Title: What Can You Do, Milly Sue?
[a parody that takes itself way too seriously]
Written on: 2017-08-15
Post date: 2017-08-21
Universe: #19B 
Summary: Sometimes dreams and reality conflict and collide until they become indecipherable from one another. On the b-side, a thousand differences in history have forged an almost unrecognizable world. At least three times a week, Mildred wishes she could return to her own world — to a place where there are no vampires, no witches or werewolves, and where there are fifty states. Unfortunately, it seems that the powers that govern the universe have very different plans for her life — she's replaced the lead-heroine in a trashy TV show and, as it turns out, only a true Sue can save the world.
Chapter: She often thinks about how clever she is and, conversely, how much of a fucking moron she is. Sometimes, when you stumble you don't pick yourself up – those around you have to do it instead. And sometimes, in the end, it's easier to just go with the flow for five minutes.
/ june /
woe is me wednesdays
Stepping onto the concrete in a bit of a daze, Mildred dragged her feet across Richard C. Lee's near-empty lot on autopilot. She greeted Matt as well she could – her preoccupation causing her to stumble through an apology for making him wait so long – and was in his passenger seat a few moments later. He grunted in response to her apology, probably more annoyed than he sounded but having noticed just how awful his ex-girlfriend – ex-friend, perhaps, the way things had been lately – was looking.
On the drive home, she thought over the catastrophe she'd caused with him.
In the past week, it had really started to sink in that what she'd foolishly done was selfish and immature, the actions of someone who was actually a teenager rather than just pretending to be one. Mildred had gotten so wrapped up in herself – in the Gilberts and Damon, in the sudden discovery of an additional, deceased sibling – that she hadn't even remembered Matt existed when she went toe to toe with Zach Salvatore.
She'd run her mouth off like a bratty teen, forsaking caution in favor of power. It had made her feel good that Zach knew exactly what she was talking about; it had felt amazing when it became clear she knew more than he did at this point.
Then Matt spoke up, burst the bubble and… Well, Zach's anger hadn't exactly been misplaced.
Why did Mildred just brush off her friend's reaction to the v-bomb? Because Matt wasn't a real person, he didn't have real feelings and reactions? Did she think he'd just bounce back from the massive revelation she carelessly unloaded on him?
Wow – she was such a bitch. A narcissistic, dumb bitch with a massive god complex.
Of course she was...just look at where she was living! She'd literally created a whole reality with herself at the center.
Psychologically, it was clear she had major issues.
She treated this world like a playground... Yeah, she went to school, pretending to herself she did the best she could to behave as Gloria Gilbert aught; that was a game in itself, a way to pass the time. Fact was, deep down she acted like this place was her sandbox, full of opportunity and intrigue, a puzzle to unravel, a quest to overcome. She had to find out what Tanner was up to, she knew the future, she had to protect the Gilberts from the supernatural, she had to make sure no one found out she wasn't Gloria. It was all her her her.
Mildred always knew she had a bit of an ego. It wasn't hard to accept, seeing as she spent half of her school career shrouded in Lucy; the other woman was one of the biggest and best crazies she'd ever met, her presence always encouraging those around her to just let go and be themselves. Lucy had an enormous ego and she knew it. Why shouldn't Mildred let her's free too? Nothing wrong with that, for an actress.
She'd gotten too big, too reckless... Poor Matt was shouldering the fallout. She said Tanner would suck down everything in town with his massive head, but...truth be, she wasn't much better.
Brick wall...roadblock...the dashboard… Didn't matter what, she just needed to repeatedly bang her head into something, set herself straight through the application of what Lucy liked to insist was 'percussive maintenance'. Hell, perhaps if Mildred did it hard enough then she'd wake up in real-life...
"I'm sorry," she breathed impulsively.
The words escaped before her mind could catch them. She felt the apology hang in the air between them, thinking better of saying anything in followup. Matt didn't respond, giving all his attention to the tight turning off of Maple Street and onto the Gilberts' drive. He pulled the handbrake but didn't kill the engine.
Not even turning to her, Matt ground out, "Not really sure what your saying sorry for, but–"
"For the Boarding House, for being weird lately, everything," she declared, a note of desperation to it.
Soon, she was going to completely crack. Mildred felt it coming, like when static electricity tensed the air in the leadup to a big thunderstorm.
"–but," Matt continued, ignoring what she'd said, "fine. I accept your apology. But...it doesn't mean I'm ready to talk to you yet. Just – go… Go home, Gloria."
There was no point arguing.
Clearly, Matt needed more time to digest things. Unlike her, he'd gotten no warning the supernatural world existed. He was still in the denial stage. She did dump it on him like he'd agreed to a surprise ice-bucket challenge. He required longer to adjust than she had... More time than she'd needed, truth be told, to accept she lived here now. Somewhere down the line, he'd probably want proof it was all true – God knows how that was going to work.
As she stepped through the front door of the Gilbert house, she decided things would get better with time. They had to.
Upon first glance, nobody was home. Further inspection showed Magda was crashed out on a beanbag in the playroom, a film that looked to be the Rescuers playing on the small tv in there. Jenna was in there too, curled up on the couch in the corner with her laptop balanced on the chair's arm. She didn't look up as Mildred passed and went into the lounge – the woman must be doing something important… Studying, probably – Jenna had some presentation at her college in a few days.
Jeremy was absent. She figured he was still with the stoners, buying out the entire stock of Cheetos at the local minimart. She tried very hard to worry about that but really couldn't find it in her. Mildred had been young once too.
Dropping her bag in the entrance to the living room, she slumped onto the nearest sofa and grabbed the remote for the TV. She didn't want to think right now.
The television set brightened.
"...ame the only country whose landmass spans
On the screen, a too-orange man was directing a confident looking contestant on some quiz. Predictably, the last station it was tuned to had been devoted to gameshows.
"Correct... In a standard year, how many days are
there in the month of August?"
Snorting at the simplicity of the questions, Mildred flicked over. She might not want to think but she didn't want to die from boredom, either.
"I don't see the issue, Sean. We've got the Colt, we
still got three bullets left–"
"...ick a pair of toppings, then pick a pair of crusts!"
"It's the pick-your-pair deal at the Pizz–"
Commercial break – no good.
