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Read after Black Sun 017.
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Point of View: Angela
Featured Characters: Angela Mercy, Julian Hollinger
Word Count: 2296
Angela checks in on her best friend.
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Angela knocked. And knocked. And knocked again. To be fair, she knocked for at least fifteen minutes nonstop before she started getting worried. Julian hadn’t answered a text for days, and it had been a good two weeks since Angela saw her face. Her best friend pretty much hadn’t existed since school ended, save for the week she came to the rescue with cookies and raunchy college movies then spent the entire time curled up in bed being clung to while Angela bemoaned the loss of that jerk Caleb Whelen.
That was the bestie she loved. The one that was present. Felt stuff. Not the weird shell that returned to school in December and wandered the halls just going through the motions like some sort of ghost. For a tiny brief moment Angela got to see her, and now she was what? Holed up in the house again?
Angela wasn’t stupid. Julian’s parents just up and vanished. That was bad enough all by itself, but then she got placed with that foster family and… It was TRAUMA. Julian had all the signs of trauma, physical and mental. But the girl wouldn’t explain what happened. You’d think her fucking therapist would handle it, considering that was her JOB, but instead she wanted to keep Julian locked in her own house like a goddamn prisoner. Away from all of her friends – the people who ACTUALLY CARED about her and could help her.
Clearly it was a shit-ass idea, because Angela had just spend another ten minutes beating on the door with no reply.
“JULIAN! JULIAN I KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE! IF YOU’RE DEAD, I’M GOING TO BE PISSED AS SHIT.”
Kicking the door with her heeled foot, Angela backed up to the bird feeder dangling nearby from a hook screwed in to the porch. She tilted it until a key fell in to her hand.
When she let herself in to the Hollinger home, she was immediately hit with warm, stale air. Like no one had opened a door or window in ages, or even was in the house. The air conditioning wasn’t even on, making it all the worst considering it was the middle of July.
“Shit. Please don’t be dead.” she muttered under her breath. “JULIAN? I’VE ENTERED THE PREMISES.” Angela called out again. Silence her only response.
The kitchen was her first destination. There weren’t any dirty dishes and when she peered in to the trash can she couldn’t tell how recent the garbage in there could be. Nothing organic was rotting up the joint to give her a hint either. On opening the fridge she found it completely empty save for a nearly empty half gallon of milk. She snatched it out to check the expiration date and sniff it. Still good. Julian was eating SOME thing at least. And the milk was still fresh, so she was still alive recent enough to buy and consume the thing.
Angela moved through the bottom floor, flicking on all the lights and checking the place room by room. She even went down in the creepy-as-fuck basement just to make sure the girl wasn’t murdered and hidden down behind the broiler. By the time she got to the second floor, Angela was getting antsy. All the lights were out up there too, including Julian’s room. She wasn’t in ANY of them. Angela thought for sure she might’ve been taken refuge in her parents’ bed, but that turned up empty.
Okay. Okay, don’t panic. Maybe she had an appointment.
No, it’s never on Fridays. She SHOULD be here.
Oh god, what if she hung herself in the attic?
Shit. Fuck. No… No. Julian wouldn’t do that.
The attic was the one place she hadn’t yet looked, though. And now Angela was remembering every horror movie ever that took place in old Victorian homes, where everybody in the family just up and vanished or died. Her gut twisting and turning, she eased down the hall to the very back of the house where a narrow set of steps waited. Step by creaky step she climbed upwards. At the top of the stairs, the attic door was ever so slightly ajar.
Great. That definitely meant someone was in there. Whelp. Time to get murdered by her possessed best friend.
Angela pushed the door open, and as expected, there was Julian. Sitting in the middle of the fucking attic floor, still in her pajamas and looking creepy as all hell. No lights were on, (which was NOT typical for Julian, she hated the dark), but all around her arranged on the floor were plastic glow-in-the-dark stars.
