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16 September 2011 @ 12:02 am
FIC: i can't get out of love ;; part 6  
i can't get out of love (a love i had a grip on; now it's gripping me)

Author: Eskimo Jo
Rating: 18
Warning: language, sexuality, substance use.

She finds Emily amidst a group of other UWE freshers, chatting excitedly about some student union bollocks or something. The redhead takes her hand without concern about where her girlfriend has been for the last half hour. Naomi hangs on tightly for ages and watches Emily speak as she herself pounds back disgusting gin and tonics. Moreover, she sees Emily's happiness at this new life stage. Eventually she excuses herself and wanders into the front room which is currently packed with people milling about to horrible music, amongst them 3 wannabe hip-hop stars. The white guy in their crew is hilariously inept half the time as they attempt to get some sort of grimy freestyle going above all the racket. She creeps over to the staircase, leans against the banister and surveys what she can see of the party. It's so reminiscent of the last half of the year and Naomi hates it. Nothing has changed, yet everything has and it's fucking knackering to sort it all out. She catches nearby movement out of the corner of her eye and suddenly Michelle is rushing towards her, her hand grasped knuckle-whiteningly tight over Tony's. She dodges Naomi's glare and proceeds to pull Tony after her up the stairs. They're going to fuck and Naomi can finally admit that they idea is making her stomach churn and froth in disgust. She swallows down the bile and pride. They both taste remarkably sour.

She needs a cigarette badly at this point she decides and she pats down her pockets for the few she has squished in a packet somewhere. Effy materialises out of nowhere beside her and holds out a smoke as some peace offering perhaps. Her new camera is absent leaving tonight to be remembered as only blurred visions... or, hopefully, not at all.

“Cheers, Eff,” Naomi mutters and places the unlit fag between her lips, now looking for her lighter. Usually she's quite polite about lighting up in strangers' homes but right now she doesn't give a flying toss that she's in some bloke's (quite lovely) house. Another kind of smoke drifts by every so often so she doesn't see why a little carcinogenic tobacco mixed in with that would make a bloody bit of difference. Effy leans against the wall, her head falling back with a thud.

“You came,” Effy breathes and Naomi's distracted from her nicotine mission momentarily.

She shrugs. “Emily's idea.”

“You read the story?” she asks as if she already knows the answer, which she clearly does because it's Effy and she's likely orchestrated the whole thing.

Naomi nods slowly, the cigarette dangling between her lips, seemingly forgotten. “Yeah. What was– .”

Effy doesn't wait for her to ask the question before interrupting. “Run into Michelle tonight?”

Literally. “Yeah,” she says and glancing up towards the second floor where no doubt Michelle and Tony were steam-rolling each other into grotesque ecstasy. Naomi didn't mean for her voice to tremble on that single syllable, and she certainly doesn't mean for her whole body to practically catch fire at the thought of what had transpired in the loo already. She consciously steadies her breathing and catches Effy's gaze studying her apathetically. It's time like these when she wonders if Effy cares too much or rather conversely not in the least, and all of this drama is just for sport. Her completely indifferent way of gliding through life would infer a certain aloofness, a carelessness like not much bothers or interests her at all. Such as this moment when she appears almost bored. But then sometimes her obvious curiosity is piqued to the extreme and her eyes act like a hundred needles piercing skin, silently drawing out blood and secrets.

There's a hint of a smile that sneaks out of Effy's mouth after a long pause. “Glad you came.”

She wonders then how much has happened in the weeks that she'd been curled up on the sofa with Ems. Effy's oddly calm for the setting. While she's not a big talker, there's always a certain energy that she exudes at parties and nights out; a sort of high-frequency magnetism that draws boys and girls to her like flies. Her eyes are always larger, her ears are tuned to excitement and promises of chemical freedom. Today, she's softened. A little dissociated perhaps. Probably the result a few too many downers. She rolls her head back and forth against the wall, sighing again. She seems tired, and not just worn out from the party life but more like bone-deep fatigued by life itself. Giving up on her search for her lighter, Naomi plucks the cigarette from her mouth, slips it into a pocket carefully and moves to stand beside her best mate. She takes her hand gently.

“I love you, Eff,” Naomi sighs and off Effy's non-reaction behind closed eyes, she pushes. “Like proper love, you know?”

Effy squints then, simply raises a sceptical eyebrow and regards Naomi coolly. She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a small baggy containing 7 off-white caplets, quite obviously MDMA, and counts them slowly. Twice. As if she expects some to be missing. Then her eyes narrow and she smirks at her friend twitching uncomfortably beside her.

“Everyone loves me,” she says, almost a grimace as her blue eyes seem to glisten and she looks away, up at the dark ceiling. It would be quite cocky if Effy didn't look so pained as she says it.

“Fuck off,” Naomi admonishes with a half-laugh, wiling for once just to be taken seriously. Like Emily used to do. “I mean it.”

Effy sighs, her shoulders heaving with the effort and her gaze distant. She sniffs but Naomi can't be sure if it's due to some leftover ketamine caked to the inside of her nostrils or if her normally detached mate is actually a little wobbly about all of this. Eventually, after a second sniff, she turns to Naomi, her lips curving into a small, genuine smile – such a rare occurrence to see from a Stonem. “I know.” There's something in that gaze that prevents Naomi from needing to ask if the feeling is returned. Maybe it's the softness in the blue depths, the sadness and relief constantly on parade behind the mask, or maybe just that she fucking knows Effy the best anyone can hope to. Naomi has no doubt that it's requited. They don't say it, and never have until now, but it's obvious enough to them both. Effy winks and holds her hands up as if she's taking a photograph, makes a click with her tongue and smirks.

She can't explain it. Maybe it's the alcohol, the stress or perhaps Effy's up to her old tricks and there was some random happy substance slipped into her drink earlier. But regardless of the motivations or explanations, Naomi grabs Effy with two hands grasping either side of a bony face and licks her lips. She kisses Effy then, and not like those times when they'd been high at raves and just done it for the hell of it, for the sweet feeling of something against their own lips. Those were tender moments almost, borne out of some shared sense of transitory universal empathy and need for physical pleasure. No, this is much different. It's harder and desperate as Naomi presses her lips roughly against Effy. For her part, the brunette merely plays along, never getting too involved but never resisting either. Exactly the same way as she lives her life these days. (Who ever thought Effy Stonem would be predictable?) It doesn't dissuade the blonde however as she attempts a different angle; maybe that will help. She can't quite seem to grasp as hard as she wants; feeling the sharp cheek bones in her hands makes her feel like a lumbering giant. Clumsy and careless.

