Title: Distorted Love
Disclaimer: see previous chapters
Special Thanks to: Kissin Katexo, serenity11287, sousie, raye85, starangel07, Rebelious-Angel, afallenblackrose, River Angel, Jingy5, jupiter2005, LizMaxforever, Sailormoonloverlol and blondie1765. Thanks for the review.
Author's Notes: OK, this might be really confusing but I've just now realised that I've been spelling some of the character's names in the Japanese style anime... so in the interest of everyone involved, I think I'm gonna stick with the American spellings, i.e. Ami Amy. And yes, I know that this was a long time in coming and you have my sincerest apologies.
"So, you're leaving?"
Serena shook herself out of her stupor, forgetting Darien for the moment. Looking up, she noticed Amy standing by the reception counter. Serena couldn't help but wonder if Amy's words were a mere inquiry into her decision to leave the hospital or if it held any deeper meaning. Knowing Amy for one who wouldn't deal in subterfuge, she opted for the latter and took a deep breath. Now was as good a time as any to clear the air between them, and with this new evil, she was gonna need all the help that she could get.
"Amy? Is there anywhere we could talk? You know, privately?"
Amy paused for a moment, and Serena held her breath, wondering if her old friend was going to deny her peace token. But after checking her wristwatch, Amy nodded and led Serena to a nearby sitting room that was off to the side of the reception area.
A lovely sun room, Serena could see out the French doors to the lovely little garden outside, a small refuge for the souls ravaged by the constant need for medical attention. Wheeling herself over to the French doors, Serena took a breath before starting, "I know that when I left, I tore a big hole in everyone's life. I know that you were really mad about it and I'm gonna let you have your say about it. I'm not gonna say one thing because God knows that you deserve to air out your grievances about me leaving."
Bracing herself, Serena closed her eyes and waited for the tirade to start. But it never did. Wheeling herself around, she looked at her long time friend. And cringed when she saw the tears streaming down her face. "Amy, please don't cry. Just yell at me, it'll make you feel better, I promise!"
Amy laughed softly before wiping the tears away. She sniffled and shook her head at once. "I was mad at you. When I think of how sick the girls got worrying about you, how many sleepless nights we had, how completely useless we felt. But than, over the years, I got to thinking, that maybe I could kinda understand why you did what you did."
Serena shook her head, "Amy, please. You don't have to--"
Amy lifted her hand up for silence. "Please, I want to say all of it."
Serena subsided and looked at her friend worriedly.
Amy gave a small smile, "What I was trying to say, is that I understand. I don't necessarily agree, but I understand why you did it. All of us, we're always looking for your shoulder to cry on, to lean on you for your support, and you never ask anyone for theirs in return. You always were the strongest of us all, and I guess you were bound to meet your breaking limit at some stage. I don't know, maybe I wasn't good enough of a friend to help you through things, but I did think that no matter what, we would be able to make things through together, despite how bad things became. I'm just sorry that you didn't think the same way."
Serena swallowed audibly and looked down at her lap. Tears of regret, sorrow and shame streamed down her face. Why is it that the things that seemed to important to her five years ago seem suddenly trivial? Her utter despair over what she had assumed was her abandonment was suddenly revealed as a lack of communication on her part and pure selfishness. She wept bitterly.
A gentle touch on her shoulder had her looking up into Amy's ever kind face. How is it, that she had thought that this kind, gentle soul could ever abandon her?
"Serena, please understand that I don't say these words to wound you. I just wanted to clear things up between the two of us. I would like very much to be friends again, to go back to the old days when we were so carefree."
Serena could do nothing but weep while nodding her head vigorously in acceptance of Amy's offer. Amy couldn't help but laugh. Straightening away from the wheelchair, she smiled as she walked away, her words of parting trailing over her shoulder. "Alright, then. I've got to get back to doing my rounds, but I will see you soon? I trust you've left your details with the discharge nurse?"
Before she completely disappeared, Serena called out to her one more time, "Amy?"
A pause as the said woman looked over his shoulder. "Yes?"
Serena smiled gratefully, "Thank you."
"What do you mean I still have to work today? I've just been discharged from the hospital!"
Natalie barely raised a brow at her charge's whining. She had, in fact, gotten quite use to it over the years. She shook a stern finger in her face, "it's not our fault that you disappeared the night before your scheduled commercial shoot for the shine hair products that I've only been reminding you every day of the week! You know how important these clients are to Emanuel! They've been supporting him since he first started in the business! So don't you dare complain to me, missy!"
Serena bit back her reply that she had not wanted to do it in the first place. Emanuel's long time friends were indeed good people. They couldn't help it if their offspring couldn't inspire the same confidence in others as his parents. The thought of him was unsettling enough for Serena to push him to the back of her mind. She would have to deal with him shortly, so there was no point in getting all worked up about it now.
