#GOT HER VISA APPROVED A WHOLE WEEK AGO
I GOT MY RESIDENCE PERMIT MY VISA WAS APPROVED IM OFFICIALLY ALLOWED INTO THE COUNTRY OF NORWAY IM SO HAPPY OH MY GOD. THINGS ARE LIKE. MOVING FORWARD IN MY LIFE. EVERYTHING MIGHT BE OKAY.
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Chapter One. January.
remember that first laugh? all it changed once I had that // like a hurricane, but I don't care where I land
- rome, dermot kennedy
The whole thing had started out as a joke. Or maybe a pipe dream. Or maybe a massive mental breakdown and a poorly thought-through trip to the passport office for a rush renewal and a visa application.
No matter how it had started, Luna hadn’t actually thought it would pan out. Two and a half months ago, standing in her parents’ kitchen in New York, reading the lawyer’s letter, it had been a shiny, exciting, half-baked idea—an escape she could cling to while everything else was going to shit. It hadn’t been a reality.
It was hardly a reality even as it began to happen: Luna, packing her bags on a Friday night, deciding which pictures of her ex to keep and which to toss; Luna’s dad, hoisting her bags into the trunk of the car for her; Luna’s mom, petting her hair as she hugged her goodbye at the airport.
And it wasn’t real when she got to Inis Mór either: her snug little apartment above the coffee shop, the smattering of mismatched furniture that her Great Aunt Niamh had left behind, Ruairí, the black cat her new neighbor had been feeding, the mess of her suitcases, exploding on the floor, markedly different to the seemingly ancient chairs and quilts and sweaters that Niamh left for her.
Or, just left. It’s been hard for Luna to tell what’s for her and what isn’t.
And even now, nearly a month into living here and it only half feels real, the way she gets up every morning and putters down to the shop to open up, the cat following behind her, meowing for breakfast and Siobhan, the baker, already well on her way to done with the morning’s pastries, the smell of cinnamon and dough and vanilla and the cold air outside wafting through the shop to wake Luna up sweetly; the way old Mr. Whelan is always her first customer, never deviates from his order of a black coffee and a croissant, toasted; the rush of cold air every time someone opens the door, feeling like it’s flaying the shop open, sending napkins fluttering to the floor, causing Ruairí to hiss in protest and curl up closer to the fireplace. There’s nothing real in the way the sun sets at 4pm these days, quick as a wink over the hill outside the window, a flash of orange and purple the only reminder that day once broke in this place that always feels dark, under cover. There’s nothing real in the way Luna needn’t worry about anything here—her rent is paid and there are no deadlines anymore, no screaming bosses, no one angry with her for dropping an artist file or fucking up a coffee order. It’s not real, not even when she calls home and talks to her parents, when they tell her about her brother Sam’s new PhD research and his girlfriend Mary’s trip to Honduras. It’s not real, any of it. And it works. It’s fine. And so is Luna.
It’s hardly real on a Monday night at the end of January, either, after Siobhan has already left for the day and Luna is quietly closing up, tucking mugs into cabinets and dropping bits of pastry on the floor for the cat. She’s not thinking about much of anything—in the month she’s been here, Lu’s found the very start and very end of her days to be the most relaxing, the way she can clear up the shop or fire up the coffee maker without having to talk to anyone, think about anything. It’s so markedly different from what feels like a lifetime ago: bustling into the office at 8:30 and still feeling like she was late, a tray of coffees balanced in one hand, someone’s dry cleaning in the other, 12 voicemails already waiting for her, 30 emails, more coming through as her phone vibrated in her pocketbook. This is quiet and slow: Ruairí is weaving between her legs, meowing gently when he wants more treats, and outside it’s dark and still and cold, despite it being only 7pm. Luna is tired but not wiped—a feeling she forgot existed before leaving New York—and it occurs to her that she can have a slice of cake tonight in front of the TV, and maybe a glass of wine, while watching Law and Order until she falls asleep.
She’s lost in that thought—and the already building annoyance at the fact that she knows she’ll inevitably wake up on the couch at 3am and have to stumble to bed—when the door creaks open, nighttime wind rushing in, a boy stumbling after it.
“So sorry,” Lu looks up from where she’s been wiping down the counter behind the pastry display. “I’m closing up. But I still have a few leftover slices of cake if you want—”
“Oh, erm,” the boy stills, maybe surprised, and Lu does too. He’s—well. Lu hasn’t seen anyone here who looks like him.
He’s a mess of hat hair, dark at the roots and an unnatural blonde at the tips, curling over his ears and flopping over one eyebrow. He’s bright blue eyes, wide when he looks at her, and cheeks flushed red to match the tip of his nose, and a smattering of stubble along his face, darkening in the dimple of his chin, his pink lips chapped where his tongue darts out to soothe them. He takes her breath away for half a second—or maybe that’s the rush of wind that crashed against her chest when he opened the door.
The boy is clutching a guitar by its neck, gloved hand wrapped almost reverently around it, and his white high-top sneakers are mucky where the rubber soles have been sludging through the perma-mud outside. He looks like something out of a dream, maybe, Lu’s heart catching a little in her throat.
“Hi,” he says, finally, looking just as out of sorts as Lu feels. She’s not sure if that’s good or bad, but he carries on. “I wasn’t expecting—I didn’t think you would be so… uh. American? Uh,” gently, he tucks the guitar under his arm and tugs off his navy blue gloves, the cotton pilling from wear. “I’m Niall,” he reaches out a hand. It’s cold when Lu takes it to shake, when he wraps it gently around her own. “I live Kilronan.”
“Hiya,” Lu’s voice comes out softer than she expected it to. “I’m Lu. I work here.”
“Right, right,” Niall nods, swallows thick. “You’re Niamh’s niece? I was so sorry to hear about her passing—she—”
“Great niece,” Lu rushes over Niall, exhausted, even a month later, of every introduction on this island starting with a condolence. “I actually only met her once. But it sounds like she was a force.”
“You—once?” Niall shoves his gloves into the pocket of his puffer jacket.
“Yeah,” Lu shrugs. “Your guess is as good as mine. Was there, uh,” she doesn’t want to get rid of him, but doesn’t know where to go next. “Did you want one of those slices of cake? I’m sorry for you to come all the way from Kilronan for nothing.”
“Oh,” Niall looks like he’s only just remembered where he is. “No, I didn’t come for cake. I, uh, I have a… a question? An idea?”
Briefly, Lu worries if she should be nervous—but crime doesn’t happen here, not like this, and Lu knows the statistics when it comes to stranger attacks. Either way, Niall keeps talking before she can spiral, the words tumbling out like he knows he has to speak before he thinks better of it.
“I, uh, I was wondering if there’s any chance you were looking for someone to, like, play guitar and sing a bit? Like, live music in the shop for a couple hours a week? You don’t have to pay me or anything, ‘m not asking for that, but I could maybe leave my case open for tips? I can do covers or requests or—whatever you want, really. And I can give you my work schedule and we can work around that; I’m free on the weekends mostly, except for when I coach football, but also on weeknights if you’d prefer that and if you want to split the tips I understand, we can do that too, and also—”
“Niall,” Lu can’t take it. He’s speaking so fast it’s shuttling her toward an anxiety attack, and throwing up on the shoes of the first cute boy she’s seen in a month was not on her agenda for today. Meeting a cute boy in general was not on her agenda for today, but Lu’s been learning that things don’t tend to pan out the way she plans them. “I like the idea. That sounds cool.”
“I totally understand if—wait, really?” Niall pauses, hand halfway up to his face, like he was going to cover his mouth, or rub his eyes, or bite his nails. His brow furrows and his mouth drops open a little, like he didn’t expect it to be that easy. Like he didn’t accept Lu to be agreeable at all.
“Yeah,” Lu shrugs, then nods at the guitar still tucked under Niall’s arm, “but you’ll need to audition for me,” she bites back a cheeky smile, watches Niall do the same. “I can’t have a crap singer driving away all my customers.”
“Ah, fair play,” the left side of Niall’s mouth pulls up into a smile, and Lu pointedly ignores the kick in her chest. “What would you like to hear?”
