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#all this stuff has been going on my whole life for over two decades
edgaruhec812 · 19 days ago
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10 Apps to Help You Manage Your Lucca
"Once More We Recognized That We have been Indispensable In Istanbul"
We listened to Cem Mirap, who defines Lucca for a new edition of the brand, 'Lucca two.0', which reopened its doors months later on Using the steps taken, infrastructure changes and renewed decoration.
Therefore if we say he is a real visionary within the catering and amusement sector, we wouldn't be exaggerating. Cem Mirap, who established off sixteen decades in the past together with his brand Lucca, which he developed with anything from the to Z, is one of the most inspiring names inside the field nowadays. We shared this exhilaration with Cem Mirap, who was pleased to open his spot, which remained different from his lovers all over the pandemic, with that unchanging atmosphere but which has a completely new Vitality.
Hi there: Firstly, you are actually separated from a enthusiasts for a long time. How was this time? What did you need to do during the pandemic each as Cem and being a staff?
Cem Mirap: I expended this process with my group by frequently acquiring creative meetings and generating new initiatives. As Cem, I'd the chance to expend quality time with my family at that time. Alternatively, I saved working. Both my staff and I labored constantly on new jobs and ideas. Consequently, a completely new brand name was born: L'express by Lucca. A Exclusive menu has long been well prepared for your flavors of Lucca which might be appropriate for choose-away company, the favourite Lucca delicacies are coming home with L'Convey. A further task I did in the course of this period is to determine a luxurious deal services System identified as Fuddy with an acquaintance of mine who is engaged in e-dcare. With its luxurious package deal service, distinguished eating places of Istanbul arrive for their properties Using the Fuddy software. This application is now available for down load from Apple Store and Google Enjoy.
Hi: Together with the now renewed Lucca, you opened your doors all over again just after months. How did you adapt to the new normals, what awaits us?
Stating which the reservations were total for a month at Lucca two.0, which opened its doorways right after a long time, Cem Mirap said, “This intense curiosity made us feel really satisfied. All of our visitors say the Lucca has no choice in its line ”.
“We are a group that is usually Doing the job, consistently wanting to increase the caliber of food and drink and enjoyment we offer. This ongoing self-advancement, want to present better, I feel, is The key driving drive for us.
“The electronic existence of restaurants is essential. Online catering and repair to households are going to be a great deal more significant. This really is now valid for world-well known places to eat together with for Istanbul. "
Very similar:As soon as the pandemic period of time begun, we closed our doors like other dining places, and in The brand new interval, we meticulously well prepared the steps we took for COVID-19 and opened our doors with several innovations and improvements we created, passing the summertime season with decoration and infrastructure adjustments. During its shutdown, the Lucca has been absolutely renewed. You can find now a fresh Lucca that is definitely additional stylish and 'fresh new', more advanced, which maintains the same emotion. I describe the new edition of Lucca as Lucca 2.0. In addition, Now we have taken quite stringent steps which include kitchen, ventilation, hygiene guidelines, opening and closing periods. We open our doors at 10:00 each morning and close at 24:00. We offer providers in accordance with COVID-19 norms. Basically, Lucca presents pleasant several hours from breakfast to supper, as it had been in the days it was initial opened. In this era when there'll be no evening leisure, food will likely be our priority as generally. It is essential for us that our guests sense Risk-free in terms of hygiene even though dwelling the exciting atmosphere of Lucca.
HELLO: So far as I read, your reservations have been full for per month. How did this intensive fascination and longing truly feel?
Mirap: This extreme desire created us truly feel pretty happy as being the Lucca Household; due to the fact once again we understood that we're an indispensable model of Istanbul.
All our company insistently state that Lucca has no choice in its very own lane.
Howdy: You need to have skipped a good deal too… What did you overlook most about your occupation?
Mirap: I skipped Lucca's energetic ecosystem, its Power when it can be whole, and the combination of having and drinking and leisure in the process from morning to evening.
HELLO: Many of us have reviewed our behaviors and our life for the duration of this required time once we are locked absent. Our recognition has enhanced in some ways. Are there any difficulties in your daily life that you just say "It will not be similar to in advance of" or in which you make new decisions?
Mirap: Lucca has usually been the very first of its kind, continually innovating and improving. It really is having out of your busy group atmosphere of new decades, renewed and acquiring once again in accordance with new normals, and simultaneously continues on its way with a far more made form. Additionally, digitalization and the electronic existence of restaurants are crucial. On the web catering and residential service are going to be essential while in the medium and long term. This is now valid for world-renowned places to eat, together with for Istanbul… Thus, I designed deals for Lucca and my other brand, Cantinery, ideal for takeaway and catering. The brand new era In particular really wants to get to the foods and drinks they want at your house. Electronic belongings of models are now a Component of standard lifestyle.
Hi: Here is the handle of 'firsts' in numerous ways. He had an enviable results Tale in his sector. What type of eyesight, which kind of brain is driving the Lucca?
Mirap: Truly, we're a group that often works for a workforce, constantly attempting to elevate the caliber of foodstuff and consume and leisure we offer. This, ongoing self-improvement, desire to give much better, I believe, is An important driving force for us. Concurrently, it is vital for us to Stick to the developments on the planet as well as sector intently and to make improvements that have never been tried using. Under no circumstances to appear like someplace, our aim is always to lift the Lucca's very own line bigger like a bar.
HELLO: Likely back to 2004, once you initially opened your doors; What sort of Baby was there at that time, what type of Toddler is there today? If you consider what this district has contributed to you personally over the years and what you may have contributed to it, who do you're thinking that encouraged and produced it? How does one Consider it?
Comparable:From the first day I made Lucca, I usually thought of it to be a A part of Bebek in addition to a 'neighborhood' Room. Because Lucca is always synonymous with Bebek, I in no way thought of opening a branch everywhere else. From its decoration to its menu, Lucca has often had a type that displays Bebek's European coastal environment. I think Bebek has really gotten a little bit more crowded over time, but simultaneously, he has usually retained his soul. It can make me pretty very pleased to see that Lucca is usually among the list of venues that is rather determined with Bebek. With their cosmopolitan Mind-set, it can make me pretty satisfied that Bebek people very own signature venues including Lucca. This exhibits that Bebek will generally manage its cosmopolitan spirit. We comprehended once again that Lucca is indispensable for each Bebek and Istanbul.
Hi there: This can be needless to say not just because of its site; Its standard audience has usually designed a variation with its award-successful preferences and audio. What do you think that are 'need to-haves' in an area? Contemplating all the elements from decoration to tunes, what impacts you by far the most?
Mirap: For starters, a location should not try to appear to be another. The exclusivity on the put is very important. Also, it ought to usually increase the elements it provides. Within the just one hand, offering innovation and distinction to its attendees as well as its classic flavors is definitely the 'should-have' of the place for me.
HELLO: At the same time, you became an area that supports and enjoys artwork and is also intertwined with art. Is artwork nevertheless a component of this environment in the new era?
Mirap: In the new period of time, Whilst we typically exhibit fixed is effective, we center on artists from Istanbul. In the forthcoming periods, we can make good collaborations. We'll Arrange a joint exhibition in collaboration with König Galerie in Berlin and Istanbul'74. We're going to realize this in a brief time.
HELLO: You have already been told repeatedly about "Opening a new branch" or about presents made for it, but none of the has happened. Are you one among those people who feel that development spoils the magic from the enterprise? Or those who don't love to surrender Manage?
Mirap: I think Lucca is a spot that is incredibly synonymous with Bebek. I am on Lucca Cafe the view that it wouldn't be correct to create a photocopy. That is why I did not visualize opening the new branch of Lucca, but I'm branching out for Cantinery and C Coffee Bar in my other eating places. Concurrently, I have other assignments in the sphere of foods and beverage. For example, the brand I just established is L'Categorical. We just take the popular flavors of Lucca home with take absent.
Good day: What would you prefer to mention to youthful entrepreneurs who would like to develop an unique brand during the food stuff and enjoyment marketplace?
Mirap: Specifically following the pandemic, it happens to be very hard to enter our market. I have similar recommendations to Just about Everybody who wants to enter this sector. The moment it appears to be like quite simple from the outside, it is in fact a quite challenging sector. It is essential to possess the proper principle, suitable area and position. I suggest new business people to generate incredibly appropriate goals and the appropriate planning of what the location will present. It is not merely the idea, it's the implementation of it. A further advice is usually to be unlike anyplace else and to do justice to, develop and stand driving what you do. At the same time, I feel that in our new planet, food items and beverage brands ought to be more robust in the online world.
Good day: As one of several seasoned and productive names with the marketplace nowadays, what guidance would you give to Cem, who was firstly of your highway sixteen yd back?
Mirap: Generally preserve enhancing on foods and beverage high-quality. Constantly be 3 techniques forward in the quality you supply in the sector of food items and beverage. You should not stray in the way you realize it is right.
Hi: Aside from your own put, in Turkey or in the world which you appreciate you go, you can find places to eat you'll be able to admire the kitchen area?
Mirap: There are several. As restaurant metropolitan areas, I Specifically like Ny and L. a.. Yearly After i go there, I expertise unique eating places. In the Significantly East, Bangkok and Tokyo also have Superb eating places and nightclubs. Ibiza is Similarly a necessity-see destination for nightlife. I You should definitely travel and go to every position I can knowledge, from Avenue food items to Michelin star dining places.
The wholly renewed Lucca is in front of us with a far more exquisite and more State-of-the-art Variation that preserves the same experience. Lucca two.0, defined given that the new edition of Lucca, offers assistance in between 10:00 - 24:00 with very rigid actions for example kitchen, air flow and hygiene regulations. In this era when there is absolutely no evening leisure, good quality foods is their precedence as often.
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moonflms · 19 days ago
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➷。˚wishes —nct/superm mark lee
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requested by anon! note, use of media (twice only dw)
next request: jaehyun
PROLOGUE ༄ — mark takes you out on a friendly date to watch the total lunar eclipse by the park! but oh how we wished the date was real.
PAIRING ༄ - non-idol! mark x fem! reader
GENREs ༄ - fluff, semi-onesided love, stars, eclipse, moongazing, under the night sky, semi-socmed, ed sheeran
W. COUNT ༄ - around 1.5k+
NETWORKS༄ - @multifandomnet
TAGS ༄ - @cupfullofjeno (maddie imy :( ) @jungwon-luv-bot-pt3 (if you wanna be tagged in my stories then feel free to reach out to me ! <3)
➷。min's letter ༄ - i honestly feel like this one sucked bc i honestly didn't know how to write a cute prompt anon sent kdfhjkdf
do not repost. copyright belongs to @moonflms 2021. reblogs and likes are deeply appreciated! originally posted on my wattpad (@johnsparrot) . enjoy reading!
masterlist
"i get it that you're into astronomy and the likes but mark, it's past six." you reasoned out from the front seat as you talk to your best friend who was by the trunk arranging whatever he packed. "first, i'm not that deep into the study unlike professionals and astrophiles but you already agreed so shut up!" mark looks at you from the back as he smiles at you who was slightly annoyed.
"a pillow or moomin?" mark walked to your side, barricading you to your seat as he slightly leans towards you, a hand on the door keeping the car wide open as the other rested near the headrest. "moomin please" you pushed mark slightly away as you watched him dash into the house for the soft plushie. you chuckled at how he treats you like a kid— what he always does when you're having those rough weeks. you watched him lock the house and come back with the white plush in hand.
he gets settled in the driver's seat as he starts buckles up, royally handing the toy over to you "one moomin m'lady" he slightly bows down while handing it over, another episode of him being goofy. you played along and smiled before mark fully started the drive towards the park.
the drive was not silent as mark kept the atmosphere busy with a few of ed sheeran's songs playing through his stereo. with the songs playing mark felt vague; he felt butterflies yet he felt his chest gradually getting heavier. photograph, thinking out loud and eventually to happier. playing those songs he realized, no, he knew very well that they had something in common.
that they all reminded him of you.
his gallery and even actual photographs always had you beside him, complete attendance from his adorable childhood to his questionable high school era. thinking out loud because he sees you much more as his confidant, his best friend. all the 'i love you's he showered you with from time to time meant much more than how you saught it as. he feels at peace by seeing you smile and his heart never fails to flutter when he feels your head cozied up by his chest.
and to happier as he knows that you were least likely to become his. he hesitated to confess despite all his others friends convinced you felt the same way. he wouldn't want to go through the pain of rejection and turn the years of friendship all awkward of a sudden.
it has been going on for a great while and the only thing mark could do was to show signs without making it obvious, like how he queued the songs in that order.
you had a rough week and it only seems to get rougher. what hurt you hurt mark as well, so he always goes berserk just to make you lighten up from your burdening feelings.
you and mark always had a bucket list of stuff you both wanted to do. and mark felt it was a perfect time to cross one out; a date under the night sky.
a friendly date despite how mark wanted it to be an actual one.
mark felt lucky knowing that same night had a lunar eclipse (and surprisingly a super moon) was supposed to show and he just had to seize the opportunity. he made sure to bring binoculars, comfy blankets to rest on and of course, the requested moomin plush renjun gifted him for christmas.
the park was nearby and mark felt giddy. focused on humming and driving mark overheard a few shutters and felt the gut feeling of a camera pointing at him. "i better look hot in those" he joked as he glanced at you through the mirror. "i was taking pictures of the cherry blossom, dumbass" you chuckled as you proceeded to snap a few pictures of mark. you then moved over to your instagram to spam about the sudden trip. "one last, look" you scooted closer to mark's side to take a pic with him, just before the traffic light switched to green. both of you looking sweet, you smiled to yourself.
-
you were finally settling down on the blanket sprawled over the grass, the view of the waters from the distance and the moon above continuing its eclipse. mark who was sitting up, set aside the binoculars, and laid beside you. he turned to his side as he watched you. "so, a check on the bucket list?" mark smiled hoping you'd say yes.
"well, my best friend is much better than other than an invisible boyfriend." mark smiled through the stinging pain. 'yeah, best friend'  he thought to himself.
"don't you get tired of being by my side?" you looked up to the sky, feeling a bit doubtful.
"and why would you think so?"
"it's more or less two decades of us constantly by each other's side. and the things you'd do just to get me out of my—"
"y/n, if you're hurt, i get hurt too. i'm always here for you, no matter how stupid and annoying you could be at times. if i went through my whole life with you by my side, why would i suddenly stray away?" mark softly patted your cheek, drying off the few tears that rolled down. you came closer to mark and hugged him, nuzzling by his chest and scent. "and you know how much i love you right?" you nodded as you continued to nest under him.
mark would've been jumping in joy. but tracing back a few words, there he reminded himself of the word 'best friend'.
mark hugged you back as he secretly logged into his instagram as well, he distracted himself by viewing a few of the stories. your story came in after a few taps and there showed a picture of him driving, captioned with a black heart. "sure, keep on hoping minhyung."  he thought to himself once again.
he finally decided to create his own with the picture he secretly took of you earlier. he thought of the caption for a while until he ended up with "wished you we're mine." he posts storied like these on the daily, he just made sure to set it into the close friends setting to avoid you from seeing it. he quickly tapped the post option as he felt you move and sat up.
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"look! it's red!" you pointed at the moon, smiling as you were amazed by the phenomenon. you pulled mark up from his position and continued to look at the dark sky. it indeed was beautiful. mark inserted his phone back into his pocket as he cupped your shoulder, watching you admire the heavenly bodies above.
feeling done, you glanced at mark who was still looking up. you watched your best friend enjoy his own time as you felt a small vibrate off your phone. you quickly checked the notification as it came from... mark?
" [y/nmais_vu] : @onyourm__mark posted a new story ! "
checking it, you wondered when mark was able to snap a quick photo of you, but you wondered more about the caption. you felt your heartbeats go rapid and your stomach starts to churn. "y/n?" mark called as you quickly locked your phone. "you alright?"