"Would you look at them go! Kaz and Dave are
lightening – over the hurdles, through the mud,
tackling the Crumbling Bridge of Kazakh Doom…
It looks like they've got– Oh no! Spoke too soon!
Kaz is going to have to go back to the sta–"
No escaping obstacle course reality-TV, even in Unreality.
"The most important thing to remember about these
small marsupials, is that they require an awful lot of
attention. Due to late human colonisation of this
habitat, local wildlife has little fear of humans – they
have come to see us not as a threat, but a resource
to be exploi–"
Mildred turned over again, trying to ignore the way something swirled uncomfortably in her abdomen at the subject matter of the wildlife documentary. It made her think about her father – she didn't want to dwell on people she'd lost right now.
"...shape shared by both pre-World War globes and
a traditional soccer ball? Is it A – icosidodecahedron,
B – rhombicuboctahedron, C – deltoidalcositetrahedron,
or D – rombictriacontahedron..."
"Kevin, I just don't kno–"
Too hard to even consider trying that right now.
"Streaker… Didn't need to see that..."
"Hopeful treasure hunters have searched for years,
to no avail. The modern Holy Grail of lost treasure,
the Amber Room has never been recovered."
Documentary. Too slow.
"Sometimes fantasy's better than reality–"
"...nd as such, the Brittainian President has stated he will
not be responding to such threats.
"As Albanian President, Julius Saakazde, lines up further
meetings with the Britons to discuss what has become a
harrowing trend of increased violence, topping even that
seen in the nineteen-seventies and mid-nineties, the
world watches wi–"
News. Depressing depressing news about a world she didn't even know... There wasn't any point watching it, so she flipped past.
"If every vamp who said 'e was at the Crucifixion was
actually there, would've been like bloody Woodstoc–"
Urgh, definitely not.
"What about sex?"
"Well...it could get complicated. I mean – we work together,
I'm older, certainly...but maybe you like that."
"I meant maybe he has neurosyphilis."
"Oooh, nice cover."
An old episode of House… Yeah, that could work.
While she rifled the cupboards for whichever snack foods required the least preparation and were most drenched with saturated fat, Jeremy half-stumbled through the front door, looking worn out but lighter in the shoulders than usual. He reclined across his favored couch, limbs dangling loosely. She re-entered the room carrying two bowls of chips, one of which she thrust in his direction.
"Good time?" Mildred asked, careful to keep any element of judgment out her tone.
Jeremy shrugged and stuffed a couple of chips in his mouth. He stared vacantly at the TV, mind somewhere else. His sclera was pink, like he was recovering from a nasty case of conjunctivitis, and she could smell the weed on his clothes even across the room. Considering these things, it seemed his new stoner friends had been the ones to drop him home. He'd not had time to air out yet.
Though she had no intention of interrogating him about his activities, Jeremy closed quickly closed off all paths that might've lead to her doing so. Perhaps it was because he didn't want to deal with a lecture. Or maybe the timing of his need to sit down and have a 'chat' with her was complete coincidence; maybe he hadn't even considered she might try to mother him. There was a good chance he was just genuinely concerned about her.
"I know it's– I know you think about her a lot this time of year," Jeremy said all of a sudden, choosing to stare down at his hands rather try following the on-screen drama. "I do, too – we all do. This year's worse than ever…"
Slightly bemused – it had been a long day, between Tanner and co., Lucy and all the other shit – she cocked her head to the side. This sounded important. It would be best she didn't say something irreverent and completely blow whatever cover she had.
God – shut up ego!
As if anyone here was going to suddenly guess she was a body-snatcher... Why would they even consider that? The very idea was laughable.
"Look," he backtracked awkwardly, "I've been meaning to speak to you for a couple of weeks. Mom and Dad's brought it all back so bad – and..." he sighed, sounding far older than fifteen. "Direct – right. Direct route... I saw the articles you were reading."
Okay… Now she was just confused.
Frowning, Mildred asked, "Uh, which ones?"
"When you borrowed my laptop, yeah?"
She nodded, with him so far.
"When you gave it back, you didn't clear the history or anything. Didn't even close tabs. You had all those articles about Keira open. I mean, I guess you weren't reading them for fun. I didn't– don't– I mean, I've been trying not to think about it… Mom and Dad wouldn't– can't..." he let his failed sentences trail off.
So, the gist of it seemed to be, when Mildred borrowed Jeremy's laptop she Googoled for stuff on Gloria Gilbert, trying to find as much out about the girl as possible. She'd been looking for her predecessor's Facebook and stuff; what she'd gotten instead was some newspaper articles she meant to go over… That never happened, though. She spent ages on the geography of North America; by the time she was through with that, she was too tired for anything else. Jeremy took the laptop back the next morning and the opportunity had passed.
Jeremy was staring at her now, eyes hard and...haunted. Far too haunted for a boy his age.
"We… we all miss her," he said roughly. "I know it's different for you, maybe worst for you because she was your twin. I just… Jesus, Mom and Dad would be so much better for this! I just… I'm here if– if you really have to talk about it, right?"
Mildred tried not to think about Keira Gilbert's sparkly white headstone in Fell's Church Cemetery. When she did all she got was the smell of dirt and rain and freezing legs and fucking sick to her stomach... The girl wasn't her twin – Mildred never even met her. But something about the girl being gone chewed her insides up in a way she couldn't even begin to explain. Like...a piece of her was missing – a piece she never knew she needed.
Her brother's expression was forlorn, pleading. His hands gripped the edge of his bowl of chips so hard it looked like it was going to shatter. The bowl didn't break but his voice did. "That's what you need, yeah? You– you need me to listen, to… to help you."
She turned away insensitively, not liking the direction the conversation was taking. She couldn't think about the other Gilbert girl's death.
On-screen, knock-off Cuddy was asking: "How's your hooker?"
"Sweet of you to ask," Mildred instantly responded, taking herself out of the current situation, slipping into her comfort zone instead. "Funny story. She was going to be a hospital administrator, but she just hated having to screw people like that."
"Glore, come on, don't do that," Jeremy begged, trying to regain her attention. Then he stopped, frowned, and she watched the cogs in his mind backing up. "Wait, isn't this that new medical thing? It's today's episode – a new episode, not a rerun, right?"
