Note: This story takes place after the final episode (entitled "The Finale") wherin Pepper Ann reunites with Nicky and Milo after neglecting them for so many years. It's better to have seen this episode before reading the story, but you can certianly understand the events without it. Also, I'll note that I've been working on script writing and perfecting the art of writing dialog for the past few months, so my descriptions may be bare bones. That's what the review section is for, so please let me know so I can revise the story! It's PG-13 for some adult situations (considering it's about fifteen years in the future and they are all actual adults) and sad stuff. I may want to run with this setup in other stories as well, so please let me know what you think.
by Haley (PeteyGal13@aol.com)
"I can't believe I'm doing this..."
Milo Kamalani strapped his two year old daughter, Jenny, in the back seat of the van. Jingling a rattle before her distractedly, the twenty-three year old man jumped when she snatched it from his hand. He smiled at her, touching the side of her round cheek. "Do you want to go see Auntie Nicky?"
The baby dropped the rattle in excitement and began clapping her hands, Milo simply smiled. Although, even the child caught on to the mildly dysophoric vibe emanating off of her father. "Daa?" she inquired, frowning as she reached out for him.
He took her tiny hand, smiling. "Daa's fine, Jen. Just got a lot of things on my mind today."
The small girl then looked down, and began reaching for something. Milo pushed a stack of pop-up books over to reveal the rattle his daughter had lost. "Do you want this?" he shook the toy playfully before placing it in her chubby fist. The artist then turned away, preparing to slide the rear door shut, when the rattle was shook in his face.
"Daa!" Jenny commanded, reaching out to him with the brightly colored toy. "No sad."
"No sad, huh?" he could've cried, but instead accepted the rattle and thanked his daughter with a kiss on the forehead. She grinned a two-toothed grin, and babbled happily as she acquired one of the books that her father had knocked over.
Milo slowly slid the door of the van shut, falling back against it and heaving a large sigh. He then inspected the rattle, which was in the shape of a...
He looked harder, squinting: it couldn't be. The rattle was in the shape of a violin. Granted, it sounded nothing like one, and he was certain violins weren't manufactured in all three primary colors. Closing his eyes, he clutched the toy to his chest, wishing all of his problems away.
Wishing that none of this had ever happened.
"Daa!" his eyes shot open, and Milo smirked. The only good product of his tawdry endeavors, and the current light of his life, was his daughter. Jennifer Nicole Kamalani. He loved her with every inch of his being, more than he thought he could ever love anyone. Pulling open the driver's side door, Milo hoisted himself into the old mini-van and flipped on the hover drive.
He smirked at that: his vehicle was so old, that hover drive had come as an optional luxury. It was illegal, at least in his town, to put on more then ten miles of ground mileage a day. It truly showed how far his art had gotten him: absolutely nowhere. But that was an inner argument for another time.
Pressing his foot to the accelerator, the old blue van took to the skies, as Milo popped in a tape of Flaming Snot: Children's Hits. God, everyone had sold out. But not him, and certainly not Nicky.
"Five minutes? Okay, Pepper Ann. And thanks so much - yeah, I know. I'll see you soon. Bye."
Nicky Little rested back against the kitchen counter, rubbing at her forehead with the back of her wrist. She concentrated on only her breathing, trying desperately to relax. But to no avail. Nicky spun around, a whir of twirling blond hair and light blue skirt. She threw the phone with all her might, and it exploded into a million plastic components across the white-tiled kitchen floor.
She pressed her shaking hands against the counter top, letting her head fall and her eyes well up with tears. But she shook her head sharply, sniffling, and standing tall. It was just as she was rubbing away the dampness from her eyes when the doorbell rang, and she dashed to the front door.
"Milo, hi," her voice was filled with fake cheer, which became more real as she spotted Jenny and took her in her arms. "Oh, hello!"
"Ni!" Jenny exclaimed happily, throwing her arms around the skinny woman and laughing with glee. Nicky spun her around in a circle, dancing about, through the kitchen, to the living room.
"Hey, Nicky; what happened to the phone?" his voice shattered her moment of joy, and she turned to face him with cold eyes.
"All over the kitchen floor?"
"Ni!" Jenny giggled, and the woman returned her attention to the child, whom she plopped down on the sofa and promptly began to tickle. The small child laughed wildly, and Milo smiled sadly. It was wrong of him to keep them away so much, but he had no choice. Just then, the doorbell rang.
"Oh, that must be Pepper Ann," Nicky surmised quietly to herself, releasing her hold on Jenny sadly and giving her a kiss. "Now, Jennifer. Auntie Nicky and Daddy have some grown-up things to do, and we need you to be good for Pepper Ann while we're gone."
"Bu-bu..." Jenny gurgled unhappily, but Nicky put a gentle finger to her lips.
"If you're extra special good, maybe Auntie Nicky will get you a toy-"
"Toy! Toy!" the small girl exclaimed, having exhausted her two-year-old vocabulary for the day.
