disclaimer: Dan's characters, for serious.

a/n: This is what happens when I don't sleep, you guys. o.O jsyk this is totally my complete personal canon for Jade. And you guys should really lemme know if you think this constitutes an M rating, because not a lot is said but it's sure as hell implied. And I seem to have a high tolerance for stuff like that so I may not be the best judge of rating. -.- Haha. I can change it if anyone thinks it's warranted.

And the title is from (what I think to be) a very fitting song, "Lilikoi" by Paula Fruga.

Enjoy and review? :)

Mariah West is fully aware that she's sort of a crappy mom.

But it's just so hard, really, no one told her it would be like this, with a daughter so glaringly smart that at five years old she could use lawyer-like circular logic to get a promise of ice cream, and so immeasurably talented that watching her play with her dolls became a five act Shakespearian tragedy. There's some kind of fate-karma-destiny to that, Mariah figures, because she couldn't sing The Wheels on the Bus if her life depended on it and maybe if she'd been better at school she would've been doing homework when she was fifteen instead of getting knocked up.

And really, her daughter's all kinds of beautiful, so it takes a little of the sting out of being twenty and having a kindergartener at home. Can't even legally drink (but like that's ever stopped her) and her kid needs new shoes, new pencils, a hug and a kiss and a parent-teacher conference because well she's very precocious and just a little bit aggressive, and maybe you could work on that at home with her?

Jade's fine, Mariah reasons. Jade's perfect, and every time she needs reminding that it was a good thing she missed her appointment at Planned Parenthood— 'cause she was hanging out at the mall with the girls, duh, and it was so much more important to feel normal for just five seconds than leave because oh did mention, I have to go get an abortion— every time she needs reminding, she tells Jade to sing her a song or show her a dance, because then her whole world gets just that little bit brighter.

She loves her daughter, but that doesn't mean she's automatically a good mother.

When Jade's eight she has her first real relationship since Your Dad, because seriously, just saying the guy's name makes her want to break out in hives. In the language of idiots, 'pregnant girlfriend' translates to 'cut and run.'

"I don't like him," Jade announces, because she always has an opinion on everything. It gets tiring.

"Well, I do." Mariah taps her fingernails on the garage-sale dresser in her room, spinning around. "You like this skirt?"

"I don't like skirts."

"On me, stupid."

Jade shrugs. "It's fine."

Mariah sighs deeply. "I need better than fine, babe. I need gorgeous." She starts to shimmy out of the skirt.


"Oh, hush. Don't be a priss." She grabs a shorter, darker number and pulls it on instead. She spins for Jade again. "Better?"

Jade rolls her eyes. "Yes."

"You're lying, but I don't care."

"Can I go back to my room?"

"No! I'm going out tonight, you have lots of time to be a sulky pre-tween then. Grab my makeup bag, would ya?"

"I'm not sulky." Jade stomps her way across the room for the bag, then throws it at her mother. Mariah catches it with a smile.

"Gotta try harder than that to take my head off. Want me to put some makeup on you, too?"

Jade gives her that look she's had down since she was a toddler: Mom, are you freaking insane? "I'd rather slowly starve to death."

"Have it your way." Let no one say she never tries all those bonding activities. But really, the first place she'd go if she had a choice was out clubbing; Jade would go to her room and shut the door. "I'm leaving in ten," she calls out, but Jade has already retreated to the living room.

Mariah turns around, trying to see how her ass looks. Grabs her makeup bag and traces eyeliner, mascara, lipstick, foundation. Brushes out her hair again, scrambles for her wallet when the doorbell rings. Leaves with Jade curled on the couch, reading a book the size of her purse.

Really, when you're that different from your daughter, how the hell are you supposed to make a connection?

"That's tonight?"

"I told you five times, Mom."

Mariah blinks. "Did not."

Jade only sighs. "Whatever. You don't have to come."

And so she shrugs, and crumples the flier for the fourth grade school play into her purse. Swooping down to plant a kiss on Jade's forehead, she swings out the door. "Love you."

It closes before she hears the answer. But two hours later, when even a generous helping of dope hasn't livened up her shift at the restaurant, she grabs the manager's hand. He's a pimply seventeen-year old, and hell if she knows how he's higher up than her. "Stephen," she says breathlessly, trying not to giggle because seriously, he's so weird-looking, "I need to leave. My kid's in the school play. The lead." Since for real, what other part would Jade be?