"yeah... nothing much, just story notifs." you smiled and sat closer to mark. he hums as he proceeds to wrap his free arm around your shoulders, continuing to watch over the distance. "did you make a wish?" you asked mark who was finally looking back at you with an unsure expression. "we're supposed to wish! go on, "  you nudged mark as he spaced out for a moment, staring at a star. "starlight, star bright, the first star i see tonight!" you both burst into laughs "what are we? pre-school?" mark smiled as he continued to stay silent.
"you made me wish on a star now tell me what you asked for," mark turns facing you. you stayed silent for a while as you looked up to the ending eclipse above. "i actually had two wishes" you pulled out a few blades of grass, avoiding his eyes. "first, was for your wish to come true," you fully faced mark as you took the plush into your hands, fiddling with it.
"second, ... i also wished for you to be mine" you smiled at mark whose face was indecipherable. "wait, what?" you noticed how his cheeks were lightly brushed with blush. "it was your notif, mark."
right there, mark realized that he failed to upload the story to the selected option. "i... well, you did suddenly moved and made me panic." mark chuckled as he continues to study your eyes that were glistening under the soft lights of the surroundings. "your turn. what did you wish for?"
mark came closer to you as he tucks some hair behind your ear, "it just came true." he whispered as he quickly diverted his vision towards the tree nearby. you softly held mark's chin as you got him to face you, your body suddenly heating up inside the white crewneck sweatshirt you were wearing. you both felt euphoric as the sudden confession still felt unreal. you both felt rewarded after keeping in the hopes and feelings for one another.
unconsciously, you both started to close in while the background started to seem blurry, and the only things that were clear to your visions were each other. "can i?" granting him permission mark closed the gap in between both of you, feeling his own soft set above yours. you returned the favor as you cautiously mimicked what mark did, creating a slow rhythm for the both of you.
lasting a good few seconds, you both broke away with heated cheeks and pleased hearts. mark pulled you closer as he now has you in between in him, hugging you from behind. he laid you back into his chest and placed one more kiss, smiling afterward. you locked your phone once again after posting another story. (check below) you both were glad that the wishes of becoming each other's pair were finally granted. mark continued to sway you in his arm, looking up at the succeeding eclipse. "hey y/n,"
"the moon is beautiful, isn't it?"
———
(for those who doesn't know it actually means 'i love you' !)
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finnicksannie · 25 days ago
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THGagain (apologies if I’m not sticking to the schedule, I’m behind and also a maverick)
Chapter 2 Liveblog
Something that I like about Collins’s writing is how she often will ground Katniss in her actual experiences. Instead of saying, “I feel like the wind is knocked out of me”, she describes a time where Katniss actually experienced it (while also providing some context for Katniss’s real life experiences of climbing trees for hunting... which will come in handy in a little bit, I bet).
This little detail about a boy from the Seam... I had always assumed they were divided by gender (like in the movie). But going back a few pages it seems they were divided by age.
Oh, the ducktail. This visual makes me so sad (probably also because they did do this bit well in the movies, and I can see it clearly).
I like how Katniss doesn’t think about it at all. We don’t know what she’s going to do before she does it. Because it is sheer instinct on Katniss’s part.
Wait hang on... District 12 hasn’t had a volunteer in ‘decades’? They’ve had a volunteer before? Wahhhhhhhh... I wonder if maybe they had one or two after Haymitch won, or if it’s something that was more common back when there was a more fair chance (before the Career training really got going, or even before the Gamemakers starting upping the ante) but after the reward system was put in place. Hmmm. Also, Katniss saying that in some districts people are eager to risk their lives, the volunteering is complicated... This is obvious foreshadowing to finding out about the Careers, but I wonder if there are some in-between districts where volunteers are more common.
“Don’t want her to steal all the glory, do we?” I’m not one to give Effie the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes I wonder when she says stuff like this if she actually believes it, or if she’s putting on a show for the cameras. I feel like it is somewhere in between sometimes. Definitely something I will be paying attention to.
“I don’t expect it because I don’t think of District 12 as a place that cares about me. But a shift has occurred since I stepped up to take Prim’s place, and now it seems I have become someone precious.” A martyr. This is Katniss turning into a martyr, a sacrifice. A symbol. I do think D12 probably cared about Katniss much more than she thinks, but there is some wisdom to her perception here. This is our first glimpse of the power of symbolic figures.
“Now I am truly in danger of crying, but fortunately Haymitch chooses this time to come staggering across the stage to congratulate me.” Lmao. Yeah, what coincidental timing. It is fascinating to see how Katniss views Haymitch here, because she’s seeing him through the lens of how he portrays himself and misses the moments where he’s being clever or intuitive. At the same time, I don’t think him falling offstage was on purpose. I think he’s really very drunk because this is the worst part of his life every year.
“But I know I was right about not running off. Because who else would have volunteered for Prim?” Ugh I could wax poetic about Collins’s ability to plant big worldview questions in small moments. Katniss cannot simply ignore and escape the systemic issues in her society, because they affect the people she cares about. She would never be able to just leave Panem and forgot what was going on there.
Look at the different between how Effie drew Prim’s name last chapter and Peeta’s name this chapter:
Prim: “She reaches in, digs her hand deep into the ball, and pulls out a slip of paper.”
Peeta: “Haymitch is whisked away on a stretcher and Effie Trinket is trying to get the ball rolling again... she crosses to the ball that contains the boys’ names and grabs the first slip she encounters.”
Effie’s behavior when drawing Peeta’s name is influenced by Katniss volunteering. When she was drawing Prim’s name she was trying to create extra drama and excitement, but after Katniss volunteered and all the chaos with Haymitch ensued, Effie just wanted to get the show on the road. So she just picked Peeta’s name from the top. If Katniss hadn’t volunteered, Effie likely would have dug around and tried to make the boy’s reaping more dramatic as well... and Peeta likely wouldn’t have been picked. It’s the butterfly effect, and it really adds to the whole theme of odds and chance.
Katniss: Peeta Mellark! (affectionate)
The whole thing about Peeta’s brother and family devotion only going so far is sad but realistic. I love my siblings but I don’t know if I would have had the bravery to take their place in a fight to the death as a teenager. Especially in D12 where they all assume if they’re reaped then they’re dead. What Katniss does IS the radical thing. And it makes sense for her character and the relationship she has with her sister, who Katniss has had to take care of for the last few years. Katniss in many ways is like Prim’s parent. The love she has for her is radical, and not the type you would often see between siblings of this age (imagine for a second if parents were allowed to volunteer for their children. The reaping would look entirely different).
The Treaty of Treason probably is very dull, but I would love to hear it lol. I love worldbuilding.
“Our only real interaction happened years ago. He’s probably forgotten it. But I haven’t and I know I never will....” SUZANNE!!!!!! HOW DARE YOU! (Screams in Mockingjay)
“The district had given us a small amount of money as compensation for his death, enough to cover one month of grieving at which time my mother would be expected to get a job.” Okay this is not NEARLY enough time. A month??? I’m going to have to remember this when I do my TBOSAS re-read, because I’m curious how much money and time Snow’s family was given for his father’s death. A whole lot more, I’m willing to bet (not that you can quantify grief and loss, but it demonstrates the disparity between economic hardship in the Capitol vs District 12).
“... who still polished my father’s shaving mirror each night because he’d hated the layer of coal dust that settled on everything in the Seam.” This is probably just a stray detail, but I’m noting it because it is another thing that suggests Mr. Everdeen felt out of place in the Seam (and was second-generation Covey perhaps?)
The commonality of starvation in D12 and Katniss’s casual “who hasn’t seen the victims?” hits hard, especially as someone who doesn’t regularly see people starving to death. It helps drive the point home that this is a tangible part of her reality.
“Suddenly a voice was screaming at me and I looked up to see the baker’s wife, telling me to move on and did i want her to call the Peacekeepers and how sick she was of having those brats from the Seam pawing through her trash.” This really reminds me of when people complain about homeless people digging through trash, and I think it is supposed to. Specifically it makes me think about people getting upset about homeless people going through trash bins to pull out recyclable cans and bottles (because I used to live in a state where you could deposit them for 10c apiece) and it’s such a stupid thing to get upset over. If someone is willing to go through your trash, then they must really need to go through your trash.
The fact that Katniss didn’t even know Peeta’s name because he stuck with the town kids really shows how divided they were. I mean, with a population of only 8 thousand people, their school must have been quite small.
“I heard the woman screaming again and the sound of a blow,” PEEEETAAAAAAAAAAAAA. MY SWEET BOY. YOU DO NOT DESERVE THIS.
Also she called him “You stupid creature” what the hell what the actual hell I hate this woman.
I’m going to pause for a second and say that what I love about this series is that a less interesting, talented writer could have easily turned this into a series where Katniss was in love with Peeta before they entered the arena (or even had Gale be the one to go in) and have romantic love be her motivation and angst about not wanting to kill him. But no. Katniss is compromised from the very beginning because of the compassion that Peeta showed her on a very human level. He showed her love. Maybe partly because he had a little crush on her, but also because he is a kind human being. He showed Katniss kindness and compassion and humanity and love and that is why Katniss can never totally shut him out. And eventually that human connection turns into a beautiful, radical, (and yes romantic) love, but at the beginning it is just this simple human connection. He showed her compassion and saved her life and Katniss can never forget that. The revolution starts with simple, unselfish human kindness
With all that out of the way... it is really hilarious that Katniss caught Peeta staring at her because he obviously had a crush on her, and her reaction is “I feel like I owe him something, and I hate owing people.” Lol. Girl.
Katniss asks “Exactly how am I supposed to work in a thank-you in there? Somehow it just won’t seem sincere if I’m trying to slit his throat” and now I want to look out for the first time she says those exact words to him.
I think Collins is a great writer but sometimes her analogies send me. “His [hands] are as solid and warm as those loaves of bread.” A little over the top there Suzanne. Also: “Peeta looks me right in the eye and gives my hand what I think is meant to be a reassuring squeeze. Maybe it’s just a nervous spasm.” There is a river in Egypt and its name is Katniss.
“Odds are someone else will kill him before I do. Of course, the odds have not been very dependable of late.”
I mean, she’s not... wrong. Someone else doesn’t kill Peeta.
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popculturebuffet · 26 days ago
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Scottrospective: Scott Pilgrim Vs the Universe or So Sad So Very Very Sad
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Hello all you happy Scottaholics! And welcome back to Scottrospective, my 8 part look at Scott Pilgrim: all 6 volumes of the comic as well as the game and movie just in time for their respective 10th Anniversaries. If your just joining us or needa  quick refresher, here are links to the other four parts, in order: Precious Little Life, Vs The World (Comic), Infinite Sadness, and last month’s look at my favorite volume Gets It Together. And if that’s not enough to fill your belly with Scotty Goodness, hop over to my patreon, patreon.com/popculturebuffet.  There you’ll find reviews of all the content I didn’t have time for in the retrospective proper: Free Scott Pilgrim, The Wonderful World of Kim Pine, Monica Beetle, Style, and the bonus comic strips. It’s only a dollar to get access to the bonus reviews, and every bit you can give not only helps me make these reviews int he first place, but gets me closer to my stretch goals, the 25 and 30 dollar ones including looks at O’Malley’s Other Works: Lost At Sea and Seconds for the former and Snotgirl for the latter. 
But more than plugging my past and paid works, there’s something else far more important I need to get to before I get into this one: Thank You. No Seriously thank all of you who have been reading these, liking them. My Precious Little Life Review is easily one of the most liked things i’ve ever had on this blog, getting more viewers every day, and last month’s look at Gets it Together is STILL racking up likes. Given most of my non-duck reviews, paid for and on my own time, tend to be ignored half the time, this just warms my heart. It shows me two great things: that even after a decade Scott Pilgrim still has a huge following and given how young this platform tends to skew that it’s gaining more fans every day, and that people care about what I have to say about htis wonderful comic. It really touches me to both know my voice matters and that something I truly loved as a teen and still do now is STILL picking up more and more fans. What i’m saying is you guys are the best and I wouldn’t be doing these reviews without your support of my very hard work. These are some of the hardest reviews i’ve done at times, but seeing you all enjoy them makes it all worth it. 
As for the Volume itself there’s something I just gotta get off my chest right away: I HATED this volume when it came out. To understand why you have to consider my mental state: I was a teenager at the time, in my junior year of high school. Scott Pilgrim was my goddamn world: while I was picking up comics monthly at the time this was honestly the first north american comic I loved and obessed over and Scott and friends were like family to me. To an awkward teen who couldn’t talk to girls, struggled to keep the video game club a friend founded together in a way that in hindsight was wholly unecessary, and getting messed with due to my anger issues by friend, foe and frenemy alike, Scott was my port in the storm. A sunny version of Tornoto where I could retreat to to feel at peace.
So yeah this shattered the fuck out of that peace and was essentially one long slow motion kick to the balls to a younger me: Hollie gets derailed and horribly betrays Kim, runing my faviorite characters life and leading to her LEAVING, Scott and Ramona’s relationship crumbles, the band breaks up , and the volume ends with Gideon still gunning for our hero because life hadn’t punched him in the face enough for one month. I was livid, not stopping the series, obviously, but upset that everything i’d grown to care about was basically gone in a flash and couldn’t understand WHY O’Malley would fucking do this to me. This volume was also what kept me from re-reading the books for as long as I did as while the rest had fond memories all the ones I had of this one were pure misery.
But by the time i re-read it in december of last year I had two important things in my hands that helped me truly enjoy this one: The first was Volume 6 itself: knowing things would work out, that most of the bad stuff would be undone and in a truly awesome and satisfying way helped.
The other thing was the perspective that came with growing older: For one as an adult while I still like Scott as a character and find him intresting I no longer look up to him, nor put stock in his hapiness for his own. Sure I still care about characters and relate to some, but Bojack Horseman taught me the hard way you CAN’T put all your hopes in a character’s fate or them getting better for you to get better. 
The other is that while this volume again is pretty bleak after a while.. it’s also NECESSARY. Part of the series charm is i’ts realisim and a sad part of real life is people can drift apart from you, and things can change seemingly all at once. And things moving the way they do is necessary for the ending: every step and move here puts things where they need to be for the final chapter.  The pain our heroes go through is necessary so they can all grow.. except Stephen and Wallace. Stephen sucks and Wallace dosen’t need to change. He does need his own spinoff. But for Scott, Ramona and Kim the trials to come are necessary to make them into their best selves by series end. 
So join me under the cut as we get sad so very very sad, this is Scott Pilgrim vs the Universe. 
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Precious Little Life:  We open with Scott’s Birthday! Hit it MC Chris!
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But yes it’s septmeber and Scott is now 24 years old. Also Julie is there because presumibly Stephen dredged her out of her swamp for the evening despite Julie likely not wanting to be there and Scott sure a shell not wanting her there.  He vows that he will be the best 24 year old ever...... yeah let’s take a brief look into the future to see how that pans out
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But we have a full volume and more metaphorical rakes to whack Scott in the face before that paticular one. 
A MONTH AND A FEW DAYS LATER
It’s the day of the dead, whoa ho way down in Tornoto. It’s hosted by Satan Herself, who dosen’t realize the holiday for hags was yesterday. This is for remembering the dead and rising out of the grave to go resuce your young wards by ramming a bunch of guys in butterfly costumes with your car or stealing your children’s kidneys.  This is Rat Girl’s new place, a fancy loft she and 3 other girls went on to throw the best parties beaause of course. She’s also a bitch to our hero and heroine because of course. 
But Scott soon has more important things to worry about: Ramona spots his next two opponents.. the twins hinted at last time, Kyle and Ken Kataynagi, Perfect Jerk and Handsome Asshat respectively.