She reckons even despite that, it's nice... but there's something missing. There's no rush. No wind lapping against her skin. No manic sense of freedom. She pulls back, dropping her hands as if Effy's skin is suddenly scalding her palms. Effy snorts lightly and turns to stare back out at the crowd, unfazed.

“Doesn't work, does it?”

Naomi grimaces and searches around the room, hoping Emily hadn't just caught that little outburst of irrationality. Effy merely wipes a thumb along her own bottom lip, smirking, and still awaiting Naomi's no doubt snide reply.

“What?” Naomi's exchanged snide for petulant, it appears. She's playing dumb.

“Trying to force yourself to love someone else.”

The blonde can feel Effy's stare crawling over her face, studying every minuscule reaction to the words, to the meaning. She purposely looks elsewhere, unfortunately landing on a very displeased looking Katie Fitch. She'd obviously seen the the exchange. An eyebrow arches and Naomi rolls her eyes, shrugging off the silent condemnation. The ceiling has a fascinating pattern on it.

“I don't know what you're talking about, Eff.” She does, sort of. But she'd really rather not. Convincing herself that she has no clue may actually work if she wishes hard enough, she reckons. It's done so in the past. There's a playful, distinctly feminine shriek from upstairs and Naomi winces automatically.

Shit. Her cover is most definitely blown.

“Of course you don't,” Effy muses and when Naomi glances over at her mate, the brunette's looking to Katie and nodding slightly. Katie winks back and Naomi's just fucking confused. Effy pulls out her mobile and looks at the time, and almost immediately, as if on some cue, a skinny boy stumbles towards her, his mop of curly hair flopping down over one eye. He sidles up to her suggestively, a wide smirk easing over his face. He hands the brunette a cup of some sort of alcohol, grinning.

“Here you are,” he states and takes a long gulp of his own drink, knocking the thin plastic against Effy's with a dull clack. “I never did get to lay you,” he slurs. “Long time to wait, yeah? So what do you say? Old times?”

Effy blinks slowly and Naomi can't recall who this boy is but he's certainly not someone they'd been at college with. It wasn't too surprising however since Effy seemed to know the entire male population of Bristol under the age of 25. Her gaze darts to Katie who's petting some rugby bloke's thigh teasingly on the sofa. The couple both look to Effy and the lad's eyes light up.

Oh, for fuck's sake. Naomi wants to ease out of this situation, or trainwreck that she is certain is about to commence. She pushes off the wall but Effy's hand snaps out to grab her arm, stalling her progress. Yet the younger girl doesn't even look in her direction. Instead she's focused again on the boy. “Okay, Jake. I promised, didn't I?” She doesn't mention anything about underpants or Cassie, and it's probably better that way. The blonde has a terrible feeling that she's about to be persuaded into something she really would rather not do, let along think about ever in this life. Effy nods towards Katie one last time and the twin rises, tugging her new toy along with her and make their way to Effy. His rugby shirt reads Levan on the backside.

An orgy is just about the last thing Naomi can contemplate at the moment. Michelle's upstairs screwing the shit out of Tony and Effy wants to have an orgy in the room next door? Her stomach heaves with the thought. Frankly, fucking Effy, Katie or either of these blokes (or multiple combinations of) is just too much to handle. Where in sodding hell is Emily? Her eyes scan the room for her girlfriend to no avail. Effy pushes Jake up the stairs after Katie and her man, pausing only to turn to Naomi. Her hand finally drops and the sullen girl lets out a sigh of relief.

“Wait here.” Without further explanation, Effy heads up the staircase after Jake and Katie. Naomi has no bleeding idea what she's even supposed to be waiting for and minutes pass without event. She sips her near empty drink. There's a lot of sound coming from above and the unbidden image of Katie and Effy's little foursome of fun invades her imagination. She shudders in response and tries to think of anything but that. It would be wonderful if that other thing could, for once, be her actual girlfriend who appears to have been abducted by aliens or something. She's nowhere to be found lately.

Suddenly there's a flurry of movement above and another shrill cry from one of the bedrooms. Interest piqued, Naomi gazes up the dim staircase trying to discern what's happening. She can hear Tony yell after Michelle, but he sounds amused more than anything. The blonde jumps slightly when Michelle appears out of thin air and comes stomping down the steps at a reckless pace. Her mascara is smeared and she wipes angrily at her eyes as she passes, hissing, “Don't start,” at Naomi before fleeing into the crowd of people.

A sharp whistle catches Naomi's attention and her head snaps up to the railing and peers up, making Effy's silhouette out in the shadows, down to her bra – and knickers presumably. A small baggy with what appears to be white powder dangles from her fingers and Naomi has to resist the urge to scoff as a bit spills carelessly out, sparkling, floating down like angel dust. Before she has the chance, Effy speaks, her words sharp and quiet despite the noise in the house.

“You're not an immovable object, Naomi.”

Then she melts back into the darkness above as if she was never really there at all.

The world around Naomi crackles and snaps. As if stepping from a fog, all the sounds become deafening in their intensity, all the shouts and murmurs of everyone else are clear and her vision, once clouded and indistinct, paints vivid pictures of her surroundings. It's altogether terrifying. Too loud, too bright, too intense. She flees in the general direction Michelle had gone and in the process pushes through a writhing mass of sweat-stained bodies, past faces of people both recognisable and alien at the same time; the same faces she sees at all these parties, the same faces that make her wonder if time is on some sort of infinitesimal, inescapable loop. Nothing is ever quite lucid. Nothing fully real after a night like this. The blinding light of the kitchen flashes against her retinas, momentarily blinding her as she scrambles around briefly like a newborn pup climbing out of the den for the first time. Her irises strangle themselves, constricting against the harsh light making her eyes bluer and icier than normal. Adjustment happens eventually, as it always does. Inevitably.

