a/n: so, i've been trying to write more centrics now. i don't know why. cat's a new character to me, and it's a little new to me to try and get into her head, but hopefully i've done a descent job. i like to think of cat as a scared person, someone with imperfections that carry a lot of weight and at the same time pretends she doesn't really care about them. i have filed this with endless amounts of cade friendship, and i couldn't help myself; they're my friendship otp. they have the most adorable friendship ever. i decreed it. oh, and enjoy.
. . .
She's five and she wonders if anyone will ever really love her.
Cat talks about random things at random times, and people just smile to themselves and she laughs because she's indirectly making them happier, because her grandmother told her that making others laugh is a good thing, so her eyes light up and the corners of her mouth forms into a smile when someone laughs with her.
But if you're laughing at her, it's a completely different thing. She's not making you happier, she's making you meaner, crueler, and she's making you feel like it is okay to laugh at others and make fun of them, when it isn't. So if she doesn't splutter out, "What's that supposed to mean?" to startle you and make you stop, she's not being very good, is she?
But as soon as she says it, it turns it around. Everything is more complex and not what it seems, because her scars run deeper than you'd imagine, and she wants to be good and innocent and nice and likeable. She just wants you to love her, or at least not sneer at her and chide her with cruel remarks, because she's Cat Valentine.
And she has no idea where she got this thinking, this out of the blue conclusion that this is the way she's supposed to act, but it kind of makes sense for a change, so she doesn't question it and goes along with it.
She's seven when she learns that opposites can be friends.
It starts with Jade West, who has a blue streak in her light brown hair and dark blue eyes that darken drastically whenever she gets angry and light up whenever she smiles, although it's rare, and they stay their normal color whenever she smirks. Her eyes are like a kaleidoscope, Cat concludes, as they glisten when she proceeds to laugh.
Cat thinks that it's cool, because her eyes are brown and they don't change into different shades, since there's only light brown and dark brown while blue has aqua and navy and icy and ocean. Jade sits next to her during lunch, mostly because she wants to subtly insult her but Cat's smile never falters, and when she realizes that she'll never be defeated by her words, she eventually stops trying to bring her down and starts playing along.
If you can't beat them, join them.
And just like that Jade sits next to her everyday, and she still sometimes insults her a little out of habit, and Cat knows it's hard for her to try to be nice so she doesn't really mind. Jade always pairs up with her for projects and assignments and sits next to her in class. But Jade steals other kid's lunches and still makes rude remarks, because she's Jade, and she doesn't care.
They're polar opposites, different beyond belief, but they surprisingly balance each other out.
Sometimes, she thinks, it would be easier if she was more like Jade.
She'd rather not be as bitter or as negative as her, but she'd love to not have the constant need to feel better and she'd be a lot happier if she wasn't so anxious and excited all the time.
She's like an earthquake, her reactions and emotions shattering everyone around her, a volcano, and Jade has to stay beside her to calm her down. But she wishes she wasn't so scared all the time, wasn't so fragile, because if she was more like Jade, unshakable, then maybe, just maybe, she wouldn't feel the tiny fissures forming under her skin and cracks splintering.
She's thirteen when she meets André Harris for the first time.
He has dark skin and brown eyes and a smile that makes her want to smile back, and a silky-smooth voice that sounds like a lullaby, and she sees him at her brother's school science convention, and he's at the front of the stage, singing in the background as older guys play the piano and guitar along with him, and everyone else mostly ignores him but she stares at him, smiling in captivation.
She knows that if he had wings and a harp, he could easily pass of as an angel. He sings songs from the radio, and his glance lands on her and a certain spark goes off in his eyes as a wide smile steals his lips and as he continues singing, a small crowd beginning to form around the stage.
His gaze stays on her. And at the end of the performance, she smiles widely and claps louder than anyone, and when he steps off the stage and comes over to say hi to her, she smiles and introduces herself and she somehow manages to start rambling about motorcycles when he decides to finally interrupt her and ask hersome things.
"I'm André," he says, smiling amusedly. "André Harris. I just moved here from Florida with my mom and dad a few weeks ago, my sister entered this convention and begged me to sing here. I'm going to Bridleway Middle School next week." And just when she thinks she couldn't smile any wider, she does, because Bridleway is her school.