Kyle and Ken are easily the least intresting of the 7 exes. With the other 4 so far having been a loveable ham, a stoic movie star whose suprisingly nice and dies via skateboard, a gloriously douchey and dumb psychic evil version of our much more loverable dumb douche with personal connections to both him and Ramona, and Roxy who was genuinely sympathetic, held back by her own selfishness and anger.. we get.. two smug assholes who use robots. Their not UNINTRESTING, the robots have cool designs and the fight with them is genuinely exciting.. but they just don’t have the charisma or personal factor. Their jsut two assholes ramona dated at the same time who happen to know more about her well guarded past than the other exes and are more liable to bring it up.. and even then it’s not anything new as Envy pulled similar tactics far more intrestingly in volume 3. THey don’t ruin the volume or anything, thier fine, but I just wish O’Malley had done more. Especially since he clealry had more intresting ideas with them: the sound battle we saw in the movie was an early draft of this and one early draft had Scott’s previously unseen brother Laurence working with them. I don’t knowWHY he scrapped that as it raises the stakes and makes this far more personal for Scott. Which at this point is what the exes SHOULD be: Todd and Roxy BOTH were more personal threats, Todd being his ex’s boyfriend and first love and Roxy being a genuine competior for Ramona. These guys again are just two douchers who show up because we need 7 douchers to complete the doucher circle. 
So the twins declare their not going to fight scott.. and instead send a tiny robot to fight him. Awww. But for this fight O”Malley does something really intresting and creative.. he dosen’t focus on it. No really Ken and Kyle are dicks to Ramona so Kim wisely gets her out of there, and the two have a casual talk on the balcony while Ramona smokes. It’s some fun banter between the two that both shows why their shipped to all hell. The two just play off each other really damn well. Though we also get Craphole asking people if they want to come watch Scott get beat up because the worst. 
Something important character stuff comes up though: As was shown last time at her rightful rage that Stephen HAD an opportunity to book a gig and kept refusing it for his fecking album, Kim is still fairly salty about the whole recording an album bullshit. The biggest part of it..
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It’s something you really DON’T expect to here coming out of kim: that she really LIKED the band. But beneath the pillar of salt she puts out daily... these were her friends, this was getting to do something creative and passionate, and it was a break from the daily grind. Even if her job isn’t TERRIBLE, getting to watch movies and hang out with her best friend Clerks style.. it’s still a retail job and those still weigh on you.. though frankly i’d take one of those over food service but sadly tha’ts what i get most of the time. This was fun.. and Stephen ripped that away from her for his own selfish reasons. No one else in the band really cared about making an album.. if Stephen REALLY wanted to find a more professional band.. then he should’ve just told them so Scott and Kim could find someone else to do guitars for them. Instead he forced them into doing something they don’t want to do and refuses to actually play shows, which COULD help both perfect songs for the album version and get them new fans for said upcoming album and provide them recurring venues to SELL said album,  because he really just wants to be with Joseph and fuck anyone else. Stephen is really just an inhernetly selfish git and i’ll get more into that in a bit. But first Wallace has a text for Scott. 
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Now I COULD have just skipped over this.. but I didn’t want to. Plus we dont’ se Wallace for a while in this story so i’m taking what I can get. 
So back to Stephen being a repugnant ass. I’ve been waiting for this scene for the entire retrospective. I”ve hinted at it, and largely blamed it for why I hate him so damn much. The time is nigh to explain WHY. 
Stephen is with Knives, as the two are close friends and such. Stephen expalins Sex Bomb-Omb isn’t playing because he and the personfication of bitchiness broke up. Which knives points out is for...
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But it’s clear from context this was the LAST time. Why he still got invited I dunno, plot convience. So far so normal.. until Stephen picks up that Knives is STILL hung up on Scott. Which is understandable crushes can last a while but i’ts equally understandable that Stephen is utterly baffled by it. Which I get,  I didn’t make an entire tom lucitor retropsecitve because I liked that his relationship with Star ended with him stepping aside due to what the show thought was “true wuv” but what comes off instead as his self loathing casuing him to blame himself for a realtionship that’s crumbling for reasons that aren’t his fault. 
And his actions here are incredibly well meant: He bluntly gives Knives the wake up call she DOES need: Scott cheated on her, he dated her because she was easy to date, strung her along for a bit while seeing someone else, then dumped her with not one care for her well being. That is stuff she NEEDS to get into her head so she can move on. She needs to see him for what he IS and not for what she’s built him up as in her head. And while yeah his rant DOSNE’T take into account the fact Scott geninely tried to make up for his actions in volume 3, Stephen wasn’t there for that and Knives probbably didn’t tell him about it.  So from his point of view scott broke her heart and did nothing.. and evne IF he knew that, Scott still hasn’t tried to do anything since despite Knives still being obessed with him nor come clean to her or Ramona at any point. Scott deserves this call out and the consequences that come with it. 
So your probably wondering WHY I hate Stephen because of this scene when he’s you know, RIGHT. Well it’s simple: being right dosen’t save you from being a MASSIVE hypcorite. He’s railing on Scott for cheating and hurting someone.. when he cheated on Julie and would’ve hurt her if she had the capacity for human emotion, empathy, or self awarness. The ending of the last volume and how bad, even for them, their relationship was implied the hell out of it, with him nervous when she brings up being paranoid over knives.. as if he WAS cheating. on One Face just not with a teenage girl but a grown ass man who hates everyone as much as BLARARARGAGAG does. 
Not only that.. but he was with Julie for the SAME DAMN reasons Scott was with Knives: it was easy. Now I WILL grant Stephen some sympathy: he’s a queer man and as one myself, bi for the record, I GET how fucking hard it is to come to terms with that, that what you thought you were isn’t ENITRELY true or, if Stephen is gay and not bi or pan, ENIRELY FALSE. So I do have some care that it was hard for him to sort all this out. I do and that Jospeh could’ve seduced him or what not. We don’t have all the context here. But he STILL cheated at the end of the day instead of telling her he was queer until MONTHS later.  And why yes the fact I have to feel bad for JULIE does make it that much worse. And yes their relationsihp COULD simply be that toxic or she could’ve gaslit him, but it seemed more like their relationship was messy breakups and getting back together over and over. While Julie IS vile, she’s not a domestic abuser mental or physical as far as I can tell. She’s a bitch and their relatioship is unehlathy but there was no indication their relationship involved gaslighting or evne phsyical violence: it was just fucked from minute one. So yeah he stayed in an awful relationship beacuse it was easier than coming out, when he should’ve broken it off as soon as it was clear he and Joseph were actually going somewhere. Waiting while he figured out who he was is one thing, tha’ts fiar, but cheating on someone just because you don’t have the nerve to break it off with them when their genuinely awful to you and your only hurting them as much as they can be hurt by dragging this out... yeah that just makes you an ass. 
Another point of contention is that he NEVER called Scott out on this. Never. Not even after this scene. Never encouraged him to tell Ramona or apologize to Knives, again he didn’t know Scott already had tried that. Never gets on him.. he just ignores Scott’s shitty behavior like eveyrone else and unlike Kim, whose still got unresolved feelings and is at the very least clearly bothered by his shitty behavior, and Neil, whose young and thus like me likely looked up to Scott at the time, he dosen’t have an excuse other than “Well I don’t want to ruin our friendship by actually calling him out when he does something objectivionally awful.” Especially since Wallace DID actually take action: he didn’t break up the relationship or say anythign to Ramona, which is wrong... but he did tell scott flat out after his first date with Ramona to break up with Knives. And when Scott chickned out of that, Wallace gave him the ultimatium, may it live in empathy, to do so or he WOULD tell Ramona. And at least Wallace has a motive for not telling Ramona other than “I don’t want to risk my friendship with a guy I really don’t care about and think is shitty”. He wanted to see Scott recover from Envy, something Stephen never gave ONE. SHIT. ABOUT. He saw Ramona was good for him and knew telling her, while the RIGHT thing to do, would severely harm Scott, and by volume 4 leave him homeless. Plus Wallace frankly enabled him for some time anyway, letting him live at their place rent free and paying for all his food and frequently letting Scott steal his credit card. WIth Wallace at least while it’s not the RIGHT move, it’s understandable and complicated vs Stephen who really dosen’t seem to like or get along with Scott after volume 1, suddenly cares what happens to his relationship. 
And what proves this... is this little exchange that ends the conversation. 
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Knives despite her issues, despite blinding herself to how Scott treated her, despite everything... thinks Ramona should know. And she’s right. And Stephen KNOWS THIS. He knows it was the right thing to do and just.. takes a swig instead of admitting he’s a fucking hypocrite or explaining himself in any way.  He NEVER cared about Ramona’s feelings or how this would effect her or saw her as important in any way shape or form. Kim at least clearly feels guilty. Wallace clearly is only doing so because it’s better for both her and Scott that their together and is a flawed human being. Stephen.. just dosen’t do so out of some masculine bullshit code of not ratting out your friend and his own cowardace. He clearly COULD go walk up to Ramona right now and tell her, but he won’t. And again I don’t buy he honeslty cares enough about Scott for their friendship to TRULY be enough of a factor to stop that. Fuck. Stephen. Stills. 
So Scott wins naturally, but is bummed there’s no reward.. but Stephen points out there’s tons of free food over yonder so he noms before he and Ramona leave. 
We get some cute domestic bits with Scott and ramona: Scott playing games on her phone all day, the two cooking dinner, and Scott admititng he hasn’t thought of envy at all. “I have you now”. Though through it there are some signs of unease: Scott finds a letter to Gideon, and Ramona asks about her hair and stares out into the window. Nice little hints that even before the big bomb abotu to drop she’s not at ease.. she loves Scott.. but it’s hard for her to let herself BE happy. It’s easy to wager she wasn’t for most of her life. 
Can’t Face Up
So next we find Sex Bomb-Omb working on the album. Or rather Stephen and Joseph are. Scott and Kim are praying for death but death won’t come and Kim wonders why the fuck this isn’t finished. Joseph wants her out of his house... forgetting that Kim lives in said house. 
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Still his expressoin implies he’s going to do a murder on her if she stays in the room and since Drummers are hard to come by Stephen spirits them to kim’s room for a band meeting. Turns out they do have a gig but naturally Rosemary’s Baby booked it... and they haven’t practiced in months because Stephen’s a moron. He theorizes it’s Freddy’s Revenge, which is admitely probably valid though Kim can TELL something worse happened Stephen won’t cop to because he’s a piece of shit. I spent several paragraph’s establishing that. They try blaying and two sucktacular minutes i’ts clear their fucked sunday. 
So after a scene of Knives trying HARD to justify Scott’s actions and blame htem on Ramona, to no success, we get one of my faviorite parts of this book: Scott rambling on for god knows how long about the x-men while Ramona gets dressed and is presumibly barely listneing. 
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I relate so hard to this it hurts. While not this era I wll GLADLY go on and on about X-Men and anything X-Adjacent at any goddamn opportunity and anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis and you know this. I need to tlak more x-men outside of my slowly failing New X-Men retrospective (Which is on the back burner because no one seeems to genuinely care after chapter one). If I did have a signifgant other, they would probably end up in a situation like this quite a lot and i’d have no shame about it. 
I also love this scene even more as while I DID love x-men at the time, I wasn’t quite the mega fan I was, nor as familiar with Claremont’s long, epic and often fucking weird in the special wonderful way only comics can run. Given I OWN over half his run at this point, that has changed. Though oddly not this part. So not only do I get Scott’s talking about x-men I Know what SPECIFICALLY. 
And for the unitatied, a quick explination of what the fuck Scott’s going on and on about: In the late 80′s, the x-men fought a reality warping malevolent trickster god named the Adversary. IN order to beat him their friend forget had to perform a cermony to lock his ass away that required willingly given life forces. The X-Men did REALLY fucking die.. but the Goddess Roma, daughter of Merlin and enemy of the advesary brought them back to life. With their deaths having been broadcast on live tv, and with tons of dangerous enemies at their heels, the X-Men choose to let the world continue to think they were dead so they could hit said enemies where it hurt.
SO this is where Scott’s story comes in:The X-Men’s first mission was clearing out the reavers, a bunch of racist cyborgs, from a ghost town which they took over as their base. As Scotty said they traveled all over the world, fought aliens, more racists, and then went to New York as it literally went ot hell. it’s a LOT and I haven’t read most of that era. I just know about it. I have read that last part though: the x-men were ambushed while wolveirne was away by said racist cyborgs so Psylocke shoved them through the siege perilous, a gate thingy romana gave them that would give them a new life and amnesia and such, leaving wolveirne to get crucified till Jubilee, who’d been hiding in their base gary busey style, freed him. The two would travel the world, find psylocke body swapped which is why she was asian for several decades, and get into general stuff for a few years real time till the X-Men slowly reunited. And you probbaly dind’t need to hear all of that but your life is better for knowing it. 
As you can tell Ramona’s discontent is mounting. And probably not because of Scott rambling about x-men. Last night he told her about the time Magneto beat them all because they stupidly rushed him one at a time then forced them into high tech chairs while a robotic nanny babbied them and then esecaped because shut up before fighting magneto, getting surrounded by lava and having beast ASSUME they were dead because fuck actually coming back and searching just in case like a rational human being because magma or no the x-men have surivived worse, including the depths of space, and restoring all of reality from scratch.  I may of just read those issues tonight. 
She procedes to make things worse for our hero as when he asks fo rher advice.. she reveals she dosen’t like his band.. and while she means nothing BY that, she’s nice about it, telling him his band sucks days before a sudden show where you guys eat a lot isn’t something you do. Wallace is naturally even less helpful and maybe his not liking the band is why we barely see him interact. Maybe he just figured Stepheen was on the fence sexuality wise but wasn’t willing to put up with Julie to test that. I dunno. 
So at the restraunt Stephen’s a dick, refusing to help Scott with his problems. WHich for once are legitamte as he worries abotu Ramona keeping secrets. He just wants to talk about hte band.. but 48 or something hours after this he has no real plan. 
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Scott mopes to Kim about Ramona and she has some sage advice for him...
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Also thing one and thing two are at the bar with a remote. This cannot end well... granted givne our heroes are not at all prepared and are playing two diffrent songs, this was never going to end well. 
And things only get worse for Scott in the bathroom.. he’s not there.. but his girlfriend and his ex are. Knives tries to work it out.. but Ramona being a bit short with her, which is fair given Knives tried to stab her a bunch a few months back and never apologized, leading to a quick fight.. but with Knives heart not in it this time and Ramona pissed and this time NOT confsued as to what the hell ihs going on, it ends with Ramona slamming knives into a wall... and Knives sadly revealing the truth to Ramona...
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The scene hits like a truck with both devistated.. Ramona not having realized Scott with this shitty.. and Knives FINALLY accepting that he is. Finally letting her obession with him drop and realize what he was and what he did and let the full impact hit. The last part also hits hard “No One Else Would’ve Told You’.  It’s a sad hard truth and it’s CLEARLY something that hits both women hard.  For Knives it’s realizing Kim and Stephen, who she’s increidbly close to at this point, both don’t have the stomach to do the right thing, and thus hid this from her and Ramona. Stephen DID tell her.. but he still didn’t have the guts to tell RAMONA nor the actual care. It’s the realization the people she looked up to truly let her down and that she had to do what they couldn’t, even if it tore her apart to do it. For Ramona it’s realizing her closest friends outside of Scott could’ve told her and never did. No matter how close she’s gotten to Kim and Wallace, neither gave a fuck about her rights or her need to know. 
So Ramona is rattled and barely speaks while Scott has been fighting anothe rrobot and ends the gig accidnetly smashing his bass. Stephen is pissy with him and blames hi mfor runing the gig, which turned out to be a trap anyway complete with fliers. 
Ramona decides to gently throw him out as he forgot his keys while his other friends won’t house him leaving him with the one friend he has who dosen’t hate him right now. WALLACE!