The first thing she focuses on is Emily, a beacon of blazing crimson amidst a turbulent sea of nameless, meaningless people. The crowd around her is thick like seaside fog, and she pushes roughly through, drawn to the flashing red. Emily hasn't even noticed her yet and that itself pricks at her suddenly volatile emotions, something between loneliness and anger rippling over her skin at the realisation. Her safe harbour barely acknowledges her presence as she finally makes it into Emily's space. She smiles briefly and continues her conversation with that blonde from before. That little Scottish girl from Roundview. It stings when Naomi notices the crinkle around Emily's eyes as her mouth stretches into a large grin and the glimmer returns to her brown eyes, making them appear unbelievingly warm, almost like melted dark chocolate. Naomi catches herself not focusing on Emily as much anymore. Instead her eyes are skimming the faces for someone else. There are more people speaking around and to Emily, voices from every direction, bombarding her with a cacophony of noise. Submersed completely, Emily doesn't mind, just carries on.

Naomi elbows in even closer, stretching down to put her lips to the shell of a rose-pink ear. I need air. I'm going outside.

Emily nods and gives her a quick kiss but Naomi's not even certain she heard the words.

She doesn't run. Not this time. Her progress is steady and slow, hesitant actually. The back garden is still populated by the smokers and stoners, taking hits on a massively unnecessarily large bong. A few girls are bawling in one corner, the most upset of the bunch vomits on another's heels to a chorus of squeals and cries. There's no one she cares to see here. Her walk takes her out past the rows of wheelie bins alongside the wall of the house and across the path of a skittish dormouse. Other than the thumping echo of noise, it wouldn't even appear as if there's a party inside the house. No one is out front, except for a single girl sat on the kerb, moonlight glinting off her flashy sequined top. Naomi approaches with caution even though she is entirely certain who it is. Without asking, she takes a seat beside the older girl.

“Hey,” she says softly.

Michelle glances over and smiles sadly. “Hey.”

A horn beeps urgently in the distance along the A38. Other than the occasional car, cricket or frog, (and the low bass from the party) it's the only sound in the quiet neighbourhood. Naomi lets out a long, slow breath before looking over at Michelle, watching her carefully as she picks at pebbles between her feet. Mascara is smeared again, she's maybe been crying a bit. “What happened?” Naomi finally asks, finding both her voice and the courage to speak.

The older girl, groans in irritation and shrugs. “He just wasn't into me, into it,” she says. “And honestly, neither was I. A little distracted.”

“Why?” It is an innocently ignorant query. She hadn't even thought before the words came out.

Michelle allows a derisive laugh to bubble up and peers at Naomi, one eyebrow raised and her stare pointed with mild, yet amused, accusation.

Naomi's eyes grow wide when she realises her part in all of it. “Oh.” She quickly and guiltily breaks the gaze and looks across the street. They fall into silence again, listening to the chorus of grass frogs bleating in the gardens of the neighbourhood. Michelle shakes her head again, clearing the tension that has settled in her shoulders.

“He's not been into me for a while.” She gazes up at the night sky. Stars flicker, pushing their way out from behind a thin layer of cloud and battling against the streetlamps for recognition. “Didn't help that those half-naked bundle of morons stumbled in and totally ruined any little bit of mood that was happening.”

Michelle continues, perfectly content to just talk it out, not even concerned with any response Naomi may have to her confessions. “I just... I keep trying to piece it all together, like we used to be. We were good, you know? Once upon a time. But... I feel like he doesn't even see me anymore, just looks right on through. Always has done though.” She sighs again, pausing as if gathering her thoughts together or preparing her courage for an honest admission. “It's like clinging to a runaway horse with him these days. Can't figure out where we're going or what the fucking point even is.” A sad laugh escapes her throat. “So much for true love, yeah?”

The blonde snorts but she's not sure if it's a sound of agreement or not. All she can think about is Emily, not Tony, not any of Michelle's issues.

“But you and Emily are good, aren't you?” she asks, interpreting the sound as agreement.

Naomi winces at the question because it dredges up all sorts of feelings she'd rather not think about right now. It assaults her with her own questions and the worst is how it reminds her of what happened, what continues to happen with Michelle. What that would do to Emily if she knew. God, she really is a completely shit person.

“Yeah,” she lies. She'll force herself to believe it one way or another. There's a feeling of green eyes watching her carefully, sympathetically. Empathetically. Fuck. “Not everything can be perfect all the time,” the younger girl adds quickly as a logical reason for her melancholy, but it ends up being more of a feeble excuse.

It catches her off guard when she feels a gentle arm snake over her shoulders and pull her in so she's resting comfortably against Michelle, laying her head on the older girl's shoulder as if it's second-nature. Michelle gives a squeeze and almost nuzzles her cheek against the crown of Naomi's forehead. Everything is so warm and natural at the moment nestled against a soft, accommodating body. And really, she hadn't realised how much of a difference a simple hug could make. It's been so long. Something about the gesture tears apart the ropes and barriers that Naomi normally kept so immaculately strong. Before she even realises it, her voice is drifting out, twirling and dancing in the night air between them.

“I don't know what to be if I'm not in love with her.” Her voice is timid and the admission is surprising. She'd never even considered that issue regardless of how true it suddenly seems. That's the fucking awful thing about love. Once you do it once, you can never get out of it again. It opens you up in a way that's impossible to ever force shut afterwards. It's like a sick addiction, a habit that you'll never ever break cos even if you stop loving someone, and vow never to love anyone again, and magically if you somehow succeed in that, you're still not really free of love cos you're resisting it, thinking about it, denying it. Not being in love can be just as consuming as the real thing. Or, as many people do, you can block up that entrance to yourself with cement and barbed wire and poisonous words and feigned indifference, but it's still there. Right beneath all those makeshift “No trespassing” threats. Someone opened it and you can never, ever properly close it again. She supposes that's why when it ends, it's a broken heart: Love rips open the hole and then covers it will flowers, beauty and smiles but when it leaves, all you're left with is withered leaves and the gaping empty space. The only wound time can never heal.

So, really, when it comes down to it, love is trap. It's best just never to ever love anyone – but unless you're a legitimate psychopath, that's downright impossible. She hadn't been lying when she'd told Emily that she was the one person that could ruin her life. Naomi tried not falling in love. She tried really fucking hard. But she fell in and got thrashed about and ripped apart. Now all that's left is to keep swimming, one safe island to the next. Naomi doesn't like this at all, doesn't like what it means. One island is plenty.