She shrugs again, as if “casual” or “easygoing” were ever words people would’ve used to describe her back home. “Your favorite song?”
“My favorite—” Niall scoffs, but there’s no malice in it—it’s playful, inviting, fun. It makes Lu feel like he wants to keep talking to her. Like he wants her to keep winding him up. “You think I can narrow it down to one favorite song?”
“I can,” Lu smiles, soft, “I’m good at making decisions.”
“Go on, tell us then.”
“You first,” Lu gestures toward a table, the only one in the shop that isn’t rickety when there’s too much weight on it. “Then I’ll tell ya.”
Niall hums under his breath, approval, and settles himself on top of the table easily, feet perched on the chair, guitar natural in his lap. He strums once, to check that everything is in tune, and then glances up through the bit of hair that’s fallen over his eye. He’s striking—bright blue eyes, a shock of blonde at the tips of his hair, a lone dimple digging into his filled out cheeks—and Lu feels her stomach swoop and kick again. She takes a deep breath, crosses her arms over her chest. Niall sits up straight.
“Alright,” he says it so quietly that Lu thinks it might just be for him. She’s suddenly struck with the notion that she’s intruding on something, a moment between Niall and his guitar and himself that isn’t for her—that, maybe, this isn’t something a lot of people get to see.
And, if that’s true, Lu realises the second he starts strumming, it’s a damn shame.
It takes Lu a second to recognize the song, but it doesn’t even matter. With a guitar in his hand Niall is even more mesmerizing. Hypnotizing. Completely, incomprehensibly, irresistible.
And then he opens his mouth. And Lu feels sick.
It’s “With or Without You”.
But there’s none of the corniness, none of the playful groaning and eye rolling that usually accompanies a U2 cover. Instead, Lu feels frozen to her spot in the middle of the shop, Niall, seated atop the table, eyes down, an anchor in the middle of this island. His voice, lower than she expected, and raspy in all the right places, is somehow vulnerable and confident at the same time—somehow makes her want to simultaneously hold him and be held by him, to protect him and let him protect her. It’s real. It’s vulnerable. It’s terrifying. Lu doesn’t know what to do with it.
The song lasts forever and is over in an instant. Eyes closed, Niall carries out the final, desperate, confident, terrified, “I can’t live, with or without you,” as he stops playing and lets his voice take over. The whole shop shakes with it. Or maybe that’s just Lu, trembling.
His eyes don’t open for a few seconds. Lu can feel herself breathing, she can feel her heart beating, she can feel the wind, outside, throwing itself against the shop’s ancient windows. She can feel it when Niall opens his eyes.
“Was it that shite?”
Overwhelmed, Lu exhales an unstoppable, lovely laugh. Niall’s cheeks are red and his eyes are a little glassy and he runs a hand through his thick hair, his bicep flexing just a millimeter. Lu already knows there’s no way this can last.
“Terrible,” she smiles. “Worst I’ve ever heard. When can you start?”
They work out the schedule together, leaning over the only good table, comparing planners. Lu still keeps her old Moleskin, dark purple, embossed with her college seal and the year she graduated. She hasn’t needed it much lately—after years of her work, and eventually her social life, revolving around Google Calendar, she feels a freedom in being able to jot down appointments and approximate times in a messy journal. Niall’s got a battered leather one—doodles on the front, his name in script on the first page. He flips through it quickly, keeps it close to his chest.
He works at a local furniture and home goods boutique most days, as a design consultant, and coaches the middle school’s co-ed soccer team on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons, with games on Saturdays. Lu tells him not to overbook himself but he does it anyway, and they settle on Monday, Thursday, and Friday nights, as well as Saturday mornings, starting the next week. He says he’ll have a friend work up posters to advertise, and tries, again, to tell Lu he’ll split his tips.
At 10:30, he notices the time, his cheeks pinking up, his chapped lower lip caught between his teeth. They’d been splitting the final two slices of cake, and there’s a tiny glob of chocolate caught in the corner of his mouth.
“Fuck,” he says, looking reluctant, “I’ve got to go, I’m meant to be at work at 8 tomorrow morning.”
“Oh, God,” Lu feels a bit like she’s coming out of a daze, that feeling she gets, sometimes, when she’s been reading a book or watching a movie and then has to reimmerse herself in the real world. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to keep you.”
“No, no,” Niall rushes, “you didn’t. I—thank you. For the chocolate cake. And the, uh, opportunity.”
“Don’t mention it.” Lu presses her lips together, resists the urge to lean forward and thumb at the chocolate on his mouth. “You’ve got, uh, a bit of chocolate,” she touches the mirroring spot on her own mouth, “right there.”
“Right,” he smiles, tongue darting out to catch it. “I won’t. Thanks.”
Lu gathers the plates and cups and totes them to the sink while Niall gets his things together. When she turns around, he’s bundled in his coat and scarf, hat pulled low over his brows, free hand shoved into the pocket of his puffer. She doesn’t know how to look away from him.
“I guess I’ll see you next week, then?” He asks, fiddling with the zipper on his puffer. He hasn’t got all the chocolate—Lu wonders what it would taste like against his lips.
“Next week,” she echoes. “Yeah.”
“Brilliant. I’ll, uh—I’m excited. Have a good week.”
Lu’s “and you” gets lost in her throat as she watches Niall head toward the door. His hand is on the knob when he turns back around.
The sound of her name in his mouth makes her heart stutter. She hopes her raised brow will pass for a response.
“You didn’t tell me.”
“What?” She gets that out, at least.
“Your favorite song of all time,” Niall smiles, dimple prominent. “What is it?”
Looking back, Lu has no idea where the sudden confidence comes from. But, somehow, it does. She smiles, tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. “Not sure I want to tell you yet,” she says, kind. “I want to see if you figure it out for yourself.”
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Locked Out (AU)
Blackinnon Week 2020
I really enjoyed writing this and am tempted to turn it into a small series for the future.
Disclaimer: This could potentially be quite gruesome for some people as it involves murder and some unpleasant details. If you like murder mysteries then this could be right up your alley.
Marlene was exhausted. For the last few weeks she'd had trouble sleeping. Even when the fatigue took over, she would barely manage more than 3 hours of sleep at a time. Her brother's death shook the whole family- after all, no one expects to be at the funeral of a once healthy 37 year old.
Joseph McKinnon had died in very unfortunate and mysterious circumstances, leaving his wife, three children and his grieving family behind. The case became very high profile and Marlene was finding it harder each week to see her brother's face printed over every newspaper in Great Britain. Hundreds of sightings, CCTV footage and bank card activity had only revealed so much and the rest, it seemed, had been quite literally taken to the grave. Joseph had been missing for 6 weeks before his body had been found among the grassy hills of The Lake District- 101 miles for their home town in Edinburgh. Marlene's family, an array of volunteers and The Scottish Police Force had worked tirelessly for weeks looking for Joseph, but could only find information leading up to his disappearance as the trail quickly ran cold. It had been a group of school children on a D of E hike that had found his body, 47 days after he'd initially gone missing and soon the Cumbria Police and Scotland Yard got involved, trying to uncover what had happened to poor Joseph McKinnon.
Finding his body had given Marlene and her family hope that his death would be resolved. They initially suspected suicide, although the family was adamant that this was not the case. However, when his almost perfectly preserved body turned up on the grassy hill completely hairless, with his fingertips and teeth removed, the investigation quickly turned sour. It was soon spread all over the press that he had in fact been a victim of foul play, not suicide as they had originally suspected. The Autopsy (the results of which had been kept private from the press) revealed he had been frozen for the majority of his disappearance. The only scars to his body were his blunted fingertips, and long surgical scar travelling from the base of his throat down to his navel and another one down the back of the head. He had been dressed in a plain hazmat suit, a carbon copy of the suit worn by the forensic scientists that worked the scene that afternoon.