He looks around. There are two people still there; a guy reading the newspaper (at seven at night? Way to prioritize, Mariah thinks) with a girl who must be his daughter, Jade's age. Stephen purses his lips and she blinks wide-open eyes at him. "I guess," he says reluctantly. "But I'm taking the last hour out of your paycheck."

She screeches a little too loud. "You're the best, Steve!"

"Don't call me Steve!"

But she's grabbing her purse and is already out the door.

And oh, she's supposed to go out tonight with Tim tonight, isn't she? He's going to score her some more dope, just in case she uses up her stash before the week is up (Jade's just so tiring to deal with sometimes, really). Mariah swings by his house, orders him into the car to go watch Jade's play before they go out. He's hanging with Billy and Wes when she gets there, though, but in the end they both shrug and climb into the car too, heading to a fourth-grade rendition of Sleeping Beauty.

They all look ri-freaking-diculous, Mariah knows; tiny stringy-haired her, dragging three obviously strung-out guys into the darkened auditorium— only ten minutes of the play left, now. Billy is sniffing reflexively when the dark-haired, dark-eyed kid playing the prince slays the plastic dragon, then kneels down over Jade.

He kisses her on the cheek and she blinks her eyes open. Mariah tilts her head, because Jade looks genuinely surprised to be awake, there, on the dusty stage doubling as a castle— but then again, isn't that the point?

She whoops and claps when the bows are taken, and Tim shrugs and follows her lead. And then she laughs and laughs and laughs when the prince tries to kiss Jade's cheek again, and Jade shoves him away with a roll of her eyes.

Mariah's heels click when she walks up to her daughter, still standing on the stage. "You were great, baby!"

"Mom, shhh." Jade grabs fistfuls of her costume-dress, watching Tim and Billy and Wes wander forward behind her. "You brought them?"

"Had to." Mariah nods, then opens her arms for Jade to hop into. Before she can, the little prince dude runs out from the other side of the curtain and grabs at her arm. Jade narrows her eyes.


His eyes widen. "You're— I think you're really pretty," he admits, staring at Mariah's daughter like she's the second coming. Billy sniffs again, and Mariah dearly wants to punch him.

She sees Jade looking at her from the corner of her eye, probably remembering the guys who hit on her mother at the grocery store, at the smoothie shop where she took Jade to her to shut up every now and then. At Mariah's answer, how she looked at them like they were nothing.

Jade breaks away from the boy, rubbing the place where he'd held onto her. "Get lost," she orders, a perfect imitation of her mother, and jumps off stage to grab her mother's hand.

Tim crows out a laugh. "Baby," Mariah says, then tucks a piece of hair behind Jade's ears. The dope hasn't quite worn off; she still feels like giggling. And for the first time in her life, she grins at her daughter and laughs, "You are way too much like me."

She doesn't let herself think that maybe getting comments like that are the reason Jade is.

"One day," Mariah announces when Jade is twelve, "you are totally coming out to the club with me."

"Sure thing, Mom." She rolls her eyes; it's what she does best, Mariah's noticed.

"No, seriously. You can even wear my bad ass skirt, the one with all the sparkles." She screams a little at the idea and throws herself over Jade, who is sprawled out on her mother's bed with— what else? —a book. Jade kicks her legs.

"Get off!"

"That's what she said," Mariah snickers. Jade pulls a face.

"Ew. Can you never say that again?"

"Make me," she sings, drawing herself up and plunking down on the floor to dig through her purse. "Shit." As it turns out, she hadn't left her needles in there. Where the hell are they? "Baaaabe."

Jade flips to the next page. "Yeeees."

"Where are my thingies?"

Jade draws in a breath. "I know what they are, Mom. I'm not an idiot."

Mariah frowns, stung. "I know. You're smarter than me. I just—"

"Wanted to attempt to preserve my supposed innocence?"

She closes her eyes; her head is starting to pound. It does that a lot around Jade. "Just tell me where they are." God, if she can't find them… Her hands are starting to shake just thinking about it.

But Jade shrugs. "Don't know."