“And if I don't love her, I'll just have to love someone else.” And maybe that's worse. Just another island. Never-ending.

She'd been about Emily since she was fucking 12-years-old. It was about liking Emily, being confused by Emily, trying not to love Emily, loving Emily so hard that it hurt to breathe sometimes, loving her poorly, winning her back, trying to recapture everything that they had been. It's almost a decade of loving one person in so many different ways. She can't actually remember what life was like before that, and she clearly can't grasp what it would be like without it. She can't just let it go. It's always been Naomi and Emily. Emily and Naomi. “I just ... Chelle, I don't know who I am if I'm not in love with her.”

“Yeah,” Michelle agrees softly and Naomi has no doubt that the older girl knows exactly what she's trying so ineloquently to say.

“But I'm so lonely even when I am.” Her voice catches on the hitch of a soft sob. Oh god, maybe she really had been slipped something tonight cos this sort of sharing isn't ever supposed to happen, not with anyone who isn't Effy or Emily. Then again, Michelle is a friend --a new one-- but still, a friend. The hand that once had a firm grip on her shoulder has evaporated; instead she feels stirringly delicate fingers passing through her hair in a languid rhythm, over and over and soft cheek pressed even harder against her. It loosens her tongue even further. “When we were younger, it didn't matter where we were, whether it was in a room with 5 people or in assembly with 200, I could feel her watching me and visa versa. We'd catch each other all the time, like some sort of crazy psychic connection. Like it was meant to be. I learnt to read those eyes so easily. For so long, we barely had a need to speak. Then I fucked up. More than once. Well bad. Then we didn't speak on purpose when we should have.”

Michelle lets out a woeful sigh as if she's familiar with all of this but doesn't say a word.

“But I could still read her like a book and it fucking hurt like hell and then... we lost it. I shut down, she shut down, I dunno what happened. But we fixed it and it came back. Lately though, Emily used to... she used to like to watch. You know? Eye contact. But we stopped being able to meet each other's stares across crowded rooms, then she started shagging with her eyes closed more and more often, clenched sometimes. Now we only do it in the dark. I just can't see her.”

“Are you looking in the right place though?” There's something wildly loaded behind Michelle's question but Naomi passes over it, not willing to deal with that yet. Sensing that she's not going to get an answer, the brunette leans away, her hand falling from Naomi's hair. “The thing is, Naomi, nothing lasts forever... but nothing ever completely changes either. It just sort of bends.”

It's such a sodding cliché. It's worse that it's completely true as well. The blonde runs a hand over her face and huffs. Her head tilts back, gazing towards the unchanging stars. Cygnus catches her eye again but her attention drifts aside, falling on Vulpecula instead, a modern constellation, lonely without a Greek myth companion. These stars, they're constant. For all she knows, they'll last forever. They've been around this long, haven't they? If they die, she won't be around to see it anyway. People are sort of like stars, she reckons; they don't change much and by the time they do, she'll probably be dead anyway. And the past. You can't change that either, not even if you try to rewrite it or erase it completely from your memory. That doesn't mean it never happened; it just means that you lose sight of the truth. It's a dirty type of freedom. It's cheating.

Michelle laughs as if she's thought of some great joke. “I wanted Tony to change so badly at first. He was a proper arse. And then he did, completely, became the total opposite of Tony in a matter of seconds. Then I wanted him to change back for me cos I wasn't ready to deal with not having him be Tony after all. And then he did. He was good. Then what I had wanted before came again and he was back to himself completely. Everything's a mess. We run in circles. I thought I changed too. Thought he made me a better person. Now I'm not so sure.”

It saddens Naomi to think that the person she is at this second, sat on the pavement outside a shitty house party with no direction to her life, is the person she's fated to always come back to time and time again. She resists the idea. It seemed like the truth moments ago when she thought of everyone else in the world, but put into her own experience, and in relation to her own desires, it's a horrible thought. People must be able to change. Surely, not everyone is stuck. But she can't think of a single viable argument disproving the theory. It's all too depressing to consider at the moment.

Michelle cocks her head to the side, solemnly nodding to herself. “I think it's time to let it go, if I can.” She doesn't sound too sure of herself and the younger girl is not surprised.

“I don't think I could ever let go, yeah? That ability to just, Christ, catch someone's eye and to hold onto it like you couldn't look away if you tried? And you try like hell to break free but it's just inescapable, or something. And to have someone else looking at you the exact same way? I can't let go of that.” Her blue eyes are focussed and clear despite the darkness. Determined. Penetrating. Imploring Michelle to respond.

A doleful smirk crosses over the other girl's lips as she breaks Naomi's gaze and stares at the pavement instead. “I don't think anyone's ever looked at me like that. At least that I know of, and that's sort of the point isn't it?”

It clicks, the same sort of thing that had switched on back in the loo. A rush. The words come out before she has a chance to censor them or even consider their meaning.

“Someone does.” She thinks back to all the parties, all the outings, lunch dates, club nights and the direction of her attention has slowly shifted almost completely. She'd been trying to measure the future in terms of Emily so precisely that she hadn't been aware she'd been losing control, losing awareness of the momentum of the other variable: Michelle.

She watches curiously as Michelle's eyes close and she appears to just freeze the moment, as if she savouring a particularly delectable treat. What had been a downcast frown turns up into a tiny smile. Taking in a deep breath, she slowly opens her eyes, first gazing across to the rows of cars across the road before turning towards Naomi. There's very little hesitation in her next move and it's likely because they both expect it. Her lips part almost immediately upon meeting Michelle's and her hands don't clench at her sides but reach out with open palms and zealous fingertips to grasp a curved waist or thread through brown curls. Doesn't even matter anymore. She feels reciprocal warmth encircling her and cupping her cheek. When she pulls back first, it's a shock to see Michelle's face – not like before because she hadn't been expecting it, but because she is expecting it this time. She feels the pull in her bones. Magnets, all right. Fucking magnets.

The brunette clambers to her feet, extending a hand to Naomi and pulling her upright, a grin spread wide over her lips.

“Want to walk me home?” Her corresponding coy smirk leaves no doubt to the her real intentions and then it becomes far more real than anything had been up until now. It's wrong, and it's scary and Naomi can't help it. Her mind makes an excuse to flee before her body can even attempt it.