The coroner's report indicated that he had been partially embalmed. Joseph's body was but a flesh shell held by a bone structure- his organs, blood, brain and various insides had been removed. All that remained was his nerves, empty veins and arteries and his eyes. The coroner stated that the cause of death was undetermined. It was likely he could have been poisoned but with everything missing from his body, there wasn't a lot of evidence to go on. She stated that he could've (strictly speaking on cause of death) died peacefully in his sleep as there was very little evidence. However, due to the circumstances and surgical scars it was a very fair assumption to suggest he had been murdered. Everything from the organ removal to the stitching of flesh had been done neatly, professionally and caused concern that there was so little evidence that his killer may never be revealed. This had caused Marlene a tremendous amount of stress. She had left her apartment for a fortnight and driven up to her sister-in-law's place to help out with the kids, to allow Mariana some time to grieve. Mariana's parents had flown in two weeks later from Venezuela the second their passports and visa renewals had been approved.
So, here she was, taking the long bus ride back to her flat. She had decided two weeks ago that she was in no fit state to drive, although the unwanted stares and whispers from people on the train made her wish she had at least taken a taxi. It didn’t help that she forgot to charge her phone before leaving, so she couldn’t even listen to music for the second half of the journey. An hour later, she got off at her bus stop and began walking home, pulling her suitcase behind her. It was a weird feeling, going home that is. Everything had been so chaotic in the last few weeks that she wondered if she would recognise normality.
Marlene pulled her suitcase behind her. She decided to take the longer routine. She needed bread and milk and if her memory served her well, toilet roll and tea bags too. Marlene made her way to the small corner shop. It was owned by a nice Afghan family. Marlene had gone to school with their oldest daughter Zeeana so knew the family well. It was Zeeana and her family that Marlene had come to when her mother had phoned her about her brother. The small bell rang above the door as she walked in. Hekamt, Zeeana's father was there to greet her. He gave her a sympathetic smile as she walked in before calling for Zeeana to come downstairs. He gave her a comforting hug, before she walked in, pulling Marlene into an even bigger hug.
"I'm so sorry Marley. We all are!" she said, squeezing her.
Marlene didn't have the words to respond. She had done so much crying in the last few weeks that she felt drained of all emotions. The trio politely chatted while Hekamt assured her that they would be here if she needed anything. Marlene thanked them as she bought her items, she felt relieved to know they wouldn't treat her differently. It seems that's all people have done lately. Stare, point, whisper, and they'd all put on the same sympathetic smile. Her nieces had gone back to school for the fortnight Marlene had stayed. They all felt like the girls needed normality and Mariana felt it was best for them to go and not sit around the house watching their mother cry herself to sleep at various points throughout the day. Marlene has taken the girls: Sofia, Isabella and Mia, to school only to be met by crowds of parents giving her sympathetic looks and kind smiles, reassuring her that he was bound to come home. She would never forget the way her heart sunk when they found his body, or the look on his daughters faces when they found out their dad wouldn't be coming home. She didn't sleep for two days after that.
Marlene left the shop and began walking up the hill. She hated this hill. Normally she drove up but on the odd occasion she made the trek she remembered how thankful she was that she could drive. After about 15 minutes she was on her street, and made her way towards her flat. Marlene had spent a lot of her childhood on this street. Her own family had lived a few streets away in the bigger houses as these small 3 bedroom houses and 2 bed flats wouldn't have fit her family of 7. She would ride her bike to Zeeana's and they would walk up to Orla's house and eventually a whole group of them would make their way to the park. The park was the first place Marlene had ever gotten drunk. She'd snuck out the house at 11pm and got drunk with some of the kids from her class. It was Joseph that found her and drove her home at 5 in the morning. He had been dating Orla's older sister at the time and always seemed to know what they were up to. Everyone in this village knew everyone, and she wondered if she would ever be able to walk down this street again without feeling like a stranger. No-one knew what to say to her. She didn't blame them though.
Marlene got to the front door. It had been painted a nice fresh white, and there was a new name on the door: 'Black'. Her landlord had neglected to tell her there would be a new tenant moving in downstairs. What had happened to Mrs Stephens? She was meant to be looking after Marlene's cat Owen. Marlene searched her pockets for her keys. After searching her bag and her suitcase she realised she must have left them on the kitchen table and neglected to pick them up on her way out.
"For fuck sake!" she cursed loudly. She slumped on the doorstep, looking at the mess in front of her. Her clothes and books were all over the damp pavement where she had thrown them out looking for her keys. Marlene pulled her knees up to her chest and cried. This had been the final straw, she could no longer keep it together. She sobbed loudly, not caring if the neighbour heard her. She'd had enough. Enough of worrying and being tired and feeling so helpless. She felt the door open behind her. The figure sat down next to her, putting their arm around her and pulling her to them. Marlene found she felt comforted by this stranger.
"Do you want to come in for a cup of tea?" the voice said. It was a man, his voice rich, deep and velvety. His strong English accent was unignorable. She'd only heard English like that on the BBC.
"Yes please," Marlene said, lifting her head to look at him. Her voice sounded scratchy and dry. She felt a sudden wave of embarrassment when she looked at the stranger. God he was handsome, she thought. Strong french like cheekbones and jawline, his dark, black hair which he ran his hand through to keep it out of his face, handsome nose and his steel grey eyes. Marlene had never seen anybody like this, was he even real? She had gone slightly delirious from lack of sleep and thought it was very possible she was dreaming.
"I'm Sirius by the way."
"What kind of a name is that?" she questioned, wiping her face with her jumper sleeves.
"A family thing," he said calmly, "We're all named after stars. If you're really curious to know, I am technically Sirius II."
"That's cool. I'm Marlene. They named me after a cat my great grandma used to have."
"Oh nice." he said politely.
For fuck sake Marlene, why did you say that! She cursed herself, before smiling at him. "I was born on the anniversary of it's death.”
Sirius smirked at Marlene.
“My grandma said that cat saved her life when she was little.”
"Look, I'm not one to judge," he smiled politely, beginning to gather up Marlene's book and clothes to put them back in her suitcase.
Marlene felt herself blush when she noticed her underwear lying on the pavement. She scrambled to her feet to begin chucking her stuff back in her suitcase. Thankfully she had washed it all before packing it, but it didn't make it any less embarrassing.
"You don't happen to know what happened to my cat do you?" Marlene asked, picking up a small pack of treats she had bought Owen a 'sorry I left you' gift.
"The landlord was feeding him until he went on holiday so asked me too until you came back. He's in Portugal right now, comes back tomorrow morning I think. Luckily your cat was outside when he left because he didn't leave me a key and I didn't fancy breaking down the door."
"Thank you!" Marlene said, as Sirius zipped up her suitcase and pulled it inside. She grabbed her shopping and walked in, shutting the door behind her.
Walking into his flat, she felt the warm hit her first. The walls had been repainted and fresh magnolia and the old, tattered 50's furniture that had once sat in this living room had been replaced by a black leather sofa that hugged the corner of the wall.
"What happened to Mrs Stephens?" Marlene asked, taking off her shoes at the door.
"Oh, he daughter moved back from Spain I believe. Her and her husband just bought an row of flats in Kent and moved her into one of those."
"Oh, how lovely," Marlene said, Mrs Stephens had always been a sweet lady, completely cuckoo but nice nonetheless.
Marlene walked through to the kitchen. The oven and fridge had been replaced but the setup was fairly similar although it had been repainted.
"When did you move in?"
"About 2 weeks ago," he smiled, filling up the kettle and setting in to boil. "Shit," he said, "I've run out of milk. I'll have to run to the shop quickly."
"This might be your lucky day." Marlene said, lifting her carrier bag up.
"Brilliant," he smiled.
"How did you manage to re-decorate the place in 2 weeks?"
"Oh had a few friends help out. Didn't take long really. Still have a bit left to do. Need to hang some shelves up and some pictures of something."
"It looks really good,"
"Your cat should be around here somewhere, he's probably sleeping with Padfoot."
"Really?" Marlene said, surprised, "Owen always hated dogs."
"Oh so Owen is his name. I've just been calling him Ginge."
"I call him that sometimes."
"Good to know. Anyway, do you take sugar in your tea?"
"Yes, two please."
"I don't want to be a pain in the arse, but can I see Owen quickly?"
"Of course! Just go through to the bedroom," he signalled with his hand, before putting the milk in the milk in the fridge.
Marlene walked through, being careful not to the slip on the new wooden floors.