The Glow:
So at Casa De Welles, Wallace has some buddy time, not making any bones about the fact Ramona clearly threw Scott out for the night and wearing a neat robe. Scott mopes about the fact he hasn’t met mobile whose apparenlty on the astral plane. I wonder if he has any buisness with Emma.. I mean the x-men did live in san fran sicsio but given decimation didn’t have many psychics. Might’ve been tryign to get another one. THey didn’t have a whole island that walks like a man yet.  And while Wallace wasn’t in much of a coaching mood last time he is willing to help. He couldn’t get bupkiss on the twins since Scott can’t even remember their names, but he did pull off a miracle. Despite their being a million Gideons in New York.. Wallace found THE Gideon. Granted all he got was his full name, Gideon Gordon Graves, and a few burry photos, one with Ramona confirming this is our douche, but given he had only a first name and an ex to work with this is some damn fine work. Wallace asks scott about his future with Ramona but he just.. has no earthly idea because of course he dosen’t. He hasn’t REALLY thought about what comes after beating the exes because he never thinks anything through. Interesting stuff The next day Scott meets up with Kim at No Account Video and we get our first, and I mean literally first, indiciation things are falling apart with her and Hollie. Scott wants to say hi, Kim refuses him and gives a smart ass comment when he asks if them being roomates isn’t working out. He wasn’t even being a dick it’s just clear SOMETHING bad’s going on she won’t talk about because she puts up walls around hrself on a GOOD day and this clearly isn’t one.
It gets worse when they stop by Stephen’s place only to find Neil whose both taken up a combination of smoking and moping in a dark room. Never a good sign. Nor is Stephen apparenlty being at band practice.. meaning either he lied to Neil about where he went.. or he already started the band we’ll see him with next volume and is already stabbing his friends in the back. There wasn’t much to like about the guy to BEGIN with, but his behavior just gets worse with every volume and it’s reached it’s apex here. The speech was shitty enough, I spent several paragraphs explaning why, but the rest of his behavior isn’t much better. He abandoned two people who were, for god knows what reason loyal to him and abandoned the band because of some bearded asshole probably encouraging him to. 
We also get some telling behavior on Kim’s part. Whlie she’s usually morose around Scott in the face of this both just hang out, it’s plesant. She even smiles when she asks if it’s going to be a regular occurance when he stays with her that night. Granted she brings back her frown soon after, but as has been clear her feelings for him never really went away entirely, and this is the closest the two have been in volumes, just enjoying each others company. It’s also telling that Scott trusts kim with a favor.
We see the favor the next page: Kim hangs out with Ramona.. and Scott marchs in completely on purpose soon after. Granted Kim probably didn’t know THIS was part of the plan, and it’s mildly stupid.. but it DOES show progress for Scott. Keep in mind his usual tactic is “avoid the fuck out of it and hope it goes away’ So ACTUALLY wanting to talk about things and find her again, and not doing it in a creepy way but simply drawing her out with a friend, shows SOME maturlity. It’s still not the most mature.. but with Ramona clearly not wanting him at their place, her work not having a set location as she just picks stuff up and drops it off (And even if she’s picking up packages at the post office we don’t know which one or if there’s multiple and even if we did scott sure as hel l does not), he was out of options. It also WORKS, with Ramona breaking her mopeynesss to laugh and Kim stunned it didn’t just piss her off further. 
So we find out what happened with Hollie when Scott brings up jason. She points out they were dating but... welllllllll
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Yeah... as you could probably tell I do not like this plot point at all. For one thing we never really got to KNOW Jason, and with him and Hollie getting a little too cozy at the end of the last volume...
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It’s clear his ONLY roll in the story was to be there so Hollie could betray Kim in some way. And look I get a LOT in this series happens while we’re not looking, ti’s part of it’s charm. Things not pausing for the side cast is a trope I enjoy: it allows some things to progress faster and allows for some intresting stories when the main cast catches up. Steven Unvierse and Ducktales both used this well as does Scott Pilgrim but all three weren’t immune to someitnes goofing up and taking it too far. 
This whole situation is that: Hollie is a character I got attached to: She had a great report with kim, they were really close and she offered her a place to stay when it was clear she was miserable with the four horseman of the bitchpocalypse she lived with. So while having her suddenly heel turn is realistic... it just feels thorughly unsatisfying. We do not see Hollie again after she’s sudeenly derailed, so we never get to see what she’s apparenlty REALLY like or get any explination why this happened. Suddenly Kim’s best friend is a douchebag even though it makes no sense for her character. Just because in real life people can turn out to be really shitty on a dime dosen’t mean it’s a neat thing to READ in a story and it feels like a waste of what was one of the series best side characters. And granted i’ve been through FAR worse treatment of side characters, trust me but this one still blows to this day and if there is a netflix adaptation this either needs to not happen or have actual depth. Seriously Netflix your adapting everything else, get on the bus already. 
Scott is GENUINELY apologetic, we’ve rarely seen him this nice but he genuinely feels bad for her.. and unlike Stephen’s thing it’s okay to feel shitty someone got cheated on even if you were a cheater in the past. As I said Stephen wasn’t wrong about how Scott treeted knives.. he just also was trying to take moral high ground which Knives proved he absolutely did not have in seconds.
This triggers Ramona’s glow, the squggly line thing that shows up over her head ocasoinally.. and while Ramona grills Scott... Kim just finally asks what the hells up with her head. Scott’s reaction is “OH good you guys see it too”. Kim does try to show it to ramona but it’s gone by then and she drops it for now and outside encourages her to come to Julie’s latest shitty party.. I mean their miserable but at least it gives thems omething to do
So we get another instalment of “Scott rambles about the X-Men” or New Mutants in this case as we’re talking about Magik, Aka Illyana Rasputin 
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So for the long version: The X-Men were staying at a creepy temple that Magneto had been working out of beause the mansion was being repaired. Colossus, everyone’s favorite Russian and Deadpool co-star, had his kid sister Illyana with him as Arcade, a ginger maniac assasian whose gimmick is creating elaborate murder theme parks, kidnapped her in a plot to get the x-men to fight Dr. Doom for him. Given this was during the Cold War they coudln’t exactly take her back, so she stayed with the X-Men and her beloved big brother. 
So naturlaly the spooky temple decorated in Cthulu’s had a portal to hell in it and  an evil and genirc looking fucker named Belasco kidnapped her to a hell dimension known as Limbo>  the X-Men went after her as you’d expect and things got WEIRD as due to some complicated and weird time dialition stuff I sitll don’t quite understand there ended up being two copies of the x-men: ours who came in right after, and a second batch who stayed there for about 7-8 years and got warped by Bellsaco’s magic as he killed or changed most of them. As a result Storm became a sorcerer to fight back, Kitty Pryde became some sort of cat creature and Kurt became a creepy evil version of himself. Illyana stayed htere, learned magics from both storm and asshole, learned to fight from cat kitty, and eventually escaped after a lot of horrible bullshit, hardnered and with her soul scarred from it, now a teenager. She joined the New Mutants, the training class of x-men in the comics, soon after. She’s a member agian in present day, one of the great captains of Krakoa, and one of the two co-leaders of Krakoa’s younger mutants, i.e. 20 something to teens and kids. 
This is the best of the two scenes as the narrative , or at least Scott’s versions parallels Ramona’s own; Getting taken in by an evil man and feeling tainted by that. 
So at the party Ramona runs into Neil whose a dick about it and with some girl. She WAS going to be fleshed out more in the original draft but Brian ended up scrapping it for time, but does regret it. It’s here we get Neil’s face punchingly dickish comment that’s also a massive hint as to Stephen’s sexuality. 
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Yeah even if Stephen’s been an UTTERLY shitty friend to him.. this was uncalled for even for the late 2000′s. What a prick. I do like the arc of Neil slowly falling apart though getting more and more bitter as his old friends abandoned him casually, especailly Stephen. While his comment was still HORRIBLY unwarranted even with Stephen being a dipshit. 
Speaking of assholes we get our last major with Julie who berates Scott for grabbing some booze and brings in the twist. I’m.. i’m not even bothering to give her an insluting and weird nickname. She’s still a HORRIBLE piece of shit, as she brought Scott’s enemies there to try and beat him to death for her own amusment and berated him for getting booze at a party she CLEARLY expected him to come to, but she’s ALMOST gone. Seriously after this she’s GONE for the volume and barely in the rest of the series. So i’d rather celebrate FINALLY having earned my freedom over worrying about her any more than i have to. Cue the music!
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So with that Kyle.. or is it Ken. 
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But the blonde one needles ramona, giving her her faviorite booze and telling her “this is all just temproary”
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So Ramona gets all glowy.. and Kim gets her phone out....
The Universe Fights Back So in a random bedroom Ramona gives up the ghost: SHe DOES know what that is she just can’t tell Kim. Kim accepts it and they share some drinks. Scott, after beheading the douche bros latest science project, joins them and we get a lovely scene of the three drinking and bonding and geneuinely just having a good time. Though Kim DOES mention that she wants to go back to school.. This will naturally be very important. 
What’s more important is this scene is ENITRELY while I poly ship these three dum dums. I mean while part of thier hapiness here is their blasted out of hteir heads, it’s also just Kim’s wall sbeing down. She tells the two she loves them, and I think MEANS IT. Not to mention this...
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Okay maybe it’s just the two of them but they also love Scott. And again I get htier VERY obviously drunk.. but given Kim and Ramona are clearly actively supressing any bi parts of themselves most of hte time this is telling. The fact Ramona asks kim to sleep in THIER bed, likely with them, is ALSO very telling and Kim only dosen’t because their using sub space. No really that’s the only reason this volume didn’t end VERY diffrently with the three of htem having a three way before the argument coming up.. and possibly fixing said argument by having kim to mediate. I mean I get Scott’s not a big part of this so if you don’t want to ship him with them and just leave them alone that’s fine, ut I like the idea of them as a throuple: they ballance each other out.. and frakly with Scott’s irresponsblity and Ramona’s emotoinal issues they need someone to call them b oth out in the relationship, while these two are two of the only three people in the work i’ve seen Kim take her walls down for. Not even Jason got that, but Jason was also a carboard cutout. 
Things take a turn from Kim.. from an almost threesome where she CLEARLY would be getting most of the attention... to two assholes kidnapping her. Now while I don’t like the twins that much their plan for the final act IS actually clever: their the first ones to think to actually use the people Scott cares about.. or anything resembling strategy really. Matt just charged int here, Lucas coudln’t give less of a fuck, Todd just used brute strength like a teletkentic juggernaught, and Roxy DID use some but it was less to actually fight scott and more to get into ramona’s pants again. The twins see Kim clearly still loves Scott, and that while he acts aloff to her sometimes she really is one of his best friends. No really, think about it. Wallace is his BEST friend.. but Kim sticks by him even when he’s shitty, calls him out when needed, and despite her grumpiness is the one who has the most faith in him out of ANYONE. It’s a large point of the volume: she dosen’t bother watching the fights.. because she belivies he’ll win simply because he’s Scott. That’s love right there. The kind of love that gets you kidnapped as part of an elaborate scheme but love nonetheless. 
So we then get the scene that’s been coming for five volumes... after having sex, Ramona confronts Scott. While Scott admits he didn’t cheat on her with knvies, the other way around, that’s not better. He admits he’s been trying to forget about it.. and she calls him a bad person. And that. .hits him hard. While he DESERVES scorn for what he did... as he puts it next he’s been trying to change for her. To BE better. And all she sees, and outright confirms is another evil ex in waiting with Scott DESPERATE to prove her wrong and wrongly thinking beating the next three exes will fix this. It’s a VERY hard sceen to watch as while Scott does deserve this.. it’s also hard not to feel bad for him too. It really sums up the character: He is a dick.. but he’s TRYING to be better. He WANTS to be, he just dosen’t know how. And MAN can I relate to that.  It dosen’t help that Ramona is clearly projecting her own insecurties about this lasting, about actually being happy and about this really being her life onto him, using this as an easy out after having a month of doubt. Yes Scott did something unbelivibely shitty.. but both are trying to take the easy way out of it instead of genuinely discussing why it’s shitty, what he did was wrong and geniuinely unpacking if this is the end. Ramona clearly wants to bail, and Scott clearly just wants to punch a few guys to make it better. Neither thing will work. They need to work thorugh their issues to work... but neither is capable of that right now. They both want to run from the problem. 
This volume is in part about Ramona herself.. and showcasing her OWN flaws.. and like Scott her biggest is that she runs. She wants to escape her past too and both assumed the other would be an easy fix, that by having a good partner they’d be better.. when really their both mildly shitty people who need to make peace with their past and repair the bridges they’ve burnt and flip off the ones not worht reparing instead of running from it all the time. But sadly before both can.. their just gonna run again. Because sometimes fixing yourself is just not that easy. 
So the next morning Scott’s heart stops fo ra second when Ramona is seemingly gone.. only for her to instead be in teh shower. But Scott gets a text telling him the twins have Kim and TRIES to tell Ramona.. but she’s in the shower. As a result she’s worried he just ran off... and makes a decision , her hair cut back down after growing it out this volume, a sign of her hapiness.. now gone. 
The Glow Part 2 So at an abandoned wherehouse the fight is on. The twins have the advantage in part because Scott is hung over.. something they take offense to.. even though they were THERE last night. He was at a party. They don’t know he teatotles. What state did they THINK he’d be in this morning?
We also find out their origin: as Scott correctly guessed at the end of last volume, Ramona dated them both at the same time and pit them against each other. They found out and vowed to always fight as one.. which means Scott is not only fighting two equally powerful opponents at once, but two who work as a perfct team and double hurricane kick him. They also mentally break him down, pointing out her previous job and how she’s a runner and she’s here to run from her past working for Gideon.
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They aren’t but I already went into that so let’s get onto more pressing issues: Scott is not only hung over but now doubting himself and his dumbass plan to beat gideon and magically fix things, while Kim is naturally not happy about being stuck in a cage all night. And while at first she’s genuinely just grumpy as always as it becomes clear Scott has lost hope and the twins are going to win this one her expression is heartbreaking...
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After EVERYTHING she still loves him and can’t bear to see him in so much pain... and can’t loose him.. so she gets desperate and claims Ramona texted him to give him hope. 
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This is one of Kim’s definting moments, the other coming next month. When faced with the person she loves possibly dying.. she lies to him.. so he can surivive. So he can have hope and make it through this.. despite how much it’s CLEARLY KILLING HER to not only tell him someone else loves him but to clealry lie that person loves him, knowing it’ll hurt him more.. but knowing if she DOSEN’T he’ll die. It’s one of the most painful, heartbreaking and beautiful moments in the entire series. It’s why I said earlier while I don’t like the brothers their climactic fight his excellent.. because it is. Their verbal breaking down of Scott is hearbreaking and Kim’s sacrifice equally so. 
And before stomping them into coins SCott shows further growth.. by showing he CAN give off a good one liner now...
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So Scott beats them and gets Kim out of the cage, worried about her.. but despite having a chance, Kim lets him get on his way to ramona and morsoely wlaks off... while ominously the sign points out this will soon be the Chaos Theater. There’s still one left to go. 
But.. it’s sadly not enough. While Scott gives her a heartfelt speech... even if he quotes the song as long as you love me... he dosen’t care who she is.. but Ramona does.. calling herself a bad person.. as she vanishes.... and I cry my eyes out again. God two really heartbreaking scenes in a row sweet jesus this volume will be the death of me.. and not just because i’ts taken so damn long to write this review. And on top of tha the looses the cat and ends up locked out. 
World of Ruin:
So yeah if you thought those bits weren’t easy.. it only gets roughter as we see Scott in the aftermath of the breakup. His dream world is now desolate and he’s alone. Now to his creidt as much shit as i’ve given him Stephen didn’t ENTIRELY abandon Scott: he put him up fo rth enight (though he kicks him out after work) and offers to take him to after work drinks. We also see a nice side of Scott’s intimdating boss as she offers her symaptheties at him crying... while he says it’s the onions... he’s transparenlty lying. 
Next up is Kim. Though she dosen’t have a couch because Hollie sold it.. which as dickish as she suddenly is it IS her couch as Kim points out.. so yeah Kim and Scott end up sleeping awkardly in the same bed facing away from each other.. and to add another emotional guttpunch at the worst possible time: She’s going back home. 
Stacey is even lesss helpful as SCott continues to ask about cats and is unsypantethic about her leaving despite you know,  him REALLY not being at the shit talking her stage yet bud. At least we do get to see Stacey in this one I genuinely forgot she was in it. 