Panic rises as her excuse becomes clear. “I...” Say it, Naomi. Say it and run, you stupid cow. “I can't. Emily...” She thumbs towards the house where her oblivious girlfriend, who doesn't deserve any of this, not again, is waiting.

The disappointment is obvious, the embarrassment overtaking the other girl's features as a faint pink tinge colours her cheeks under the streetlights. “Right, sorry.” She backs away awkwardly from Naomi, from the truth, and from the situation. “I'm just – I'm going to go. See you around, yeah.”

The words stop, wait, and yes catch all at once in the back of Naomi's throat rendering her speechless as she watches Michelle walk away down the dark street. It's too late anyway. She escapes back into the party, overcompensates and stays tight beside Emily for the rest of the night, dripping with unconfessed sin. Having bitten the apple she shouldn't still be allowed in the garden. Only once does she falter upon seeing Effy staring impassively at her, a look of ridicule fluttering over her features before she disappears again into the crowd. This party is shit after all.

“October is the fallen leaf, but it is also a wider horizon more clearly seen. It is the distant hills once more in sight, and the enduring constellations above them once again.”
– Hal Borland

Early the next day, Naomi crawls out of bed before Emily wakes and creeps to the living room. Her empty and abused stomach demands its soothing morning tea. She only makes enough for herself and settles back in front of the noise of the TV, trying to distract herself from the pandemonium in her mind. It's news. Better than football.

Avon and Somerset Police are searching for a late-20s male in connection with a fatal hit and run off Gloucester Rd. in Bishopston last night. According to eye witness accounts, a yellow 2011 BMW convertible with a blue stripe was seen fleeing the scene where a young woman was brutally struck and killed by the swerving vehicle heading north as she was crossing the road on a green pedestrian signal. The incident took place around 2 AM. No information about the identity of the deceased has been released but she is described as early-20s, brown hair, hazel eyes and slim build. The same vehicle is suspected in another hit and run last weekend. Alcohol is alleged to be a factor. Anyone with information about the driver of the vehicle is urged to come forward to West Country Crimestoppers at 0800 555 11 or your local constabulary. There has been a rash of fatal road traffic and drink-driving accidents of this nature in Bristol during the recent summer months, spurning city council to look into new...

Silence seems to descend quite rapidly despite the movement of the reporter's lips. There is no sound in the small room apart from the crash of a half-empty mug of tea against the wooden coffee table. Hot liquid splashes across scattered papers, dripping down between cracks onto sock-clad feet. The blonde takes no notice, her gaze fixed on the television screen and Andrew Plant now reciting banal roadworks reports for south Bristol. She can't hear his words any longer and his face as morphed into a strange blur. She blinks strongly and it clears, unexpected tears squeezed out by the action. She's no clue what's happening at the moment, or why her body has taken it upon itself to cry. A quick brush of a sleeve removes all traces and she takes a deep breath, concentrating on the actual situation. Glancing down, she wiggles her toes, feeling the dampness of the tea soaking into her socks. She's created a mess. She's brilliant at that.

The moment she looks back at the anchorman on Points West, her mind replays what he had just said minutes earlier. Fatal. Bishopston. 2 AM. Early-20s. Brown hair, hazel eyes. Brutal. Fatal... Fatal. She doesn't even recognise that the description of the vehicle matches one that she's vaguely familiar with and belongs to one of those arsehole Rovers Reserves Katie used to go on about. Her attention instead is devoted to the victim. Deceased.

A much delayed gasp escapes her mouth as the seriousness of the report hits her full-on. Her mind, once foggy with half-drunken memories, is suddenly catapulted back to clarity as the events of the previous night flood past her eyes.

“Want to walk me home?” The coy smile. The scared refusal.

It's too much. It can't be that way.

The blonde drops her head into her hands, trying to take an adequate breath. She fails and only draws in a stuttering gasp in its place. Emily wanders aimlessly into the room and spots her girlfriend trembling on the sofa in front of the news. The spilt tea has pooled on the once veneered table surface and has likely already stained the carpet below. At a loss for what caused this breakdown, Emily tentatively perches on the edge of the sofa cushions beside Naomi. She's all too aware of the slight shift away from her.

“Naoms?” Emily's voice is practically a whisper as she reaches for one of Naomi's hands, noting how clammy it feels and how much she's shaking. Snatching it away almost as quickly, Naomi falls back, clamping her hands over her face and breathing out loudly. Emily gazes over, genuine concern etched into every crevice of her face. “What happened?”

Naomi can hear the words now. Silence is no longer plugging up her senses but she's still reluctant to acknowledge the sound. What did happen? What the fuck happened last night? What was supposed to be merely a deep breath turns into a sob before she has time to reign it in. Her chest tightens painfully and she resists the urge to grab at it. Fuck. She's not sure what the hell is happening to her right now, but it's familiar and horrible and holy fuck does she just want it to go away. It doesn't do her bidding, as is the case with most emotions, especially lately. She's losing control of them, and that knowledge alone may be her greatest fear. Maybe if she just sits here, refusing to answer the question, Emily will eventually leave her alone.

She knows Emily better than that however and the possibility is slim to none.

Dropping her hands from their protective shield around her red-rimmed eyes, she glances over at the red-head. “It's fine. Just...” Her mind searches for some excuse, something other than 'I'm pretty sure it's my fault that a girl that I may possibly and actually love more than you is dead right now.' (Love? Where the fuck did that come from anyway?) There are thousands of other options and they all sound fucking ridiculous even in her own brain. “There was a video of the oil spill from last month.” Christ. That will never fly. Emily's not a fucking retard.

Emily peers down at the spilt tea, ruined table and carpet before back up to Naomi's face with obvious disbelief. “Right.” At least she appears to recognise the futility of pushing the issue at the moment but her eyes are terribly sad, as if she knows that Naomi's hiding things again and just doesn't have the spirit left to plough through the swamp of excuses anymore. When Emily Fitch gives up, the world itself appears hollow and hopeless. Slowly and guiltily, Naomi scoots to the edge and stands up carefully, plucking the toppled mug from its resting place and scooping up the wet newspaper. As she does, she notes that Emily's not even looking at her now, her gaze instead fixed blankly on the television newscast and the outlook on weather for the next few days. Still not looking. Not anymore. Always her fault.