Mildred shrugged, neither confirming nor denying this. She'd read the scripts and the funnier lines were very memorable. So was that damn headstone: 'Keira Anne Gilbert 1988 – 2004'.
She needed to stop thinking about it. She needed to fucking lobotomize herself – that might help.
"Whatever..." her brother said, shaking it off. "It's just – pouring over those articles, it isn't what she would've wanted. You know that. And I know it's like – fuck, we've lost everyone. But...there's still me – there's me and you, and Mags and Jenna. Hell, there's Uncle John when he's not busy being the world's biggest asshat."
That thunderstorm was going to hit soon – except it might be a hurricane… Inside, she couldn't stop shouting, Stop talking! Just stop! Can't you see I don't want to think about it?
She found herself figuratively boarding up windows in preparation for what was to come. On the outside, Mildred's facade was woodenly calm. "Look, it's sweet you're worried about me, but...I'm fine, okay?"
"Then why're you reading old news stories about Keira, if you're fine?"
Except she hadn't read them – she'd been too busy to read them, too busy to find out she had a twin sister who'd died. And now… Well, now she didn't want to read them because...what if the girl got ripped to shreds by a fucking vampire? She didn't think she was ready to know about that happening… She wasn't sure she'd ever be ready to know that.
She didn't even know why it mattered so much... Not her twin. Not her life.
"You've been… good. You've made Mom and Dad not seem so… It still hurts but having you about's helped. And you were when she died, too – I sucked and you looked after me. I want to help you – I need to do this."
"If you want to help, just drop it. Drop it," she insisted unyeildingly, unreasonably angry with the boy but unable to do anything about it. Having had enough of feeling like this – of feeling at all, why couldn't it just all go away? – she redirected Jeremy's attention. "You should take a shower – you stink of pot. Jenna'll notice. And eyedrops wouldn't go amiss."
"Fine," Jeremy seethed, stomping out the room.
She couldn't help but feel she'd just failed him in a big way.
With a strong urge to lob her half-empty bowl at the wall, she screwed her eyes tight shut. What was it with her and pissing everyone off lately? It was like she was a hormonal teenage girl and couldn't help herself…
She sighed heavily. The whole house seemed to exhale alongside her.
She was probably due a period. Maybe Gloria Gilbert just got uberPMS or something? Yeah...that had to be it. This foul, uncontrollable mood would pass soon enough.
Mildred had an opinion for every day of the week. Everything bad to have ever happened must've gone down on a Wednesday, for example. Monday was cool enough, despite many people's complaints about it being the first day of the working week. Saturday was fast, good things happened on Thursdays, nothing at all happened on Sundays, and Friday was reserved for humorous fuck-ups.
Despite this, she had no particular feeling for Tuesdays. It was a nothing-day where anything might happen; perhaps Tuesdays passed bright and swift like Saturdays...and in addition was very rarely required to carry the weight of such horrific occurrences as 9/11. Mildred slept through that, though. In fact, she had occasionally – drunkenly – speculated she'd never actually been to a Tuesday at all and that they were all a myth. More likely, whenever one had actually happened (realistically about once a week), she'd blinked and missed it...or just spent the whole day assuming it was Monday again (or Wednesday, if things seemed particularly shit).
As today passed, though, she was acutely aware it was definitely a Tuesday.
It was the twentieth of the month, one day prior to high school letting out for the summer and two days before her birthday. As such, she was in a pretty good mood compared to the day before.
Yes, she was still stuck here. Yes, she'd kind of forgotten how old Gloria was turning this year and Matt's cold shoulder had barely been downgraded to a still-frosty glare following her apology. On the flipside, though, soon she wouldn't have to deal with the tedium of govec or French...and she was pretty much guaranteed chocolate cake. If she were lucky she might even get some presents. (Unfortunately, any gifts were likely to be geared toward whatever the depressingly dull Gloria might've liked, so she wasn't about to prematurely get excited about them. She'd had enough of her predecessor's expensive jotters and not-quite-right novels to last a lifetime.)
Annoyingly, gym was one of her Tuesday classes. The only boon there, was that Mr. Nixon – the instructor – really didn't seem in the mood to do anything constructive. Basically, he told them since they were already in their gym kits they may as well go play stuck-in-the-mud or kiss-chase or 'whatever it is bored teenagers play these days'.
Mildred strongly suspected the man wouldn't be returning in the new semester; there was a lingering odor of beer surrounding him and his gaze was misty, unfocused most the time. Still, at least he wasn't making them play dodgeball anymore. Despite the improved reflexes this body featured, she didn't enjoy having a teacher take his frustrations out on them by way of lobbing hard, rubber balls at their faces.
Soon the school day had ended. There would be no more lessons until the start of senior year. Richard C. Lee only unlocked its doors on the 21st to hold it's bi-annual Open Day.
So, the morning before her birthday, Mildred awoke to a flurry of text messages. More came through even as she slugged through the first of them.
From Matt: Bonnie got back.
U gonna c her l8r?
From Matt: Dnt wry. Just
realzed wt day it is
From Care: Last day! You
coming in? I know you didn't
want to last year, but I kinda
hoped you'd help me with
yearbook related disastors.
From Matt: This dsnt mean
im tlkin 2 u again
From Care: Come on bestie,
I NEED you!
From Care: Even your weird
friend Bonny's here. Why
bother coming back just for a
day? She's been gone a
MONTH. Think she failed the
whole semester 'cause of it?
From Unknown: Matt gave
me ur #. Says u lost ur old
phone. Jst got in last nite. Wht
happnd with u n Merry? Shes
WAY pssd off w/u
From Unknown: W8, dsnt mttr
rite now. How r u hlding up?
Wanna skip OD w/me? Nt
much point me bin here 4 a day
From Care: So will you?
To Unknown: I'm fine. Nt
ditching. Things 2 do at school.
To Care: I'm coming. Wouldn't
leave u in ur hour of need. X
To Matt: Thnks 4 telling me. U
dnt hav to tlk 2 me but r u still
giving me a ride?
From Bonnie: Ur going in? But
u NEVER go on last day. U
sure ur feelin ok
From Matt: Jst pulled in at
school. Sry didnt thnk ud b
cming 2day cuz of what it is
To Care: Can u pick me up?
Matt's already there. ): He
4got bout me.
From Care: OMG that's totally
not cool, even if you ARE
fighting. Will be there in 15.
