notes: I'm not really sure what I was aiming for when I wrote this... But here's to no sleep and Bon Iver! =) Also, I know that this fandom is kind of lacking (and not exactly romance, either) which is understandable due to the nature of the book, but I was sort of left feeling...unfulfilled with the ending between Lia and Elijah, so I decided to expand on it. Hopefully I didn't butcher the story too much.
muse: toss up between Skinny Love and Lego House by Ed Sheeran. Take your pick, they're both amazing.
warm cocoa and stale pizza
I told you to be patient
I told you to be fine
I told you to be balanced
I told you to be kind
In the morning I'll be with you
But it will be a different "kind"
I'll be holding all the tickets
And you'll be owning all the fines
Skinny Love, Bon Iver
Some days are harder than others. On those particular days, she stands in front of the mirror for hours, mentally mapping out each and very flaw, counting down every single calorie and pound of fat gained. Logically, she knows that her rigorous diet (if shoveling calories and carbs into your mouth is considered one, anyway) is healthy and safe, but she can't stop the process. It's a like a sporadic cycle that keeps her up at night – bagel, cream cheese, orange juice, salad, fajita, apple crumble, chocolate milk, sliced fruit – and doesn't let her sleep.
(Fat. Lose. Stupid. Bitch. Lost.)
The haunting words come back with a vengeance, mercilessly ripping her to shreds where she stands. At times it becomes too much and she has to ask (plead) for a sleeping pill to get her through the night. The ones they use are cheap, drug store brand that takes hours to finally kick in. Cassie – the word, the name, although still leaving behind a bone shattering regret running through her body, is easier to say she finds, except on those night – used to get her the expensive, doctor prescribed kind that could knock out a horse.
She misses those, but not as much as she missed Cassie or Emma.
Lying awake, listening to the words filter in bitterly against her broken mind, she repeats a new mantra to herself. It's sweet tasting and caresses her mind and throat with gentle swipes that feel like feathers. Cassie, Emma, Jennifer, Dr – MOM, dad; listing all the people she's striving for, trying to reach, is easier on her. They don't make the words and the feelings go away completely, but the numb them, stopping their lava-drenched tread through her mind.
She's doing this for them.
…She only hopes it's all worth it in the end, because she isn't sure she can handle the outcome if it isn't.
The only people who come to see her are Dr – MOM (she needs to work on familiarizing herself with that word again), Jennifer, her dad, and Emma. Occasionally, she'll see Dr. Parker visiting to chat with her, ask her how she's doing. It's okay. It's all balanced and familiar, and one of the recommendations that she has to go through is opening up to people.
Sometimes, one of the people she used to know from school will stop by, bearing cards or flowers. Those are scarce and mostly one-sided conversations about school. The girl's from the hospital help her out a lot, too; in the good way, not the bad way. Lia stays away from the girl's who looked worn out come morning, knowing that their night was full of crutches and jumping jacks and trying to purge without being overheard.
Instead, she finds girl's who look chipper, happy even. Those are the one's who are on the steady-fast road to recovery. The positive air they exude into everyone around them ("it's okay, you can do it!"; "isn't this food just the best!"; "you are so beautiful, treat yourself – have a second helping!") makes her smile, and reach for that other half or a second helping. She can't say she's like them just yet, but she can feel it in the strong, real-girl part of her that is slowly starting to shake off the ice clinging to her and stand tall and proud.
For now, Lia will stand close to them, befriend them (awkwardly – she doesn't know how to make friend's anymore), and soak up their happiness, trying to save little pieces for the hard days and nights that are sure to come.
It feels great.
But sometimes, she looks at the door, wishing that when the Staff came to announce a visit, that she'll see a new face that wasn't her mom, her dad, Jennifer, or Emma.
That was wishful thinking, though; and she's not supposed to do that anymore.
When Lia's roommate is having a goodbye party for a red haired girl being discharged, someone asks her if she's ever been in love. The question throws her off; has she ever really been in love before? Books and television told her that love was sneaking glances at boys, flirting with them openly, fluttering hearts whenever they walk by, stealing kisses and shirts, holding hands and giving secret smiles; blood racing and palms sweating, skipped beats and ogling eyes.
Cassie told her something different. Love was awkward fumbles in the backseats of a fast car, wild kisses with tongues that tasted like cigarettes and cheap liquor, tattoos and piercings that weren't in the ears; to her love was sharing a ecstasy with a heart on the front, smoking weed on the back porch during the summer, and kissing their best friend when it was all over and they screwed you over.
Lia's never experienced either of them.
"Have you ever even kissed a guy before, Lia-Lia?"
That name used to make her cringe whenever Cassie would say it to get her own way ("come on, Lia-Lia, just lend me five bucks until I can get some from my parents – I'm dying for a smoke, maybe even a hit or two"). "I didn't really care about boys before."