"Fuck." Mariah stands, swaying a little from the few beers she'd managed to grab before Jade got home from school, and starts to dig around her dresser drawers. "Oh, and I'm staying over at Vic's tonight, 'kay?"

"You tell me that," Jade mutters, "like I have the deciding vote."

Her mind swims. Why the hell does she get the kid that talks her in circles? "If you want me to come home and be with you, I will," she finally says.

At that, Jade glances up, her fingers slipping over the well-worn cover of her book. "I want you to come home and be with me," she says deliberately, hair she hasn't allowed Mariah to have cut since she was in second grade swinging over her face like a curtain.

Mariah falters. She thinks of the needle Vic'll be sure to let her use; of the tumbling high she could be at just a few hours from now, over and over again. Shit. Why does she do this to herself? "Baby…"

Then Jade shakes her head. "Kidding. Stay at Vic's, Mom. Have fun."

There's a moment's silence before she laughs, bright and surprised. "I love you, babe."

Looking like she's trying to stop it, Jade smiles. "You too. Don't do anything stupid."

"What's that supposed to mean, huh?"

"It means don't let yourself crash, get depressed, and pull an Anna Karenina," Jade laughs, seeming not to notice the reference go straight over Mariah's head.

She crosses her hands above her heart like she understands. "Promise."

Five hours later it's three in the morning, and Mariah is letting the colors of Vic's house, teeming with people, wash over her. Everything is so blatantly here when she's high; nothing can top it, not ever. It feels like she can see everything, know everything, figure out exactly where she stands. God, it's amazing.

Vic stumbles over, cigarette in hand. He stamps a kiss on her mouth. "Havin' fun?"

"The best," she says lazily, heart beating triple-time in sharp contrast. Something suddenly occurs to her. "Who's Anna Karenina?"

"Hell if I know." He leans closer. "You okay? Maybe you're on a bad trip."

Mariah shakes her head furiously. "No, Jade said something— something about not—" She huffs in frustration, everything bleeding the brightest color. "She's so smart. How is she so smart and I'm so dumb?"

Vic only shrugs, taking a drag from his cigarette. "Dunno."

But Mariah leans back, dizzy, trailing a hand up her arm and fingering the indents from the needles. Sometimes it seems like Jade is nothing but all the best parts of her; confident and pretty and I'll-punch-you-if-I-have-to. So, so blisteringly smart it all but kills her; a voice angels wish they could have; so good at acting she literally becomes someone else on stage, as if reading scripts makes her absorb her character by osmosis.

How, Mariah wonders, can she ever try to parent her daughter, when all she's sure to do is fuck Jade up?

It was better, she decided a long time ago, to leave well enough alone.

"Mom… Mom, get up!"

"Not now." Mariah rolls over in bed, wincing when a bottle presses into her stomach. Ugh. "Go away, babe."

Suddenly the blankets are ripped off her. "I have school!" Jade yells, hands on her hips, blankets at her feet. "The first day, let's go!"

Oh shit. Now she knows why she kept getting that nagging feeling last night with Greg; she had to drive Jade to school the next morning. Crap. Too late for regrets now. Struggling out of bed (mostly because she'd only gotten there three hours ago), Mariah scrambles for her purse. "What time's it?"

Jade takes off into the living room. "Seven!"

"No shit, I have a clock! What time does school start?"

"Seven thirty. God, do you pay any attention?" Jade pops up in the doorway with her bag tossed over her shoulder. Her first-day-of-seventh-grade outfit is too black for Mariah's admittedly bright, sparkly tastes, but she lets it slide.

"I pay attention," she snaps, dumping the contents of her purse onto the bed, littered with the beers she and Greg had been enjoying, picking her car keys and wallet from amid the crap. "Just go get in the car."

Jade growls some adolescent noise, stalking through the apartment until Mariah hears the door slam. When it does, she closes her eyes. Jesus, she's tired. Why the hell is Jade getting so bent out of shape, anyway? Shouldn't she be glad that sometimes Mariah wakes up so late, missing school isn't only a chance, but a fact? What kind of teenager is she?

Her limbs start to go heavy, head pounding. Maybe she should've lain off the beer just a little last night, but c'mon, it was Greg. He's totally into her. And she's twenty-eight for God's sake, allowed to have a few beers and a thirteen-year-old at the same time.