"That's right, now be good," Milo side stepped Nicky to plant another kiss on his daughter's forehead, squeezing her tiny hand before backing away. Turning, they nearly both ran smack into the fiery redhead that was wielding a large shopping bag. He smiled, "Hey P.A."
"I let myself in, I hope you guys don't mind," looking on their friend, things seemed as if nothing had changed. Pepper Ann, through all that had happened in their respective lives, remained a constant. Still the obnoxious, stubborn, and strong sprited girl with a soft heart. It was reassuring in a way that nothing else ever could be.
"Not at all, Pepper Ann, and thanks again," Nicky placed a hand on her friend's shoulder for a moment, then allowed her passage to the living room where their friend unceremoniously dumped the bag upside down on the floor and toys of every size and shape spilled out on the pure white carpet. Nicky winced; she hated messes, but stayed silent for the sake of peace and hope that it would be clean up when they returned.
"We'll be back by midnight," Milo called over his shoulder as he opened the door for his companion of nearly twenty years, and then closed the door behind them.
Standing on the front porch, Nicky's face brightened marginally as she stated simply, "At least we made it to the doorstep this time," before falling into Milo's arms. Their lips met, and every repressed emotion inside the house tumbled to the ground.
"I love you, I'm sorry-" were the only words to escape the artist's lips before they were smothered by an uncharacteristically ravenous Nicky Little. She looked down, gasping for air, and leaned back to look in his eyes.
"Milo, you always say that."
"I always mean it, too," he told her, before counter attacking the blonde with the same move. They stumbled down the front walk, entangled in each other's arms in a fit of suppressed passion. She roughly pushed him up against the van, slapping her hands against the cool metal at his back and pinning Milo to the vehicle. She kissed him once, hard, before pulling him close and sliding open the van door. He fell back into the seat, and pulled her in after him.
The last sound heard was the soft 'shake' of a rattle as the door slid shut.
Pepper Ann still couldn't believe she was helping them do...this. But hey, she reasoned inside her head, what were friends for anyway? Jenny was sound asleep in her bed, and the clock ticked past one as she tip-toed down the bare walled, white carpeted hallway. The red-haired girl sighed; she would never understand her friend's decorative taste, or lack there of. Stopping in the bathroom, she twisted the cold faucet on full force and splashed water on her weary face.
The beads of frigid water trickled down her stressed features as she stared coldly at her reflection, and it came to life. "Why are you helping them do this?"
"Because they're my friends."
"You don't sound so sincere anymore. Do you know what you're doing to them, really? And what about Jenny, or Milo's wife-"
"Shut up!" Pepper Ann splashed water at her reflection, turning her back, only to see it again in the shiny white of the bathtub.
"You can't escape what you're doing, you know. You're destroying them both!"
"That isn't true!" she exclaimed, looking down, guilty. "I'm just helping my friends. I'm lucky they even told me about this..."
"Lucky?" her reflection laughed haughtily, "They've been together since you met, but you were so neglectful to the friendship you guys shared that you didn't even notice. And now, seventeen years later, you try to help them out by assisting in an extramarital affair?"
"Sounds worse when you say it," Pepper Ann moped sadly, her face painfully serious. "But I could never betray them like that..."
"You're already betraying Nicky. That's her daughter, you know it too. How do you think Milo and his wife were able to adopt so quickly?"
"Nicky couldn't take care of her then."
"And can barely see her at all, thanks to you."
"Hey!" Pepper Ann, in a childish gesture, stomped her feet angrily. "What they're doing is not my fault! They are adults, responsible for their own actions. If they want to act like children, who am I to stop them?"
"I thought you were their friend. Best friends, right Pepper Ann?"
"I am! We are! I just-" with a huff, Pepper Ann switched out the light, and everything in her sight disappeared. The little voice in the back of her head was still there, but she wasn't doing anything wrong! No, this whole mess wasn't because she didn't offer a stable enough friendship. And it wasn't because she always inadvertently destroyed their relationships, whether out of jealousy or plain old convenience to shatter yet another life.
It just couldn't be, so she suppressed the voice that screamed for attention. The one that screamed out her opinions and morals, and instead chose to turn off her emotions for the night. To shut down, as best as she could manage.
Passing little Jennifer's room, she hung on the doorframe, staring down at the small child: so precious, so innocent. She certainly didn't deserve to be growing up in the midst of this disaster, but what could Pepper Ann do? Nothing, she firmly decided, moving slowly down the white hallway and into the living room, where the soft glow of the muted television cast shadows across the toys scattered through the room.
The digital clock blinked 1:34 A.M. as she collapsed on the couch, staring with empty eyes at the old Fuzzy reruns flashing across the television. And Pepper Ann fell into a restless, yet dreamless sleep, long before the front door opened to reveal two people that were shattered remains of their former selves.
-July 16th, 2002
by Haley (PeteyGal13@aol.com)
-July 16th, 2002