"Oh," their eyes grow wide. "Are you a lesbian?"
She kissed Cassie once. They were drunk in her best friend's room while her parents were gone to some place exotic, like Chicago, and Cassie just broke up with some guy she met a party. He was in the eleventh grade to their ninth. It was pretty wicked, she deemed, in childish, fourteen year old awe that her best friend was with someone older. After trashing her room, binging on chips and coca cola, she went to purge, screaming at Lia for letting her eat that (disgusting, vile, fat filled) junk food.
("Ugh, I feel like shit, with a capital S-H-I-T, Lia-Lia," she sulking, hugging Lia around the shoulders. Her breath smelt like candy flavored toothpaste and the expensive kind of whiskey her parent's stashed away. "Make me feel better." Unsure what to do, Lia rubbed her back and told her about the girl in her new gym class who was – like – four hundred pounds. "Ewe, that's like, huge, Lia; I'm never going to gain another pound, I swear." That conversation led to her boyfriend – who was dating a cubby girl now – to first kisses. When she found out Lia never kisses anyone, she chugged down the rest of the vodka, and pressed her lips against Lia's. "There, now you've kissed someone.")
"No, I'm not a lesbian," she assured them, rolling her eyes. She kissed a boy before, too. When Cassie was turning sixteen, they threw her an after-party for when her parents went to their country club meeting. Boys were there, smoking weed and drinking wine coolers, and laughing at whatever Cassie said. It was spin the bottle and Lia got picked with some boy (she doesn't even remember the name, only that he had cool hair). It was a little peck, but when everyone was busy in the hot-tub, they snuck away and made out. "I've kissed a guy before."
When they're told to break up the party and get ready to say goodbye to the red haired girl, she overhears a conversation between two girls. It makes her stop and listen hard.
"When I first met him, I felt so warm, you know?"
"Yeah, like you know when you've been out in the cold for, like, hours and finally go inside a warm house? It was like that."
Lia never felt warm with Cassie. She always felt cold and jealous – why was she so skinny? – During the times they hung out. That boy she gave her first kiss to, too; she only felt…humid when they kissed. Sticky and gross and in desperate need for a shower was how she felt, sitting in the wet grass, arms lying useless at her side while he suction-cupped her face with his wet, bitter tasting kisses.
(She felt kind of, sort of warm with Elijah, but that was probably the hot chocolate he bought her.)
The following week, she has (what they would call) a meltdown at breakfast.
She wakes up in a horrible mood, having been up all night, listing to the familiar, toxic prayer running through her mind over and over again without any incentive to get rid of it. Her normal mantra doesn't work anymore against it, and it leaves her crying and wanting to go where Cassie went.
She's supposed to be stronger than this.
She's supposed to be cured by now.
Instead Lia's sitting at the blue table, surrounded by broken, hallow shells of girls who used to be, and food that looks like cardboard. When one of the Staff asks her what she wants, irritation sets in, followed closely with self-loathing.
When Lia Marrigan-Overbrook has a breakdown, she goes all out.
Her – stupid, nasty – bagel gets thrown across the room. Her juice goes next, spattering across some girl's clean, white shirt in an angry orange stain. By the time the staff calls in for help, she's already hunched over, gripping her hair and screaming curses at everyone.
She yells at her mother, her father, Jennifer, but not Emma (never, never Emma), and Cassie.
(Mostly her dead, ex-best friend for pulling her into this mess in the first place)
They give her a sedative and send her to bed.
Then they call her parents – who are disappointed in her, but then again, when aren't they? – and she's not allowed to see Emma for a week. She also has to eat alone for another, with only a staff in the room, and clean up the washroom for two weeks.
Lia wants to cut her head open and rip out all the bad thoughts, replacing them with rainbows and cookies and puppies.
(The side effects of the sedative, she deems, is stronger than she thought.)
When her 'time-out' is over, she apologizes to the girl (who, now when she's much calmer and can think rationally, looks so much like Cassie it's kind of freaky) she threw her juice on and calls Emma on the phone. They talk for hours about everything and nothing. Emma is joining the school's talent show. Emma knows how to make chocolate chip cookies, and she wants to bring Lia-Lia one. Emma's cats miss sleeping with her now that she's gone. Emma knows her timetables now.
Emma, Emma, Emma…
It makes her smile and cry at the same time, thinking about her step-sister. Remorse and utter shame over making her watch the downward spiral her older sister (because in Emma's world, the only place step belongs is another name for stairs) went through. Lia's happy though, especially since it's because of Emma that she's getting help right now.
Being young and naïve, she doesn't understand the concept of time. "When are you coming home, Lia?"