"Owen," she called gently, "It's me."
She smiled when she heard a little meow as the big ginger tom cat, peaked it's head up from behind the black shaggy dog, Marlene assumed was Padfoot. The ginger cat stretched leisurely before padding his way over to Marlene, rubbing his head on her affectionately.
"I'm glad you still love me," Marlene smiled, "I thought you'd never forgive me for leaving."
Owen meowed in response, putting his paws upon Marlene's knees and as Marlene scratched him behind his ears.
"I see you've made a friend."
She looked over at Padfoot, who had approached her cautiously, sniffing round her ankles and looking between Marlene and Owen. Eventually, he wagged his tail and let Marlene stroke his head. He was a sweet thing really. Marlene liked dogs, they'd had 2 labs growing up, but when she had found little Owen, a lost ginger kitten squeaking outside their flat, she knew it was fate. Owen had found her, somehow, and she wouldn't be without him for the world now. After a few minutes, Marlene made her way back to the living room and sat down on the sofa.
"Sorry to be an even bigger pain in the arse, but you don't happen to have a phone charger you could lend me do you?" Marlene said sheepishly, before taking a sip of her now cooled down tea.
"Yeah, of course," Sirius smiled, "It's just down the back of the sofa."
Marlene reached her hand down to find the charger, plugging in her phone she sent a quick text to her mum.
"Hopefully my parents can drop round my keys. If not, I'm not sure what I'm going to do."
With that her mum had text her back.
"Great," Marlene sighed.
"Yep. My parents said the keys aren't there. Fuck, I hope I didn't leave them on the bus! And the landlord had the spare.." she moaned.
"..and he doesn't come back until tomorrow." Sirius said, sympathetically.
Marlene felt the tears brewing in her eyes. She tried to hold them in, she didn't want to cry in front of him again.
"Well you can camp out here if you want. Sofa should be big enough and I have some spare blankets in the airing cupboard."
"You don't have to do that,"
"I do," he assured her, "I don't want you to cry again and it seems like you're having a really hard time of it right now. Anyway, what's a little neighbourly compassion?"
Marlene smiled, "well, if you're sure it's not weird?"
"Not at all, Marlene."
"You're welcome. I hope you like frozen pizza because that's all I've got in right now."
"Frozen pizza is perfect. I'll have to owe you back sometime."
"Well if I ever lock myself out then I know where to go," he joked.
"Well let's hope you have better luck than me,"
"It wouldn't be so bad if I didn't," he said, nonchalantly taking his mug of tea to his lips.
Marlene wasn't sure why but her stomach was swarming with butterflies. Was he handsome? Yes. Did she have a crush on him? No- she had just met him after all. Could she see herself developing one? Absolutely. Marlene tried to shake off the feeling and focused her attention onto the telly. Doctor Who, not a programme she had watched for a while.
"You a fan?" Sirius said,breaking the comfortable silence between them.
"Yeah, since i was a kid. Haven't watched it for a while though, not much time."
"Who's your favourite Doctor?"
"Well, they are all good. But, the tenth Doctor is my favourite."
"Ay, me too, although I'm a big fan of number nine too."
"Hey, same here!”
"Just the whole chemistry between them."
"I cried over them so many times."
"The story line between those too was brilliant. I did like Donna too, very funny."
"Oh my god, yes! She's hilarious!."
The two chatted all afternoon, right up until the evening. They shared a bottle of wine with their pizza while watching the Doctor Who box set that Sirius dugout of his bedroom, along with some blankets as the flat was freezing due to the boiler not working. For the first time in weeks, Marlene felt normal. She wasn't the girl with the missing brother, who everybody stared at and felt sorry for. Tonight, she was just Marlene.
She couldn’t pinpoint the exact time, but she had fallen asleep on the sofa. She sunk into the warm blankets, before looking up at the ceiling. It took her a few seconds of looking around for her to remember where she was. The hallway light shone into the living room. She felt Owen jump up on the sofa before burying his way under the sheets and laying his head on her arm. She closed her eyes and fell back to sleep.
She woke up in the morning to two voices and the smell of cooking bacon. Flinging the blankets off, she went into the bathroom. Marlene looked in the mirror while washing her hands and was pleasantly surprised to see the dark circles under her eyes had faded a great deal, her cheeks were rosy and she looked well rested. She wasn’t sure how long she had slept for but she was thankful to have achieved a good night's sleep. She ran her fingers through her hair and rinsed her face with lukewarm water. She walked into the kitchen to see Sirius talking to James Potter, her landlord.
“Morning,” James said.
“Morning,” Marlene smiled back.
“Good morning!” Sirius said brightly, turning away from the stove and handing her a cup of tea. “Sleep well?”
“The best sleep I’ve had in awhile,” she smiled, taking the tea. “Thanks.”
“You do eat bacon right?”
“Good because it’s bacon sandwiches for breakfast.”
“You know you don’t have too, right?”
“Marlene, I insist. You are my guest after all,”
“Do I get one?” James said cheekily.
“Maybe. If you get someone to fix my boiler. We were freezing last night.”
“We knew each other before he moved in,” James cleared up, “We were friends at boarding school.”
“Ooh makes sense. Anyway, I have a bone to pick with you. You almost locked my cat in my apartment for 2 weeks.” Marlene said, sipping her tea.
“Yeah, sorry about that. It was last minute. I needed to get Mrs Stephens out and get him in,” he motioned to Sirius, who smiled at him cheekily as he buttered some bread, “all before I went to Portugal.”
“With his Mrs,” Sirius teased, handing Marlene a sandwich.
“Ooh you got married?” Marlene asked, taking a bite out of the sandwich. It was quite possibly the best thing she’d eaten all week.
“Yeah, we kind of eloped.”
“How exciting,” Marlene grinned, reaching for the ketchup.
“It was amazing!” He gleamed, “here, your keys before I forget.”
“Cheers,” Marlene said, shoving them in her back pocket. “I’ll be out of your hair once I finished this.” She said to Sirius.
“There’s no rush.” Sirius took a bite out of his own sandwich.
After 30 minutes of chatting, Marlene got all her stuff together, before calling for Owen. Sirius kindly took her suitcase and put it up at the top of the stairs for her.
“Thank you for looking after me,” Marlene grinned, “I owe you one!”
“You’re welcome and you owe me nothing,” he said, pulling Marlene into a hug. “If you need anything, you know where to come.” He assured her.
“The same goes for you. Sugar, toilet roll, a bacon sandwich..” she joked. “Anyway, I’ll see you around.” She smiled at him one last time before picking up Owen and slinging her jacket over her arm. With a slight thud, her keys fell out of her jacket pocket.
“I hate myself,” she said loudly, staring at the keys.
Sirius laughed, handing the keys to her.
“Here. You take these- my spare keys. I clearly cannot be trusted,” she giggled, setting Owen down as he wriggled out of her arms and ran up the stairs. “Well, bye for now,”
“Goodbye Marlene,” he smiled before backing away into his own flat. Marlene walked up the stairs. Putting the key in the lock, she turned the key, pushing the door and walking in. Home, sweet home.
To be continued...
