. During our time together, she and I formed a very strong bond. And now that I —

Ugh! That sounds like garbage, doesn’t it?! I can’t send that to him!

Every time I try writing this stupid letter, it just comes out… wrong.

The prison director and I always got along pretty well… Or at least, as well as an inmate and director can? So that probably helps a little bit. But a former inmate getting visitation approval is hard. Not impossible, but probably pretty close.

Katie told me she had to apply three times before he finally approved her to come see me and Ivy. And she says the difference was that she sent a letter with her third application. “Just be honest,” she told me. “He might listen… The guy’s got a soft side.”

But I don’t even know what to say. She says to ‘be honest’ like that’s so easy.

How am I supposed to tell him how worried I am about Ivy?  That every time we talk on the phone, it feels like I’m losing her more and more?

It’s been almost two months since I got out. And a lot of things are getting a little easier, I guess… But things with Ivy definitely aren’t. She’s finally started opening up a little more about how she’s feeling… And I really don’t like what I’ve heard.

About a week ago, she finally admitted to me how lonely she feels. How lost. “But maybe this is how it’s supposed to be,” she said. She called it “karma”. Which is absolute bullshit! And I told her that much too.

I don’t think she really meant it… But I guess it’s hard to say. We talked again yesterday, and she totally blew it off like it was no big deal. “I was just having a bad day,” she told me.

Yeah, maybe. But the problem is, almost every day’s a ‘bad day’ for her, from the sound of it.

She’s kinda going back to a dark place, I think. It’s one she doesn’t really talk about much. And even in all the time we were together, she still never told me everything. There were glimpses though… Hints that things went even deeper than she let on.

I’m just worried about how this might fuck her up, y’know? She’s made so much progress with Dr. S… What if she ends up like, backsliding or something? Feeling depressed, or getting more cravings?

Or what if she already has?

I know I’ve been worrying about her a lot lately. But I can’t help it. She’s one of my best friends in the world.

And…

And maybe more than that.

That’s another thing I can’t be honest to Director Mayer about. I mean hell, I’ve barely been honest with myself about it either.

And believe it or not, this time it wasn’t Katie who helped me figure it out.

It was Devin.

I was grabbing some drinks with him and Rylie after one of her shows, and they were asking me about how Ivy’s doing. They know I’ve been kinda worried lately about my ‘fuck buddy’, as Rylie so charmingly likes to call her. I don’t think she ever really understood how much Ivy means to me. But then again, why should she? I’ve never really talked about her as anything more than my friend I used to screw around with.

But Dev’s always known, I think. And while Rylie was back at the bar grabbing us some more drinks, he gave me this little smile and asked “Does she know?”.

At first, I thought he was talking about Rylie or something… But he told me he meant Ivy.

“I can tell by the way you talk about her,” he said. And then he asked again — Does she know?

I didn’t even have to ask him what he meant.

And it was a great question… Does she know? I’ve come so close to telling her, so many times. But I was always too afraid.

I know she and I agreed we weren’t gonna put labels on anything between us. And I’d promised we would just be friends once I got out… But god damn it, Dev’s right.

I love her. I love her so much. She’s everything to me.

And I’ve gotta tell her. She needs to know how I feel. And she needs to know that I’m always gonna be here for her, no matter what. And that I’ll wait for her, for as long as it takes.

Maybe knowing that would help… Unless she doesn’t feel the same way about me.

That’s probably what I’m most afraid of. What if I’m really nothing more than just a friend to her? What if it was really just about the sex when we were together?

I guess there’s only one way for me to find out. But it’s something I have to do in person… Which is why this letter to the director is so damn important.

have to see her again. I think I’ll go crazy if I don’t… I need her so much. Maybe more than I’ve ever needed anybody. And I know she needs me too. I can feel it.

So I guess I’ll give that letter another try, and hope for the best.

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A very Happy Easter to everyone who celebrates (and Happy Sunday if you don’t!). Luckily for you guys, I decided not to trick you all with an April Fools chapter 😛