A sigh escapes her. She'll rest one more minute, Mariah reasons to herself. Jade'll be fine. She's always fine. She always lands on her feet.

They eat dinner together that night in dead silence for at least ten full minutes.

"Look," Mariah finally sighs, undoing her knotted hair with her fingers. "Don't be so pissed."

Jade gives her a disbelieving look, and Mariah notices with a start that her eyes are rimmed with liner. "I missed the first day of school, thanks to you. I have a right to be pissed."

Jesus. Her head starts aching again. Her friend Cindi had given her a few pills that are supposed to help with relaxation; she'll probably try them as soon as she finishes suffering through this conversation. "I'd think you'd be glad you don't have to go. School sucks."

"According to you." Jade shoves her chair back. The table rattles in response, her bowl of microwaved noodles— the only food they had left this week; Greg'd gotten a great stash, she had to splurge —almost tipping over. "They had play sign-up sheets set out. Everybody knows it's best to have your name higher up, that way the judges aren't tired and annoyed when it gets down to you at auditions."

Mariah rolls her eyes. "You're amazing, baby. It's not gonna matter what number your name is, so chillax."

The compliment soars right over her daughter's head. "Yes it will. You don't get it!"

She scrubs at her eyes with the heels of her hands. "Are you done yet?"

"Ugh!" Jade stands up, pushes her dinner away. "This sucks. You don't even care!"

"I do so!" Mariah protests. She seriously needs a beer for this.

"Do not! You never care!"

She winces, still half hung-over. "If you're gonna be loud, can you do it from your room? Thanks."

"I hate you!" Jade screams, turning on her heel in the fury of her righteous indignation. "I hate you so much!"

"Drama queen," Mariah throws back, finally letting her head fall onto the table when Jades slams her bedroom door shut so forcefully that the wall quivers. She can remember being thirteen. That's the year she gave her first hand job, if she recalls correctly. And Jade gets worked up about a stupid play list. Jesus Christ.

With a sigh, she stands up and tries to tune out the music Jade's blasting at max volume. Cindi's pills are tucked in her makeup bag, the ratty one she's had since Jade was a kid. Ripping open the Ziploc baggie, she spills two into her palm and swallows them dry, then collapses onto the bed, promising herself that things will be better tomorrow.

"Are you kidding me? Five? For a hundred? You've gotta be fuckin' insane."

Sammy shakes his head. "I can do eight," he offers instead, shaking that many pills into his hand, but Mariah puts a hand on her hip.

"No way. Ten at least."

Jade suddenly grabs at her arm. "Mom."

"In a minute, baby." She faces Sammy again. "Seriously, ten or I walk."

His gaze turns doubtful as he rubs the days-worth growth of beard on his sharp chin. "Nine."


Mariah throws up her hands. "This is a hundred, Sammy! Hell."


"What?" she finally asks, exasperated. "I told you to be good while we're here."

Jade buries her head in her mother's shoulder, reverting to age five. "I wanna go home. It's loud and those guys keep bugging me."

"What guys?"

Jade points wordlessly to a few dudes in the corner with tattoos blooming on their skin like flowers, bobbing their shaved heads to the thumping of the music. Mariah frowns. "Hey, cradle-robbers! Stay the fuck away from my kid, she's thirteen!"

"Shit," one says. The others look away. "Sorry, 'Riah."

She shrugs, pats Jade's head. "Cool." Back to business. "Ten, Sammy, ten. That's all I'm asking for." And back to Jade, still holding onto her arm. "Go mingle, baby. Nobody'll mess with you, promise."

With a scoff, Jade finally lets go of her. "Hurry up. I have school tomorrow, remember."

"Right." Days sort of bleed together for Mariah now, actually. She squeezes her eyes shut, and when opens them Jade is gone and she is fired up with purpose. "Sammy. Holy hell. One more, that's it, just to keep things even."

The dark sunglasses that never leave his face glint from the strobe lights someone had set up. People jostle past her, dancing and laughing at once. "I—" he says hesitantly, and then somebody screeches, "What the fuck?"

She and Sammy turn at the same time to find the crowd parting like the Red Sea. A man with tight jeans and what can only be a broken nose is kneeling on the floor, groaning as blood spots his mouth. Standing above him, Jade is clutching her hand to her chest like she has no idea what she's done.