"Soon, Emma," she promises; herself or her sister, she isn't sure. "I'll be home soon."
There is a sigh. "I hope so. I miss you so much."
"Me too, kiddo," she eyes start to water. "I have to go now."
"Bye, Lia," the sound of lips smacking loudly in a wet, muah noise reaches her.
She repeats the action, "bye, Emma."
When she hangs up the phone, she feels fuller than she had before. She wants to get better, not just for Emma, but for herself.
She wants this.
Lia wants this.
(Everyone asks her why she's grinning so much, but she hardly cares, and starts knitting Emma a hat to pass the time.)
It's been three months since she last dreamed about Elijah and the hotel and Cassie and the marble.
They come in short, harsh pants against the darkened night and haze of her dream-world. First, it's the same old story where he leaves and she runs after him, screaming out his name for what seems like hours. Then, it's Cassie's turn. She's in the hotel, hunched in the washroom, bottles surrounding her. Lia tries to shovel against the broken glass and spilt waste, but she never gets there in time.
Tonight, it was different from all the other dreams.
Cassie is first. She's watching Lia bake a cake, giving her ingredients (all the while making a face at the nutrition information), saying nothing. A stupid song comes on the radio, and Cassie dances. She tugs Lia's arms to her offbeat, random dance, spinning in circles and laughing. Lia's laughing, too; loudly, obnoxiously, and she's having so much fun.
They fall in a pile of leaves, breathing in the scent of autumn even though it's nearly April.
Cassie looks at her, flushed cheeks, rounded and full; eyes shining and hair full and beautiful. "I miss you so much, Lia."
"I miss you more, Cassie," she says, reaching out her hand.
She takes it with a smile. "I'll see you," she speaks lowly, a whisper against the crunch of leaves beneath her. "But not soon; you're too strong, Lia, not like me. You'll be amazing when you leave. People will part like the red sea when they see you walk down the street, wearing all your struggles on the sleeves of your arms."
"Thank you, Cassie…" She whispers, taken aback by the sheer emotion behind the words.
Cassie leans over, giving Lia a small peck on her cheek. "Be good. Don't do anything I would do."
Her next dream comes like a racing train, rushing around her so fast she's almost dizzy by the time it's over.
He's standing there now.
It's not fall anymore, either. It's summer.
He's holding out cotton candy, which she takes without a second thought.
"Why did you leave?"
Elijah opens his mouth –
Groggily, she wakes up, the dream coming back in huge breath.
Her roommate grins at her from across the room, sitting cross-legged on her bed. "Who's Cassie? And Elijah?"
With a groan, she rolls over in her bed, feigning annoyance. "No one."
Under the warm cocoon of her blankets, she grins, feeling better than before.
She's sitting in the reading room, hunched in the corner, breaking into the mind of Sonya Sanchez, when someone comes in and tells her she has a visitor.
Curious, she stands, trying to remember if she has an appointment with Dr. Parker or her mom that she forgot. Emma came earlier in the week, sharing her Easter candy, with Jennifer and her dad. None of them asked to visit again in the same week. Blinking, she stretches her stiff muscles, and follows the staff out of the room.
She brings Sonya Sanchez with her, tucking it under her arm.
"Right through that door," the woman says, pointing to a waiting room that she'd never used before.
Nodding, she turns to the woman, asking if she knows who it is.
"Sorry, they just said you had someone who wanted to see you," the woman confesses, shrugging.
After thanking her, she follows the directions and stands outside the door for a second longer, debating if she really wanted to go in. What if it was Cassie's mom again? That was mess of a situation the last time she came. It was better the second time, with her mom in the room, but she can't stand to see the woman alone.
Not right now, at least.
Clutching the book under her arm, she turns the knob and steps into the room.
There he is.
Standing with his hands in the pockets of his ripped, worn jeans, tucked in messily into dirty work boots, and wearing a black tee with a band she's never heard of. His hair is down, hanging choppily over his ears, and he's shaved, too. Upon hearing the door open, his dark eyes swivel over to her, widening once he takes her in.
"Lia," he blinks, shocked. "Wow…you look good."
She snorts, "Compared to the people in Mississippi?"
He swallows thickly, rubbing the back of his neck. "Uh, about that…I can pay you back, I swear…"
The words she said in her dream rush out by their own accord. "Why did you leave me?"
His mouth opens and closes for a minute. "What would've happened if I took you with me, Lia?" He asks, looking pleadingly at her. "Do you really think that would have been the right thing to do?"
She doesn't. Never did. But, being left behind by a stupid boy who talked too much and said nothing at the same time, hurt more than it should. "I guess…"
"Yeah," he glances at the book still clutched in her hands. "Ah, Sanchez. I told you she was bomb."
Lia nods. "Yeah, she is. You were right about something for the first time."