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Reasons I hate my boss and quit my job and gave up my work visa just because I hate her so much:
racism- lol she thinks shes better than all the chinese people she works with and also has lived here 10 years and never even bothered to learn chinese but its ok bc she thinks the whole world will just speak english to her lolololol whattttttt
lies- she makes me lie on forms to make things more convenient to her and she lies to us all the time to make herself look good. also me and my friend got promotions we didnt want or deserve because she wanted us to take some of her responsibility so she lied on our reviews
insecurity- she literally bullies us bc she is sooooo insecure about herself like ive had 2 friends quit because of her and she's treated them even more like garbage after they resigned because EVERYTHING has to be about her or some shit
lack of support- lololol she is literally supposed to TRAIN US and she cant even do that without talking herself up.
like first of all she is the WORST teacher to train other teachers i have never observed someone so bad at teaching in my life. but then she makes excuses for herself.... excuses that would be unacceptable for us to make.
she is supposed to observe us teaching like any DoS would do but she canT FUCKING SHUT UP IN AN OBSERVATION without making corrections or talking to the students or drawing the attention back to her.
one time she actually TOOK OVER TEACHING MY CLASS when she was supposed to be observing me and then told me a bunch of shit in the feedback session about how bad i did like... you never even SAW me teach bitch.
and shell have these "supportive observations" for us to like supposedly give us pointers or whatever but instead after the class is just like an hour long roast session about how much we suck and it's actually driven coworkers of mine to tears and really made them contemplate quitting.
we can't ask her any questions about anything because she'll just tell us to check our schedule or our email and that we can find the information there but like... literally its not there thats why were asking... and she still wont give us the answer...
i still havent had any training on the job she promoted me to 3 months ago lololol it's because she obviously knows nothing about it but she'll never come out and tell me that
she says we can come to her and talk to her about any problem we have like with her or whatever but literally whenever any of us have done that she's taken it so personally and like brought up our issue in meetings in front of everyone else...
she literally makes us do everything for her she doesn't teach a single class... which she's supposed to... and delegates anything she's told to do to us who are VERY busy like we stay late at work every day doing her shit...
also she just shows up to work whenever she wants to like she'll schedule herself to come in at 9 with the rest of us and show up at 11 and meanwhile we've had to make split-second decisions about things with her not there and when she comes in she yells at us for not consulting her about things like YOU WERENT HERE
if we're sick she doesnt give a shit ive literally been yelled at for not giving her 24 hour notice for calling in like... being sick doesnt work like that motherfucker. my coworker had a kidney infection and had to be in the hospital for 3 days and she asked my coworker why she couldnt just wait for the weekend to do this so she didn't have to miss so much work. then she went over to her apartment just to make sure she was actually sick
transphobia- lolololol they day she found out i was trans she had a private meeting with me accusing me of lying to her for over 6 months and then immediately changed my name in our online schedule to my birth name (it's still there folks!) and then just last weekend she changed the name on my staff profile which is on full display for anyone to see to my birth name because there was "going to be a government inspection"(so???) and i was not told in advance or consulted i just had to walk in and see that imagine my reaction
this bullshit today- if we want a day off we have to request it a month in advance which... fucking whatever. so i requested on the 20th of april for a week off in mid-june bc she said she isnt granting requests for july and i wanted to take a vacation this summer. she said it sounded fine, okay. i gave her my resignation 2 or 3 weeks ago now. i asked her today if i could go ahead and put these vacation days into the system and she said no, because me resigning changed the terms of our agreement and she wouldn't honor my vacation request anymore. like??? could you have told me that back when i could have had time to resubmit it??? because now im leaving in a little over a month and she KNOWS it. and she said i cant even resubmit a request until i read an email from her about the next steps surrounding my resignation which... i still haven't received...
she basically told me that i have to take it at the end of my time working there so basically leave early however many days i have left for my vacation... and if i don't do that she'll give me more classes for the summer...
so basically blackmailing me out of the vacation ive had planned for 5 weeks now, that she approved FIVE WEEKS AGO and im just now being told i cant have.... cool
also lol when my coworker resigned she told her to not even bother requesting vacation days because she'd deny them lolol i smell bullshit
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The retirement fic
Here it is. The next part. Thank you to Visionshadows for all your help with getting this section as best as it’ll likely ever get. It really did a number on me…
Update: I was finally able to add the links! Thanks for bearing with me.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10
Part of the process of Sidney being approved as an Adoption Family includes meeting with Synia in her office roughly once every other week. They started having the meetings a week after his initial paperwork was filed, around the time their daily phone-calls ended. So far it's mostly been Synia getting to know Sidney better so she can determine how he may fit with children the agency has ready to be placed.
Much to Sidney's own surprise, he actually has started to think of her as more of a friend that he can share all of his secrets with. It’s an important distinction for him that it's a requirement he does but he’s genuinely enjoyed their conversations. They’ve met three times in the last six weeks, all uneventful talk about how he was raised and how he’d like to raise his own child, before she sits him down for a "serious talk". He's not sure what to expect but he sits somberly in the chair across from her desk and waits patiently for her to begin.
She shuffles a few papers around before clasping her hands together on top of her desk and leaning forward. "We received the results of the background check just the other day and we’ve made a few phone calls to the references on your application."
She looks a little like a teacher who's having to scold a student she likes, torn but clearly obligated.
"Is there something you left off of your paperwork that you would like to tell me about?"
"Uh…" Sidney shifts in his seat, brows furrowed in confusion.
"Sidney,” she pauses, “why don't any of your references know that you're married?"
A rush of breath leaves him like he’s been punched in the gut. He tries to swallow but his mouth is suddenly too dry and his heartbeat is pounding in his ears. The only other sound he can hear is his jaw clicking but it's like his whole voice box bailed and he can't make a sound.
"We couldn't reach your husband by phone, either."
"Geno's in Russia." He spits out the first lie he can think of. "He's been back there for a while, taking care of his family."
Synia levels him with a look that clearly says I was not born yesterday. "Taking care of family for five years, Sidney?"
He winces and shrugs all in one motion and lowers his eyes to stare at the floor in front of her desk.
"Look Sidney, I meant it when I said that I’m your friend in this. I want to help you get the child you want. I’m going to be honest with you, it does not look good that we only found out about this because of the background check. I need you to help me understand this, okay?"
Synia shifts back in her chair and waits patiently while Sidney weighs the very few options he has in front of him. There is only one choice, though, if he ever wants to have a family of his own. He raises his eyes to meet hers and asks, mouth dry and his voice cracking, "This stays between us?”
"Everything you say in this room stays completely between us."
Sidney nods once and clears his throat. He tries to figure out the best place to start their story, so she can understand it all — it’s so long winded, he already knows, but it will only make sense from the beginning and he needs her on his side.
He swallows hard and when he speaks again, his voice is soft. "First, it’s a sham marriage.” Synia opens her mouth and Sidney hurried to speak before she does. “Geno and I got married twenty years ago."
He shifts in his chair, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees. He keeps his eyes down, hoping that the lines on the carpet of her office will morph into words for him to read like a script.
"None of my references know because we never told any of them. We never told anyone.”
He takes a deep breath and blows it out slowly.
“Geno is from Russia and you have to know that Russia is nothing like the US. Most of the government is corrupt and capable of doing some of the most depraved things. The KHL, where Geno played his first couple of professional hockey years, is part of that. When he first came to the US to play they made a lot of problems for him. He had a lot of trouble getting his visa and was almost deported until ownership was able to break his contract with his team in Russia. When his entry level contract here was ending, we were all really nervous about what would happen for him.
“Geno had a very real fear of being blackmailed into going back. Even after we won the Cup, he was afraid they’d try to take the NHL away from him. If he had already accomplished everything he could in the NHL, there was nothing new for him to bring back home for them to claim as theirs.”
Sidney rubs his hands together and takes a quick glance up at Synia. She’s watching him with an attentive expression and he soldiers on.
“It was just after we won the Cup in oh-nine. A group of us were talking at one of the parties, completely trashed of course, and someone made a comment about how Geno could get a green card if he married an American. He wouldn’t ever have to worry about his old team doing something to get him back if he was an American citizen. We all laughed about it at the time. It seemed ridiculous. I mean, our twenty-two year old friend who barely spoke English finding an American to marry him?
“But it stayed with me through the summer. How my best friend wouldn’t have to worry about anything other than playing hockey. The fear that had been weighing him down could just be gone -” Sidney snaps his fingers. “- like that.”
“One thing you have to understand is that Geno was one of the best friend I have ever had and I was terrified of losing him.”
Sidney scrubs his hand down over his face. “I tried to find a friend that would marry him. I figured it was only two years out of someone’s life for him to get his green card. Everyone I spoke to thought I was absolutely crazy. One of my friends finally told me that I shouldn’t ask a favor of someone that I wasn’t prepared to do myself.
“And that really got me thinking. Gay marriage was legal in Canada and dual-citizenship there was just as good for Geno as in the US. It wouldn’t have been great if it had gotten out that I’d married a guy but at least it wouldn’t have been a lie for me since I’m bi. So just before training camp started, I asked Geno to marry me.