So at Wallace’s he’s no help either pointing out she might be with someone else because he’s wallace and we meet a guy with Glases.. and in his bad state Scott assumes i’ts gideon. it’s not though. WE finally meet Mobile!
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He’s exactly what wallace needs.. a fellow sarcastic asshole. 
So next up is Kim’s goodbye.. which once again is really emotinal..a nd not just because  my faviorite character is leaving and again, younger me didn’t know this wasn’t forever.. or that she’d be back for a rather huge role next time. But still it’s a damn good scene that shows how far Scott’s come...
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While the first part is standard... the second is Scott realizing that she still had feelings for him, clearly given her actions during the fight, and he’d been a right dick this whole time never dealing with it or apolgoizing for his past. Granted he still has a way to go to REALLY apologize for it... but he’s trying and means it. And with her possibly never seeing again.. she needed that. Also her coat is damn cool. I’d say I want one like that btu i’d really prefer one like Scotts complete with x-men patch. Pax Krakoa bitches. 
We get a really nice scene after where we meet Scott’s parents! Their also really kind helping him get a new place and move on... and runs into another glasses guy. But this time it’s Laurence! Who he drop kicks.. and then gives a broken bass back to. Eh... i’ve seen worse relationship with siblings honestly. He didn’t murder scott’s friend or plunge a whole galaxy into war or try and murder his daughter. Other Scott’s weren’t so lucky. 
So after that awkardness SCott finds the note to gideon which is a break up letter... she never sent. However there’s something more pressing as he gets a call... and you can probably guess given his luck lately who that’s from. 
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Eh it’s not that murderoius creep but another one. 
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The end.. is in a few weeks.
Final Thoughts: 
As I said I hated Vs the Universe on first read but re-reading it with hindsight and maturity.. it’s damn good. It’s depressing as hell.. but the things it does need to happen to push scott into a bad enough place for the next volume to work, and are natural: Ramona and Kim leaving, The band  breaking up, Scott kicking his brother in the face.. all natural things. It hurts, this was a HARD one to write and I only feel the next one will be harder because it’s way longer with less slice of lifey stuff to skim through in my recapping. 
But it’s a damn good one, with fantastic art, really gripping scenes, x-men refrenes and a spotlight shone on my girl kim. Even it’s weak spots dont’ hurt it: the twins are only weak by comparison, and still work well enough for the story, pushing ramona into the bad mental place she needs to be for the story to work. Hollie’s thing DID Need to be written way fucking better... but it does push kim into leaving which is CRITICAL for next time. So they aren’t GREAT elements, but they work. The only real other problem I have is knives just.. vanishes after her scene outside of one bit with Stephen, but that I can understand as the book is pretty tightly packed and she gets a fitting sendoff next time anyway. All in all another amazing entry and the perfect warm up for one of the best endings in comics history
Next Time: I said it and I meant it: one of the best endings in comics history as Scott hits on some exes, fights himself and betters himself as he prepares for his finest hour! Will Ramona Come back? Will Kim? Will Julie?... to answer your questions yes yes, and god dammit. Thank you all for reading, see you at the next rainbow. 
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let-me-write-my-life · 27 days ago
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Wizards Don’t Exist
I found myself through the dark…                                                                                       - Citizen Soldier
A/N Yes the title has nothing to do with the fic, but it was cute
TRIGGER WARNINGS Very brief reference to bullet wounds
Lara’s eyes open slowly, her vision adjusting to the dim light, and she struggles to inspect the room. The dark wooden walls around her are much higher than any other she’s ever seen, decorated with colourful masks and climbing plants. Heavy blue curtains cover the big window on the opposite side of the room and the only light is a candle on the bedside table to her left, which spreads an intense scent of moss and lichens. Lara outstretches her arm to touch the bed frame, made of a wood that seems burnt to the touch, almost black and somehow just as warm as the covers on the bed. But again, Lara isn’t sure what they are made of, their material is too soft to even be very expensive wool.
“Now where the hell am I?” she murmurs, her voice still deep and sleepy.
If not for the painful wounds in her chest, she would jump on the spot when she hears a loud voice coming from a corner of the room. A woman dressed in a long indigo dress smiles at her, saying something in a language that Lara can’t even recognize. Noticing her confused face, the woman presses a finger to her own throat, a purple light travelling around her neck. “Sorry, I forgot you didn’t speak Duirlian.”
Lara is about to sit up, gripping the edge of the bedside table for balance, but the other woman screams at her, her green eyes wide open. “Don’t you move. Urill spent an hour stitching you up, if you ruin her work we’re never gonna hear the end of it.” 
Lara narrows her brows, falling back on the soft mattress. “Who? No, wait. Who are you, who is your friend, where am I and why am I here in the first place?”
The woman smiles, trotting closer to the bed like an excited child. “I’m Yngun,” she says, offering her hand for Lara to shake. “my friend Urill and I are Enchantresses and… well, technically so are you-”
“I am what?”
“Hey, slow down with the questions, they’re already piling up,” Yngun silences her, plopping on the bed. “You’re on Duirl, sixty-four galaxies north of your galaxy. Or south, I can never remember how these interstellar coordinates work…” 
“Doesn’t matter, go on,” Lara says, pinching the bridge of her nose as her head starts to hurt.
“Oh yeah, and the Creator brought you here to, well, not to bleed out on a sidewalk.” 
Yngun’s careless tone makes it seem like a normal thing, but Lara’s eyes widen and she has to fight her urge to jump back up. “God brought me here?”
The other woman laughs like she hasn’t done in decades. “Oh no, not God. Just the embodiment of the creating principle in your blood, aka the thing that gave you your powers.” 
Again, the ease with which she says it sends Lara crazy. “Please tell me I’m drunk,” she comments, covering her face with her hands. Gosh, how she misses the times when the strangest thing she had ever heard was that her father’s real name wasn’t “Dad.”
Yngun pouts. “You may be, I’m not sure whether they put alcohol in your anesthesia.” 
“In my what?” Great, human-like aliens know what anesthesia is. What’s next? Aliens reading Marlowe?
“Sweetheart, Urill had to take out three bullets out of your chest, she had to give you something.” 
“AND WHO IS THIS URILL??” 
As if Lara had magically summoned her, a woman walks in the room, dressed in a long, orange dress. Finely embroidered golden flowers embellish her corset, contrasting with her dark skin. She moves a mass of curly, black hair behind her shoulder and throws a confused look at both Lara and Yngun, but she doesn’t have the time to say anything before her friend can talk for her.
“She’s Urill,” Yngun says, pointing at the woman with a wide grin.
“Why is she already awake?” Urill asks, her deadpan voice melting away Yngun’s smile.
She groans loudly, throwing her hands up in the air. “What’s this, an interrogation?”
Lara arches a brow, struggling to hide the pain coming from her chest as she adjusts her position in the bed. “Sorry for waking up in another galaxy and trying to figure out what the f*ck was going on,” she comments sarcastically.
Yngun looks at her offended. “Hey, watch your language, you’re basically underage.”
“What? I’m like… thirty-six.”
“And I’m five hundred and sixty-two, so you’re underage compared to me.”
Lara cocks a brow. “That’s not how age works.”
Urill rolls her eyes. “Don’t worry, you get used to it after a while.”
“Yeah, about that...” Lara says, attempting to sit up before being pushed back on the bed by Yngun. “Do I have to? I mean, can’t I just go back to Earth and go to jail like normal people?”
Yngun tucks her in. “Sweetheart, they’re not gonna bring you to jail, they’re gonna burn you at the stake.”
“Metaphorically,” Urill corrects.
“Would not be the first time,” Lara replies.
“Not happening,” Yngun insists, digging her nails in her fawn skin. “We won’t let them vent their repressed anger on you, right?” she affirms, turning to Urill for a sign of assens.
The other woman nods. “Plus, I’m sure you’d appreciate some more information about this whole situation.”
“That would be very kind of yours,” Lara replies with a smirk.
Urill crosses her arms on her chest, tilting her head slightly to the side as her dark eyes scan Lara for any sign of pain caused by her wounds. “I’ll try to make it as short as I can,” she promises, but despite this her explanation seems infinite, covering even the smallest details of Project 58, Lara’s birth and adoption, her biological family.
As the witch talks, Lara’s head is spinning. The truth about her washes over her like waves, dragging her under an ocean of unsolved questions and doubts. It was all fake. Her parents weren’t her parents, or at least not her biological ones. Lara hates admitting it, but a feeling of rage towards them rises inside her, making her want to scream and break everything. Instead, she takes a deep breath and buries her face in her hands, letting Urill’s words sink in.
At some point, the woman falls silent, a look of pity on her face. Yngun reaches for Lara’s hand, her lips slightly curved downwards as she strains her voice to be soft. “Are you okay?”
Lara laughs bitterly, uncovering her face and her tear-stained cheeks. “Of course I am, it’s not like I’ve just found out my whole life was a lie,” she replies sarcastically. However she lets Yngun hold her hand, finding the tiniest bit of comfort in those warm fingers wrapped around her cold ones.
“I’m sorry,” Urill’s previously detached voice seems now much gentler.
Lara sniffs, holding more tightly onto Yngun’s hand. “Why didn’t they tell me?” she asks, her voice lower than before. “I- I would’ve loved them all the same…”
Yngun shares a look with her friend, before she sets her green eyes back on Lara. “Maybe to them it didn’t matter whether you were adopted or not,” she attempts.
“But it does to me,” Lara argues, a hint of resentment that she’s sure she will regret in the future. “I had the right to know.”
Yngun can do nothing but look away, her eyes slipping on the parquet as her thumb caresses the back of Lara’s hand. Seconds pass, filled only with the unnatural silence that has fallen on the room. After an indefinite amount of time, Lara swallows heavily, fighting the lump in her throat to talk. “What did you say I am?”
Urill takes a tentative step forward, eyes glued to the blue blankets. “An Enchantress.”
She nods. “An Enchantress,” she replies to herself, tasting that new word on her tongue. “Sounds good,” she comments, moving her gaze to the witch standing beside her.
Urill attempts a smirk. “Great fun, you don’t really get bored easily.”
Lara smirks back. An Enchantress. She has no idea what that means but the name is pretty cool. The place seems okay too. For a moment she wonders what someone she knows would think of that new title, but she soon casts that thought away, still too painful for her.
Instead she turns to her two new colleagues. “And what does an Enchantress do?”
Yngun smiles excitedly, clearly happy to talk about her job, if one could call it that way. “Oh lots of things: fighting demons, protecting planets, travelling across the multiverse, just looking cool-”
“There isn’t a limit,” Urill interrupts her. “As some of the most powerful magic users in the multiverse and the closest living beings to the original principle that created the universe, our powers are immense.”
“The only downside is that mister ‘I’m God but not really’ often asks us to do stuff,” Yngun adds with a smirk.
Lara laughs. “Yeah about that, you haven’t told me yet who this guy is.”
“The embodiment of Substance Y.” Urill’s answer is short and direct. Lara already loves her. “However I think it’s time we leave now,” she adds, turning to Yngun. “You are still injured and need rest.”
Lara has to force herself not to laugh at Yngun’s poorly concealed pout, but right before the two witches have left the room a question comes to her mind. “Sorry?” The two women turn back to her, questioning looks on their faces. “Do you have any book about Enchantresses or stuff like that?” Urill smirks, already thinking of the shelves of volumes that she will drop by her bed in the following days.
It’s been not even three days since Lara’s sudden arrival on Duirl, yet she seems to have already accustomed to Yngun’s spicy food. Munching on a blue fruit that she doesn’t know the name of but tastes strangely like apples and that her new friend has covered in some unknown spice, Lara abandons another heavy volume at the foot of her bed, piled on top of the dozen others.
She groans when, upon opening the next one, she finds only those unknown characters that make up Urill’s language. After leaving the book on another pile, that of volumes to translate with magic, she reaches for another one. She’s quite glad to notice how the pain in her chest is dying out more quickly than she expected it too. According to Yngun, it’s because of her healing powers, mixed with Urill’s spells. 
For a moment, she wonders whether she’ll ever be able to heal people too. Urill’s magic is extremely appreciated on nearby planets and everyday desperate people walk into their house - honestly she’s not sure whether it has a name - asking to be healed. Not everyone is helped though. Yngun has to read the future first and decide whether the poor suppliant deserves to be healed by an Enchantress’ magic. 
Lara isn’t sure what are the criteria of her decision, maybe something depending on one’s potential for good or similar. It’s still a mystery to her whether Yngun had to take a decision in her case too.
Her thoughts are interrupted by a knock on the door. “Come in,” she says, expecting to see either one of her new colleagues.
Instead, a man walks in, smiling softly at her, a hand hidden behind his back. “I’m glad to finally meet you properly, Doctor Johnson,” the man greets her, slowly walking up to her bed.
She blinks slowly, trying ever so hard not to focus creepily on his eyes - why the heck are they purple? “Do I know you?” she asks, scanning her memory for any middle aged man who looks like one of those single dads from cheap sitcoms, but seems crazy enough to join a cult. It takes her a moment to put together all the pieces. “No wait, are you the Jesus guy who brought me here?”
“I could say yes,” he replies with an amused smile, sitting at the foot of the bed. “But most people prefer calling me ‘the Creator.’”
His presence is confusing for Lara. Despite his abnormal height and his consequent weight, the bed doesn’t dip in the slightest, staying as if no one had joined Lara on the mattress. Furthermore, his body radiates some sort of warm energy, almost as strong as fire. She tells him that and he smiles softly again, as if he were talking with a child.
“What are you doing here?” she asks after a moment, her fingers lingering on the pile of books to her side as her eyes scan the so-called Creator.
“I figured that you might use some explanations about your powers,” he says, leaning slightly forward. “I doubt the sorcerers of Kamar-Taj spent too much time studying your magic.”
She nods and he begins talking. “Billions and billions of years ago, our universe was born with the intervention of a creating principle that some human scientist would later call ‘Substance Y.’ As the newborn cosmos expanded, Substance Y assumed a form to better keep an eye on its infinite creation.”
“And you’re that form?”
“Precisely. But my role is simply that of a watcher, of a guardian, if you will. Substance Y therefore chose a small number of sorceresses to guard the universe and protect it with their powers. Of course, this was an important responsibility that was rewarded with immense powers capable of completing the wide variety of tasks that these people could come across.”
Lara shakes her head, furrowing her brows. “This doesn’t make any sense, Urill told me about experiments and-”
“Useless, all useless,” he interrupts her. “You already had magic inside you, as well as Substance Y. The diluted mixture they put inside your veins did nothing but temporarily pause your true powers.” The Creator’s tone seems almost angry and Lara wonders if he feels offended because of what Agency X did to her. 
“And how does this whole thing work? I mean… Why am I here? Shouldn’t there be another woman already doing this?”
“The previous Enchantress was killed by a human witch who stole part of her powers just a few years before you were born. Not to scare you, but this kind of event is rather common. The last human Enchantress was also killed, burnt at the stake if I remember correctly.”
Lara nods, suddenly not so happy to have been chosen for such a task. “Well, sorry to tell you, but hiring someone who will likely be dead in forty years at best seems stupid.”
The Creator laughs, forcing himself up from her bed by gripping the footboard. “Did no one tell you? Enchantresses can live for millennia.”
“What?!”
“Dark magic permitting, of course. But I suggest you take a look inside Urill’s library, she will be more than happy to help you.” With that said, he walks up to the door.
“Wait!” she stops him. Once he’s turned, his purple eyes back on her face, she swallows heavily. “What about my biological family?”
The corners of his lips turn slightly upwards, a sad smile forming on his face. “Your parents, Abraham and Sandra should be their names, were snapped away. But your brother, Jonathan Houghton, is safe and sound in Boston. Yngun will help you contact him.” These are his last words before he disappears, going back into whatever dimension he came out of.