"Jade!" Mariah shoves people aside while someone turns down the music to better hear this. "What did—"

"She punched me!" the guy shouts, his words garbled. One of his friends helps him stand, and Mariah's pretty sure he was only down from the pure shock of having her pale, frail-looking daughter deck him. Then she turns on Jade.

"Why did you do that?" she demands in a whisper, because shit, that guy has a pretty good stash most of the time, and if she can't buy from Sammy any more who is she supposed to go to?

Jade narrows her eyes. "He was trying to feel me up."

Mariah blinks sharply. "Oh." She rounds on Broken Nose Dude, who she thinks might be called Caleb. Is he the guy she slept with that night Paul scored the LSD? "What the fuck, man?"

He holds up his hands, still bleeding. "I didn't fuckin' know she was yours. Christ. Like you look old enough to have her."

And even though Mariah knows she should be righteously angry on behalf of her daughter— even though she is, because honestly, Jade's pretty much the last bright spot left in her messed up life, dammit, the only decent thing she's ever managed to do— she stills finds a flush spreading over her cheeks. "Whatever. Just leave her alone."

She wraps an arm around Jade's shoulders, and only then does she realize her daughter is shaking like a leaf. Leaving Sammy and the pills behind, she pulls her outside to the car, to the humid night air. "What was that?"

Jade's gaze turns murderous. She rips away, flinging open the car door and climbing inside. "What do you mean, 'what was that'? He was like twenty-five, that's about seventeen different kinds of illegal!"

Mariah sighs, sliding into the driver's seat. "I know, and he sucks. I can't believe I ever went down on him."

Jade gives her a horrified look. "Mom!"

"Just saying. He's a dick. All guys are, baby. I'm never hanging around him again, promise."

"I hate that word," Jade murmurs, slouching in her seat as Mariah rolls the car backwards. Stars shine from the black sky through the window to prick Jade's pale skin like the points of diamonds. "You never mean it."

Things change when Jade hits fourteen.

First off, pills stop doing it for her; she's back to pot, to shooting up just to get through the damn day. Second, Jade slams a form onto the table while she's trying to enjoy a nice breakfast after crawling out of bed at four in the afternoon and orders her to sign it— a permission slip to enroll her in some classy private high school next year. She does and promptly dozes off over her Peppy Cola. Third, and probably most importantly: somebody likes Jade.

"So," Mariah says to her at midnight, lying on the floor of Jade's room with her head on her daughter's book bag. "Who is he?"

"What?" Jade peers down at her from the bed, too caught up in reading her latest novel to manage sleep. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"Somebody liiiikes you."

Jade rolls her eyes. "Shut up, Mom."

"For serious." Mariah spreads her arms wide above her, everything moving in slow motion. "I heard you talking on the phone the other day."

"Yeah, telling him to leave me alone." Jade snorts, goes back to her book. "He's annoying. All guys are."

Some memory niggles at Mariah's mind, but she pushes it away. "You need to date somebody."

"I dated that one kid last year, but then I hated him."

"…Fair enough." She rolls over onto her stomach, and the room spins a million different ways. "Why'd you hate him, again?"

"He was stupid. Couldn't hold a conversation if his life depended on it. Also, he said 'fusstrated.'"

"You hate that," Mariah states needlessly.

"Thanks, Mom. I forgot." Jade sighs, so much like herself that for a second Mariah is in awe. "I don't need to date anybody. People annoy me."

"Some people are okay."

There's one long stretch of silence. "Was my dad okay?"

Mariah closes her eyes. Jade's question feels like a wave crashing over her, like the universe splitting at its seams. "In the beginning," she finally answers. "Then I realized."

The bed rocks as Jade turns over slowly. "Realized what?"

Her breath comes out shaking, and Mariah blames the dope when her heart begins beating like a bag of worms. "That," she says evenly, "he was just like everybody else."

Jade doesn't say anything for so long, Mariah figures she's fallen asleep still clutching her book. But then Jade's hair tumbles over the bed, a waterfall. "Mom?" she says, determination threaded through her voice. "The guy I fall in love with… he won't be like everybody else."