"That's my school!" she exclaims excitedly, watching the way his eyes light up as a pleasantly surprised smile steals his lips with a smile. They spend the rest of the day together, laughing and talking, and when it's time for him to go home he waves at her and flashes her one last smile before leaving.
André and Jade get along surprisingly well. Well, not as well as Jade and Cat get along, but somewhere around that level, since Jade doesn't verbally attack him like she does to everyone else, and she listens to his songs and smiles when he sings them to Cat when she gets upset, and André sits next to her and Jade everyday at lunch.
She feels like there's a world spinning dangerously beneath her fingertips, and sometimes she feels as if she has the ability to slow it down. Her mind is filled with memories that she wants so desperately to erase, feelings of anxiety she wants so much to extinguish, and she wants so desperately to stop yearning to be so wonderfully perfect that her mother will just have to love her.
And it's not like she has the slightest clue where this came from; all she knows is that there are tiny little fissures and mistakes swirling around her, which makes her mom's lips eyes darken, and she needs to do more things to make her feel happier, because she cannot stand the screeching sound of her screaming reverberating in her ears.
Her daddy is so much calmer than her mommy, because he soothes her and sings lullabies to her and kisses her forehead to scare the nightmares away. But she can't help but feel a tiny bit of her family is missing, not there, because she feels a certain emptiness floating around the house when she goes home.
But maybe it's just her wild imagination going off again.
She's fourteen when she meets Beck Oliver.
She meets him at Hollywood Arts, a performing arts school where she had to audition with Jade and André to get in, and since Jade and André are great singers and she has an impressive vocal range as well, they both get in easily. Jade is beaming when they leave the room, André is hopeful and anxious for the future, and Cat, well, she's just nervous.
But when she meets him in a multi-colored classroom and he's sitting next to a guy with pale skin and curly hair, with glasses and a puppet is capped between his hands, and as both of them smile at her as she introduces herself, all of her nervousness melts away. His grin is goofy and he says that he's name is Robbie Shapiro, and his puppet snarls at her and he apologizes, which Cat thinks is weird, but waves happily anyways.
The next guy has a lopsided grin that constantly makes her go weak at the knees, his hair is long and dark, his eyes are a deep shade of brown, and he introduces himself as Beck Oliver, and she smiles and waves and sits in between them. And whenever he calls her adorable or sweet, she feels her insides flutter.
And he and Jade don't get along that well at first. They're always fighting, exchanging brutal insults, glaring daggers at each other, and there's always much tension underlying and complicating things. But Cat can easily see that it runs much deeper than what meets the eye. He carries her books for her sometimes, and she has to chew on her lower lip whenever he's around her.
They sometimes exchange laughs and semi-flirty glances, she sabotages all of his potential girlfriends in a heartbeat, and after a while, they start dating almost instantly after a very messy, very public fight. Cat never understands them, how they work, and she feels a surge of sadness falling into her when she hears him telling Jade he loves her for the first time.
It crushes all of the hopes she never knew existed, and her lips tremble and her hands shake and her teeth chatter but she doesn't say a word. Instead, she smiles so blindingly and perks up so eagerly that Jade has to pretend she believes her, but on the inside she's breaking apart and she's upset and maybe even devastated.
But because she's a nice person, because she's Cat, she smiles and tells them, "I'm so happy for you!"
No one notices the lie.
She gets over Beck somewhere in the middle of the school year, and then she realizes that she was never of the fact that Jade had Beck, but was jealous of the fact that she had someone like Beck.
She was jealous of the fact that Jade has someone who loves her for her, who learns to play the guitar because he wants to sing her a song, she's jealous because she wants someone to kiss her in between her sentences and to tell her that she's beautiful everyday, she wants someone, anyone, to make her feel special.
Prom comes up, and everyone's asking everyone and Beck asks Jade by buying her flowers, leading to an unfortunate aftermath where she cuts the petals off and burns them with a lighter, but she still interrupts his question with a kiss and a smirk and Cat squeals and helps her pick out the dress for Prom.
Jade tries on a backless black dress in Cat's room, raising a pierced eyebrow in approval as she examines herself in the mirror, combing out the edges of her already perfect curly hair and streaking it with blue hair dye.
"So, who are you going with?" she asks, mostly out of curiosity, but Cat just knows that she's going to tease her if she hears a name leave her lips.