“Sorry about this,” Naomi mutters and Emily nods, her attention still rapt on the 5-day forecast. It's supposed to be cloudy with a chance of rain. How utterly predictable. The blonde opens her mouth to offer further make-believe excuses for her behaviour but Emily doesn't seem interested in her lies, or anything at all.

After disposing of the mess, she creeps back into the front room. Katie must still be asleep in her room, or not home at all. Depends how that orgy went over. Gathering her jacket and slipping into her trainers, Naomi stares at Emily. She chews on her bottom lip for a moment, worrying it between her teeth in a bid to gain the courage for what she needs to say. Everything up to this point has just been one failure after another. Failure to communicate, failure to act, failure to tell the truth, failure to trust, failure to love. Her heart thumps faster as she faces the reality of yet another episode.

“I'm leaving.” The words slip past her lips as if carried by some other entity inside her body. Emily turn to her, gazing over her shoulder at the blonde and squinting at her announcement.

“You sure you're okay?” she asks again, still suspicious as to Naomi's state of mind but allowing her an opening to tell the truth, almost pleading with her. Just once.

“Fine. I'm leaving though, Ems.” Struggling, she wants to add “for good, forever, you” but those words never make it out. They can't. She's never said them before. Emily has always been the one to call it quits: in her bedroom before the Love Ball, on the rooftop, after Goa. She'd tried once, right before Freddie's shed party but it had never really been final and she told Emily to leave, never said she was done. Besides, Emily hadn't even truly moved out before Naomi was there, tears streaming down her face and begging for another chance. She can't do it for real, for certain, with any actually sense of finality. Naomi's not sure if she actually knows how to end things, even if she truly could build up the courage to form the words. Her eyes begin to burn around the corners, a threatening build-up on the verge of spilling over. She can't form them, partly cos she knows she's still in love with Emily, a little bit at the very least (maybe more with the idea in all honesty) and partly because she's Naomi Campbell. Simple as that. She's defined more by what she doesn't do than what she does. Defined by failures.

The redhead looks her over curiously. “Okay, Naoms.” She's obviously not sure what to make of the comment. “See you later. Get some sleep, yeah?” A small smile tugs at her lips and Naomi rushes over, laying a brief but hard kiss to Emily's mouth before darting back across to the door. Emily's brow furrows and she stares at her girlfriend for a few more moments in confusion before turning back to the telly. Naomi rushes out of the flat, slamming the door behind her.

She makes it just down the pavement in the general direction of her mum's flat when she chokes on her own breath causing her to come to a full-stop, doubled over and gasping for air. Her heart is beating a million times a minute, feeling erratic and panicked. Her skin is covered in a fine sheen of sweat and her vision blurry, her head dizzy. She contemplates running back those few paces to Emily and Katie's flat, finding solace there but the thought causes a second wave of anxiety to wash over her. Not caring who's about, she sits down on the pavement, right in front of some sweetly-scented shrubs, comforted by the fact that Emily can't see her from the window. Her breathing slows to a more moderate rate and her heart, once destined to break a rib or two with its erratic pounding, is beating a tad more normally. She gulps in the fresh air as her eyes clench tightly shut.

She's dead.

Michelle is dead.

Anxiety rises quickly again, overtaking Naomi's rational brain, spiralling her thoughts into paranoia, fear and guilt. Guilt. That's it. That's why all of this feels so bloody familiar. It just like that fucking carpark roof. She'd fucked Emily up for good, fucked them both up monumentally and seemingly permanently. But at least, well, at least Emily was alive despite Naomi's actions, her inaction. It rips and tears pieces of Naomi's chest in the process of being recognised. If she had just done something, said something more. If she had just said those fucking words that she had felt, Michelle would have stayed slightly later and wouldn't have been in the road at that moment. If she had just agreed to go home with Chelle the way her body had been screaming at her to, they maybe would have taken their time, or rushed even quicker, anything not to be in that road at that precise moment in time. It was just a series of fucking 'What ifs' and they all rested on Naomi's shoulders. Her inability to do a single one of them, not a simple single fucking one, has now left her friend dead. God, just a minute difference would have changed a life.

If she had just kissed her longer.

Everything in her body had begged at her to do just that, down to each individual molecule whirling in every cell. Except Naomi's bloody conscience, and look where that got her: a panic attack on a public road after being too much of a sissy to tell Emily even a smidgen of the truth. Always. It's always like this.

She fucks up; she fucks over the people she loves the most.


Bloody hell. The idea that she could ever put herself, Michelle Richardson and love in the same sentence together had never even fucking occurred to her. Not when Emily was also closely affiliated with those same words. Not until now, or perhaps last night but she had been too flipping stubborn to admit that when she had the chance, or even allow herself to ponder the possibility prior to now. She'd adamantly championed her undying love for the only girl who had ever loved her back; that girl who'd flipped her life upside down and made it seem right-side up again. She owed Emily so much, and loving her was the least she could do in return. Except she loved too much, then not enough, then in the wrong way, then too late, then pretended to, pretended so fucking hard that she'd convinced herself even of her own lie. God, she really is a cunt. After all Emily had given up and given her, what she really deserves is the truth. Still, it's a frightening concept. One that causes fear to boil in the pit of her stomach and her limbs to turn to mush. Truth is simple. But it is hard.

Her fingers tickle the keys of her mobile, tapping buttons and before she's even aware, it's ringing through to a familiar number. Just for moment however before the answerphone interrupts, signalling that the phone is off. Hi, you've reached Michelle. I'm not here but leave me a message and I'll return your call. Ta!

Naomi gulps again, strangling her own cry with admirable willpower, presses the power-off button and stuffs her mobile back into her pocket roughly. Pushing herself up, she takes a shaky step away from the shrubbery and glances up at Katie's bedroom window. There's obviously no one there but she feels the spectre of her own terror watching her from afar. She can't just keep doing nothing. She can't keep putting things off until something else slams her into action. She'd fallen into that trap far too many times. It was how she had lived college, how she was still living – and now it's cost her friend's life.