"Well, can we at least stop somewhere for a quick bite to eat? I haven't had anything since the night before, and let me tell you, I've never been a big fan of hospital food. It would make me feel better so I'd be able to make it through the whole thing."
Natalie cast a stern eye at Serena. It was never a good idea to let that girl eat anything before photo shoots, as she was the only model Natalie knew that had the ability to eat not one, but two whopper meals at her favourite fast food restaurant. On the other hand though, Serena did seem to look rather pale, and her eyes were red, evidence of the fact that she had been crying. Did it have something to do with that blue-haired lady?
"Well, I guess we can stop for a little salad or something like that," Natalie allowed grudgingly. "Is there something specifically that you wanted?"
Serena gave a small smile. "I know just the place."
"Hey, Lita! Would take a look at these ladies!? I think I'm in love."
Lita rolled her eyes, not pausing in her chore of washing up the plates after the afternoon rush. Business had been going pretty good so far, much to Lita and Charlie's pleasure. They had been together since getting out of Culinary School, and it looked like to Lita that they might make enough money to expand. Pretty soon, they'd be able to turn the little cafe/diner into a full-scale restaurant.
"It seems like you fall in love every day, Chuck."
"That is absolutely not true. And I'm being serious this time. Two angels are now making their way to our humble establishment. It's definitely a sign. We were meant to be."
Lita shook her head with exasperation. She had thought she was somewhat of a hopeless romantic, but that was nothing compared to Charlie. Charlie was a real skirt-chaser, always had ladies on his mind. But the poor thing could never seem to score any. She giggled to herself. He was a nice enough guy, the only thing wrong about him was the fact that he wasn't drop dead gorgeous, nor was he the smoothest person on earth. And he was always tripping over his own feet. Yep, there was no doubt about it, Chuck had all the makings of a certified loser, the only saving grace was the fact that he could whip up five course meals with no sweat.
"They're coming in!" Charlie's announced from out front, giving a high-pitched squeal. Lita chuckled to herself.
"Hello, Ladies. Welcome to GoodEats. How may I be of service today?"
"We'd like two chicken Caesar salads with two glasses of water."
"OK, coming right up. And don't worry, I will personally see to its preparation to make sure you get quality for your money."
Lita stifled a giggle. It seemed as though Charlie was already working his magic. Seconds later, he rushed into the kitchen, his excitement palpable in the small kitchen area. "Lita, check it out, the brown-haired lady is totally digging me. She totally smiled at me, and I mean, a real genuine smile. Like, yeah, they're both hot, what with the lady's friend being a blue-eyed and blonde hair knockout, but I gotta go with the older one cause, well, you know what they say about older women and all."
Lita smiled and shook her head. "No, Charlie, I don't. What do they say about older women?"
Charlie turned red and quickly turned his back, feigning intense concentration as he chopped up the greens for the salad. "Well, um, I mean, its only what I've heard the other guys say, uh, er—what I mean to say is…never mind."
Lita laughed as Charlie added the finishing touches to the salads and poured ranch dressing into a separate small bowl before placing everything on a black tray to take out. Hoisting the tray up on his shoulder, he headed towards the door and asked Lita if she could bring the drinks of water. Complying with his request, Lita grabbed two glasses and followed Charlie out to the eating area. She could see the two patrons at one of the booths lining the far wall.
The closer that she got to the two, the more she was struck with a sense of familiarity with the blonde lady. Lita knew, before she even turned around, what the identity of the blonde lady was. Placing the two cups down on the table, she turned to the blonde patron. "Hello, Serena. What brings you here?"
Serena looked up at a face that she hadn't seen for five years. She smiled weakly at Lita's greeting. "We were kinda hungry and I immediately thought of this place. I actually did hope that I'd run into you here, and now that I have, I'm glad."
"Mmmm, this sure looks good." Natalie added, picking up her fork to dig into the salad. Biting into the chicken, she gave a sigh of appreciation and smiled at Charlie. "This is very good. Thanks for that."
Charlie blushed at the compliment and laughed, shrugging the attention off. "Its what I do, so I do hope that I've gotten good at it."
Serena and Lita both smiled in reaction, before Serena turned to her. "On a serious note," she said quietly, "I did wish to have a chance to speak to you, if you have the time?"
Lita watched Serena warily. In her mind, she had already made up with Serena for her past actions, but there was still something inside her that wanted to be petty, that wanted to make her feel at least a little of what she had gone through, to not give her the time of day. But looking at her now, she found that she couldn't deny her. She couldn't say no to the girl that had always brightened her day, had always been there for her when she was having boy troubles, had always been willing to be a guinea pig for her many and various new recipes, had always managed to make her smile with that goofy laugh of hers and her carefree personality.
"Sure. Let's go to the kitchen, we can have a little privacy there."