“Heeeey, honey. Wh-what are you doing up here?” Christ, she was stuttering like a dork. Her bestie wasn’t ACTUALLY possessed. That shit didn’t happen in real life.
“It’s trying to burn out all the stars. But I need them.” Julian mumbled softly, leaning to rearrange the brighter plastic shapes in the center.
Angela was pretty sure possession wasn’t real, anyway.
She swallowed that lump in her throat and strode forward, making a big show about finding a star-free spot before she plopped with her legs crossed next to Julian. Now that she was up close and personal, Angela could see the signs of dried tears on her cheeks. She reached up to brush a fresh one away, then wrapped her arms around Julian’s shoulders.
They sat there for a moment, before Julian finally sniffled. Whatever melancholy she was under was now broken, and she cast Angela a grimace before rubbing her other cheek with her hand.
“It’s my birthday.” Julian croaked out.
“I know babe. Did you think I was going to forget? Jesus, I had to practically kick down the door. Seriously, what are you doing up here in the dark all by yourself? You weren’t answering my texts. I thought you were DEAD.” That last statement seemed to make Julian cringe, and Angela very nearly lost it right there. “You weren’t up here about to kill yourself, were you, because I swear to fucking god-”
“No! Of course not.” blurted out the girl, and Angela was relieved to see Julian looked appalled and indignant about the idea. At least that meant she wasn’t so depressed that she was getting suicidal. “I just… I had a weird dream.” she continued to explain. “I was out in the middle of the Devil’s Wood and everywhere I looked were shadows. Scared shadows. They were running.”
Angela frowned. “Just a weird nightmare, probably.”
“Yeah… But. I died. I tried to run too, but it ate up all of the stars and then I died.”
“What ate the stars?” Angela asked curiously.
“I don’t know. It was too dark to see. There weren’t any stars left in the sky.” Julian grimaced again, leaning forward to pick up one of the glowing stars from the floor. She shrugged her shoulders. “It freaked me out a little, I guess. So I came up here to see if there was anymore of these sticky things for my room.”
That was a WAY less creepy explanation that Angela was imagining. Now she felt like a huge fucking dumbass. She squeezed Julian again in a tight hug. “Well. Forget about it! Today is your birthday and you’re Queen for the day. You can’t stay cooped up on your birthday. We’re going out.”
“Julian shouldn’t be going anywhere right now.” a voice interrupted. Angela nearly jumped out of her skin. Even Julian gave a start and looked incredibly confused to turn around and see her therapist Lucinda standing there in the attic doorway.
This bitch. How the fuck did she even get in to the house? Angela took the spare key to get in. How fucking psycho was this! Creepy as fucking hell! Angela scrambled to her feet so fast, Julian’s ass hadn’t even left the floor yet.
“It’s her BIRTHDAY. Sweet sixteen! She should hang out with her friends not sitting here crying in the dark, or is that just some new therapy technique all the rage these days? How the hell did you even get in here, anyway?!” Angela snapped out. The corner of Lucinda’s eyebrow rose. She hated that look. It made her feel like she was just some six year old tantrum throwing kid. This WASN’T a tantrum. Everything about this woman was wrong.
“Ms. Mercy, I can assure you we don’t just drop young teenage girls in to homes all by themselves without periodically checking in on them. Especially on their birthday.” Her tone of voice matched the eyebrow. Patient, almost condescending but not quite. Really, it could have been motherly, if the topic wasn’t about Angela’s bestie. “Julian,” the bitch continued, “We talked about your safety. I don’t believe it is a good idea for you to run around town on your own.”
Julian chewed in to her lip and glanced at Angela. In turn, Angela put on the puppy-eyes. Begged even. Please don’t listen to this bitch, you’re not on your own, you have FRIENDS.
“I won’t be alone, I’ll be with my friends?” Julian said out loud, glancing back towards the statuesque red-head. Man, Angela loved when she did that weird mind reading thing. Extra especially since it drew a frown from Lucinda.
