A/N: This story is finally back and rewritten, and hopefully more enjoyable than before. I'm trying to improve some flaws I found in the previous version, and if you are a returning reader, some things may be different than before. Chapter one doesn't have any significant changes, maybe just more angst, but Chapter two should have more added to it. I'm probably going to post both versions of this story so that you guys can compare, but once i reach where the original stopped, only this story will be updated.
Trigger Warnings:Suicide, Self harm, mentions of bullying, anxiety, and self loathing.
The winds were bitterly cold and biting that night, seeping deep into the depths of her flesh, but Leni didn't mind - - the stinging cold numbed her to the painful thoughts running rampant in her head… it only made her next choice slightly less frightening than it really was.
Before she exited her home for the last time, Leni had made sure she told everyone she was going on a walk, a really long walk that might keep her out for a really long while. Nobody seemed to acknowledge it, but Leni was used to that; there was still part of her wanting someone to tell her to stick around though.
Before now, she wanted attention, she tried hard to get it, tried to fit in, to be part of the family... it never worked, no matter how hard she tried she would always be the outlier. She had no intentions of returning to that wretched house, even if she somehow survived her next stunt.
After wandering for an eternity, Leni found herself on a one-lane bridge. Low traffic meant she had a lower risk of being stopped, not that anyone would probably want to stop her. Leni sat on the wooden railing, looking down at the steep drop.
The bridge passed over a deep rocky ravine; if one were to travel down it from either of the sides near the bridge's ends, they could probably make it down safely - - if they were well equipped. If one were to freely jump from the center of the bridge however, they would be facing a forty-two-foot drop onto the jagged rocks below.
Lining the edges of the ravine were trees with red and orange leaves, further adding to the beauty of the scene even if the colors dulled in the ghostly moonlight. Leni tool in a deep breath, filling her lungs to their mac capacity with the icy air. Everything leading up to this moment felt miniscule in comparison to the beauty of the scene. Dying here seemed poetic, a serene finale to her heavy life.
Both Leni's teachers and parents were trying to push her to perform to perfection, to be like her older sister Lori. "Why don't you try to be more like Lori?" That was the literal expression they would use, it's how it was since the sixth grade. This year had been especially taxing on her and the school year wasn't even half way over, she couldn't even imagine what the rest of the year had in store for her.
With the arrival of eleventh grade, they had been breathing especially hard down her neck at every moment, wanting her to get into a college and make something of herself. Her parents said they wanted the best for her, but she couldn't bring herself to believe them… how could she? They wanted her away, she knew that without a doubt, why else would they keep adding weight to her already burdened shoulders?
No matter how hard she tried, her grades didn't seem to rise more than a few points before going back down even lower, her best simply wasn't enough, it never was, and when her best wasn't enough her teachers and parents thought it would be a good idea to throw more work at her. Leni had no friends, she never had time and if it wasn't that, everyone was off put by her stupidity which they rumored to come from a mental disorder. She remembered a doctor saying it too (so she guessed the rumors weren't too unfounded), her parents had taken her to take an IQ test with a psychologist a couple years back, but she was so stressed at the time she couldn't focus.
Eventually the horrible results got out. She spent countless nights crying herself to sleep while her sisters remained oblivious as the vicious rumors about Leni danced in circles around school, careful to avoid the ears of the Loud sisters. It wasn't fair, she deserved a second chance at the test, when she could actually focus. Lori was too enamoured with Bobby to notice her crying at night. Her sibling, Leni realized, were cruel.
It wasn't only them, the whole world was too cruel and full of hurtful people. All she ever heard on the news was bad things that filled her with fear, made her afraid of going outside or making friends. People were horrible, and Leni had experienced some things first hand that really hammered those nails deeper into the tissue of her brain.
Maybe she was a cruel person too, and that's why her body was littered with scars; she was just as bad as the rest of them. Maybe that's why she was so unbelievably angry when she got her IQ test results and acted cold towards her siblings. How could she blame others for hating her when she hated herself in the first place? The logic just continued to jumble itself around in her head until she didn't know what was right or wrong anymore.
When she tried approaching her parents about her dire situation, they were too busy helping everyone else, and when it was Leni's turn for attention, they would always be 'too tired' and then they would then retreat to their room.
