This is my version of Season 2 of Higher Ground. It has all the characters in it, I'll bring Kate in later, and it talks about all of their problems, but of course, I'll have a lot of Scott and Shelby. What can I say, I'm a sucker for them. :)
We're still sick. But we're coming back strong.
Peter Scarbrow and Sophie Becker stood anxiously outside the administration building at Mount Horizon. Summer break was finally coming to an end and students were slowly filing the school once again. The campus was already swarming with Trackers, Wind Dancers and Ridge Runners, but not one of his Cliffhangers had arrived yet and it was making him uneasy. They were all on the roster to return to school, even Scott, and he wanted to see them desperately. He needed to see them. He didn't realize how much he cared until they were off on their own, in the real world, without his and Sophie's parental hovering. It was almost nauseating.
Summer break always made him uneasy though. When the kids returned to their dysfunctional lives, one of two things could happen. They could take the tools they learned at Horizon, apply them to their home life, and return the same, progressed person they left as. Or, the real world could bring them down and the kids could return to their old ways. Any progress they made would disappear and they would once again become the pained, lonely children nobody deserved to be. He could only hope the latter didn't apply to any of his students.
Sophie comfortingly rubbed Peter's arm, trying to get him to relax.
"Peter, you need calm down. They will all start arriving any minute, happy and safe." Sophie soothed, hoping she could get through to him. Although she was trying to help, she was tense herself. Putting down roots at Mount Horizon was the best decision she had ever made by far. The students became her life. Her family. She felt as nervous as Peter looked.
"I know, Soph, I know. I just wish at least one of them would get here already. I'd feel better once I saw them." Peter said, rubbing his hand over his face, trying to seem more relaxed.
Peter let out a huge sigh of relief when a black Lexus pulled up the gravel drive. "Finally."
"Who is it?" Sophie asked, the feeling of butterflies in her stomach. Would they still love her as much as they did when they left?
Two, pencil-like legs were the first thing they saw as the door opened. A young girl with long brunette hair stood, looking no more than one hundred pounds. She had a bright smile on her face and waved excitedly at the two counselors.
"Peter! Sophie!" The extremely thin Juliette screamed, as she fluttered over to them, hugging them tightly. "I have missed you guys so much!"
Sophie was so excited to see her, but didn't hug her too tightly. She felt as if she might break Juliette in half if she squeezed too hard. She was really that thin. Peter released Juliette from the hug and shook her mother's hand.
"Mrs. Rowe, very good to see you again."
The woman pulled her hand out of Peter's grasp, looking almost disgusted at having to touch him. "It's Ms. Reynolds now."
"Ah, sorry to hear that." Peter said awkwardly, shoving his hands in his pockets. He turned to Juliette and forced a smile. She looked happy, but definitely not healthy. "How did Juliette do this summer? Did she continue to keep her food journal?"
Ms. Reynolds gave a slight tut under her breath, not unnoticed by Peter or Sophie. "Juliette did extremely well this summer. I didn't feel she needed to come back to this.. establishment.. at all, but she persistently asked until I gave in. As far as a food journal, we didn't feel she needed to continue it. She has maintained her weight all summer, she looks beautiful."
Juliette beamed at her mother, feeling so accomplished and loved. Her mother finally approved. What more could she ask for? She glanced over at Peter and Sophie but turned away quickly. She could tell their smiles were fake. She could see the disappointment laced behind their happy facades. Her mother and her counselors obviously had very different outlooks on her life. What about what she wanted?
"She's always been a very beautiful girl." Sophie said, smiling. "Juliette, would you like to show your mother around, I don't believe she has had a tour before?"
"Oh no, that won't be necessary." Ms. Reynolds said quickly. "I must be going, I have a business trip I need to be leaving on." She turned to Juliette and gave her a quick, awkward hug. "Goodbye Juliette. Have a good year, and please remember to maintain your weight."
With those final words, Ms. Reynolds got back into her Lexus and left Mount Horizon in her dust. Anger was gnawing in the pit of Peter's stomach, but he forced it back down, not wanting to upset anyone on their first day back.
"Well, Juliette, same cabin, same bunk. Go ahead and get yourself settled in. You're the first Cliffhanger back so far." Peter said, clapping his hands together, putting on an enthusiastic face for Juliette.