“He thought I was nuts.” Sidney smiles at the memory, his eyes crinkling. “I mean, I definitely was, but that’s not the point. I told him everything I’d been thinking about and after a couple months of talking it out, he agreed.
“I went home for the All-Star break and applied for the marriage license. A couple of months later when we had a break in the schedule, we flew up to Nova Scotia and went to the courthouse for a civil ceremony.” He laughs sadly. “I don’t even know who the people who signed as our witnesses are.
“We were just kids, you know?” Sidney looks up at Synia, his voice wistful. “I don’t know why we thought a marriage license could stay secret but the citizenship paperwork couldn’t. The marriage was his ‘get out of jail’ free card so we never divorced. Neither of us ever found anyone we wanted to marry for real, either. And honestly, I think we both just forgot over the years.
“I didn’t put his information on the paperwork because I don’t ever think about it. I’ve never thought of myself as actually married.”
Synia clears her throat. “And now?” She asks.
Sidney looks at her, questioning.
“Where is Geno now?”
“Oh, he was injured about five years ago and decided to retire. We still talk but he doesn’t come back to Pittsburgh often."
"I see," She says, pausing to take a long, drawn out breath. She looks overwhelmed, like she didn't expect any of that story to come pouring out and like she's not quite sure she should believe it. Sidney tries to keep eye contact with her but he can feel his face making all sorts of twitching motions that he can't control. Finally, Synia unclasps her hands and shuffles a few papers around again. "Is Geno going to be a part of the adoption?"
“Uh…” is all he says, thrown off by how she jumps right back to the issue at hand.
"Is he going to stay in Russia?"
"I don't–I don't know. We haven't talked."
"In five years?"
Sidney scowls. “No. Just not often since he went back to Russia. We're still close but after twenty years we don’t have to talk every day to stay that way."
"I have some friends like that, too." Synia smiles fondly. She lifts a hand to her face and scrubs it down over her eyes.
“I have to be honest, Sid, this whole 'finding out you're actually married' thing has really thrown me for a loop."
"It would've been nice to know about before filing your paperwork, is all. It's not something we can't figure out a work-around for but you're going to need to head home and have a serious conversation with Geno."
"I'm not sure if this marriage is considered dissolved naturally or if, because of the duration, it's still in tact. We can change your paperwork to say that you're separated or you can apply for a divorce if that's something you're comfortable with. I can’t say if either of those will hurt your reputation as an Adoption Family but they certainly won’t help. Or." Synia pauses.
Sidney feels like his heart stops beating in the silence. She voice lowers and Sidney leans in to listen.
"It's much easier to adopt a newborn as a married couple. Most women who put their unborn child up for adoption want to know that the baby will be going to a loving home with two parents. It would up your odds, if Geno was on board with this and here to help you."
Sidney's chest starts to tingle and warmth flushes his cheeks as he registers her words. "Do you really…?" He trails off, refusing to let his hopes lift.
"Is he still your best friend?" Synia asks.
"I like to think so."
"Then talk to him first, Sidney. And we'll figure out your options from there. Okay?"
He nods, swallowing around the hope he can feel building up in his throat. "Okay." Sidney stands to shake her hand. He’s smiling when he leaves her office.
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Chapter 38: London
Her moving day came faster than she expected. She was surprised when HR called her a week ago announcing her visa had been approved and issued and that she could chose a date for the company to buy her ticket. Her breath was caught on her throat and she chose the last available date they offered her. She knew she’d have to move, she was looking forward to live by herself, she wanted to be close to Harry and she wanted the whole experience, but at the same time she didn’t want to leave her mom alone. Although now she wasn’t alone anymore. She didn’t want to leave her friends behind, she didn’t want to give up this sense of normalcy she felt living in this city. But she had accepted the job, she was qualified enough to do it and London was such an amazing city that she knew it’d be only a matter of time before she was used to live there. She worked overtime everyday because there were some last adjustments she had to do before the transfer, she asked the London based HR to go visit the flat she had chosen to see if it was really like the ad, she had cleaned her wardrobe and donated everything she didn’t wear anymore and packed her things. It was a weird feeling to pack all of her clothes inside the only three luggage she was allowed. Some of her personal items her mom would send her through mail, but she had to make sure to bring as much as she could. She did every task carefully and methodically and didn’t think much about this big step she was taking.
Her friends threw her a going away party at Villa where she drank and danced and had a great time. It was difficult to say goodbye to them, but they all were eager to see her accomplishing one more dream.
Her mom cried the whole week and made sure to cook her favorite foods everyday. She even went to sleep with Carol one of those nights and they spent it talking about their memories, the moments they shared and how much their lives had changed for the better after the last few years. Maria was emotional because not only her only baby was leaving the house, she was moving to another country where she knew only a few people. And the fact that she’d be closer to Harry was what made her sleep peacefully at night. She knew he’d take a great care of her daughter but at the same time she feared that now, that they were going to spend a lot of time together, it’d be easier for the press to discover who she was. And the last thing Maria wanted for Carolina was having lots of people taking pictures of her while she was adapting to a new environment and city. She was also thankful for Hailey and Agnes, the latter saying she’d do anything in her power to help Carol to settle. But her mom heart was already wanting to book a flight for the next week just to make sure everything was alright with her.
Needless to say they both cried their eyes out at the airport. Flavio had taken them, helped her to send her luggage away and she waited until the last minute to board. Carol tightly hugged her mother while her tears fell freely on her face. She thought this was the worst part of this dream. She had to say goodbye to someone she was used to see and talk to everyday. She was saying goodbyes to their inner jokes, to their breakfast and for all the times Carol got grumpy when her mom woke her up early.
“Vai com Deus, filha. Se cuida, toma muito cuidado, não anda sozinha de noite e não confia de cara nas pessoas.” Maria said rubbing circles on her daughter’s back. [May God accompany you, daughter. Take care, be careful, don’t walk by yourself at night and don’t trust people easily.]
Carol couldn’t find her voice to answer her mom.
“Alimente-se direito, me ligue todos os dias, ajude a Agnes a cuidar da Hailey e, principalmente, aproveite esse sonho que você conseguiu realizar.” [Eat properly, call me everyday, help Agnes to take care of Hailey and most of all, enjoy this dream becoming true.]
“Eu te amo, mãe. Obrigada por tudo. Se eu cheguei até aqui foi porque você lutou e acredito em mim todos esses anos.” Carol said looking at her mom in the eye and drying her tears. [I love you, mum. Thank you for everything. If I got here it was because you fought for me and believed in me all these years.]
“Eu também te amo, meu amor.” Maria answered her daughter and they heard the call for the passengers to board the plane to London. [I love you too, my love.]
She hugged her mom one more time and then she hugged Flavio and asked him to take care of her. He made her promise that she’d have a great time in London and Maria made her promise to call as soon as she landed.
She got her bag and her passport and waving her family goodbye she walked forward to go to the waiting room of the airline. She didn’t have to wait longer and she was one of the first passengers to board the plane. As always, she chose the seat by the window and got settled. Her heart was heavy and happy, her mind was racing and her fears were starting to grow. Would she adapt? Would she like living there? What if she didn’t like to work at the London headquarter? What if she didn’t make any friends? What if she didn’t understood what people would say to her?
She spent half of the flight thinking about the pros and cons and all the things that could go wrong, but at some point she thought she’d have to face her fears anyway and she’d have to keep doing the great job she always did.
Her immigration at the Heathrow airport was fast but the official asked way more questions and gave her some forms that she’d have to take to the company she’d be working at and the Brazilian embassy. She thanked him, retrieved her luggage and organized them in a cart. She was tired and sleepy and wanted to take a shower, but she’d have to leave her bags at Hailey’s and got fetch her flat’s keys today. She thought it was funny that she was arriving in London on January 25th, because that was São Paulo’s anniversary day.
She didn’t expect to see balloons and people waiting for her when she arrived. But Hailey was there with lots of pink balloons -the pinkest ones Carol had ever seen- and she let out a squeal when she saw Carol arriving. She was accompanied by a very classy woman that she soon recognized as Agnes. She smiled and walked up to them and hugged her sister tightly. It was funny how much Carol had missed this spoiled brat.