'We'll deal with it tomorrow' They would say.
But tomorrow would always become the day after, before becoming a week, and then eventually her parents forgot their daughter asked for help in the first place. Leni's worries about everything soon became horrible anxiety attacks that often left her bawling in her closet, where she felt only a little safer.
Leni could only use it as proof her parents had already given up on her altogether. All she could count on was herself, the cards were stacked against her since the beginning. In the end, Leni was just tired of it all, so tired that part of her didn't even have the energy to end it all sooner.
'Money and attention were both rare in the Loud House,' Leni thought, commentating her last moments as she looked down to the ravine below. At least now, her parents wouldn't spend anymore money on her, and then maybe they could save more, one less mouth to feed; All shallow justifications for her actions, but deep down her reasons for suicide were more selfish. She still tried all she could to make herself feel like this was the right option. 'Maybe Luna will get to go to college instead.'
Leni got fully over the railing of the bridge, her hands literally gripping the old wooden structure for dear life. She was now standing with nothing in between her and hopefully the peace she wished for, but fear still pulsed violently through her veins - - this would be permanent, she knew full well she wouldn't be able to take this one back.
Her birthday was supposed to be tomorrow, but the superficial attitudes her family would be displaying for her wasn't something she wanted to be around; instead they would mourn and move on, and Leni would be no more than a short story the others would tell their kids years down the line. Tomorrow she would be the same age as Lori for the next five months until Lori was finally an adult.
And Leni hated that.
Once again that would be yet another accomplishments that Lori held over her. None of the other siblings would ever feel like she did, they were all content with their lives, they had found their callings. Leni guessed it was just the curse of being second oldest.
She closed her eyes, feeling the cool breeze against her skin. Leni's grip on the rail gently ease, and her body began leaning forward. The fear in her chest turned into an erratic fluttering - - Leni wondered if she would die of a heart attack before she would hit the ground.
'This is it.' She thought, finding herself surprised at the tears forming in her eyes. She didn't know whether they were from a deep sadness or from an elated happiness.
"What are you doing?!" A feminine voice shrieked from behind her said. Leni became aware of tugging on the back of her collar, and then an arm wrapping itself around her waist. She mentally berated herself for not jumping sooner, but like always her shortcomings were always her own fault.
"Can you, like, let me go?" Leni tried to snarl but her voice broke before she could put her walls back up. "Please?"
"No," Was the simple response. "How about you get over here, and we talk. If you still want to jump afterwards, I'll let you."
It seemed like an unfair trade. Leni knew her mind couldn't be changed now but complied anyways, she'd lasted nearly seventeen years so far, a few more minutes wouldn't hurt her.
The girl kept a hand gripped around Leni's forearm as she got back over the edge. Leni turned to face her, and got a good look at her. Her hair was long and blonde, seemingly pointing off to the right near the ends. She wore an electric purple eyeshadow and button up sweater, and a brown checkered skirt. Had she not been so surprised she hadn't hit the bottom of the ravine, Leni would have admired the newcomer's style. A look of something between concern and anger shrouded new girl's face. Leni was not off put by this though, she didn't really care.
"I was just admiring the beauty." Leni said nonchalantly. She was used to being used, of being taken advantage of, this person probably had some type of selfish reason for saving her, the girl however, remained unconvinced. "Why did you grab me like that?"
"I'm Carol, and because I value life, and you have a family to live for. Aren't you Lori's sister? How would she feel?" The blonde asked. When she saw a shadow pass over Leni's face, she knew she said something wrong.
"Of course I am, just Lori's sister. It's all I've ever been. It's never just Leni. Why do-" Leni abruptly cut herself short. She turned around, and leaned on the railings of the bridge, gripping the sides till her knuckles turned white. From the peripheral of her vision she saw Carol tense up, ready to jump in to action and save her if she tried jumping again.
Leni suddenly remembered this girl now; if Lori wasn't talking about Bobby, she was dissing on Carol. The annoyance on her face soon turned to a look of sadness. "If my fam..."