Dress sxycute for photos.
To Bonnie: I feel fine, rly.
Just need 2 get 2 school.
From Bonnie: Wnt me 2 drive u
To Bonnie: No, already have
a ride. Thnx tho.
From Bonnie: Matt cming 2
get u? He sez u guys brk up
To Bonnie: Care tking me.
From Bonnie: What?
To Bonnie: Caroline. She's
giving me a ride 2day. I'm good.
B there soon.
From Bonnie: …
From Bonnie: Dnt understand.
NOT fs w/her. Y wud she hlp u
To Bonnie: She's my friend
The girl obviously didn't have an adequate response for that. No more messages came in.
It was great news Bonnie was back. Mildred had been waiting to meet the witch since her first few days here. From what she'd heard, the girl had been away in the north for the past month.
It was late – Mildred needed to get sorted fast.
Though not having paid to much mind to how she dressed while in this world, she respected Caroline enough to do as the girl requested. Photos were going to be taken; Mildred didn't want to be caught looking like a hobo under the blond's camera. As head of the journalism club and setter of the yearbooks, upsetting Caroline could easily result in lifelong embarrassment… Not that she planned on being here for years or anything.
Usually, if she were having headshots done, she would book a session with a makeup artist and find the most flattering clothes she could. To be honest, she wasn't all that good at applying cosmetics, even though her sight was fine and her hand steady. Usually, there was someone – be it makeup artist or multitasking, majorly underpaid stage hand – around to do it for her.
Fortunately, Gloria Gilbert had very fair skin with no break-outs. Also having brows easy enough to shape, she really only used mascara – because her eyelashes were near-invisible they were so pale – and lipgloss day to day. It made getting ready a lot easier than it had been in her real body. In reality, she'd always had to schedule an hour to fight flyaway, briary hair into some semblance of a style. Such allocations of time were unnecessary, these days.
Good thing, too. By the clock's account, she only had ten minutes left – not even time for a shower.
Since she went shopping, Gloria's closet was chock-full of the sorts of things Mildred was most comfortable in. The jeans were all flattened to the back end of a rail, a selection of dresses in various styles replacing them. She grabbed herself a pretty blue one made out of a floaty material she loved the feel of, hoping it qualified as 'sxycute'. There was no way she wanted Caroline going into her closet – the girl might get an urge to organize it. It was a bit...not untidy, per se, but the sort of haphazard Mildred's father liked to refer to as 'organized chaos'.
No hose, nude color shoes decorated with lace, and a small, white purse seeing as she didn't need any textbooks today. (Classes were over for three whole months!) She fished a peach headbandish thing out the dresser drawer and threw it on, twisting half her hair back into it.
The result was...okay. She didn't know what her predecessor would've classified as looking good but, in Mildred's opinion, she looked fine for photos.
Downstairs, the doorbell trilled loudly, echoing up through the house. Caroline was always punctual.
"Hey!" her friend greeted when the door was opened. "You know, it's been so long since I've been here – not since you remodeled."
A fond smile crossed Mildred's face. "Nice to see you, too."
"Oh, right – yeah, obviously. Sorry, it's just so much brighter in here now," Caroline announced, looking all the way through to the kitchen. "And that huge sideboard looks a lot better now there's actually room for it. You know, I've never gotten why you live here and not at the big old Gilbert place. It's like a frickin' palace."
Mildred shrugged, not ever having seen or heard much about the other Mystic Falls house the Gilberts' apparently owned.
"I'm just going to grab some OJ, give us a sec," Mildred said, heading back into the house. Over her shoulder, she called, "Come in, if you want. You can inspect our living room!"
Her friend laughed. "It's very nice. None of that seventies flowery stuff you used to have – got to be a relief, not waking up wondering whether you got sent back in time during the night."
Returning with two little bottles of juice from the refrigerator and a banana, Mildred cocked an eyebrow. "Come on – it can't've been that bad."
"Are you kidding me? Anyone who came in here left with their pants brown...with orange and lime vomit. It was atrocious."
"Meh – I must have a short memory," Mildred declared, shooing the other blond out the house and locking up behind her.
"Or you've blocked it out as a traumatic experience." Caroline grimaced. "I know I would've done."
"Yeah, but you're the style cops. Maybe you should become a vigilante, protecting innocent but clueless citizens from terrible fashion choices!"
The girl giggled, looking Mildred up and down. "I don't think you need saving. You know, your sense of style's gotten a lot better since the...you know."
"I'm not so sure..." Mildred started to say slowly. "I reckon–" then stopped as she saw a police car pulled up to the curb, engine still running.
She looked over at Caroline questioningly.
"Oh yeah," the girl said with some embarrassment, "my car's still not shown up – the only thing a guilty daddy's worth, by the way! ...So Mom's driving us. I mean, she's got to be at Open Day anyway, so it's not like it's out her way or anything, otherwise she probably wouldn't bother."
Knowing all about mentally-absent mothers, Mildred offered Caroline a commiserative, understanding look as they both slid into the back seat of the cruiser.
"Thanks for coming to pick me up, Ma'am," Mildred said as the car pulled off down Birch Avenue. "Jenna's got some thing out at Whitmore, so I was in a real bind."
"Not a problem," the Sheriff replied, her warm, smiling face reflected in the rearview mirror. "I was going to the high school anyway. These events are always more hassle than they're worth."
"Still, you live on the other side of town. You didn't have to come so far out your way."
"Nonsense – it's only a ride. And I know your– knew your parents well. We're practically family," the woman decreed, leaving no room for nonsense or takebacks.
On the other side of the car, Caroline fidgeted with her purse, looking like she wanted to be anywhere else.
"So, Gloria, how's it been for you at school?" her friend's mom probed. "I've heard a few bad things – Council meetings seem to be more gossip bees than anything. The teacher's up there are mostly jobsworths… Don't give credit where it's due. I was surprised to hear from Carrie you'd gone back at all – your brother took the free pass, you didn't."
"Uh, yeah..." Mildred answered dubiously, glancing at Caroline for help. "It's been tough. My scores have been...not good."
"Scores don't mean as much as people like to tell you. I flunked out my last year, you know. My mom – Carrie's grandma – passed. It was cancer. I fell to pieces, failed pretty much everything except sports – never went back and made it up. Didn't do me any harm in the long run, right?"