Serena slid out of the booth and followed Lita out to the back. On their exit, Charlie took the initiative to take the recently vacated seat. "So, I didn't actually catch your name…"
Lita couldn't help but burst into giggles. Serena had also caught the by-play and couldn't help but smile. "Your friend putting the moves on my manager, huh?"
"It looks like it."
They entered the kitchen area, Lita going over to the work bench to lean against it while Serena looked around in amazement. "Wow, so I take it that you did go through with culinary school. Congratulations."
Lita nodded. "Thanks. It was hard, and a lot of times, I just wanted to give up, but I had Charlie with me so we went through everything together. If it weren't for him, I don't think I could have made it."
Serena smiled sadly at her words. Regret overwhelmed her at that moment. She had wished fervently that she'd be there for her friends always when they needed her. She was just glad that Charlie had been a friend to Lita when she most needed one. She mentally shrugged, now was not the time to reflect on herself! "The reason why I've come is I would like for us to be friends again. I know that there must be a lot of things that you want to say to me right now, and I want you to say all of it. And don't spare my feelings either. I'd rather it all be out there in the open then locked up inside of you."
Serena bowed her head and waited for the tirade to wash over her. But after a few minutes without a single word from Lita, she dared to raise her head and take a peek, only to find that her old friend stood there, tears rolling silently down her face, a small, sad smile on her face. Alarmed, she reached out a hand, yet paused, hovering hesitantly over her shoulder. Would her old friend welcome any comfort she would give her? Hesitantly, she murmured her name.
Lita shook her head and wiped her tears with the arm of her sleeve, "I'm fine. I just--it gets to be too much, you know?"
Serena withdrew her hand, and nodded solemnly. "I understand."
Lita looked at Serena warily. "I mean, all this time, I resented you, because you were supposed to have been my friend. Ever since I met you that day long ago, first having saved you from those goons, and then again later that day during lunch, when you saved me from my loneliness, when you refused to be afraid of me like all the others, I wanted to desperately to one day become the same kind of person that you were. And you leaving meant that I had failed. And I hated you for that, hated you for having exposed that weakness in me."
Serena shook her head, "Lita, no, please don't feel that way! It was my own selfishness th--"
Lita chuckled softly and shook her head, "you silly goof. I guess you still haven't changed a bit. I thought you said that you weren't going to interrupt."
Serena looked adequately chastened, "yes, I did, and I do mean to let you speak without interruption. I just don't want you to take any of the blame upon yourself."
"No, its alright. I need to come to terms with what it is thats stopping me from becoming a friend you can count on. Serena, five years ago, I didn't understand why it was that you could leave us. But now that I reflect upon it, I can see why. You were never anything but yourself, always showing us that you cared, always trying to make us laugh with your goofy antics, always there when we needed you most. And yet, when you needed us most, we weren't at all understanding, we didn't even try to understand. We were so quick to judge. Actually, let me rephrase that, because I cannot really speak for the other ladies but for myself. I was never there for you when you needed me most. And you wanting to leave hit me hard, because that meant that I wasn't as irreplaceable as you were in my life. And so, I'm sorry... I'm sorry that you couldn't have come to me, confided in me, or have relied on me to give you any support. But if you want it, I would appreciate it if we were friends again, much like the old times, but even better."
And with that, Lita extended out her hand towards Serena, unshed tears shining in her eyes, her lips quivering with emotion. Serena's own heart clenched, was there nothing in this world more moving than a person in need, with no barriers or masks concealing their true selves, coming humbly towards another? Tears overflowed as Serena grasped Lita's hand in hers, drawing closer.
"No, Lita. It is I that needs to apologise. Never think that you were not a good friend to me, because you were. You were the best! Leaving all those years ago is something that I'm still struggling to come to terms with, but its all on me, there is nothing that would imply that you were not as good a friend as you should have been. So please, don't be so hard on yourself. You have always been there for me when I most needed, and for that I thank you. And I would jump at the opportunity to be your friend again in a heartbeat. It would be an honor, and I know that we can become even closer friends than we were before."
Lita smiled, and ruffled Serena's hair. "See, its just like old times, you always happen to say the words that I need to hear the most. Thanks, Serena."
Serena stared at her friend. How is it that she could forgive so easily? How is it that she could still offer her a hand of friendship, a hand of salvation?
"Uh, by the way. Now that you're in here, I've remembered something. I've come up with this new dessert that I want to try putting on the menu, but I'm not too sure how people are gonna like it. Wanna try it out, see if its any good?"
"What, dessert? Definitely! Let me at it."
Lita smiled, and hurried to the refridgerator. "Just wait right there..."
Can it be?! Have I finally finished chapter 9?! Nan desu ka? Anyway, stay tuned for chapter 10 when more relationships start to mend and a mysterious girl appears! As always, read and review...