It felt like the endless hole gaping on her chest managed to grow, swallowing the essence of her very soul. It didn't matter if she explained it, it was a sudden realization nobody would ever want to understand. It was the flaw Leni found in the Royal Woods community, they could never really sympathize with her, or each other for that matter. If only this Carol felt how Leni did, they would both be jumping together, Leni knew how lonely she was but she didn't think it would hit her this bad. Thinking about it made Leni weep, slowly at first, before it became uncontrollable as if she was having minor anxiety attack.
Which she was.
Before she knew it she couldn't breathe, like a noose had tightened around her neck. She couldn't end it here, Carol wouldn't let her, no one would. Leni would be stuck in this misery for the rest of her days, being forced to endure the tragedy of her so called her 'life'. That was the scariest thing she could have imagined.
"Oh god…" Leni whispered as she clutched her chest. Before her anxiety got the best of her, Leni felt a strong arm wrap around her. She looked over her and saw none other than…
"Lori?" She whispered. Her anxiety thawed away just as quickly as it came, even if she was discontent with her older sister, the embrace reminded her of the good old times. Soon her sobs turned in to gentle whimpers, but one thing she couldn't get off her mind was how Lori knew she was here.
'She read the note, she came to save me!' Leni though, her heart skipping a beat. "Thanks Lori, I'm so sorry…'
"Sorry but you got the second best." Carol started with uncertainty. She wasn't taught to deal with these types of situations, she only hugged the girl because she thought Leni was going to jump. She might have not liked Lori, but she wasn't going to let her rival's younger sister throw away her life. She took a deep sigh. "I was going to a movie that starts soon. Why don't you come with?"
Leni's shoulders sagged as she realized her eyes were playing tricks on her in the poor lightning and Lori was nowhere in sight, but instead it was Carol, the girl she hardly knew. The realization dampened Leni's hopeful feeling, but she should've know it couldn't have been Lori. Leni wasn't that far out of her mind to believe Lori really came was she?
"You should just let me go. " Leni, said brushing Carol away from her. The contact of someone who was more or less a stranger made her skin crawl. This conversation was making her weary, any longer and she would lose all the energy she had mustered to get over the railing. Leni had left a note on her pillow, it was already too late to return home anyways if someone had read the note. Carol was a vicious dog though, unwilling to let her catch go.
"Look," She started, adding a slight offending tone in her voice. "I will not let you jump off this bridge. You seem like an alright person, so if you promise not to jump, i'll give you my number, and if you need someone to talk to, just give me a call, alright?"
Leni could see that that the blonde wouldn't leave unless Leni promised not to jump. Leni was actually expecting the girl to prank her, and slap her, or even push Leni's frail body over the edge herself. Leni gave a slight nod before speaking out loud.
"Fine." Leni stated… she already knew she would never call the girl. "As long as you don't tell Lori or anyone about this. I'd be embarrassed if they found out... they probably would be too."
"Deal." Carol said. "I'll give you a ride home."
"I'm fine," Leni told the blonde. She didn't want to take anything from anyone if she could help it, so she lied instead. "My house is just right down the street."
"No, it's really not, I know where you live." Carol beckoned for Leni to follow her to the car, a silver Honda Civic parked at end of the bridge. Leni found her legs walking towards and getting in the car of her older sister's worst enemy.
Carol dropped Leni off at her house, and to Leni's surprise, hugged the depressed girl tightly. The fashionista always wondered what it felt like to be genuinely hugged. She never expected it to be so discomforting; even less did she expect herself to be returning the hug that only lasted a mere moment, it wouldn't have been nice to not return it, right?
Leni found tears reaching the edge of her eyelids. She turned her head to the ground and pretended to scratch her eyebrow with trembling fingers to shield her leaking eyes; she hated being such an emotional wreck in someone's presence. After a moment she made her way up the creaking stairs to the place she regretted calling her home, sparing one last glance at Carol.
Leni thought the older girl looked sad but didn't think about it much after when Carol signaled for Leni to call her later.
Leni nodded, things would have certainly been better if only she had made it to the bottom of the ravine, but if Carol was willing to be her first real friend, maybe she shouldn't be so quick to go back and try again, still though Leni couldn't bring herself to trust the older girl. It would have been nice to have a friend, Leni thought, but her past doubts kept creeping up and keeping it real. Maybe Carol just saved her as part of a realy long joke, or didn't even have any interest in being her friend.