"Mom, please just stop," Caroline begged. "I'm sure Glore doesn't want to hear about how you 'fought' for your position. I know you need new recruits, but please don't do it with my friends."
"Hey, not guilty. Not what I was doing," the Sheriff assured her daughter. "I'm just saying, Gloria, don't let a few poor scores affect what you think of yourself. Not all professions require high marks and college degrees. A piece of paper won't make you smart. If you're anything like your mother, you're talented enough to get by without all that."
Mildred's eyebrows had risen higher and higher while Sheriff Forbes spoke, surprised the woman apparently didn't put much stock in the education system. It was funny, really, because Caroline really did care about it, taking as many courses as she feasibly could and getting straight As in everything. It was weird that the girl and her mother were so different from one another.
"Yeah, plus, as a Founding Family member you can have any job in town you want whether you're qualified or not," Caroline pointed out.
This comment seemed to annoy her mother, smothering any further attempts at conversation like a wet towel on a chip pan fire – probably just what the blond wanted. When they all got out the car at Richard C. Lee, Caroline wasted no time in dragging Mildred inside the building without so much as a 'bye' to her mother.
That was one mother-daughter relationship in need of some serious work.
Even though she often thought the school was like an ant colony, workers and soldiers dizzyingly orbiting its royal family, today things were even worse. There were streamers everywhere; tables with displays from all subjects, year groups and clubs lined the downstairs halls; and students accompanied by family members overflowed out onto the front lawn.
Caroline immediately dived into the chaos, well in her element. Within five minutes she'd directed the listless football team to go set up some gazebos on the grass outside, had the dance committee set to work blowing up an enormous crate of yellow and maroon balloons, and reminded the – ever forgetful – home economics teacher she'd agreed to open up the cafeteria for visitors. It was almost cathartic to watch the girl work.
Mildred leaned back against a wall, content to do nothing but observe. Unfortunately, her friend had tasks for her, as well.
"I just need you to make sure there's a stack of yearbooks in every homeroom. Last year we were short and a couple of the seniors had trouble finding one. There's plenty made up – it's all a matter of distribution."
"Okay, Care. Don't worry so much, I'll make sure everything's set," Mildred promised, wanting to lessen the girl's workload.
Caroline was the most organized person she'd ever met. She was also the most frazzled and generally neurotic. She needed to take a break sometimes.
The yearbooks were a lot plainer than Mildred would've expected for something of her friend's design. Caroline was very much the girly girl, such showing in the style of her clothing and her bedroom decorations, though it certainly wasn't over the top. She didn't seem to like pink much, favoring yellow – somehow she managed to look good in it. The cover she'd had designed for the yearbooks showed – only slightly worryingly, considering the school's crest (or perhaps the crest was worrying?) – a large, gray wolf with burning amber eyes. It was a simple flow of lines against a midnight blue background. At the bottom, white text declared the book to be 'Richard C. Lee High School, 2005-06'... It was tasteful.
Mildred bustled from classroom to classroom, deftly avoiding the seemingly endless stream of students – and their relatives, in far too many cases – who wanted her attention.
The problem with coming from a Founding Family, was that everyone seemed to know who you were. It didn't help that, unlike during Mildred's real-world high school career, Gloria was a very popular girl. She was on several committees and – at least until Mildred stole her life and quit pretty much everything – participated in so many clubs it was a wonder she could even keep track. The only two things still on 'Gloria's extracurricular list were currently cheerleading – which Caroline had gracefully allowed her to bow out of until the new season – and lacrosse. She had lined some dance sessions up for the summer, hoping to get more used to the abilities of her new, lither form, but that was just about it.
Parents of peers she didn't even know kept trying to stop her in the corridors, wishing her well and offering their condolences on the sudden passing of her parents. Some expressed concern that they hadn't seen her at the church service, worried she was taking everything very hard, even though Mildred was sure Uncle John would've explained to them she was in a coma at the time. It was hard to attend a funeral when you were unconscious – it didn't mean there was something wrong with you or you required busybody suicide watch.
Besides, where had all these 'friends' of her parents been the past few weeks? It was like they were all coming out the woodwork now for the pure pleasure of getting under her feet. They were like cats – attention seeking and only present when they wanted something.
After spending near ten minutes extracting herself from the disgustingly sleazy presence of Mayor Lockwood – who she couldn't offend too badly, lest his wife kick up a fuss and stop Mildred from attending those aforementioned dance classes – she managed to get all bar one stack of the yearbooks into their respective homerooms. The only one's left were those for the senior class unlucky enough to have Tanner. She'd put them off till last for good reason.
Since being stupid enough to fall for Tanner's trick with the summer essay, Mildred had avoided him. It wasn't hard, what with her not having history yesterday and today being the end of the semester. She'd spent a lot of time thinking about the highly disturbing conversation she overheard the man having with that substitute teacher, pondering exactly what she was meant to do about it.
On the one hand, Damon was a bit of a menace – albeit a seriously hot one. He'd killed before and would almost certainly do so again. He was unpredictable – flying off the handle far too easily – superstrong and had a thirst for vengeance. His life had been ruined in this town; ergo, he wanted to ruin the town. It made sense – it was probably what she would do were she in his position. The problem with him taking revenge here was that nobody responsible for the 1864 incident was actually alive today. Mildred was a big believer that no one should be held personally accountable for the sins of their father – or, in this case, their great-great-great grandfathers.
She could sympathize with the vampire well enough. What had gone down in the nineteenth century had been a bloodbath. Leading up to the main incident, many townsfolk had died; Mildred wasn't sure how much proof there was that those deaths were actually the work of vampires. It was likely not all of the vampires dwelling here had been vicious. They'd been in town nearly a year before everything kicked off; according to the library's newspaper archives, mysterious deaths had begun only two months before the Battle of White Oak Creek.
The conclusion she came to was that the Council was most probably made up of uninformed bigots. Few types in this world were more abhorrent than that.
Mildred could see both sides of the story here, could feel for everyone involved. You had that stupid Council trying to protect its citizens by any means necessary, plus the vampires who literally required blood to survive. Without having all the facts, it was impossible to say for certain who the guiltiest parties were... Even without further evidence, the one thing she was positive about was that trapping all the vampires in a church and burning it was a horrendous over-reaction. It was mass-murder, pure and simple.