Instead, she stays silent for a while. "No one asked me," she admits truthfully, tugging the ends of her dyed red hair, and then moving on to prick her iridescently colored fingernails. Jade turns around.
"Guys are idiots," she decreed, shaking her head. "There's still one more day until the dance. I'm sure someone will ask you tomorrow."
Cat bites her lower lip nervously, not mentioning how awful she felt as she watched all of the pretty and popular girls get swept on their feet by their boyfriends, and how not one guy bothered to look her way.
She grips her elbow. The next day, she goes to school, a little bit more hopeful and hanging on Jade's words, but as the numbers on her watch changes, the school bell rings and no one asked her.
After that she runs to the girls' bathroom and locks the door, and she cries and cries inside and brings her knees to her chest, her tears slicking down her pale cheeks and landing on the top of her knees, and her nose is red and her head hurts and she doesn't even care. She hears someone knocking the door, followed by a familiar voice.
"Cat," Jade calls out nervously, worriedly, "Val?" Cat almost smiles at the mention of the old nickname, but her eyes are still filled with tears and then she hears the sounds of Robbie, Rex and Jade's muffled voices. Suddenly, the door is kicked open and Jade steps in, slamming it in Robbie and Rex's faces.
She sits beside her, and she holds onto her knees and chews on her lower lip so hard it begins to bleed. "You were wrong," she says sourly, hitting her head softly against the bathroom stall door behind her, her choked sobs making her head hurt as she pulls her knees closer to her, her eyes wet from crying continuously. "No one asked me."
She stares at her as she continues to cry into her palms, her wet tears slicking onto the bathroom floor. Jade sits next to her, shaking her head and giving a rant about how guys are 'idiotic' and 'moronic' and how they 'wouldn't know a good thing if it hit them in the face', and Cat giggles at some of the insults she makes, and she's not encouraging them, but they're funny and silly.
Jade's eyes light up when Cat laughs and Jade decides to ditch Prom to spend the night over at her house, which Beck decides to join in on, and then soon afterwards André and Robbie come along.
Even though Robbie brings Rex, they all simultaneously attack Cat with hugs and ruffle her dyed red hair as she giggles and Jade lets her do her nails and Beck brings over a ping-pong table and they all play on it and Robbie says something that makes everyone laugh, including himself.
She glances around and laughs with all of her friends, and then, she smiles.
Tori Vega comes into the picture two years later.
She's pretty, and has brown hair that falls in perfect waves, she wears pink lipstick and laughs all the time, her singing is all right and her acting is fine, but she just gets by since everyone else has to work so hard to get in and she's just simply lucky. Cat likes her, because she nice and funny, but Jade doesn't.
That's understandable, Cat thinks, because making out with Jade West's boyfriend on your second day of Hollywood Arts doesn't exactly get you into her good books. But after a while Jade warms up to Tori and Cat can't help but feel a little tiny piece of jealousy whenever she's around her.
Because, she's kindhearted and sweet to a fault, and while it might seem like she never does anything wrong, there are plenty of ugly little mistakes beneath that pretty face. But it's okay, because all of her mistakes get fixed and everything turns out better than the way it was before. She doesn't feel any anxiety and seems to have no faults, and that gets a little bit of Cat every time.
Never mind, she's Cat, so she's supposed to laugh and take it with a smile, and maybe with a stomp and a few fits but she has to give in eventually.
She meets Daniel and he makes her laugh more and interrupts her with kisses and calls her beautiful, not 'hot', and smiles when she rambles and kisses her until she feels dizzy. She feels as if she finally has something, something over Tori because she's single and Cat's the one with a cute guy who makes her laugh and makes her feel.
She's not supposed to think that way, she knows, but she can't help it; she likes it, she likes knowing that she has something that Tori hasn't touched, and when she invites him over to Hollywood Arts, and she walks in and immediately sees him talking to Tori by the lockers. Cat runs over to him, thrusting her arms around his neck and kissing him excitedly.
Tori just watches, mouth opened awkwardly, shifting uncomfortably as Beck and Jade chuckle under their breath. And she doesn't even care, because she can turn around and proudly introduce him, a smile on her face. "This is Daniel, my boyfriend," she says, leaning into him, a sparkle in her eyes. She presses her lips together anxiously.