Leni went back into the house, and none of the inhabitants were aware of the tragedy that would have befallen them that very night; the note was still face down on her bed. She was up late into the night, envisioning how the household would react if her broken body had been discovered. Well after two in the morning, Leni found herself crushed by the weight of loneliness. Leni picked up her phone and didn't even realize what she had done until the text was sent.
'Too late to catch a movie?'
The very next day after that was Leni's birthday, and she had turned seventeen. Leni often found herself thinking they should have been planning a funeral today. Carol called her later that night, checking if she was still alive and what she thought of the movie they saw together. The call was the gift that ended up being the best one she could have received, but Leni heart still felt as empty as it had always been.
It had only been four weeks since that incident, and already Carol and Leni were good friends - - at least Carol thought they were good friends. Despite Carol's unending insistence that it wasn't a pity relationship, Leni was still wary.
It was only half past four in the afternoon, but the days of December were already turning to night at this time. Leni was huddling in the corner of her bed, comforted by multiple blankets to protect her from the icy cold, and shield her phone's screen from any unwanted onlookers. Her eyes moved to the other side of the room where Lori was standing, face right next to phone talking to Bobby. Leni stared for a moment, watching Lori just fawn away over her Boo-Boo Bear. Seeing Lori so happy made Leni sad for thinking mean thoughts about her, but their relationship made Leni a bit jealous.
Leni might not have been the smartest, but she didn't need a high IQ to know that Lori would crucify her if she knew that Leni had become pals with her enemy. In the past fifteen minutes, Leni had heard her older sister say something about Carol several times. Before Leni got to know the girl herself, she would have blindly agreed with whatever Lori said just to fit in, now Leni wasn't so sure what to believe.
It was another one of her many, many flaws, though Carol was trying help her to boost her self-confidence and show her these flaws weren't problems. So far it hasn't really worked.
She turned on her phone screen, and there was a new message from Carol waiting for her. She already had an idea of what it was.
'I'm on my way. Are you ready?'
They had made plans to hangout tonight, they planned on getting some coffee, and then they would see where things went from there. Leni would be lying if she said she hadn't been looking forward to it all week. Leni waited a moment before texting her back - - she didn't want to respond right away and make Carol think she had no life.
'Yeah, i'll be waiting outside.'
Leni got off her bed, already dressed. She chose to wear a Navy blue dress and a jacket over it. Leni had pants on underneath even though they didn't really protect her from the cold - - style mattered more than protection. She got her pink brush from the nightstand beside her bed, and went to stand in front of the mirror, brushing her hair for what seemed like the fiftieth time that day. Carol had been nice to Leni, but Leni still couldn't help but feel nervous around the girl, she has to look good for her friend. Being hurt in the past really messed her up, but still though Leni found her in yet another friendship. She had to please Carol or end up being abandoned again.
Friends were sparse in her life, but pity was not, and Leni refused to like that. It was true that she still felt majority of the same negativity she did those four weeks ago, but she did think she was getting a little better, not that her family had much to do with it. They were still oblivious, and pretty much treated her the same as always, Leni tried her hardest not to hate them for that.
Carol had everything to do with the changes though, but no matter how much the older girl claimed the friendship was genuine, Leni couldn't let go of the fear that Carol was pitying her. Carol was pretty charismatic, Leni would give her that, but if she found out that all of this was an act, Leni didn't know what she would do.
She gently put down the brush down as if it were made of glass, and made sure to put her phone in her pocket. She looked herself over once more, and when she decided that everything was in the right place, she walked over to the door and left, taking one last glance at Lori, who was still on the phone wishing Bobby good luck at his newest job.
Leni made her way downstairs, careful not to be plowed into by any of her siblings. She would have to get downstairs and out the door without getting dirtied. Her luck paid off as she neared the front door unscathed, and quietly opened it to sneak out unnoticed.
"Hey Leni," A voice said. Leni was startled, her heart nearly jumping out of her throat in the process.
"Lincoln, actually," And it was indeed him. Leni sat on her hands to keep them from shaking, but she couldn't stop her legs from quivering. "I was wondering if you would help me make a better hero costume, you see, a convention is coming up in January and Clyde's dad's got him a new costume, but mine is still out dated."