Now there was Tanner and the Sub, meeting surreptitiously to discuss local deaths and planning to kill any vampire they came across. If they just went out and shot Damon – if he was the one killing folks, which was as yet unsubstantiated – how would they be any better than him? Actually, Tanner was such a dick she was pretty much willing to take a murderer's side over his. There was killing for survival, then there was Tanner...
Who knew how many vampires those two men had killed already. How many of them actually deserved it?
No – Mildred couldn't blindly take their side on principal alone. Just because they were human and so was she, didn't mean their cause was any juster.
Perhaps if she could just speak t–
She collided head-on with something.
sloshing all down her front
heels pressing back onto nothing...
failing to catch the guardrail
slipping past the tips of her fingers, leaving her clutching air...
a high-pitched exclamation of horror – not her own.
Mildred tumbled back down the stairs, coming to rest in an ungainly heap six steps lower than she'd been. She heard the heel of one of her shoes snap beneath her, the resulting chunk of loose wood jamming itself in a very uncomfortable place. Scattered about her were yearbooks, mostly covered in coffee...just like her chest.
"God fuck!" she exhaled angrily, picking herself back up and staring at the debris across the stairs.
Her heart was bludgeoning her ribs. Adrenaline coursed through her, though there was no immediate danger.
"Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry! I wasn't looking where I was going," called a light, airy voice that carried well. "Here, let me help."
Tearing her gaze away from the mess, she discovered a redheaded girl before her; the girl held a mostly-crushed coffee cup in tight fingers, glancing Mildred's way with enormous, glimmering eyes. Though the other girl was two steps up, she was still tiny. By height alone the girl didn't appear any older than thirteen; it was only the shape of her body that said she was probably closer to Gloria's age. As with everyone in Mystic Falls – it sometimes seemed – she was very attractive.
The girl darted forward, scrambling around to recollect the array of runaway yearbooks.
Balancing on one foot, Mildred looked down at her nice blue dress in dismay. Pulling taut the bunched up fabric at the neckline, she could see the full scope of damage – drycleaning was required. A dark, bruiselike stain spread across the chest of her dress, almost purple in the dimly lit stairwell; she glowered down at it, suddenly wishing she hadn't gotten out of bed this morning.
Crossly, she thought, Wednesday's should be banned for the good of everyone.
"Care's going to kill me," she muttered darkly to herself. "'Dress sxycute for photos' she says… Now look. Shit, this is never gonna come out."
"Gosh," the girl moaned guiltily, cradling a stack of dripping yearbooks, "your dress… I think perhaps I could–" she paused, squinted, then confusedly asked, "Glory? Is that you?"
Mildred gave an awkward little half-wave. Another peer she was meant to recognize?
"Circe! Glory – it's so good to see you!" she cried exuberantly, flinging herself in for a hug.
The other girl turned out to be so very short of stature that she ended up with her face smooshed in Mildred's – now well-caffeinated – boobs.
Leaning back a little, the redhead appraised Mildred for a moment, then asked quizzically, "What are you wearing? I don't think I've ever seen you in girl clothes – except at parties."
Mildred looked down at herself. "There's something wrong with this dress?" she wondered bemusedly – she'd thought it was pretty. "Well, other than the coffee-stain?" she tacked on sardonically, deciding the garment really was ruined.
"No no – there's nothing wrong with it," the small girl assured. "It's just...weird to see it on you. Didn't even realize it was you. Come on, let's go see if we can clean you up a bit – if not, I'm sure Merry's got something in her locker you can borrow."
Having no better solution, she limped in the girl's wake. Her new acquaintance lead her up the stairs – successfully this time – and down the hall past Tanner's classroom. Just beyond the supply cabinets was the girl's second-floor restroom. Grabbing Mildred's hand and–
The redhead stumbled halfway through opening the door to the restroom, making a sharp, one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turn. Those hazel eyes were now...confused – frightened even.
A quiver in her voice, the girl asked, "Are you– Are you sure you're feeling alright?"
Mildred nodded hesitantly, thoroughly thrown off by the small girl's sudden change in attitude.
"It's just, you feel...funny," the redhead continued, her body language suggesting she something had startled her.
Frowning down at the girl, whose words sparked instant annoyance, Mildred came to her senses. Why was she even following this pixie-girl around, who'd just knocked her down the stairs, ruined the last of Caroline's yearbooks (something the blond was sure to make her suffer for later), and soaked her with coffee?
"Sorry, don't mean to be rude," Mildred said irately – even though she totally did – as she stepped into the restroom, "but exactly who are you?"
The redhead's posture lost its stiffness. She gave a relieved giggle, coming in and leaning casually against the row of sinks.
It wasn't the reaction Mildred had expected.
"Come on, I'm your best-friend. I didn't mean anything by it," the girl said nonsensically. "I'm just imagining things, don't mind me."
Mildred had heard that from random students before... Like Cheer Girl, who'd not spoken to her in the several days she'd been attending Richard C. Lee, then got all offended at Marcia's, claiming Mildred had been snubbing her. Then there was Matt, whose friendship with her was pretty much destroyed because apparently, he couldn't deal with her vampire-mania. And dear Caroline, who was genuinely all kinds of sweet and awesome.
So where did this little stranger fit into it all?
"Come on," the girl went on, pulling a fabric napkin out her pocket, wetting it, and trying to work out the stain on Mildred's dress, "if you're angry about me not being around for you, just come out and say it. Just go, 'Bonnie, you're supposed to be my best-friend – and you completely deserted me in my time of greatest need'... It's okay, you know. You know me – I can take it. It's true, after all."
I'm sorry, what now?
This was Bonnie?
No. That was stupid. This girl looked nothing like Bonnie. Nothing about her was familiar in the least.
So far, everyone else she'd met here was, if not twin-identical to their TV character, at least recognizable. There was Jenna with her wide smile and loosely curled, caramelly hair; then Jeremy, lean with dark hair and a moody countenance; even John was the same, keeping his smile tight, seeming at times so terrified he might fuck everything up. Among her peers, Matt was the blond and blue-eyed, football playing, stereotypical boy-next-door; Tyler, the testosterone-filled jerk who spent more time leering than studying; and Caroline, who could almost be her actresses genuine double… Even Damon was pretty much what she'd expect, though she herself was a bit anaemic-looking.