Turns out Tori dug her claws into him first, and her hopes are crushed and her heart plunges, but they reassure her that it's all right and not weird and there's no drama. Yeah. So that's exactly why she sprays cheese on them and Cat comes out to find Tori kissing Daniel and slipping her tongue into his mouth.
She can't help it; she screams, her eyes wide, her heart racing and sinking, her palms sweating, and her sore fingers pointing at both of them in absolute horror. Tori flies up, apologizes frequently, but Cat feels tears streaming down her cheek and she runs for the nearest exit. She avoids Tori for the rest of the week.
Eventually, they both make up, mostly because Cat can't stay mad at someone for long, but a little part of her kind of wishes that she could have at least stayed mad at Tori for just a little bit longer.
She decides to take a chance at love again after a few months.
Cat rejects Robbie's offer to go to Prom with him because she really doesn't see him as anything more than a friend, and when she meets another guy, and his name is Drake and he has eyes that contain experiences she has no knowledge of, he smirks at her instead of smiles, and he calls her 'babe' and 'hot', instead of beautiful, but she's fine with that, because don't they mean the same thing?
She hangs out late at night with Drake, distances herself from her friends because the fissures are suddenly wide as streams and oceans, cutting deeper into her skin, and she numbs the pain by feeling the wind in her hair on the exciting rides on the motorbikes, laughing as she loses herself in the alcohol she presses against her lips, and feels the world beneath her eyelids disappear.
And she's still the same old Cat, she tells herself, and everything's not lost, she's just a little more damaged, a little more bruised, with more memories inside her mind that she would love to erase, but she's a talented actress, so she acts her way out of the accusations and suspecting glances and pretends that nothing's broken.
But Jade's not like everybody else, and she can easily see through the facade, and she doesn't believe her the teeniest bit when she tells her everything's okay, but Cat decides that she should go back there, with Drake, again, because she likes the way he makes her feel, how it's so much easier to forget with him.
But everything comes flooding back to her when she wakes up in the morning.
There's music lingering in the background.
Her eyes are barely open, her lips are salty with the bitter taste of alcohol, her head is on the floor, her dyed red hair spreading on the floor and Drake laughs, and it sounds like a chime as he leans over to twirl her hair. And it feels uncomfortable and wrong and she wants to swipe his hand away, but she doesn't.
"I feel weird," she says softly, her voice distant, her eyes a million miles away. He laughs, but he doesn't say anything, leaning against the wall and putting his helmet on, getting up and walking around the room. She stands up, following him obliviously, not feeling the floor beneath her feet and the air swiping her hair up in the air.
"I'm going for a ride," Drake says, turning to his shiny motorcycle that appears out of nowhere. Cat breathes in, staring at it for a moment, a sense of uneasiness stifling inside of her.
He gestures to the bike, sitting down on it and starting it up, his face turning to her and his eyes glistening under the streetlights. Cat gulps, brushes her hair behind her ear, and then she walks over to him, feeling strange and unreal, feeling like this is something out of a dream, or maybe a nightmare, because she can barely feel anything, and she's only numb.
He drives down the road, and she feels the wind flirting with her hair and cooling her skin, making goosebumps rise, her eyes stinging slightly but she laughs and laughs and her breath is raspy and she knows she's not supposed to be out here with him, but she can't not come back.
Drake swirls around the road, and she wraps her arms around his neck, clinging onto him tightly, closing her eyes in fear and them opening them in excitement, giggles escaping her chapped lips as he swirls around the road again.
He drops her off at an alley near her home, and she never lets him know her actual address, because as much as she hates to admit it, he's just a toy to make her feel better, to numb the pain of it all and to make herself feel again.
She goes home. She wiggles her glittery purple key into the doorknob, silently opening the door, walking into the still dark house, tiptoeing into the living room and stepping into her bedroom, slipping under her bedspread and snuggling under the covers, closing her eyes.
But for some reason it's impossible to fall asleep. She can't, because she keeps imagining sceneries where she's behind Drake on motorbikes, the wind in her hair, and other times she sees herself pressing bottles to her chapped lips and blocking out everything around her, not feeling anything, becoming numb.
She breathes out and bites her lower lip so hard until it bleeds.
The fissures finally sink in, crack open, and sink under her skin and she explodes, as if she was an earthquake.