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insidethegiftbasket · 28 days ago
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Yankees (22-18) at Rangers (18-24)
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Monday – 8:05pm on YES: Gerrit Cole (5-1, 1.37 ERA) vs Jordan Lyles (1-3, 6.63 ERA) Tuesday – 8:05pm on YES and ESPN: Jameson Taillon (1-3, 5.40 ERA) vs Mike Foltynewicz (1-3, 4.60 ERA)
Wednesday – 8:05pm on YES: Corey Kluber (3-2, 3.48 ERA) vsTBD
Thursday – 2:05pm on YES and MLBN: Domingo German (3-2, 3.62 ERA) vs Dane Dunning (2-3, 3.42 ERA)
A Brief Section on Globe Life Field
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This is the first time the Yankees will be playing at the new Rangers stadium, and it plays pretty differently than the previous park.
Now obviously Globe Life Field held the NL postseason and the World Series last year, but this is the first season where the Rangers have gotten to play in front of fans there. GLF’s dimensions are all honoring important Rangers players and moments:
Left Field Pole is 329 feet in honor of Adrian Beltre
Left Field inside the line is 334 feet in honor of Nolan Ryan
Left Field power alley is 372 feet as the Rangers first played in Texas in 1972
Deepest dimension is 410 feet in honor of Michael Young
Straightaway centerfield is 407 feet in honor of Pudge Rodriguez
Right Field power alley is 374 feet in honor of the 1974 Rangers having the first winning season ever
Right Field Pole is 326 feet in honor of Johnny Oates
42 feet from the plate to the backstop in honor of Jackie Robinson
Compared to the previous Rangers ballpark, the new Globe Life Field is a pitcher’s paradise: at the old Ballpark in Arlington, there were 19% more runs than average, 12% more home runs than average, and wOBA was 9% higher as well. It consistently ranked as one of the best hitter’s parks outside of Coors. In comparison, the new stadium is really tough for hitters: it was 11% worse than average in homers allowed last year (although its back to league average so far this year), 4% worse than average in runs allowed, and 2% worse than average in wOBA.
Rangers Injury Report
UTL Brock Holt: on the 10 Day IL with a strained hamstring, no timetable to return
SP Kohei Arihara: on the 10 Day IL with a finger contusion, no timetable to return
Rangers Pitching
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The Rangers rotation is kinda like the Island of Misfit Toys—it’s been high profile guys who have gotten dumped after poor performances or guys that have been passed around, but the Rangers are trying to take fliers on guys with some track record of success and then trade them for prospects. The big issue with that for Texas is when they have guys that DO actually perform well, they hold onto them for far too long and get limited returns instead (see: Lance Lynn and Mike Minor.) Rangers pitching as a whole has a 93 ERA+, which is really quite bad. While they are in the top 10 in walks allowed (3.02) they have allowed the most hits in baseball (362) and second most homers (54) and are below average in strikeouts. The bullpen is 17th in baseball with a 3.94 ERA as well, although the bullpen does have a couple nice bright spots in it.
Starting game one is right handed pitcher Jordan Lyles. Lyles is a four pitch pitcher—he’ll use his four seamer and curveball against righties and lefties, and mixes in a slider for righties and a change for lefties. His fastball, to be completely fair and honest, is garbage—it’s a 93mph fastball with okay movement, but it’s -9 run value makes it the second worst pitch in baseball this season (last year it was only the fourth worst pitch in all of baseball, so maybe there’s room for improvement?) He throws the fastball nearly 50% of the time, and opposing hitters are slugging .705 against it, which is just awful. It has a 64.7% hard hit rate. He’s allowed nearly as many extra base hits (10) as strikeouts (11) with it.
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That’s Lyles’ pitch percentages by zone for a fastball—notice 8.4% of those are meatballs and then another 25% of those are up and in against righties/up and away against lefties.
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Yeah, allowing over .600 batting averages on a third of your fastballs is a good way to end your Major League career.
Game two starter is Mike Foltynewicz, who in 2018 was an All Star for the Braves and got Cy Young votes for them as a 26 year old. Unfortunately for Folty, 2019 was a bad year and 2020 was a disaster- he lost 5mph off his fastball, lost a lot of weight, and was promptly DFA’d during the season. 2021 has been a bit better so far for him- his fastball is back up to 94mph, still slower than it was in his prime, but better than the high 80’s fastball he was rocking last year. His slider looks to be back in rhythm as well—opponents are hitting just .196 off his slider this year and he has 22 strikeouts in 46 at bats finishing guys off with it. Where Folty’s problems come from however are his awful platoon splits: righties are slashing .257/.292/.475 with five homers and 26 strikeouts in 101 at bats. Lefties are slashing .315/.386/.658 with six homers and 13 strikeouts in 73 at bats. His change up and curveball, both lefty only options, are getting destroyed.
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Folty has always been a stuff guy and more of a thrower than a pitcher, but when your stuff isn’t blowing guys away, you’re not really that valuable on the mound.
Lastly I wanted to give a shoutout to former Yankee prospect Ian Kennedy for putting up his best season in a decade as the Rangers closing pitcher. Kennedy was originally traded to the Diamondbacks as part of the Curtis Granderson trade in 2009, but he’s still alive and kicking out of the pen in Texas now. Ian’s basically gone from throwing four pitches as a starter to throwing his 4 seamer 80% of the time, which is probably a great decision: it’s only 94mph, but it has elite movement—an extra 2.1 inches of drop and an extra 2.6 inches of horizontal movement.
He’s just going to pound the strike zone with heaters and hope that you don’t rip him apart, but so far this season it’s been working really well.
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Rangers Hitters
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Texas’ lineup is starting to get back on track a bit after a brutal 2020 season. As a team they have a 100 wrc+, which is 10th in baseball, and are 8th in homers hit. They do have, in typical Rangers fashion, the fifth most strikeouts, but also in typical Rangers fashion they’re aggressive on the base paths—third in stolen bases (28) and 11th in extra base taken % (42%.)
While former Yankee prospect Nick Solak is doing really well, and the star of the team is the always fun Joey Gallo, the breakout star of the Rangers so far has been Adolis Garcia:
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Garcia has come from virtually nowhere to play an elite outfield and has just been crushing balls all over the park, but he does have an unsustainable .352 BABIP and 16% barrel rate. Is he going to stay good? My guess is yes, but I don’t think he’ll be a near MVP candidate the rest of the season.
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theokotrain · a month ago
Text
Vestige - Interlude: The Party
Wattpad Version
As the night fills the sky
All my fears are dissipating
'Cause I feel reassured
That I might make it through
And if all my luck should burn
Then I guess it burned for you
---
April 13th, 2012
I was sitting on my bed, back against the bed frame with my knees raised in front of me, holding up my laptop. I had been spending the last few hours writing an essay for my English class, specifically answering the topic question my teacher had given everybody: "How do our past experiences influence our decisions?". The question was simple enough, it's a pretty universally recognized idea that stuff that happens to us has an effect on our decision making. I mean, that's what it means to grow, right? You gain more knowledge as you live through life and form new memories, and that helps you make more informed decisions in the future.
I've never really been too good at writing anything analytical, especially non-fiction. Essays and research papers that required informed arguments that helped to prove your point? Those were an entirely unknown game to me, one which I had never managed to breeze through. Of course, we were supposed to use some of the books we've read this year as evidence for our arguments, so that at least made it a bit easier, even if most of the books were ones from nearly five decades ago and definitely out of touch at this point. The sound of my laptop's keys clicking as I typed away were the only sounds I could pick up in the room. I had my earphones in for a bit, but those always hurt my ears after a while, so I had taken them out.
Looking at the time in the corner of my laptop screen, it was 4:43 PM. I started writing as soon as I got home from class, so I've only been going for about an hour. Unfortunately, this essay is a non-insignificant amount of my course grade, so I needed to finish this as soon as possible.
God, it's a Friday! I could be out doing something actually fun with Shae and the other guys. Isn't that the whole point of high school? That's what it always seemed like in movies, at least, but I guess I've been a victim of false advertising.
After a bit more time passes, the sound of my phone ringing from my desk brings me out of my writing trance. I sigh, setting my laptop next to me on the bed, not wanting to get out of bed, but eventually forcing myself into maneuvering over to the desk, I grab the phone and flip it open, looking to see the Caller ID.
Shaela.
I instantly accept the call, it's almost second nature at this point. She calls me at least once a day so she can tell me about whatever person is pissing her off that day, or whatever drama she's heard from her other friends. I was never really one for gossip, or whatever, but I did appreciate talking to her.
I put the phone up to my ear, "What's up?" I say, a tinge of fatigue in my voice.
"Hey! Just warning you that I'm like five minutes from your place and you don't have a say in the matter." She replied bluntly. I can hear the sound of cars driving by on the other side of the phone, so she's obviously outside, confirming her words.
I take a deep breath before speaking, "...Why?" I said with exasperated sarcasm.
"Because! I have something to tell you, and if I say it over the phone then I seriously doubt it'll work out in the way I'm hoping it does."
"That clears up nothing, actually, and now I regret picking up."
"Even if you didn't answer, that doesn't stop your parents from letting their son's lovely goody-two-shoes of a friend stop by for a visit!" She exclaimed, a mischievous tone subtly layered in her voice.
She's not wrong.
"Wow, you make this sound like you're sneaking into a high-security building or something." I say, utterly confused at her motives. "Obviously you can come over, but I'm not exactly filled with confidence at whatever you're planning."
"Like I said, I can't tell you yet, but it's gonna be awesome!" She said. There was an unusual perkiness to her that made itself pretty clear over the phone.
Before I can say anything, I'm met with the dial tone, signalling that she had hung up. The only thing I can do at this point is wait for her to get here, I guess. She always lets herself in when she comes over, so I don't make the effort to meet her downstairs. A sudden ping sound fills the quiet room, seeming to come from my laptop. I get back into bed, looking to see where the notification came from.
It's a message from Tyler.
He's definitely the newest member of our little group, if even that. I'm the only person in the group that he's actually friends with so far, despite my efforts to bring him along on any plans we all make. I only met the Grey Wolf back in February, at the beginning of the second semester, in the school's photography class. Nobody I knew signed up for it, and due to our prestigious high school's advanced budget for technology, we were forced to be paired up for shared computer use in the Photography Room. I suppose Tyler was also fortunate enough to not know anybody in the class, as we ended up being paired together by the teacher. He was definitely someone I could only describe as uninterested, as the first week or two I spent with him in that class consisted of him either giving me one word answers or answering in the most blunt, bored tone he could manage. Though, it seemed that it took a bit of persistence on my part to push him to be more open, and since then he's grown to be a pretty great friend.
Tyler: u goin to that party tonight ive been hearin about?
Party? I wasn't made aware of anything like that, at least... not yet. Something in the back of my brain was telling me that Shae had ulterior motives about coming to my place so suddenly, but I'm still hoping that I'm wrong. I hate parties.
Jake: party? havent heard anything, are u going?
Tyler: thinkin about it
think its gonna be over at chris's place, guess his parents r gone for the weekend or somethin
Jake: chrisssss? ughh that guy is such an asshole
Tyler: yeah u dont havee to go, but itd prob be more fun to have someone u actually know there
The way he worded that was directed at me, but I could tell he didn't want to go on his own.
Jake: i guess ill think about it
Tyler: sickk, call me if u make up ur mind
Before I can type my farewells over IM, Shaela energetically bursts through the door.
"Jesus! You scared the shit outta me, don't you knock?" I said, mildly exasperated.
"Oh come on, I literally called you a few minutes ago, you had plenty of time to not make a situation where it'd be a bad idea for me to barge in," She replies, laughing, before setting her bag on the ground and dramatically falling into my bed. "Today was garbage."
"What happened?"
"Ugh, Claire decided to just not show up, I guess, on the day we're supposed to present that stupid History project? And, obviously, she didn't give me her part of the project or anything, so I had tell Mr Thomas about the situation, which was fucking embarrassing." She paused for a moment, taking a deep breath. "Luckily, he said he wouldn't reduce my grade for handing it in late, since I actually had my part finished. God, what a bitch- I must've called her like thirty times before class to get her to email me her part, and every time it went straight to voicemail - and she told me last night that she'd have it ready for today!"
"Have you gotten a hold of her yet?" I asked, closing my laptop and setting it beside me.
Shae turns her head to me, shaking her head, "Nope, she's been ghosting me all day."
"Sounds like typical Claire."
"Yeah, I shouldn't have partnered with her, but apparently I can't say no to anyone, so..." I chuckle lightly in response. "Anyways! I didn't just come here to complain to you!" She says, sitting up on the bed, now facing towards me.
"Right... So what was so important that you just had to tell me in person?" I say, sarcastically.
"Like I said, if I asked you over the phone you would've definitely said no, and my ability to pressure you into doing things isn't as effective unless it's in person!" She responded.
I subtly rolled my eyes, but it's clear she noticed from the stare-down she gave me, "Okay, so what is it?"
"Soooooo..." She says, trying to find the rest of the words, "There's a party."
Wow.
"Wh- did everybody know about that party except for me?!?" I exclaimed.
Shaela's face quickly turns to an expression of shock, "Who told you?"
"Tyler did, like, not even five minutes ago." I say, bluntly.
"What? How does he know Chris?"
"Friend-of-a-friend, I'm guessing?"
"Hmm..." She hummed, thinking about something, "So, did you tell him you were going?"
"I specifically said I'd think about it, nothing definite." I made it clear in my tone that I wasn't particularly interested.
"Oh, come on, dude! It'll be fun!"
I didn't really have an interest in going, but I know it'd make Shae happy, plus it'd be nice to hang out with Tyler again even if we've only known each other for a couple months.
"...Fine. But, if Chris or any of his buddies start shit, I'm leaving."
"Awesome!"
"Lemme just call Tyler and let him know," I said as I grabbed my phone and flipped it open, finding Tyler in my contact list and dialling.
"You gonna bring him with-" The phone rings a few times before he picks up and I extend my hand out towards Shae in a shushing motion. She rolls her eyes, smirking.
"Hey? So are ya gonna go?" He said eagerly.
"Well, Shae showed up at my door literally right after you messaged me, asking the same thing!" I exclaimed in a fake-preppy voice. "So, I guess I have no choice since she'll probably just drag me there if I say no," I joked. She nods her head toward me in response.
"Oh, is she going too?" He inquired.
"Yeah, I guess so! Your place is kinda on the way to Chris', so we could probably meet you at your place and go from there."
"Yeah! Sounds good!" He quickly responded.
I laughed, "Okay, we'll call you when we get there?"
"Sure thing!"
We exchanged our farewells, and hung up. The party wasn't for at least another hour or two, so Shae and I had some time to burn, of which I was entirely out of ideas. I figured I could at least spend this time actually being productive, so I grabbed my laptop and continued on writing my English essay as Shae resumed her previous conversation topic of stuff at school that was pissing her off. It was pretty entertaining, to be fair. She was telling me about how Chris had gotten in a fight with this other kid in our grade yesterday after class, which I wasn't lucky enough to witness, but it was obviously all anyone would talk about for basically the entire day today so word spread around fast. The part I hadn't heard about was that both Chris and the other guy, Nathan, got suspended for a week because of it. Chris was generally an asshole to everybody, including myself, so I didn't feel too bad about that. Although, I didn't know Nathan all that well. Other than having a few classes together, I don't think I've ever held an actual conversation with the guy. I think it was safe to assume that Chris was the one who started it, and Shae seemed to agree with me, even though she hadn't seen the fight either.
"But, apparently Nathan's gonna show up tonight!" She exclaimed coyly.
"...Remind me again why you want me to go to this specific party?"
"You'll have a great time! It's not like we'll be involved in the drama anyway so think of it more as entertainment!"
"I think you and I have different definitions of the word 'entertainment'," I joked.
"I'm sure you can go run off somewhere with Tyler if you're not having fun," She said, her tone reminding me of my mom.
"Oh yeah? What about you?"
"I can't just leave Alex at a party with Chris, those two start shit between each other so much and I'd rather not deal with the aftermath of that today."