Friend. Fucking friend. Freddie had been a friend. Michelle had been something else. Her heartbeat feels erratic again, feeling as if it's jumping around without tethering, as if it's been set loose to wreak havoc in her chest and pummel the rest of her into reluctant submission. She fucking loved that girl even despite it not making sense, despite their differences, despite loving Emily too. Despite everything, that was what had been boiling in the pit of her stomach since that day in the park. That had been what she'd been trying to tell Michelle last night. She bloody well loved her. And now she's dead. It's all her fucking fault, all of it. Maybe... Well, up until she had seen that news report, Michelle had been alive. Or perhaps dead. But now she was certainly dead as if the existence of that newscast and her viewing of it could have caused this. Everything she's done has caused this. She takes a few more steps in the direction of her destination, hesitantly and fearful that every moment, every movement will have some new catastrophic result.

She almost jumps out of her own skin when a cat brushes up against her bare legs. She looks down with near-disdain, tries to step away from it but it follows her, looping and sliding around her ankles, a low purr rumbling out of its small body. Its tag glints in the afternoon sun, the name “Erwin” blinding her momentarily. What stupid name for a cat. The blonde hops out of its reach again, stumbles over a crack in the pavement, and catches her balance just in time. Energized somehow, she breaks into a jog briefly and glances back eventually to see it sitting in the middle of the pavement, just calmly watching with an eerie stare.

Naomi runs again.

By some miracle, the blonde drags her body up her front walk, arrives at the familiar blue door and pushes it open. The smell of lentil soup wafts around her nostrils causing a nauseated feeling to permeate her stomach. Her mother drifts out to greet the visitor and smiles at seeing Naomi's face. The younger girl winces at the happiness there and moves lethargically towards the stairs without a hello. Gina watches with interest at such a surly young thing in her midst and leans against the banister as her daughter climbs the steps.

“Oh, honey, Paul and Charlene are popping by for tea tonight if you want to join us. I'm sure they–.”


Gina pauses, squinting a little, trying to figure out the reason for this sulky mood. “Fine, well, your mobile's off, you know. A few of your friends rang while you were out–.”

“Don't care.” Naomi barely stops her progress.

“One said–.”

“Mum!” Naomi groans and turns to sneer down at her mother. “I. Don't. Care. Bloody ridiculous.” She wants to tell her mum to fuck off and leave her to wallow in peace. It's the least she can do after producing such an inadequate human being in her own image. Instead she thumps her feet louder up the stairs.

“Whoever told you life was easy, sweetheart,” Gina calls up the stairs as if sensing the necessity of her motherly advice, “has never lived a day in their life.”

The slam of a door merely provokes a sad shake of her head as the older woman shuffles back to the kitchen to finish preparing whatever strange and otherworldly vegan dish she's experimenting with this week. Naomi enters her bedroom, stares blankly at its unfamiliarity, suddenly feeling like a complete stranger in her own home. She'd stayed with Emily so often in the past weeks, she wasn't sure what she could even call home any longer. Swatting at a clutter of books piled high on her bureau feels oddly cathartic as they tumble to the floor, crashing and falling open. She moves away, impotent anger seeping in torrents from her pores as if it's a wild animal set from from confinement. She's fucking pissed off at herself, Michelle, Effy, Emily, every fucking person for constructing life just this way. She smashes a hand into another stack of old books. They cascade down, narrowly missing her toes but creating a deafening, if momentary, chaotic noise. As she stomps over to her neatly made bed, she trips over a book and stumbles into her nightstand, knocking the lamp over. A cry of frustration escapes from somewhere dark inside her and suddenly the prickle of tears irritates her eyes. They slip forth without a second hesitation, sliding down her cheeks. First from the left eye, then the right. No one said life would be easy; no one's that big a moron. But for fuck's sake, this hard? She angrily plucks the offending book from under her foot, prepared to toss it across the room when she glances down at the image.

It's a battered star map, creased from decades of use. She recognises it as one of the only things her father ever passed down to her and she's tempted momentarily to rip the whole book to shreds. However, resisting that destruction, she glances at the picture itself, dots and lines all meeting in the centre of a sketch of a princess with chains around her wrists. Andromeda, the Chained Woman, Naomi recalls with surprising ease. It had once been one of her favourites.

Slowly collapsing onto her mattress, Naomi traces the image with her finger, navigating around the stars and outwards, finding the constellation of Perseus as well, he who had fallen in love with Andromeda without even realizing it. He had almost fallen from the sky because he had been so taken with her. But Perseus, well, he had also made a decision, acted in time – just in the nick of time; almost at the last moment. He remembered to flap his wings and made a deal with Poseidon to save the princess if he could kill the sea monster. It's all very false and Disney happy-ending to Naomi now, despite any relation she may feel towards the princess or the hero. She throws the book into the corner in disgust.

Fucking fairytales.

Her bedroom is just one reminder after another, layers of memories upon stacks of what were once good intentions. Every piece of paper on her corkboard to each book on her shelf just stings with recollection of a person, time or place. The plush fox on her shelf, the plane ticket stubs from Goa, the empty vodka bottles. It's suffocating. It all just seems to be a tangled web that's trapped her right in this situation with Michelle dead and her relationship with Emily nothing more than a pathetic sham cos she's too much of a daft cow to actually try.

It smells like something's burning down in the kitchen and it's enough to make the sick rise higher. The result is a cascade of unwanted tears and a desperate desire to escape this claustrophobic den of regrets. Naomi jumps off her bed and stomps down the staircase. All she can hear is her nutter of a mum cursing to herself in the kitchen. She doesn't know where she's going, why she's going or what she hopes to accomplish. All she does know is that the weather for the evening is supposed to get slightly chilly. All she can see is that damned weather forecast Emily had been so enthralled by. Pulling a loose cardigan around her shoulders and looking as if she'd just crawled out of the bin, she slips on her flip-flops.

She's so bloody knackered from doing nothing except alternating between crying and raging silently all morning, but staying here won't help anything. She's just killed the girl she loves. Nothing in the world can change that. Not even the ring from her mobile. Glancing down she spies Effy's name pop up. Unable to bring herself to answer it knowing perfectly well what it's going to be about, she swipes at her eyes one last time as she erases any evidence of tears. Literally two seconds after the mobile ceases its shrill call, a beep notifies her of a text message, again from Effy with a simple request to ring her back ASAP. Guilt and grief coagulate into a hard lump in her throat at the idea. She's got too many bloody feelings right now to deal with anyone else's. They're all horrible and malleable, conflicting, confusing, regretful; tangled around her heart, squeezing it and spidering through her mind. They're everywhere and she can't seem to outrun them; the faster she goes, the tighter they cling onto her.