"Hey, I know everything, okay? You just didn't listen." He shrugs, sitting down across from her. "So…uh, it look pretty bad before, and um, I didn't know a lot back then, but what happened?"
She mimics his previous shrug. "I was a mess, kind of."
"Kind of," he echoes, grinning, and bumps her shoulder. "Aren't we all?"
Nodding, she matches his grin with one of her own. "Yeah, I suppose we are."
They speak idly about everything and nothing until a staff comes in and tells him visiting hours are over. She watches him with new eyes, noticing the sturdy set of his slouched shoulders and tattooed forearms. Cassie would be proud, she thinks, staring at the familiar image on his arm, she always love guys with tattoos.
"Can I see you again?"
With a bump of her shoulders, she nods. "I bought the pizza last time; maybe you should return the favor?"
Lia doesn't really expect to see him again.
Weeks go by with no word from him, but she doesn't mind. He came once and that was okay. She was able to close a door that was left open when he ditched her. The new-Lia locks it for good, and begins to associate him with the smell of greasy, stale pizza and hot chocolate instead of dingy hotel rooms and the ghosts at Cassie's funeral.
When he shows up in June, holding a box of pizza with a smiley face crudely drawn on with pen, she giggles like a stupid girl. It's weird and strange and not at all like the movies, but she kind of likes the stupid boy who starts to see her every day, each week, without fail.
They share pizza and pop, and tell stupid stories about stupid bulls and magic people.
All the while, she'd left questioning if this – sitting beside a stupid boy in the middle of an overpriced hospital, fighting over the last slice of pizza (her not worrying about calories or how messy her jeans get when she wipes her greasy fingers on them), tugging on his stupid earring, and talking about all the places they want to go – is what being in love feels like.
"…And I'd totally go to Berlin, you know?" A piece of sauce is stuck of his lip, which she brushes off, effectively shutting him up.
"I'd rather go to Paris," she says, distracting him long enough to steal the last slice of pizza.
He fights her half-heartedly over it before starting a new story about a stupid girl from France and a stupid boy from Germany.
The final months before her release are staggeringly tiring. She's constantly rushing around, telling people the same old story, or going in for last minute check ups. Dr. Parker comes, smiling at her, and hands her a worn afghan, much like the one she's knitting. The staff and the girl's all say their goodbyes to her, and they even buy her a card.
It's full of signatures and words of inspiration, as well as numbers from the girl's she befriended.
They throw her a party, like they did with the red-haired girl.
This time, when they ask if she's ever been in love, she smiles and nods.
"It's like being warm," she says, and the girl from before looks at her knowingly. "Like treading through icy weather until you finally get home and open the door. That first instant of being warm, getting past a steaming cup of hot cocoa, and wrapping your favorite blanket around your shoulders, is what it feels like."
Some of the girl's actually listen to what she tells them, giving their own interpretation of what it's like. Other just gaze at her with incomprehension, and she hopes that they finally get warm, too, like she did.
When it's time to leave, and her parents (along with Jennifer and Emma) are waiting for her, she can only smile widely and say goodbye.
It was hard, but she's finally made it.
"Ready to go?"
She nods at whoever asked, her head full of important mantra's that she's supposed to remember, and the hope that she doesn't fail this time. "Yeah, I'm ready."
Elijah isn't perfect – he's isn't even all that handsome, not really – but he's perfect for her.
He waits until she's settled in at home; dual ownership between her mother and father (and Emma, always Emma) keeps her busy for the first month after being discharged. Homework and getting caught up on her credits she missed take another month, as well as graduation.
She doesn't see him until September.
He has an apartment near the college she's going to next year, and he invites her over. It's small and cramped and already messy, but she likes it. Their first date was in October, spent in his living room, eating pizza and watching old horror movies. Admittedly, the date was kind of stupid, but he's a stupid boy anyway, and it was also kind of perfect.
They watch stupid movies and play stupid games.
It's takes two months before he kisses her.
And three until they finally say: "I love you."
Whenever he's around, she feels like a normal girl. They have their hardships like everyone else – and sometimes, she wants to give up and crawl back under a rock, but he won't let her. He takes her to Jackson and Ohio and even Florida. She's still going to Paris, though; and him to Berlin. That never changes.
When things get too difficult, he brings her hot chocolate in a smiley faced mug.
She smiles despite herself and drinks it down. "I'm warm."
Elijah has no idea what she's talking about (or maybe he does), and just pulls her close and kisses her forehead. "Me too."
Lia was thawing before, but now, watching stupid re-runs next to a stupid boy while drinking stupid hot chocolate, she's finally melted.
And it's dark in a cold December, but I've got you to keep me warm
If your broken, I will mend you and keep you sheltered from the storm that's raging on now.Lego House, Ed Sheeran