"I'm guessing it's safe to assume that Elliot's going too, then?"
"He's not big on parties, but he'll usually go if everyone else is, unlike somebody," She says, gesturing towards me.
"Good one," I reply, unmoving as I keep typing away at my assignment.
"Well, we should probably leave soon since we're stopping at Tyler's place on the way.
I saved the document I had been working on, closing my laptop. "Sounds good to me!"
---
"I can't believe you actually agreed to go." Tyler joked as we walked towards the road from his house.
"Yeah, me either." I replied. I definitely didn't put in any effort in dressing up for the party, opting for a snug space-themed graphic tee, along with black jeans and a white zip-up hoodie. Shae and Tyler both stand on opposite sides of me as we walk down the sidewalk.
"Luckily I learned the subtle techniques in convincing you to do things against your better judgement, so now you get to have fun for once!" Shae exclaimed.
"It's not my fault that going to a party is literally the last thing on earth I'd do for fun in any normal situation." I retorted, putting my hands in the pockets of my jacket.
"Oh yeah? And what do you consider a 'normal situation'?" Shae asks.
"Any situation where you guys aren't the ones trying to get me to go! I'm only doing this for you two, y'know." I said, looking over at both of them.
"What about Elliot and Alex?" Tyler chimed in.
"They aren't the ones asking me to go to this party." I sarcastically remarked, trying to keep the conversation light-hearted. "Speaking of the party- this is Chris we're talking about, there's gonna be beer, right?"
"Uh, duh?" Shae replied.
"Yeah, that's a definite no for me, I'm already enough of a disappointment to my parents,"
"No one's making you drink, Jake. At least you'd be safe if some old hag called the cops about the noise." Shae said.
"I think at that point we're guilty by association, so we'd just make a run for it if that happens," Tyler joked.
"Dude, the chance of me outrunning a police officer successfully is about as likely as me not wanting to punch Chris tonight."
"And the chance of you winning that fight is just as low!" Shae retorted, Tyler laughing in response.
"I specifically said 'want' because of that very reason!"
"Wow, I'd pay money to see you fight that guy." Tyler said, nudging his elbow into my side.
It isn't a secret that I'm not exactly athletic. I mean, I'm definitely not weak, but fighting basically any animal of a similar size to mine was not a situation that favoured my victory.
"That sounds more like just getting the shit kicked outta me for your entertainment." I remarked, lightly punching Tyler's shoulder in return.
"Absolutely worth every penny!" Shae exclaimed. Luckily, the place wasn't any more than ten minutes away from Tyler's place, so I didn't have to endure listening to these two talk about me getting beat up for much longer.
We finally make it to Chris' house, and I'm suddenly filled with an impending sense of regret. Obviously, my parents would never in a million years agree to me going to a party like this. As far as they know, I'm just spending the evening hanging out with Shae at Tyler's house. So yeah, this entire night had a lot of potential for disaster.
Shae can clearly see my hesitation, because she grabs my hand, leading me up the walkway, Tyler following closely behind.
"I wonder if Elliot and Alex beat us here?" She says, knocking on the front door.
"I doubt they had anything to do earlier, hell they probably came straight here after school, knowing Alex." I said, laughing.
Our conversation is cut short by the opening door, revealing the familiar black cat.
"Oh, look, the Stephenson kid brought his girlfriend!" Chris exclaimed mockingly, looking back into the house, before peering around my shoulder, "And... Tyler?" He said, inquisitively.
I lean over, blocking Tyler from his line of sight, "Yeah, hey, not dating by the way!" I said. I've known Shae since I first moved to Vestige, around the time I turned five years old, so it wasn't uncommon for rumours to go around that we were dating. I've always thought of her more as a sister, if anything.
"I asked them to come!" Tyler said. That was only partly true, but according to Tyler, they've been 'somewhat-friends' for quite a while now, so saying that would at least mean less mild-harassment from Chris for tonight.
"Oh, uh, okay... come on in! But you're on the hook for any shit they pull, Tyler!" He said, opening the door wider.
---
The party had been going on for a few hours at this point. I could recognize most of the animals here from school, but not enough to actually hold a conversation with any of them, so most of my time here had just been spent with Shae and Tyler. The place hasn't been incredibly crowded luckily, but there were easily about forty others in this part of the house alone. I'm assuming only high school grades were invited, but there were a considerable number of students to meet that requirement. The issue at hand for me, other than how crowded this place is, is that both Shae and Tyler ditched me to go... somewhere? I think Shae saw some of her friends and went somewhere with them, but Tyler was pretty secretive about where he was going, only telling me that he'd be back in a bit. So I've been standing here in this random corner of the house with a drink in hand, trying to make myself look busy and not awkward, which is exactly why I didn't want to go to this party in the first place!
"Jake!" A voice shouted from a ways away.
I turn my head in confusion, revealing Alex, walking towards me from across the room.
"Oh, Alex! Hey! What's up dude!" I finish the last bit of my soda, waving at him. Because this was Chris' party, there was obviously beer too, but I didn't feel like coming home drunk and my parents finding out.
"I didn't think you'd wanna come to something like this! Feeling the regret yet?"
"I like parties! It's the times like these when I'm standing in a corner by myself with nothing to do that I hate, which seems to happen every time I go to a party!" I exclaimed, pausing for a moment. "Okay, maybe I do hate parties- I've had to explain this so many times today I'm about ready to jump into Lake Ambuscade."
' "Wow, sounds like somebody needs to socialize instead of stewing in a corner for the rest of the night!"
"Socialize? Really? I know just about everybody here and just about none of them are worth talking-"
"Hang with me and Elliot, then? Justin set up some racing games in the other room, we were gonna join, but we could use a fourth... You in?" He said, his tone obviously trying to sound coercing.
"God, please, anything to get me out of this corner for the next three hours." I said, Alex returning my words with a laugh.
"Well, come on then! We'll have to hurry if we want to get one of the good controllers!" He exclaimed, motioning to follow him.
As we move through the various cliques, I recognize a few faces here and there, though not enough to actually want to talk to them. There's been music playing since we got here, and I have yet to recognize a single song, they all seem to be some form of drone-y bass-heavy music that I can't say I've heard in any normal situations. I'm doing my best to follow Alex, although he keeps weaving between the other animals faster than I can keep up, resulting in me having to shove past everyone near me in an effort to speed myself up. Luckily, it seems that no one notices me anyway.
When we arrive in the other room, it seems to just be another living room, but decorated with a galore of punk band posters, shelves holding more DVD cases than I would ever care to count, and even a mini-fridge. Maybe Chris is the type to have a 'man cave' or something? Just hearing that phrase almost makes me want to vomit, but there aren't any more accurate words that come to mind. The room isn't massive or anything, but the TV resting upon the wall across the room seems to challenge that idea, looking almost eighty inches in size. Luckily no randoms from the party were in here, sitting about ten feet away from the TV is Elliot, leaning back in a purple bean bag chair that seems almost three times bigger than him, and Justin, the cougar I'd only known slightly through Alex, laying down sideways on the couch directly in front of the gigantic screen.
"Whatttt! You took the bean bag chair? Lameee..." Alex whined.
"You're the one who wanted to go get Jake, you snooze you lose!" Elliot retorted, looking oddly proud of himself.
"Damn, wish I had a room like this at my house..." I mumbled, looking around the room.
"Are we gonna play or what?" Justin said, cutting through the momentary silence.
"Duh!" Alex claimed.
Justin sits up, taking the spot on the couch closest to Elliot. I opt for the leftmost seat, and Alex sits in-between the both of us. Elliot grabs the other three controllers and tosses them over at us, one by one. Luckily, there weren't any garbage third-party controllers, so at least none of us would have to deal with that. I will admit, it did feel kinda weird going to someone's party just to play games away from everybody, but I would be lying if I said I didn't prefer that, even though I rarely play games, if ever.
After Justin turns the console on, he goes through the menus, launching the game. I can't say I recognize the title, but it seems to be a pretty standard racing game. He goes into the custom mode, opting for a four-player split-screen match, choosing 'R1' as the category of cars to race in. As everyone chooses their cars, I scroll through the list, not really knowing what to pick. I've never been good with car stuff, so I pick an 'Aston Martin Lola' just based on the number-rating system the game ranks the cars with.
"You guys ready?" Justin asks.
"Oh yeah, get ready to eat my dust you guys!" Elliot exclaims, challengingly.
"Oddly prideful words for someone about to lose!" Alex replies, laughing.
The countdown begins, as the cameras slowly show the view of each car as it moves to the rear. When it starts, I somehow manage the fuckup of spinning my tires out, leaving me a few seconds behind the others as the car swerves back and forth. I curse under my breath as I try to regain control of the car, and swiftly pick up speed. The track seems like nothing I haven't seen before, a typical professional track, with rows and rows of audience seating to the side. Unfortunately, I'm now in last place. The next few moments of the track are a few quick corners, allowing me the chance to catch up, at least a little.
Unexpectedly, the track turns off of the main road, going into a forested area. The road is considerably more narrow at this point, so it takes a conscious effort to not drive into the trees by the asphalt. It looks like the road stretches on forever, as I still can't make out any upcoming turns. I guess the car I chose for the race had a better top speed than Justin's, as I'm quickly catching up to him, moving into third place. I'm gripping my controller to an uncomfortable degree, but I can't seem to relax the tension as I try to make my way into second place. I don't think I can pick up any more speed in this car, so me moving up is reliant on the road staying straight for just a bit longer. After what feels like a lifetime, the front of my car finally starts making it past Elliot's, then the midsection, and finally, I'm in second. The sound of all four car engines is drowning out any remnants of the video game music, and I feel the sudden urge to curse out whoever turned the TV volume up this high. My eyes are focused entirely on Alex's car as I make my final push into first place. If I were actually driving this fast in the real world, I'd be scared out of my fucking mind. Out of nowhere, Alex, and the others, begins to slow down considerably.
Oh fuck.
It's at that point I notice that there is a sharp right turn rapidly approaching. I've been pushing the top-speed of this car since the beginning of this stretch of road, and now I'm going too quickly to stop in time. What's the button to use the handbrake, again? I figure that the only way for me to not fuck up this race for myself is to try to drift around the corner. Considering I've never played this game before, it's going to prove to be a challenge. But, it's either that, or just ending up in dead-last again.
I hold down the A button, and pull the joystick as far to the right as possible. Suddenly, all I can hear from the game is the loud skidding sounds of my tires against the asphalt. To my surprise, I cut the corner a bit early, now going over the grass. I try to do a bit of directional-corrections and start heading back onto the track. Going over the grass definitely slowed me down a fair bit, but it definitely was a significantly better outcome over just crashing into the wall. And, to my surprise, the corner of my screen reads... first?!?
"How the fuck...?" Alex questions, seemingly in disbelief.
"I wish I could tell you." I replied, eyes wide at whatever the fuck just happened.
The distance I managed to gain on Alex isn't by a whole lot, but there's only about a quarter of the track left before we reach the finish line, so I have a chance at winning this. The track hurriedly changes from the forest as it reenters the main track. The long, straight roads seem to end as the road becomes a slow series of sharp turns, never giving me the opportunity to get back up to speed. It seems like the high top speed was my only advantage, because at every corner we take, I turn my camera around, revealing the other cars inching closer and closer to me.
I can see the finish line on the mini-map, just a few more turns away. I know that I'm not gonna be able to distance myself from Alex and the others at this point, so my only feasible strategy is to keep moving, cutting the corners as fast as I can, and getting to the finish line before they can pass me. Unfortunately, Alex's car seems to be getting too close for comfort now, meaning I might have to take some risks to ensure I can stay in first. As we approach the final turn, leading into the finish line, I realise I'm gonna have to try to drift this corner. I can feel my pointer finger practically cracking the plastic on the controller from the amount of pressure I'm putting on the right trigger. In a final plea to win, I push down on the A button, pulling the handbrake. The car starts to smoothly skid around the corner. Luckily, there are barriers on the sides of the road this time, preventing me from sliding onto the grass. To my surprise, the drift seems to work better than expected. That is, until, like the fucking idiot I am, make a slight overcorrection towards the left barriers as I exit the drift. I managed to avoid driving directly into the wall, but it did slow me down a bit.
Alex is immediately behind me, and I put all of my strength into accelerating towards the finish line. I'd be fucked if I broke the controller, cause I can't really afford the fifty dollars to buy a new one, but winning this race is more important to me at the moment. The finish line is only about five-hundred metres away, and Alex is slowly beginning to pass. All I can do at this point is push the gas as much as I can, and pray that I can cross the finish line before he can get back into first place. The finish line gets closer and closer, and it seems like it's gonna be too close for me to accurately tell the winner. I can feel my heart pounding in my chest from how stressful this fucking game has been, and now, we're about to find out whose efforts paid off. As each car makes its way over the finish line, each of our dedicated sections of the screen turns to slow motion. When it's finally over, the text fades in on each screen, revealing our place...
...
...
...Second?!?
"FUCK!" I shouted, realising I had been holding my breath since the final stretch of the race.
"HA! Dude, you suck!" Alex exclaimed, playfully shoving me.
"I think that was the most effort I've put into anything in my life." I said, setting my controller on the coffee table in front of me.
"Wow, that's dramatic," Justin remarked.
"Yeah, that's the usual for Jake," Elliot replied, laughing.
"You probably woulda won if you picked a better car, dude. That track was way too close-quarters so you should've gone with a car with better acceleration." Alex said.
"Wha- do you own this game?" I questioned, looking accusatory.
"...Yeah? It came out a few months ago, pretty popular right now." He replied.
"Ugh, this is what I get for playing with a bunch of gamers." I exclaimed, applying a disgusted tone to the last word.
"Not my fault you only play like one game a month!" Alex joked.
"Even then, I was like this close to beating you anyway!" I said, gesturing a minuscule distance between my thumb and pointer finger.
A voice interrupts our argument, coming from right outside the room, "Uh huh...
...
Really? That's bullshit! Come on...
...
Dude, give me a couple of days, I'll make it right!
...
Yeah, I swear."
It seems that we all stopped talking to listen in at the same time. "That sounds like Tyler... who's he arguing with?" Elliot asked. I can't make out the voice of whoever he's talking to, it just sounds like mumbling.
They seem to pause for a moment, and the sound of a single set of footsteps can be heard.
"Fuck..." Tyler says to himself, still out of view.
"...I should probably see what's up, you guys can keep playing without me." I say, getting up from my spot on the couch.
"Yeah, you do that! Less competition for me," Alex exclaims, laughing to himself.
"Hey, I can still beat your ass at this game, I know exactly which car to pick this time!" Elliot argued.
"Yeah, right! Guess we'll find out!"
I leave as the three start up another game, kind of glad I don't have to have another near-heart attack from playing again. When I get back into the dimly-lit hallway, Tyler is nowhere to be seen.
I look around, heading into the main room of the house to see if I can spot him. It's pretty difficult to see anything, because of how dim it is here, plus the sheer amount of animals crowding up the place. Despite that, I manage to spot the Grey Wolf a ways away, hurrying quickly into the bathroom.
As I shove my way through a few groups of teens, I almost fall over a few times, gaining confused stares from a few in the room. I lightly knock on the bathroom door, waiting for a response, "Hey, you okay Tyler?" After a few moments, I'm returned with no answer, "...Tyler-" Before I can finish my sentence, Tyler swiftly pulls open the bathroom door, pulling me in and shutting the door behind me, before sitting down on the side of the bathtub. As I'm about to say something, I hear the sound of him sniffling.
...Is he crying?
He's looking towards the floor, so I can't confirm it visually, but the sound definitely gives it away.
"Whoa, what's wrong? Did something happen?" I asked worriedly, not yet choosing to bring up the argument we overheard.
There's a few seconds of silence as he tries to bring himself together, not very successfully. "I- I... I don't- I don't think I can-"
"It's fine, you don't have to tell me if you don't want to," I tried to reassure him. He raises his head for a moment to look at me, trying to find words to say, instead opting to go back to crying, head in his hands. I've never been good with situations like this, so I sit down next to him, putting my hand on his upper back, softly patting.