Juliette smiled. "It's just so great to be back! I can't wait until everybody gets here!" She bent down to grab her duffle bag, but could barely lift it off the ground.
Peter frowned, noticing how weak Juliette was. He motioned for Roger to come over and help Juliette take her bag to the cabin. "Roger will help you, don't worry about it. Get settled in, and we will see you again at dinner."
Juliette nodded and smiled, skipping away towards the cabin with Roger in tow.
"She couldn't even lift her bag!" Sophie shrieked once Juliette was out of earshot. "Peter, she was too skinny at the start of summer, and now she looks like a set of bones! We have got to do something! She is killing herself!"
Peter put his reassuring hands on Sophie's shoulders, rubbing them softly. "I know, Soph. She's only been here six minutes, don't worry. We will help her through this."
Sophie sighed, her thoughts on Juliette fading away as she saw another car approach. She put on a happy face, knowing it was another one of her Cliffhangers.
"Ezra!" Peter exclaimed, hugging him tightly, proud that at least on of his students seemed to be on the right track.
Ezra pulled out of Peter's embrace to give Sophie a hug. He let out a huge sigh as he looked around at Mount Horizon. "Man, have I missed this place."
Peter nodded. "Trust me, this place has missed you. How was the summer?"
"I didn't get chemically high and take a ride to Mars, if that's what you're asking." Ezra said, smirking.
Peter rolled his eyes. "Well, that's not what I was specifically asking, but thanks for informing us."
Ezra's father dropped his bags next to his feet and shook Peter and Sophie's hands. "Very good to see you both again." He said, putting his arm around Ezra. "Ezra was with his mother for the first half of summer and me for the second half. I feel it was best for all of us involved, don't you Ezra?"
Ezra nodded. "A lot less fighting, and there weren't any dishes or windows broken. I'd say it was a pretty positive summer."
Sophie smiled, and felt an overwhelming sense of relief. She was worried about sending Ezra home to his parents for the summer, but it looked like she had nothing to worry about. "Well, Ezra, you're the first Cliffhanger boy to arrive. Go ahead and get settled in. Same cabin, same bunk."
Ezra gave his father a hearty embrace and picked up his bags. He was glad to be back. Horizon was home. The Cliffhangers were his family. In front of this family, he didn't have to pretend to be happy. He didn't have to pretend to be sober. He could be himself. He was finally back where he belonged.
"Two down, five to go." Sophie said, feeling nervous again as she rubbed her sweaty palms on her jeans.
"Sorry to interrupt," Jeff said, coming down the stairs. "Peter, General Ruxton is on the phone for you."
Peter sighed. "I hope everything is okay, I'll be right back." He gave Sophie a light squeeze on the shoulder and followed Jeff up into the administration building.
Sophie stood by herself, waiting for another student to arrive and suddenly wished Peter was still standing with her. Her fiance' was her rock. When she was nervous or scared, he was always there to calm her down. He always had the answer. What if Daisy arrived next, dressed in her goth attire? What if Scott arrived, high and angry? Or Shelby, sealed up tighter than Fort Knox? These thoughts put her stomach in peril, and she wished she had Peter by her side. She grew even more nervous as another car pulled into the drive.
Scott stepped out of the car, looking healthy and strong. He had barely pulled his bag out of the trunk when his father drove away, not even bothering to say goodbye to Scott or hello to Sophie. She had a bad feeling, but decided it wasn't the time to ask Scott about it.
"Scott!" She said happily, pulling him into a motherly embrace. "How was your summer?"
"Hey Sophie." He said, giving her a winning smile. "Summer was okay, had it's ups and downs, but I ain't complaining."
"Good." She replied, unsure of how to take his response.
Scott shrugged. "Where is Peter?"
"You just missed him, he had to run inside and take a phone call. He should be out in a minute though."
He nodded and looked around the campus. He took a deep breath before asking his next question. "Is Shelby here yet?"
Sophie smiled, she couldn't help it. She wasn't sure what would happen between the two over the summer since they wouldn't be seeing each other, but the innocence in Scott's voice when he asked about Shelby informed her his feelings hadn't changed.
"Sorry, not yet. Juliette and Ezra have arrived though. Why don't you go get settled in and catch up with Ezra? Same cabin, you know the way." Sophie said, nodding in the direction of the Cliffhanger's cabin. "Peter will probably be in there in a bit."