Moonlight spreads through the room between the Venetian blinds, highlighting Mariah's face when she smiles at the ceiling. "Good luck, baby," she murmurs, when what she's thinking is, That guy doesn't exist.

As it turns out, that guy shows up at the door the next weekend. She really should've invested more money in tarot cards.

"Hi," Mariah says immediately upon realizing that the dude's a teenager, not a debt collector. She leans against the doorframe, jutting out her hip. "Can I help you?"

He has soft eyes, she notices that first. "Hi. I was just wondering if Jade was home…?"

"Oh." She blinks, turns. "Jaaaaade!" Then back to the guy. "This might take awhile, we were kind of having a fight the other day." Something stupid about leaving her needles out, if she recalls correctly. "She's probably ignoring me. Jade!"

"No problem," he says, hands in his pockets. "I can wait."

Huh. That one's new. And is it just the drugs messing with her, or does he look familiar? Rubbing at what she's sure are red-rimmed eyes, Mariah opens her mouth to yell for her daughter again when said daughter's pale hand clamps over it to stop her. "I heard you," Jade says irritably, her mother's hair in her face. She steps around her, sees the guy waiting on her, and blanches.

"What are you doing here?"

He shrugs. "We're supposed to practice our scene together."

"Our scene's fine. Beat it."

He definitely looks familiar, but Mariah can't place it for the life of her. "I know you don't want to," he coaxes, "but this is important for our final grade. Come on."

"I really could care less, now get lost."

And that's when it hits her. "The play!" she exclaims, smacking Jade on the arm. Jade winces, gives her a 'what the hell?' stare. "In, like, fourth grade or whatever. Sleeping Beauty!" She beams at the guy, who has blossomed a smile himself. "You were the prince dude."

"I was," he confirms, brushing back his dark hair. "Good memory."

Mariah glances at her daughter, who, almost despite herself, is giving the guy a bemused look. "God," Jade says softly. "I forgot that was you."

He laughs, and it sounds like bells. "It was only five years ago."

Jade shrugs. "Seem like forever." Then, with what looks like a mental shake, she glares. "Seriously, get lost. A trip down memory lane doesn't mean you're less annoying."

Mariah decides right then that it's, like, her duty to step it. "Oh, baby, I totes forgot to tell you, Niles and Mark are coming by later. Probably with Gretch and Evie." Or, as Jade had muttered after they'd left the last time, The Sluts.

Jade's eyes go wide, suddenly seeing Prince Dude as a salvation instead of a sentence. "Now I think of it, your last part is still really jank. I'll get my bag."

She disappears inside the house. Mariah sighs, lifts her arm up in a stretch— and promptly watches Prince Dude notice the rain of track marks there, watches him reconsider her bleary eyes and the scent of beer on her breath. His brow furrows, and, okay, she's like almost thirty but this guy is adorable.

"You're scene thing," Mariah says, leaning forward in case Jade pops up in that silent way she has. "It's great, isn't it?"

Finally, Prince Dude actually grins, but it still doesn't take all that worry out of his face.

"Actually," he says, glancing into the apartment to make sure Jade hasn't bailed on him, "it's absolutely perfect."

"You like him."

"Mom, get off." Jade shoves her away, nose wrinkling at the stench of Mariah's breath. "God, how many shots have you done?"

"Like… seven. Or maybe seventeen. Whatever, same number." She waves a hand dismissively. "You like Prince Dude."

"Beck, Mom. His name's Beck."

"See!" she crows, holding up her tequila bottle in triumph. "You've never let me call anybody by their name before!"

"It's a holy miracle." Jade pushes her onto the couch, grabs her books. "He asked me out."


"That is so obnoxious."

"What did you say?" Mariah demands, because this is Big Fucking News. "Did you say yes? Tell me you said yes, because seriously, if I was ten years younger I'd jump his bones in a frigging heartbeat."


"Jussss lettin' you know. So, you dating him, yes or no?"

Jade flings herself onto the couch beside her mother, putting her hand over her eyes with a groan. "I didn't even answer yet, so chill out."

"Babe, you gotta answer. Say yes," Mariah advises, taking another swig of tequila. It burns her throat like a line of fire, but goddamn if it's not good.

"Why should I?" Jade scoffs, curling her legs beneath her. "Guys suck."