Leni was actually surprised that she was being asked to participate in something - even Lucy was included in the activities around here more than she was - though Carol was already on her way, so Lincoln would have to be turned down this time.
"Sorry Linc, I'm like going out with a friend tonight." She said softly, no matter how detached Leni felt from her family, she never stopped feeling bad. Lincoln looked disappointed but Leni quickly stepped in, touching his cheek softly. "But once I get back, I'd be glad to help my brother out."
He brightened considerably at that, and nodded. "Alright. I can wait until then."
He went to walk away, but stopped and turned around immediately.
"Who are you going out with, you never go hang out with any friends... Is it a boy" He added suggestively. Leni's mind drew a blank. Why the sudden interest in her life? If it were about something about fashion, she would have been fine, but she had no lies prepared for such a private question since no one ever asked them.
"Yes?" She blurted out, her mind wasn't even thinking the words before saying them. Lincoln looked like he was getting ready to shout to the other sisters that Leni had finally had a 'boyfriend'. Remembering how the girls had reacted when they thought Ronnie-Anne had a crush on him, Leni couldn't let that happen. She grabbed him by the back oh his shirt and pulled him back outside. "Wait, Linc, don't tell anyone. His name is, like, Carl and he's in the grade above mine… I wanna see if we're gonna work out before I tell the others."
Lincoln smirked, it was another chance for him to prove he was a good brother, but maybe even get some leverage out of it. "Alright, but one condition, I want to meet him."
Leni's skin crawled at the thought, the request even annoyed her a bit. Leni had wrongfully called Carol her boyfriend, if he went out there and saw it was actually a girl (or Carol for that matter), she would never be able to live it down, they would think she liked girls. One way or another, secrets didn't last long in the Loud house but Leni could try to keep it a secret longer.
"No." Leni said in with unwoted seriousness. Lincoln never really heard Leni use a tone besides her usual soft and kind one. He didn't press the matter further, but would document it later.
"Alright then I'll take an You-Owe-Me for any time I want, and is that their car behind you?" He asked. Leni turned around, and sure enough, Carol's car was parked right in front of the house. Leni nodded and turned to leave, Lincoln attempting to peak around her shoulder.
"If anyone asks, tell them I'm out with a friend alright?" Now it was Lincoln's turn to nod, and Leni gently hugged him. Leni got in the car and Carol, not wasting a moment, drove away.
"So, what was it you and Lincoln were talking about?" Carol asked, with a sly smirk on her face.
"Not much, he was wondering where I was going and then said he wanted to meet you." Leni answered, giving the partial truth. Carol picked up on the things Leni didn't say, and pointed them out.
"Why would he want to meet me? Unless, you said you were going out with your boyfriend. Does want to make sure 'he' is good enough for you?" Carol said playfully. The flustered look told Carol all she needed to know. "What was 'his' name?"
Leni opened her mouth to speak, but when nothing came out, closed it again. Carol was amused at the sight before her, Leni on the other hand didn't like being pressured like this. It reminded her of being bullied. The aching discomfort growing in her chest wasn't something Leni was going to bring up, she didn't want to ruin Carol's mood. Carol made a questioning sound, pressing Leni for an answer. Eventually, she did respond, but Carol didn't catch it the first time.
"You're going to have to speak louder than that Loud." Carol jested.
"I said his name was Carl." Leni sheepishly stated.
Carol chuckled at it. "Why, is the real 'Carl' not good enough for you?"
Leni thought for a moment, trying to choose her words carefully. "If you and Lori didn't hate each other so much, then I wouldn't have to hide you as a friend."
"I don't hate her, she just doesn't like anything I do." Carol said. They drove on for another minute in silence. Leni clenched her fists, Carol and Lori mending their relationship would help Leni out so much even if she and Lori were the best sister-friends anymore.
"Try doing something nice for her. Maybe she'd appreciate it." Leni suggested. Carol just scoffed at the idea. Leni tried again. "I, like, know how hard headed Lori can be, but it'd mean alot to me if you tried."
Carol just grunted, but considered Leni's words. The rest of the car ride was spent in a deafening silence, leaving Leni to wonder if she had said something wrong.