Scott nodded and picked up his bag, looking down as he walked away. This concerned Sophie a bit. Scott normally had his head held high, looking like he was ready to take down the world. She felt a bit sick, wondering if the summer had destroyed all of the progress her kids had made.
Auggie arrived next, and the fact he looked happy, healthy, and clean made her feel a bit better. His parents talked her ear off about how great he was and when they finally left, she asked him, thinking she might get a different story, but was pleasantly surprised by his response.
"Vacation was real good. I miss my brother, don't get me wrong, but it was good having him outta the house. I got to chill with my family, my Ma was making food all the time, Pa was helping me look into art schools. I feel like I'm finally going somewhere, ya know?"
"That's great, Augusto!" Sophie said, thrilled that at least one of her Cliffhangers seemed to be healed and happy. Augusto made her feel like last year wasn't forgotten and that she did make at least a bit of difference. "Scott and Ezra are already in the cabin getting settled in, why don't you go join them?"
Auggie nodded and picked up his bag. "EZ, Meat, and Muchacho together again!"
Sophie rolled her eyes and let out a small laugh. "Juliette is also here if you wanted to stop in and say hello."
A dark look crossed over Auggie's face as he heard Juliette's name come out of Sophie's mouth. That was a name he tried to forget about all summer.
"Yeah, maybe." He replied, as he moved over to the guy's cabin, with not as much kick in his step as he had before.
Sophie didn't have a lot of time to dwell on the situation because her thoughts moved to Daisy who was pulling her bags out of a taxi. She paid the driver and dragged her bags over to where Sophie stood. She considered hugging Daisy, but Daisy definitely did not look like she wanted to be hugged. Instead, Sophie settled for a shoulder squeeze.
"Hey, Daisy, how was your summer vacation?" Sophie asked, worried about the somber expression on Daisy's face, but hey, at least Daisy's face wasn't covered in depressing makeup.
"While Daddy-o was still recovering in a beachfront rehab, I spent time in Utah with my hundred-something year old grandmother. I knit, now." Daisy said, void of feeling or emotion.
Sophie wasn't sure how to react or what to say. "Well, okay, could have been worse, right?" She let out a nervous laugh and continued without a response from Daisy. "Juliette is up in the cabin already, same one, go ahead and get settled in. Ezra, Scott and Auggie are here as well if you would like to say hello. Once everyone is here, Peter and I will be in shortly with further instructions."
Daisy picked up her bag and headed towards the cabin. "And the twisted cycle begins yet again."
It could have been worse, Sophie thought as she watched Daisy walk away. Now, David and Shelby were the only ones missing. She wasn't too worried about David coming back worse than he left because he didn't really have a chance to progress any in those last few weeks at Horizon. They didn't have enough time to get to the root of his problems, but that would be different this year. She was also anxious about Shelby, but she tried to talk herself down. Shelby isn't the same girl. Walt is gone, her and Jess are safe, and her mom is getting her act together. Shelby would come back fine, if not better than when she left.
Sophie's reassuring herself was interrupted by Peter. "Sophie."
She could tell something was wrong by the tone of his voice. "What? Has something happened?"
"David will not be joining us again this year." Peter said, sighing and shaking his head. "General Ruxton thought it best if David joined the armed forces. He said tough love was better than our wilderness healing."
Sophie's eyes got wide and Peter shook his head. "His words, not mine."
"But we didn't even really get a chance to help him!" Sophie said, wishing she would have had more time to help him.
"I know Soph, but it's not our decision."
Sophie closed her eyes for a minute and rubbed her temple. She hated feeling like she failed.
Peter rubbed her back softly, and decided to change the subject. "I heard some cars pull up, anymore Cliffhangers arrive?"
"Oh, just Ezra, Scott, and Daisy." Sophie said, a slight smile on her face.
Peter nodded. "Well that just leaves Shelby, then."
At that moment, Peter and Sophie both turned their attention to the station wagon parking in front of them and could not believe what they saw. This wasn't okay. Nothing about this was okay. Shelby definitely wasn't okay.
"Oh, Shelby." Peter said, grabbing onto Sophie's hand, squeezing tightly.
Shelby got out of the car, looking stronger, yet colder than ever. She was a wall. A stone wall. This time, she would not break.