“If that’s what you want. It is your decision, after all.” she acquiesced.
“Damn right it is, BYE B-” Julian slapped her hand over Angela’s mouth before that last word got spit out. Angela was pretty sure she even caught the corner of her friend’s own mouth twitching to suppress a smile. She couldn’t even remember the last time she saw one of those!
“She means, thank you for being concerned. I really appreciate you taking the time to stop by and check in on me.”
Lucinda nodded. “That is what I’m here for, darling. I just want to make sure you’re well. Stay safe, ladies.”
Both girls stayed silent, an unspoken agreement to remain quiet until Lucinda’s footsteps made it out of earshot and the front door slammed behind her. Julian was the first one to speak.
“You’ve got to stop doing that.” she chided, but even despite her words she was almost grinning. “You do realize she’s the one that makes the decisions on whether or not I get to stay here? She already doesn’t like you.”
“I don’t like her either.” huffed Angela back. “But okay, whatever, today isn’t about her. It’s about YOU. C’mon.” Angela snatched up Julian’s hand and led the way back downstairs to Julian’s room. She went straight for the closet, grabbing the first t-shirt and pair of – wait, she glanced behind her and gave Julian a quick once over – jeans, instead of shorts, that she got her hands on. They were thrust in to Julian’s arms.
“Get dressed. God, you need a shower too, but fuck it! It’s just gonna be you and me, okay? We’ll walk downtown, get expensive coffee, sneak eggrolls in to the movie theater, and then hang out at the park to watch the sunset. Just put on some real clothes.”
Julian tilted her head back and sighed. “All right, all right. I’ll even brush my teeth.”
“GOOD. I’ll be right back!”
Angela left Julian to go dutifully brush her teeth and get her clothes on. By the time she returned upstairs, Julian was tying up the laces of her sneakers.
“Happy Birthday, beautiful! What’s your birthday wish?” Holding out her hands, Angela presented a single frosted pop-tart with a lit candle shoved through it’s center. The absurdity of it was perfect, because now Julian couldn’t bury that incredulous grin of hers.
“This is silly. I don’t need to make a wish. I already have you?” she tried to protest.
Angela was having NONE of that bullshit. If there was one thing Julian loved, it was birthdays. She wasn’t going to let her forget that.
“You HAVE to make a wish, especially THIS year. Sweet Sixteen is the magical year where wishes actually come true. I promise you, I’ll make it happen! I’ll go all Practical Magic up in this bitch if I have to. Anything you want! Now c’mon. Tell me your wish.”
Julian crossed her arms and tapped her fingers gently at her elbows. At first it seemed like she wasn’t going to buy it, but her expression turned thoughtful. Angela could always tell she was thinking seriously about something when she started the chewing. Finally, she tilted forward and blew out the candle.
“What, you’re not gonna tell me? You have to! It’s tradition!”
“You’re going to laugh at me.”
“I won’t laugh, I promise.”
Julian scoffed, but after a second she took in a deep breath and sighed again. She slowly held up one of the plastic stars she managed to keep a hold. “Something to help me sleep.”
“New stars! That glow! All my old ones fell off the ceiling and it’s creepy in here all by myself.” Angela burst in to laughter. Julian look immediately offended. “You said you wouldn’t laugh!”
“Oh god, you dork! I’ll get you, like, ten nightlights okay? Really big ones. I’ll even spend the rest of the summer here. Or at least as long as I can before Dadi comes and drags me home.”
“Or until Lucinda throws you out.” Julian quipped back, snatching the pop-tart out of Angela’s hands.
“Whatever!” Angela locked her arms around one of Julian’s. “C’mon, honey, lets go spit in the face of bad dreams and evil bitches, and start your sixteenth year on this planet with a sassy bang. The world needs to watch it’s ass cause Julian Hollinger is back and about to kick it.”
“And I’M the dork?”
Both girls were giggling when they left the house.
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