The doorbell dings loudly above her head. She doesn't want to see Paul and Charlene, her mum's batty co-workers from that godforsaken local arts gallery but Gina calls from the kitchen anyway. “Answer that for me, sweetheart!” Clueless fucking cow. She'll open the door and slip out before they get a word in; that's the plan.

Naomi reaches for the doorknob and twists, a sullen demeanour settling over her features as she prepares for the barrage of over-excited greetings. She stuffs down her own emotionality for the moment. Once she's free of this house, she'll breathe again.

But she doesn't, not when she opens the door. Possibly not for a good 2 minutes.

She has to steady herself against the doorframe for a moment as she processes the scene in front of her, trying to gauge whether she's just imagining things. Michelle Richardson is standing on her front steps, with a small smile on her face. The longer Naomi stalls, and as her skin blanches at the sight, the brunette looks more and more confused about the hesitation. She's seeing a ghost.

Everything Naomi had desired to happen has suddenly come around and she's still not certain if she has the strength to make a pact with Poseidon. Those chains seem daunting and the monster over her shoulder even more so. There's so much left undone and unaddressed, still wide open: Emily, guilt, love, every fucking feeling that had been pervading her mind in the last few hours. Her heart beat quickens, inspired by the opposite of anxiety.

“Hi,” Michelle offers, half-coy and half-uncertain, her eyes twinkling with a speckling of bewilderment.

“Hey,” Naomi finally breathes out, her own lips nervously moving of their own accord into the smallest of hesitant smiles. She blinks slowly, taking in the scene. Michelle lets out a long sigh as well, a demure grin spreading further over her cheeks.

In a garden beyond, a hound bays.

alluringcliche: effyalluringcliche on September 17th, 2011 03:20 pm (UTC)
I really liked this. I liked that the ending wasn't completely clear but more open-ended. I always love how you portray the characters. Brilliant job!
Béibhinn Mór-Ríoghain: [skins] effy: smirk & noddoreah on September 24th, 2011 06:53 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading! :D Yep, I purposely left the ending ambiguous. (I mean, I have my own idea what I would like to happen, but as a story I like ambiguous endings just cos there's always quite a spectrum between perfect fantasy and the reality of what perhaps would happen. So I leave it up to other readers to determine what they'd ultimately like to feel for the ending.)

But thank you so much again for making it all the way thru and your lovely comments :) xx
lazy_boo: littlebanglazy_boo on October 9th, 2011 11:32 pm (UTC)
Ummm... what do you mean there's no more? I was devastated when I got to the end of this story, I could have kept reading it forever.
I've been meaning to read this for ages, and during a long sleepless night last night I thought it might be a good opportunity to start. And then I couldn't stop.
I read Echoes a while back, after I was looking for something with an uncommon pairing and a friend suggested it. Michelle and Naomi are an intriguing couple, and I really loved that story (and I still haven't managed to review that either, so I'm sorry).
This one... blew me away. There's such potency in your writing. Poignancy. I was right there through every heart-twisting wrench, every gut-churning hangover. Truly amazing.
I know you left it wide open for a reason, but I wish I could see just a little bit of them being happy. Echoes was so double-edged as well. There's so much drawing them together and simultaneously pushing them apart. In both of these. So yes, I'd love to get a glimpse of them managing to be happy together. Guess I'll have to just imagine.
Thank you for such wonderful work.
Béibhinn Mór-Ríoghain: [skins] m/n: you should never fightdoreah on October 10th, 2011 08:51 pm (UTC)
Ah, I'm sorry! But thank you SOOOoo much. I could have kept writing it forever, tbh, but I figured I didn't want to push it lest people get bored, hehe. And huge thanks to your friend for suggesting it too! That's amazing :D

Honestly, I can't even say thank you enough for your gorg words. They mean loads. And, yeah, I debated about the ending for quite a while. I had 3 or 4 different variations, but I did leave it ambiguously open and not completely depressing so I could write more if I ever felt like it :) But, I think it's true that writing happiness is more difficult than sadness (at least in my case), heh, and I'm just not sure I'm totally up to the challenge cos it's so, so easy to mess up a happy ending. But I will practise and hopefully I'll get to a stage where I don't feel insecure and overwhelmed by the prospect hehe. But I do feel that the double-edged-ness that you point out is .. I dunno, nothing's all or nothing in life :) And I do agree with you, I want to see how they work when they're happy too!! I think it's an important angle to any relationship, cos I think I've explored to death how they can interact/connect/etc, but how they live and grow together is different. I am hoping to tackle that in a sequel I'm writing to Echoes so you won't have to merely imagine it forever (tho there will be angst too *sigh* Gotta have the conflict lol) -- but generally speaking, I want to look at the good side more! :D That's the grand plan anyway.

Thank YOU for your review. It means a lot. :) xx
Ashleythadarkslayer on October 16th, 2011 10:16 pm (UTC)
WOMAN! You and your Michelle/Naomi KILLS me. I just finished this in a marathon read, and I'm absolutely floored.

You really make them so absolutely believable. The really COULD work. I get so wrapped up in the devastatingly beautiful angst, that when I come out of it (ie: right now as I just finished reading) I don't know what to do with myself. Twice. You're going to do this to me TWICE. =) Feel free to do it a third and fourth time if need be. I'm sure I'll manage to "suffer" through it. ;)
Béibhinn Mór-Ríoghain: [skins] lily: rawr!doreah on October 18th, 2011 09:45 pm (UTC)
YAYAY!!! You are amazing :D

It means so much to hear that you believe they could work (and that I managed to manipulate them in a way to be effective in inspiring that belief). Cos with so-called "crackships" that's like... so important to me. It's all well and good to shove two hotties/two fav characters together and say they're a ship, but another to accurately explore and hopefully explain why and how they actually do match up.

And OMG Emily quoting at me? All of the hugs to you. Hehehe. Just... yeah. I can't express my appreciation (and the blushing) I have right now. Thank you a million times for such awesome words. :D xx
jennabee123: cassiejennabee123 on October 23rd, 2011 10:34 pm (UTC)
can i just say...
I Love You, that is all.

your stories i love them all and they are always unexpected but so true and always lovely and make me feel so much and miss these characters.