This wasn't the Bonnie she so looked forward to meeting. This was a complete stranger.
Utterly lost, Mildred coughed and mumbled, "Sorry." Dryly, she added, "You've been gone so long I forgot what you look like."
"Hah! Bitchy much?" the girl – allegedly Bonnie – snarked, sounding strangely delighted. "God, Glory, how much time've you been spending with Caroline Forbes? I'm almost proud of you for that one. And I know – I deserve it."
Bonnie stared at her, lips crinkling, then giggled again. The sound was light and tinkling, more like the voice Mildred had out in the real world than the deeper huskiness Gloria's body came with.
"So, honing of insult skills aside, how've you been holding up? I don't even want to get into the Merry and Caroline stuff. I wasn't here, don't know what happened, don't want to take sides," Bonnie announced definitively, rinsing and wringing the coffee-darkened napkin out under the tap.
"I've been...fine, I guess," Mildred replied flatly, looking for a way out the conversation.
None presented itself.
The next fifteen minutes seemed to last forever. The little redhead rambled like a hummingbird, darting from topic to topic as if following some preset itinerary only she could hope to understand.
Not-proper-Bonnie told her all about the cooler summer weather in a place she referred to as 'Albanu' – because apparently, the proper name was too nasty to be pronounced – and how the plains there seemed to go on forever, only to suddenly be consumed by the sea. She let Mildred in on what she was 'allowed' to about the place her grandmother took her to for training: A big, halfway house out in the middle of nowhere, where psychics and mediums and dime-a-dozen crystal witches could find peace and find themselves. It sounded like a commune. Or a cult.
"I mean, I've gotten a lot of the family history now," Bonnie chirped happily, seeming oblivious of Mildred's poor attention. "Apparently it's not a coincidence both sides of my family immigrated from Alba. Dad's side were working for some guy, looking for something, and their search brought them here. Then poof, some bad shit goes down, they lose their jobs, so they just stayed."
Making vague noises of agreement now and then, Mildred considered this supposed-Bonnie – the newest development in her life of weirdness – wondering if she was an imposter.
There had been nights – in the long days since she twisted vervain-soaked chains around her ankles – in which Mildred thought on the conspicuous absence of Bonnie the Teenage Witch. On TV, the girl had been relatively tough on her friends...but, to be fair, they'd been far tougher on her. The pretty girl was so often treated as a token character – a magical tool serving to close small plotholes, move things along and, in general, act as a voice of reason amongst all the chaos. More often than not, from what she recalled, proper-Bonnie's power had been scuppered one way or another: There'd been something about an eclipse and an empty ghost-world; times when she was too miserable to access her powers; and the girl might even have been dead for a while. (By that point, Mildred hadn't really been watching at all.)
Until now, she'd expected that whenever Bonnie did show up again – Matt had mentioned her impending return a couple of times – the girl would know she was a witch. What this little redhead seemed to be saying, between the babble about boys and her plans for the rest of the summer, was that she was a 'psychic'. That didn't sound the same as witch at all, to Mildred. A psychic was more like...a medium, a clairvoyant.
This wasn't who she'd hoped for.
Although small, part of her had thought that with Bonnie's return might come a chance to finally try and unravel her dream-world issue.
How often had Mildred mulled over the possibility dying here would cause her to wake up in reality? With no sign of leaving this world anytime soon and far too nervous to test the death-wakes-you theory, she wasn't willing to tell Gloria's family and friends she was from another place entirely and really wanted to go home. One, they'd be angry that she wasn't Gloria – but that was only if they even believed her; because two, they would probably lock her up in a mental institution. Not fun.
Fact was, Bonnie – recently having discovered her heritage as a witch – had been her best shot at some proper help with this odd situation. More than anyone else in this place, Mildred had expected the bright girl would be willing to sit and hear out her story without panicking… And proper-Bonnie would have believed her, too, rather than assuming she'd gone wacko. Weird stuff happened to witches all the time, going by the show – Bonnie would've understood, would have tried to help her.
Instead of that slightly-judgy but overall very trustworthy and fair witch, there was this elfine girl. Small with red hair, practically translucent skin with some freckling across the bridge of her nose and otherworldly, hazel eyes. Short skirt and frilly shirt. Almost as bubbly as Caroline, though without the underlying franticness…
In short, a complete stranger.
"And I said to her, 'If you're going to pull shit like that, she'll never make up with you', but I don't even know if she cares anymore," this-Bonnie was saying. "I don't get it – what could you have possibly done that's bad enough to deserve her full...well, bitchiness. I mean, it could just be because it's Caroline Forbes – you know how they are with each other. Merry's not exactly well off… It's always been this competition with her and Caroline – for your friendship, for a position on the squad, for guys, for the best grades… They're like arch-enemies."
As she was often wont to, Mildred wished she could return to her own reality – to a place where there were no vampires, no witches or werewolves, and where there were fifty states. Without someone to assist her, though, she feared she may be trapped here forever.
She let out a long, heavy breath. A headache of pressure and dancing rainbows was building behind her eyes; she closed them to block out the restroom's too-bright, artificial lighting.
"Hey, hey it's okay," fake-Bonnie said, finally noticing something was off with the conversation. "I know I said we wouldn't talk about it – I mean, I really don't want to take sides. Just I… Sorry. I'll be your friend no matter what happens between you and Merry – I haven't forgotten you and Caroline were friends back before the Sulezes moved to town… I might think she's a total...well, I might not like her since high school but I'm not gonna give you grief about it..."
Opening her eyes briefly to look down at the other girl, Mildred just gave a tired nod and sighed, "Sure...thanks... Look, I don't think the coffee's going to come out anytime this century – I'd be better off just going home to change."
Not-Bonnie stared up at her, concern shining in her eyes. "You sure? I still reckon Merry'll have something in her locker – you're basically the same size..."
"I'm not borrowing anything from her."
Seeming taken aback by the coldness of this statement, the redhead bobbed her head in apparent acceptance. "Okay… We'll get you back to yours, then. Want me to drive you?" she asked, stepping out the ladies and back into the busy hall.