“IT TOOK YOU TOO LONG TO ARRIVE.” Hailey stated and Carol laughed. “I thought you had changed your mind.”
“Well… that thought did cross my mind at some point, yeah.” the brunette answered adjusting her handbag.
“You better be joking, bitch. I’d kill you.” Hailey answered smiling. “It’s already too bad you had to chose the last fucking data available.’
“Hailey! That’s no way to talk to someone.” Agnes intervened.
“Sorry, mom.” the blond said looking at her mom. “Well… should I make the introductions? Carolina, this is my mom Agnes. Mum, this is Carolina, my sister.”
“I’m glad I’m finally meeting you properly.” Agnes said surprising Carol with a hug.
“Me too. Those Skype calls don’t make you justice, Agnes. You’re beautiful.” Carol said and Agnes simply shook her head.
“Shall we go then, girls?” she asked and looked at them.
“We shall.” Hailey answered and helped Carol push the cart with her bags.
Agnes was as chatty as Carol and Hailey and even after traffic, none of them seemed to notice the hour long drive to the city. In the mean time Carol sent a few texts to let her friends and family know she had arrived and that she was fine. She went to Hailey’s place and had lunch with them before Agnes left for work. She took a long shower and was about to ask for a nap when her phone buzzed. Her ride to her new apartment had arrived and she wouldn’t be able to sleep now. She changed clothes, informed her sister – that was now studying, which surprised Carol immensely – that she was going out and she waited for him on the street. She smiled and when noticed the black range rover and she climbed the passengers seat when he unlocked the doors.
“Hello there.” he said looking at her and his heart started to beat faster.
“Hey.” she said looking at him and kissing his cheek.
“How was your flight?” he asked turning on the engine of the car and driving them from Belgravia to Notting Hill.
“It was a good one. But I couldn’t sleep a bit.” she answered looking at him. “How are you?”
“I’m better now that my best friend is officially a Londoner.” he answered. “What’s the address?”
“8, Walmer Road.” she answered.
He drove for about twenty minutes before finding a place to park. He got out of the car and opened the door for her. He kissed the palm of her hands and she hugged him and whispered “I missed you.”
He simply smiled and holding her hand he put on his cap and adjusted his scarf. He waited while she went to the administrative building of the flat and she got the keys faster than he expected. He held her hand while she opened the gate, discovered which path one had to take to find her building inside the condo and they decided to take the stairs instead of the elevator to get there faster.
She took a deep breath when she opened the door. Even though it was a small flat, it was bigger than she imagined and had great lighting. Thankfully it didn’t face the street, because she knew that sooner or later she’d be discovered and she didn’t like the idea of paps taking pictures of her home from the street.
Right in front of her front door was the bathroom. It was well maintained and had a bath but no windows, to the left was her spacious reception room where she was already picturing a living room and a dining room. The windows were big and it even had a small fireplace which would be handy in the winter. And to the right, after passing the entrance door, there was a small kitchen where all appliances were hidden but she was thankful she didn’t have to buy a stove, fridge, washing machine and microwave. And beside the kitchen was her bedroom, with built-in wardrobe and spacious enough for her.
“It looks pretty comfortable.” she said looking at Harry.
“It is. It’s very cozy.” he commented looking at the window and she sighed.
“I really wish to rest, but I have to clean the flat and I have to go buy things to fill this in. I don’t want to stay at Hailey’s for longer than what I absolute have.” she said pouting and he smiled at how cute she looked doing that.
“The perks of living alone...” he said and went to her. “I can help you, you know. But you also don’t have to rush things.”
“I want it somewhat livable by the time I start working again.” she answered.
“When is it again?” he scratched his forehead.
“February 12th.” she answered and looked around again. “Do you know if there’s any store nearby?”
“There’s a Tesco near Holland Park. It’s not far from here.” he said already getting his car keys from the kitchen counter where he had left them.
“You can stay here if you want.” she said dressing again her coat. “Because now with this beard you’re easily recognizable.” she said and looked at him. “I was actually surprised to see you by yourself. Where’s Bill?”
“I’ll go with you. And don’t worry, no one expects me to be at Tesco. So I guess we’re good to go. And I gave him the day off. He’s quite nosy when he wanst to be.” he laughed and waited for her while she locked the door.
She was quick finding what she needed at the store. She filled a cart with cleaning products and a few things like cloth hangers and toilet paper support. She even bought some things for them to snack later. They were back in no time and Harry surprised Carol by undressing his heavy coat and folding his shirt’s sleeves to help her clean the flat. They didn’t think it’d be as dirty as it was because it seemed clean. But when the soap and water started to roll, they groaned frustrated as how dirty it was. It took them a few hours to clean everything. Floor, windows, walls, shelves and built-ins. Harry even drove again to Tesco to buy the right fireplace cleaning products after she said she’d fetch them herself. He simply was out of her flat before she could think of more arguments to why he shouldn’t be wandering around London by himself. She waited for him with sandwiches and orange juice and they ate it seated at the kitchen counter.
“Thank you for helping me today, Harry.” she said when he parked his car in front of Hailey’s place later in the evening.
“You know you don’t have to thank me for anything. I’ll be here tomorrow early so we can hit Argos and IKEA and you can finally put your house together.” he said mocking the comments she spent the whole afternoon making.
“Well, I’ll appreciate that.” she answered and got her back to leave his car. “Good night, Harry.”
“Night, babe.” he answered and she looked at him. Out of an impulse she leaned in and pecked his lips and lingered for longer before getting out of the car. Harry was with a huge grin on his face. Maybe luck would be on his side now that she was living in London.
A/N: So there we have it. Another chapter, Carol’s finally living in London and that’s when our history becomes even more interesting.
By the way, for those of you who asked me, Carol’s name is pronounced: kah-ro-LEE-nah. The Brazilian/Spanish way. ;)
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Ethan meeting the family
HELLO MY DEAREST READERS!!
I am still new to tumblr so i’m not even sure how many people follow me but i know that i’m getting like 12 likes, which for me is huge!! Who knew my thoughts on screen would be loved! THANK YOU ALL :) xx
This story follows on with the previous Ana and Ethan stories.
Premises; Ana’s family from Australia are in New Jersey to visit her on exchange. But when Ana’s sister brings up a secret, how will the family and Ethan respond?
Work Count: 1989
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I sat on the window seat in my slip nighty. The summer sun was slowly going down around 20:50. I was ready to call it a day and to brace myself to see my family, who I hadn’t seen in six months. And I was about to ask them if I could extend my exchange program. And it wasn’t just mum and dad coming, oh no. The whole Mistopolis clan. Mum, dad, sister and brothers. I watched the darkness creep over. I had my finger around my necklace and twirled it around. It occurred to me that I they were meeting Ethan for the first time too. My mind was playing tricks. Having spurs of positivity and negativity. It was erupted by a handsome figure emerging from the trees below my window.
“Good evening little lady!” Ethan winked.
“Shit!” I gasped, jumping in my seat. “Ethan!” I whispered. “You didn’t tell me you were coming!”
“Surprise baby. Now let me in!” He said.
I pulled him in. In true Ethan style, he forced his weight on me which pushed me back. As we fell, he flipped us, so he fell on his back and I fell on top of him. My slip went flying up, revealing my undies.
“You’re lucky my host parents aren’t home.” I said, blowing away strands of hair that went astray.
“Cute undies.” He said, hitting my butt. I pushed myself up so I still had my knees around him. I grabbed his shirt and pulled him and gave him a pash.
“Well well.” He smirked. He got up and walked to my bed, jumped on it and patted it. Without realising, I started to fidget with my necklace.
“You’re nervous.” He said, taking off his shoes and jacket.
“Huh?” I asked, still playing with the necklace.
“Whenever you get nervous, you play with E-Tee-Wee-Tee.”
I looked down. My finger was still tracing around it. “I guess so.” I sighed, I crawled onto my bed.
“Show me the family again.” He smiled. He rested on the bed board and put his arm around me. I rested under his shoulder and pulled out the photo of us at the airport, before I left.