"What if this one doesn't?" Mariah throws back. "What if he's that one decent fish in a sea of… of sting rays? And he doesn't sting you with his ray… ee-ness…"

Jade rolls her eyes. "Your analogies always suck the most with tequila, I've noticed. Gimme the bottle." Without waiting for an answer, Jade grabs it from her.

"Hey!" Mariah protests, trying to get it back and only managing to fall over the edge of the couch when Jade hops up and moves away. "Give it!"

"Nope," Jade sings.

"You're the one who sucks," she mutters acidly, glaring through her hair. "Go make out with Prince Dude or something."

"Please. Fat chance."

"I knew it, I knew it knew it knew it!"

"Mom. Shut. Up."

"You and Prince Dude—"

"Beck," Jade corrects, irritation evident in her voice. "Beck Oliver, please commit it to memory."

But Mariah only laughs, lying on Jade's bed. Who would have figured, from a fifth grade school play to this, five years after the fact? A-freakin'-mazing. She props her head up on her hand, woozy from her latest binge. "You guys are cute together."

Jade rolls her heavily made up eyes. "Whatever you say."

Barely an hour later and Jade's gone, out with Prince Dude (like she's ever gonna quit calling him that, for serious), and Mariah can't really summon up the energy to call anybody to hang out. So instead she stays in Jade's bedroom, lounging on the bed and reading gossip mags Jade always mocked her for buying.

They are cute together, her daughter and Prince Dude. And Mariah knew she wasn't supposed to have noticed how much lighter Jade's eyes seemed when he walked through the door; how much more real his smile got when Jade happened to be in the immediate vicinity, which was, well, admittedly weird— Mariah could tell you firsthand that her kid wasn't exactly Miss Congeniality.

Suddenly, all she can think of is that Jade's fifteenth birthday is only a couple of months away. Her heartbeat rises within a millisecond; there's a fluttering pulse at her throat. Because surely history isn't going to repeat itself so blatantly… right?

"Fuck no," Mariah whispers, watching dull sunlight slant and slide on the ceiling. "Fuck no."

It has to be like eight or nine months later, 'cause Jade's way past fifteen already but for serious, Mariah really sucks at remembering months lately. Even days of the week are difficult to grasp, but Jade always catches a ride to school with Prince Dude so whatevs. And Mariah's having the best time at Rick's apartment, with Yvonne and Ash and Bobby and Cal and a constant high that she loves not being able to shake— but damn it, she forgets her freaking birth control at home, and only three days after crashing at Rick's does she pick her way through her own apartment, kept meticulously clean since her kid's always been a neat freak. Maybe it's a reaction to Mariah; maybe Jade is simply weird, but who cares? She just needs her BC, hot damn.

Grabbing at the package in the only bathroom they have (cheap ass apartment, what can ya do?), Mariah only focuses in on the words printed on the side when it becomes very clear to her that her name has no J in it.

Fucking hell, is all she thinks, before throwing the pills back onto the counter and pushing open Jade's habitually-closed door.

They're vined together like they can't bear to be apart; Mariah can't even tell if they have clothes on, there's so many blankets over them, but like that's new (Jade's always at least a little bit cold— hell, she's never seen the kid break a sweat even in eighty degree weather, might wanna get that checked out sometime, maybe, possibly). Jade's hair is fanned across her pillow. Each of them has a hand falling over the side of the bed, with their fingers entwined.

She is suddenly so jealous that it's hard to breathe.

Mariah stumbles backwards, shuts the door so delicately any creak it might have made becomes a whisper. This isn't fair. She's thirty years old, dammit, still looking for her One True Love— and her daughter manages it at fifteen?

She sinks to floor in the hallway, arm throbbing from the recent barrage of needle sticks just to get her to feel normal. This is why she tries not to meddle in Jade's life; her daughter is the smartest person she's ever met, the prettiest, the most talented— all Mariah would have been able to do is screw her up, take those things away until only the bare bones of Jade remained.

It's a miracle, she thinks briefly, that she made something so damn amazing in the first place.

She finally stands on shaking legs when she hears the voices murmuring one room over, the shift of the bed. And, forgetting why she bothered to come here in the first place, Mariah West purposefully and silently leaves her daughter to her happy ending.