It happens when Jade stomps into the girls' bathroom, somehow knowing that she'd be inside, and normally Cat would smile and wave, but Jade's eyes are darkened with fury and her hands are on her hips. "I know," says Jade, the words coming out between her clenched teeth as she stomps over to her, eyes darkened with fury. "I know what you've been doing."
Cat doesn't know what to say. She thinks about asking her, how would you know? But it will only confirm Jade's suspicion. She falls silent for a while and Jade's eyes burn into her. She clenches her teeth, her hands forming into fists.
"Say something," Jade says, more appropriately orders, and she's staring at her as if she doesn't recognize her anymore. Cat gulps, her eyes glistening as she turns to look at her, sniffing as she feels tears stinging in her eyes, and then, she breaks down crying, trying to get the words out between her choked sobs as she wipes tear-stained cheeks.
"I've been drinking," she admits, her chest feeling tight and an ache-like feeling forming in the place where her heart is supposed to be. "I've been sneaking out, I've been skipping school to drink, I pretended to be sick so my mom wouldn't suspect anything and..." she hunts for something else to say, but her words are whispered and her hands are shaking and her vision is blurred by the trails of tears slicking down her cheeks and forming in her eyes.
"I just don't know what to do anymore," she says, looking up at Jade expectedly, who only presses her lips together and holds her knees to her chest, leaning against the wall and sighing as she stares at the wall, eyes watery.
"At least you admitted you had a problem," she says, tearing her blue eyes away from the ceiling and back to Cat, and then she starts breaking down again. Jade sighs, holding out her hands and Cat cries into them. She looks up, her eyes gleaming with unshed tears, but also holding a trace of curiosity.
"How did you know?" she asks, and her voice is soft and confused. Jade breathes in.
"I've known you for years, Cat, so of course I know how you act when you're hiding something. Regardless of how good of an actress you are, you can never fool me," Jade says, leaning against the wall. "Also, I smelled alcohol in your breath today, so I figured it out."
"His name is Drake," Cat says suddenly, wiping her tears on her sleeve and continuing. "He told me that the alcohol could make me forget, could bring the sparkles, rainbows and unicorns back. He was wrong. I couldn't feel anything."
"You were numb," Jade translates, looking far off into the blue, and when she looks back at Cat, there are tears streaming down her cheeks as well. "I never expected it to happen to you. You were always the good one, and I was the rebellious one. I liked it that way."
Cat notices the usage of past tense, and she swallows, "Me too." And then she's crying again, and when she looks up, she sees tears streaming down Jade's cheeks, her blue eyes watery and looking slightly tinted as she presses her lips together, and she starts to cry again.
"It's going to be okay," Jade says, even though she seems doubtful herself.
Jade never tells anyone.
Cat strays away from the places she used to go, deletes Drake's number from her phone, she never dares to go on motorcycles anymore and doesn't even gather up the courage to touch one, afraid it'll bring back too many memories that'll eventually lead her to go back to her old ways.
She figures its better this way.
She finally stops everything all together.
Cat never goes back to Drake and he thankfully never comes back to her. They don't see each other again and all she has left of him is the foggy memory of what they used to be about, and she's glad, because what she had with him wasn't love and never will be.
But she still has hopes for the future, she still hopes to get that special someone who'll hold her in the darker and stormier nights, someone who'd she confide in and have a special bond with, but she has Jade and Beck and Robbie and André and Tori and she figures she needs to find out who she really is before she can find some kind of fairytale.
Her issues and need for perfection slowly fades away, and the vision in the mirror becomes less important, and when she's at home, lying on her bed and watching the glow-in-the-dark-stars on her ceiling, she gets a text from Beck telling her to come to the lounge for ping-pong practice
She gets up and brushes her hair briefly, and then she throws on her tank top and short shorts, sneakers, ruffles her hair slightly and leaves the mirror a little too quickly, her hands already texting a reply as she heads to the Hollywood Arts' longue, ready for ping-pong practice.
She's seventeen, and this time, she knows she's loved, and not in a conceited way, but in a more reassuring way, because it's true. She has friends and they love her and she loves them and that's all she really needs.
It's actually okay that she's not a princess or flawless, because she knows that she's still loved by her friends that has stuck by her through thick and thin, and aren't going to stop any time soon, and maybe, just maybe, they could somehow make the ocean of grief she's floating on disappear.