Their destination arrived not much longer afterwards. It was a little, locally owned coffee shop simply named "Coffee Bistro". It's rustic minimalist design gave Leni a cozy feeling. There were few people in the store, sitting alone as they in enjoyed their coffee in silence. Leni nervously followed behind Carol in the unfamiliar place.
"I come here all the time. It's a great place to get away from those fake girls at school." Carol said as she turned and stopped, waiting for Leni to catch up. Leni thought Carol was one of those fake girls, but getting to know her made the entire difference. Leni guessed Carol was fake though, the older girl was actually kind to Leni, but somewhat stuck up at school. Leni found the thought interesting.
"Where are we sitting?" Leni asked her. She had never been in this place before, and was more comfortable with Carol making all the decisions.
"Let's order first, then we'll decide."
"Then what are we ordering?" Leni asked timidly.
Together they walked up to the cashier, Leni observed Carol ordering from a few steps back.
"How may I help you?" He asked.
Leni looked at the menu as Carol ordered a 'Caramel Mocha'. When the cashier turned towards Leni to take her order, her mind went blank. She stared at the menu for more than a moment, until her silence became uncomfortable and Carol giggled at her. Eventually she decided to take what Carol had. If it was good enough for Carol to order then it must have been above standard.
"I'll just have what she's having. With Mint flavor" Leni said softly. Carol was already digging through her handbag for money and Leni couldn't help but feel bad; she never had anything to give, only to take. Leni would have to convince Carol to let her pick the next place, where money didn't matter. Once their drinks were paid for, they decided to sit in the back corner. Carol checked her phone, and Leni her's. It was just now turning six. Leni set her phone down, and looked around aimlessly until a waiter came with their drinks.
"Here you go, Caramel Mocha" Leni looked up and saw none other than Bobby Santiago. Her mouth went dry, and Bobby smiled and sat the two drinks down as he saw who it was he was serving, missing Carol's presence entirely. "Aye, Leni, what brings you here? Is Lori around here too?"
She remained shocked. "I uh… I-"
"She's here with me." Carol said roughly. Bobby turned towards her and his expression matched that of Leni's. "If you tell Lori you saw us here, I swear I'll ruin your relationship, and then I'll literally kill you."
Bobby swallowed harshly, his hand rubbing the back of his neck. "I uh… I-, oh, that must be the manager calling me!"
Bobby scurried off, leaving the two alone. Leni dared to look at Carol. The older girl's brows were furrowed and her eyes were burning coal, no wonder Bobby got out of there so fast.
"Did you have to be mean to him?" Leni asked. Carol's expression softened.
"He would have told Lori, and you don't want that." Carol stated matter of factly. "I'm just helping you out. It's what friends do."
Leni chuckled nervously, and gripped her cup tightly, it seemed like another bully-ish thing for Carol to do. It made Leni a little sick. "I don't want to sneak around all the time, but I can't help it. I don't want Lori, to like, hate me for liking you."
Carol smiled sipped her mocha. "Leni, just try to think about what you want, don't care what anyone else says. Then if Lori disagrees, you won't be bothered… I'll fight her for you."
Leni pondered over those words. What did she want? Just barely over a month ago she was going to throw her life over a bridge, the only reason she hadn't done so again was because she had Carol to kinda look forward too.
There were many things she wanted; to be accepted for who she is, to be her own person, to not be the black sheep of her family, someone to love her - - the list could go on for all eternity.
She looked up at the older girl in front of her, taking in all of her details. Carol treated Leni how her own family didn't. Even if it was all an act Leni still found some sort of comfort. She finally realized what it was that she really wanted, even though she might not even get it. It was so wrong to want it that thinking about it twisted Leni's intestines to mush the rest of the night.
Leni wanted Carol. As a friend? Something more? No, probably more as a distraction from her problems. It didn't matter to Leni as long as her 'friend' accepted her, but it still felt wrong to her to want someone who could bring her peace of mind... was it selfish?
Even if her friendship with Carol didn't work out, at least it was a nice ride, it was like a drug in which Leni found some pleasure for a short time even if it would impact her negatively in the end - - she just wanted some good times before she died. At least, that's how Leni often weirdly perceived it, she was never really expecting this to work out in the end and that was alright with Leni as long as it was a nice ride.
More than anything, Leni wanted hope. If it meant risking another horrible friendship, Leni was willing to take the chance.