“Dad, Dimitri.” I said with a Greek accent. “Strong stubborn Greek man, but soft spot of his kids.”
“Daddy’s girl?” He asked.
“A little.” I admitted. “Mum, Ayla. The household Turkish queen. The only one to maintain the bull.” I giggled, pointing back to dad.
“You have your dad’s colourings but your mums features.” Ethan pointed out.
“Sila, my older sister. Works in Human Resources and is engaged to her partner Tomas, but he won’t be coming. Then my older brother, George, about to graduate from pastry school. He just came out to mum and dad.”
“How’d they take it.” Ethan asked.
“Really well. But unfortunately some of the family didn’t.”
“Let’s just say you won’t meet my cousins. And finally, my younger brother, Deniz. About to start high school. And that’s the Mistopolis clan.
“They’ll love you.”
I woke up to soft knocking at my door. I rolled over and looked at my phone. It was eight am. Ethan was snoring next to- SHIT! Ethan slept over. We must’ve fallen asleep. I jolted to the door and opened it ever so slightly, enough to peer my head out.
“Ana sweetie, good morning!” Linda chimed. She gave me a smirk like she new.
“Linda, I’m so sorry, he only-“ I began, stepping out of the room.
“Uh-uh!” She interrupted. “I don’t see anything, just make sure that it’s cleared before your parents come! I won’t tell them, I promise.” She winked.
“I owe you!” I gave her a huge hug. She snapped her figures and motioned towards the door. I nodded and ran back in. He was still peacefully fast asleep. I didn’t want to interrupt him, but we had to be ready in a few hours.
“Hey hey hey!!” I tapped him.
He slowly opened his eyes and then realised his bearings. “Oh god, I slept over.”
“Up and at ‘em!” I said, picking up his shoes and jacket. He started walking towards to door.
“Uh uh! Window!” I said, pulling him back. Without fighting, he headed towards the window.
“Okay, so be back at twelve then my parents will arrive around one.”
“Okay, yep sweet.” He was halfway out the window when I started to walk away.
“Ana?” He said. I turned around and saw his puckered lips. I ran back and kissed him.
“The white dress.” He said. And with that, he jumped down and headed towards his car.
As always, Ethan was early. I had my dress on. It was a midi, full skirt, white short sleeve backless dress than he bought for me. He loved me in it more than I did. I wore it with my orange sandals and of course, my necklace. It was 13:10. We sat on the couch hand in hand. I had a thin layer of sweat over my forehead. So did Ethan.
“Why are you nervous?” He asked, gently whipping my forehead.
“Why are you nervous?” I mimicked, doing the same back to him. He leant in and gave me a small peck. Then, we heard the truck. I got up and ran out. Nervousness transitioned to excitement. My dad was the first one out of the car.
“I koúkla mou!” He said, picking me up and swinging me around. He always called me his doll in Greek.
“No no no!” Mum interrupted, “Benim oyuncak bebeğim!” She laughed, giving me a welcoming hug. She always called me her doll in Turkish. It was a banter fight they always had. She took a step back and held me by my biceps.
“Look at you!” She smiled, with a tear rolling down her face. I pushed her back in for a hug.
“ANA!” George and Deniz both yelled. I opened my arms and welcomed them both.
“Well if it isn’t the one sister who left me behind with these two knuckle heads!” Sila laughed. She pulled me in for a hug too.
“How was the flight, how are you!” I started, all five of them started talking at once. Then I remember that they had to meet someone I had talked to them about. He was patiently standing five steps behind my family.
“Guys!” I said, stepping away from them and taking his hand. “This is Ethan. Ethan, my dad Dimitri.”
“Pleasure to meet you Mr. Mistopolis.” Ethan said, nervously.
“Dimitri, please.” Dad smiled, shaking his hand.
“My mum, Ayla.”
“Hello!” He smiled, kissing her three times on the check, as instructed by me previously.
“Ahh, familiar with the family traditions already.”
“And this is Sila, George and Deniz.”
“MISTOPOLIS SIBLING HUG!” They yelled, all running into him and picking him up and holding him. So far, so good.
We were in the backyard. Deniz, George and Ethan were playing with Charlie the dog. Mum and dad were inside talking to Paul and Linda and Sila was with me sitting on the patio.
“You really like him, huh?” Sila asked. I didn’t take my eyes off of him. He was already getting along with two of the most intimidating family members.
“I do.” I smiled back at her.
“And how are you going to break it to mum and dad that you want to extend your exchange.”
“What are you talking about?” I said, trying to play it cool.
“Ana.” Sila started, leaning in closer. “Remember how I knew when you had your first kiss and how you knew when Tomas and I did it for the first time? Sister’s instinct.”
I wiped my forehead.
“Plus it helps that your application result was send to Australia, not here.”
“I was wondering where that was!” I laughed. I wasn’t too mad. “I’m glad you got to it first before mum or dad.”
“Open it.” Sila pulled it out of her hand bag. Without hesitation, I ripped it open and scanned the first four lines.
“Well?” Sila asked curiously.
“Approved.” I sighed, showing no emotion.
“Approved good or approved bad?”
“Whatcha’ got there sweetie?” Dad interrupted, he was walking over with Mum, Paul and Linda, they all joined us on the patio.
“Oh, Ana!” Paul started. “Your visa officer called, regarding extending your exchange.
“Extending?” Mum put her tea down.
“Yes, I think they’ve made a mistake, right?” Paul asked.
I looked at Sila, she gave a nod. I knew I had to do it. But I wasn’t ready.
“Ana, what’s in your hands?” Dad asked again. This time it was stern.
“My approved application to extend my exchange.” I sighed. Mum looked at dad, dad looked at mum, Linda smiled at Paul and Paul gleamed back. The irony of their emotions killed me.
“Gosh, who died?” George laughed, walking up the stairs taking note of mum and dads faces. Ethan smiled behind them, but quickly mouthed ‘are you okay’ when he saw my face. Mum sat back in her chair and let out a sigh. It was time I broke it to Ethan too.
“So, I’ve decided to extend my exchange for another..” I took deep breath. “Six months.”
I instantly looked at Mum, who looked at dad who looked at nothing.
“Well, I think its time Ana had a chat with her parents, Sila, George, Deniz and Ethan, let’s have a look at the pool table!” Sila touched my shoulder when she got up. George and Deniz smiled. But Ethan didn’t look at me. Shit. Why?
“When were you going to tell us about this?!” Mum asked. She was bad cop, dad was good.
“This decision was made two weeks ago.” I’m still not sure if I’m going to actually go ahead with it. Without asking, dad took the paper out of my hands.
“I’ve gotten enough money working so I can pay for rent.”
“Money’s not the issues Ana!” Mum snapped.
“Then what is?” I argued back.
“We miss you.” Dad said under his breath. Loud enough for us to hear, not loud enough to match the volume of mum and I. He looked upset. I knew he was.
“You’re the only child, that got the Mistopolis gene out of all of them. I thought it was gone.” Dad started, mum and I sat back down.
“My dad, left Greece and moved to Amsterdam. His, sister, left for Austria. Two out of the eleven siblings. And they are the happiest two.”
Mum rested her hands on dad’s shoulders.
“Ana, if this makes you happy, then you can stay.”
I smiled at mum and dad. Who gave an uneasy smile. I jumped in their arms as if I were still three years old.
The rest of the afternoon was spend laughing and eating. Mum, Sila and I helped Linda with the dished while the rest packed down the backyard. The family left, Linda and Paul went to bed and It was just Ethan and I. We hadn’t talked about my exchange being extended all day. He walked out of the bathroom. I was sitting on the couch with my legs crossed.
“So I’m stuck with you for another six months, hey?”
I smiled slightly. I wasn’t sure if he was sad or happy about this. I wasn’t sure if I was sad or happy about this. He walked over, sad sat down, bout his hands around me and leant back. I leant back into his arms. They were warm and welcoming. He kissed the top of my head.
We sat there together. Everything was so right. I got another six months of him.
“Eventually, you’re gonna go back.” He started it. My heart sank.
“And I’ll just have to move over.” He finished. I rolled over. I couldn’t believe it. I wrapped my arms around him. We fell asleep on the couch. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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