Why had her subconscious done away with proper-Bonnie, who was possibly the only confident she could've realistically had here? Why would she ruin her chances of having just one friend who understood her plight?
The answer must be that, at a very deep, uncharted level, Mildred hated herself.
She hated her real life, where she wasn't likely to ever get a real breakout part and step off the stage at Mildew Central. She loathed her mother, who never really wanted her anyway. She resented her caring father, who'd always loved his woodwork and his bees and his old life in Australia just a little bit more. She even envied her best-friend – rich, successful, eternally-cheerful Lucy – who never had to go without anything for even a day if she really wanted it.
And yeah – she hated herself for never being quite good enough to make the big-time. In the back of her mind, she always told herself it was her agent's fault, or that casters didn't know what they were talking about, or that she didn't get callbacks because of her looks – too big in the chest, too broad in shoulder and hip, hair too eighties, face too round – on parts she was clearly perfect for.
It was never any of that, she now knew. She spent years telling herself she was good, that people passing her over all the time was their mistake, but maybe everything she'd been doing since she was a kid was her mistake.
She thought she could make it.
She never did.
Now, she was here. Stuck in this Unreality where her imagination was too useless to bother correctly reproducing the characters of a TV show...
Where did Cheer Girl come from?
What happened to good old proper-Bonnie?
Why was Mags in the car?
Why couldn't Mildred just get along with Jenna?
Why the hell was absent-John her touchstone?
What possessed her to destroy her friendship with Matt on a passing whim?
Why whywhyw hy?
Just...what the fuck was wrong with her?
"I'm a fucking idiot," she whispered to herself hoarsely, voice filled with pain.
"What was that?" Not-Bonnie asked brightly.
If the girl was psychic, why couldn't she feel the misery pouring off 'Gloria'?
The redhead pushed her way into the over-populated cafeteria. Struggling to hold herself together and forced to travel on one broken shoe, Mildred staggered her way into a seat. With an elbow on the table, hand propping up her head, all she could be bothered to do was stare at the wall on the other side of the hall, contemplating...nothing.
Her mind had gone blank.
After a while, the chair beside hers was drawn out.
"Tough day, huh?" asked a friendly voice. It was Liz Forbes.
Mildred tried to turn her head, to respond, but just couldn't find the enthusiasm to do so.
"You've had it really rough," the Sheriff acknowledged thoughtfully. "And I know I've appreciated all the effort you've been putting in with my Carrie – don't think I've seen her so pumped about life since… Well, since her father. But… What I'm trying to say–" she clasped two hands around her mug, leaning forward so Mildred could see the woman's sympathetic expression out the corner of her eye "–I know you think you have to be here today... You don't. If this is all too much for you, I can have one of the boys drop you back home – no shame, no trouble. How's that sound?"
Mildred must've nodded. She couldn't remember doing it but obviously agreed to the Sheriff's suggestion; twenty minutes later found her in the back of a vehicle driven by one of the Police Department's deputies. An indeterminate amount of time after that, she was handed off to a worried-looking Jeremy.
Caroline was going to be so mad at her for not finishing with the yearbooks...or showing up in any of the journalism club's Open Day photos.
It was her 'pretend'-brother who took her inside, got her showered and into clean clothes. He forced her to eat a tasteless TV dinner and sat with her for hours while she sniffled on and off, crying and railing against the unfairness of it all. Eventually, she didn't have the energy to do even that anymore.
Stiltedly, Jeremy called things as he saw them: She wasn't doing a shitty job of it all and he envied her ability to just go back to school, to hang out with friends as if she was fine. Her brother said he wished he knew how to do that.
"I know you're not any better off than me, really," he observed later in the evening. "You're just better at faking it. Hey, maybe you were right – you would make a good actress..."
She laughed through tears and snot.
Not caring about the deaths of the Gilbert parents wasn't even an act. They weren't Mildred's family; she'd met them for all of an hour. Unlike Mags, who was a child – she could never have lived with herself if a little girl died in her arms – she felt absolutely zero connection to Miranda or Grayson Gilbert.
So...Jeremy could say she was putting up a good show – just as Caroline once commented – but really she wasn't even making an effort. What would've been impressive is if she'd actually managed to look like she was grieving – it was a tough emotion to pull off. Though, in all fairness, with the couple of near-mental breakdowns she'd had in the last month, she supposed they did think she was grieving…
And...maybe she was, in many ways.
She was grieving in the space her lost-reality had left. Even if she felt nothing for Gloria's parents, she was affected by the loss of her own identity. Even if she held resentment for her father, even if she was jealous of Lucy and had spent half her childhood hoping her mother would just give up and leave already, she still felt their absense keenly.
Her life was shit but it had been hers.
Now she was Gloria – the Golden Girl of Mystic Falls... Really not a position she wanted, just one forced upon her.
Jenna didn't come back to the house before nightfall. According to Jeremy, she and Magda were staying with the McCulloughs for the evening, catching up. It was probably a good thing. Mildred didn't want her aunt's judgment and her baby sister didn't need to see her like this.
Jeremy put on some slow music that was almost grungy. The lights went off in an attempt to quell her migraine. In the darkness, Mildred discovered her brother had a nervous habit – he fiddled with his zippo. She bummed a smoke just to stop him doing it. The two of them leaning back against the headboard of her bed, she lazily watched coils of smoke pass in and out of the narrow streams of light slipping through gaps in the curtains. The bass vibrating gently through the walls was deep and oddly comforting – like a heartbeat at the center of the universe.
According to the clock, it was only an hour until her birthday. Any of this morning's anticipation for it had been swept away. Twenty-eight – even though it was technically twenty-eight/eighteen – wasn't an important milestone. By morning, her aunt would be back to ruin any illusion of peace Mildred might manage to reach tonight. After a month of tense confusion, she desperately needed to relax, to take advantage of the comfort of faux-family. Jeremy was her brother, now, and she needed him as much as he seemed to need her.
It wasn't as if any of this was real, anyway. She could literally rob a bank and there'd be no big consequences in the long run…
She'd thought that before, hadn't she?
Slowly, Mildred allowed the music to lull her into the deadly-calm sleep of the physically worn and mentally spent. Whatever consequences there would be, she could deal with them when they came. She had her reasons for throwing caution to the wind – today had been awful.
Note: This hurt me more than it hurt you... Probably.