"I'm sorry- I'm a fucking idiot. I shouldn't have asked you to come."
"Hey! I've been having fun! Don't worry about me, it seems like you're the one who shouldn't have come." I joke, in some effort to lighten the mood.
Shit, was that inconsiderate of me to say?
To my surprise, he manages to let out a light laugh, "Yeah, I'm starting to realise that."
"...Do you wanna leave, then? They know I didn't want to go here in the first place, so you could just say you're being nice and walking me home." I didn't know if he would actually take up that offer, but I know some guys have a weird thing about not wanting to seem 'uncool' and leaving a party early was definitely considered that.
He thinks for a moment, still sniffling pretty noticeably. "...okay, just- give me a minute, I don't want to go out there looking like this." He mumbles, looking towards the door.
"Yeah, that's fine." I said, continuing to rub around his neck area.
This definitely wasn't how I expected the night to go. But it was a sort of 'two-birds-with-one-stone' kind of situation. I get to help out Tyler, which is usually the other way around, I get to leave early, and hopefully Shae stops bugging me about going to parties, at least for a while.
Now that I think about it, that analogy is pretty messed up.
A few silent minutes go by as I sit next to the still-crying Tyler, waiting for him to recollect himself. Even though he hasn't actually said anything here, in the two months I've known him, this is probably the most vulnerable I've ever seen him. When I first met him, it was pretty accurate to describe him as the kind of guy who acts like he never feels emotion. Hell, even I refuse to be open about my feelings, but most of my friends see through that nowadays. Even now, I don't really understand why I do that. I guess it's just easier to not talk about shit like that? Is that why Tyler does it?
"I think I'm good now," He said, shaking his hands as he stood up.
"Okay, let's get out of this dumpster fire." I sarcastically remarked. Tyler shot me a confused look in return. "Whatever, let's just go."
I open the bathroom door, grabbing his arm as I lead him out into the main room. Almost immediately the voice of a certain black cat perks up behind us.
"Oh? And what did you two get up to in there?" Chris remarked, laughing, "I didn't know you guys were THAT kind of friends!"
God damnit. This stupid fucking feline.
"Yeah, it's too loud out here for me, I needed a break, he came with." I explained, Tyler standing closely behind me with a confused look on his face. Just roll with it, dude, I think to myself, knowing I probably shouldn't say that out loud.
"You know, I would believe that, but normal guys actually just go outside when they need a break." He replied.
"Well, hey! That's where we're going right now, so it all checks out!" I say in the bitchiest voice I can muster.
"Heh, sure thing, Jake." He said, sounding weirdly satisfied with himself. I didn't want to spend any more time in this fucking house than I needed to, especially while talking to Chris, so I continue on, pulling Tyler by the hand towards the exit. After a few moments, we make it to the front door. I promptly open it and we both head outside.
We're immediately greeted by the light of the moon and the starry sky as we head down the walkway toward the street. One of the few benefits of living in such a backwater town was the absence of any significant light pollution. I've been to Portland a few times for school field trips and such, and seeing the sheer difference in visible stars was absolutely staggering. I could only imagine what it would be like to go stargazing in the middle of nowhere.
"At least it's a nice night out." I said.
"Yeah..." Tyler replied, his mind clearly in a completely different place.
"I should probably tell Shae where we went, so she doesn't freak out trying to find us back there." I joked, pulling out my cell phone. Texting on my flip phone was an arduous task, but I didn't want to call her, so I had not much of a choice.
I send the text, and close my phone, returning it to my pocket. As we walk down the road, we stew in the silence, the only auditory sounds coming from the party still close by, and the local crickets chirping.
I won't lie, as much as I usually appreciate quiet, this is the loudest silence I've ever been stuck in. It goes on for more than five minutes. I could tell he wanted to say something, and I was eager to find out whatever was going on that started this in the first place. But, like the coward I am, I try to lighten the mood.
"Hopefully that satisfied your quota of me going to parties with you for a while, cause I do not plan on having the energy for something like that again for at least a few months." I said, awkwardly laughing. He doesn't respond, at least for a while, as he raises his hand, scratching the back of his neck nervously. "...Uhh, are you sure you don't wanna talk about it? I mean-"
"Can I tell you something?" He interrupted, his voice still cracking like it was in the bathroom.
"...Sure?" I replied, slightly confused.
"It's just that- I don't really know- like what-"
"-to say? Just think for a minute. No rush." That's what my dad always says whenever my mind spirals. I used to be really anxious, although I've been getting better at controlling my thoughts in the past few years.
When I went to text Shae a few minutes ago, my phone's clock read 9:48 PM. I'm supposed to be home at ten and we're still at least twenty minutes away, not even including the detour we'll take to get to Tyler's place. Which brings me to the realisation that, when we get to his house, I'm gonna have to walk the rest of the way home by myself, in the dark. If I get murdered by some serial killer this late at night I'm gonna fucking haunt Shae from the afterlife-
"I think I'm gay," He quickly says, his voice holding a noticeable increase in energy compared to what I've been used to tonight.
Well... can't say that's exactly what I was expecting. Was I expecting anything in particular? I honestly don't know anymore. His words took me by surprise, my brain is kind of scrambled right now. I look over at him - he's looking back at me, probably trying to gauge my reaction. I did my best to conceal any facial reaction, but it's pretty clear that my lack of a response is starting to become noticeable.
"...You... think?"
"Well, like- I don't know. I guess I've just been thinking for a while, and it makes sense... all things considered." He replied anxiously.
"That- That's great! Does anyone else know?"
"I only really realised a few weeks ago, so... no. But compared to anyone else, I probably trust you the most to not like- tell anyone?" He said, looking over at me again.
"Well, I appreciate the completely undeserved confidence you have in me," I joked, realising too late that now probably isn't the time for that, "Yeah, I promise I won't tell anyone."
"Thank you," He replies, a genuine smile strewn across his face.
A few minutes go by as we walk down the road, absorbing the positive energy we created. Having only known Tyler for a little over two months, it definitely surprised me knowing that he trusted me more than anyone else to keep a secret like that... I mean, despite the short amount of time since I met him, I'm as close to him as I've been to Shaela for the past eight years. Maybe even closer? I barely even tell Shae about my actual problems, at least the non-surface level stuff. So yeah, I guess it makes sense that he would trust me with something so important, I know I would absolutely trust him if it were me in that situation.
"...So, do you think you're gonna tell your dad?"
He didn't say anything for a moment as he stared down at the ground beneath him, "I'll probably have to tell him soon, if he has to find out from some asshole that isn't me it'd make it ten times more difficult than if I just said it myself."
I agreed, and we let the conversation cut itself off as we finally approached Tyler's house. I followed him up the walkway and stood on the patio, making sure he actually got inside. He tries the doorknob eagerly, to no avail. Realising that it was locked, he reaches into his pocket for his key - again, to no avail.
"You've gotta be fucking kidding me," Tyler mumbled under his breath, clearly done with tonight. All of the lights were off in the house, signalling that his dad was not awake.
"Maybe you'll wake him up if you knock? Then he can let you in."
"Nonono, he thinks I'm staying at your place! If he finds out I went to a party I'm in deep shit," He whispered.
Of course. If I had to lie to my parents, why would I expect anything different from anyone else?
"Okay, uhh... maybe we can make that lie... not a lie?" I said, sounding weirder than I'd like.
Tyler looked at me, confused for a moment, eyes widening as he realised what I meant, "I can't let you do that, I've already forced you through too much shit tonight."
"Oh, come on, of course you can sleep at my place for the night! My parents think I'm at your house right now, so I can just tell them that we both went over there early in the morning. They love you anyway, so it won't be a problem!"
He didn't move at all, still looking reluctant, "Are you sure it won't be... weird? I don't want to put you in an awkward situation cause of w- what I told you."
"Dude, that couch in my room has a hide-a-bed if you don't want to share mine. Either way, we're friends, aren't we? I trust you."
After a few moments of silence, he speaks up, "...I guess so-"
"Great, then it's settled!" I said, putting my arm around his shoulder as I led him back down the walkway.
---
Once we make it to my place, walk up the creaky wooden steps of my patio as I fish the house key out of my pocket. Tyler's standing closely behind me, looking awkward as ever, clearly not knowing what to do with his hands as he switches between putting them in his pockets and clasping them together.
I turn the key on the lock and try the door, noticing that It's completely pitch black inside the house. My parents usually go to bed at 10 PM, and it was well past that at this point. I lock the door behind us as I reach for my pocket, grabbing my phone and flipping it open to use as a barely-useful flashlight. I take Tyler's wrist as I lead him through the furniture of my living room and up the stairs. The only sounds in the house come from the soft ticking of a clock in the kitchen, the sound of which has always freaked me out whenever I'd come downstairs at three in the morning. Despite my best efforts to be as quiet as possible, the old wooden boards of the stairs prove my effort to be futile as they creak with every step. I can only hope that both of my parents have fallen asleep by now, or else they'd definitely have heard us. As I take Tyler down the hallway, walls strung with various family photos and art fit for a motel, I hear no sounds coming from the master bedroom, relaxing some of my tension.
Once we make it to my room, I breathe a sigh of relief as I turn on the overhead light, hoping my mom doesn't find out and try to lecture me in the morning, "Okay, hide-a-bed or mine, your choice!"
"Hide-a-bed." He replies.
"Sure thing, lemme show you how to set it up," I say as I remove each couch cushion one by one. The couch is sitting directly under my massive bedroom window, illuminated by the glow of the moon. Under the cushions is a black folded-up contraption, bearing a metal handle. I grab the handle and start pulling the bed out from the couch. As the first section of the bed comes out, Tyler stands next to me and helps unfold the second section, and finally the third.
I move over to open the closet door, "I have some spare pillows and blankets in here."
"So, why do you have a spare bed... thingy... in your room anyway?" He asked.
"My cousins' family came to visit from the other side of the country a few years back, so my parents made the cousins stay in my room and gave me our old couch that used to be in the living room. They were here for like two weeks, it was fucking awful," I remarked, pulling a comforter out of the closet and unfolding it out on the mattress.
"That sounds miserable," Tyler sympathized.
"It was, but hey, now I got a sick as fuck couch in my room! And it works as a great place for certain friends to sleep when they wanna spend the night," I said sarcastically, looking over at Tyler as I grabbed the pillows from the closet, tossing them to one end of the bed.
He turned his head, baffled, "Was that a dig on me?" He questioned.
"Depends on how you took it I suppose," I replied, smiling cunningly.
"You're the one who offered, dude- are you sure you didn't drink at the party? You've at least doubled your usual level of sarcasm." He retorted.
"Nope, unless somebody spiked my soda!" I joked, but the realisation slowly set in, "Oh shit- maybe someone spiked my soda?!?"
"Don't freak out, I seriously doubt someone would spike your drink,"
"God, I hope so, if my parents found out I went to that party, that'd be one thing, but if I got drunk? I doubt I'd see the outside world for months," I sighed.
"Even if you were drunk, it's not like you would still be drunk in the morning for them to find out, anyway."
"Yeah, I guess you're right," I said, letting out a yawn shortly thereafter. "Fuck, I didn't realise how tired I am." Looking at my alarm clock, it was 10:37 PM. That wasn't terribly late, I've definitely stayed up later when there was an assignment due the next day that I forgot about, but even before I met up with Alex and Elliot, that party was just wearing me down. "At least I can sleep in 'till like noon tomorrow. You sure you don't need anything before I pass out from exhaustion?"
"No, I'm okay, I think. And, thank you... Jake." He replied, smiling at me.
"No problem, dude!" I quietly exclaimed as I turned off the bedroom lights and hopped into bed. I can practically feel my muscles dissolve as I lean into the mattress, pulling the heavy blankets over me as I close my eyes.
I can't help but feel something itching in the back of my brain. I never did find out why Tyler was even crying back at the party. Was it related to what he told me after? He sounded pretty upset when he was talking to whoever it was in the hallway, too, so maybe that was why? We've already talked about so much shit tonight, though, and I definitely did not have the energy to have another huge conversation about something like that. It could definitely wait until tomorrow.
Soon, I feel my consciousness drift away, the only sound I can make out being the slow breathing of Tyler, across the room.
---
As I wake up, I'm blinded by the bright sun shining in through my windows, directly into my eyes. I glance over at my alarm clock, feeling incredibly groggy and sore, noticing that it's 11:13 AM. Usually, the latest I'd sleep in on weekends was only around ten, but I guess it took a lot of my energy yesterday to try to tune the party out. At least it's over.
I slowly sit up, yawning as I lean back against the bed frame. I glanced around the room, noticing that the hide-a-bed had been folded back into the couch, Tyler nowhere to be seen. I reach over to my bedside table to check my phone, finding an unread text from him, sent a few hours ago.
Tyler: hey
woke up early, figured youd want 2 sleep in.
will call u later, might have somthin big i wanna share, will see
A pair of oddly cryptic messages. Guess that confirms he isn't here anymore.
At least it was a Saturday, meaning that I had full permission to be a slob. I get out of bed, deciding to skip my usual shower until after breakfast. Other than the snacks that were out at the party, I ate practically nothing last night. I could almost feel my stomach turning itself inside out, so I hurried out of my room and downstairs to the kitchen to have some breakfast.
The first thing I notice when I get downstairs is my mom, sitting on the couch with a book. I head straight to the kitchen, trying not to make myself stand out.
"Jake! Finally woken up, I see." She remarked, still looking at her book.
"Hey, mom!" There's a moment of silence as I grab a bowl out of the cupboard, as well as a box of cereal, and begin to pour.
She speaks up, "Your friend, Tyler, seemed to be in a hurry to leave this morning, anything I should know about?"
"...Not that I know of? Like what?" I questioned as I poured some milk from the fridge, grabbed a spoon, and sat at the kitchen counter.
"Well, it's not like we didn't notice that you weren't home by ten like your father asked you to be, so obviously you must have a good excuse for why you didn't at least call to let us know you'd be late?" She replied. I could tell when she started talking all responsible-parent-like, it meant that she was gonna lecture me about something.
I sighed, thinking of the right thing to say. "...Well, Tyler was going through some things... so I was trying to help him with that, I guess. Time just kinda flew by and I wasn't able to get home 'till later."
"So he spent the night here? Weren't you at his house?" She asked as I ate a spoonful of cereal.
"Yeah... we went out for a bit and once I noticed how late it was I offered to let him spend the night at our house since it was closer," I said. Almost entirely a lie, but definitely preferable to the truth.
"Jake..." She said, setting her book down on the coffee table in front of the couch, walking over to me, and resting a hand on my shoulder. "You're sixteen now, obviously we don't expect you to tell us everything you're up to nowadays. But we worry about you! I worry about you. Just for future reference, please let us know if you're gonna be home late or anything like that."
"Okay, I'll keep that in mind," I said, looking up at her.
"Great! Now, I have to go meet a friend for lunch, please try not to burn the house down while I'm out!" She said as she grabbed her purse and keys off of the counter, hurring out the door.
"No promises, love you!" I said as she closed the door behind her.
Well, I guess that went... better than expected? I doubt she believed that story I made up, but I guess as long as I don't break curfew without telling them, I should be fine.
Having the house to myself wasn't totally uncommon. Considering my dad was gone during the day five days a week, and my mom would head out to go meet friends or run errands pretty often, I got some much needed alone time often enough to not go mad.
As I finish my bowl of cereal, I realise that I probably should go shower as soon as possible, considering the night I had. I put my bowl and spoon in the dishwasher and head back upstairs. I grab a towel from my room and head into the bathroom, grabbing my various fur care products out of the cabinet for after the shower. As I turn the shower on, I hear the sound of my ringtone going off in the pocket of my pants on the floor. I sigh annoyedly, walking over and trying to figure out which pocket my phone was in. When I flip open the phone, the Caller ID reads out Tyler's name.
"Tyler! What's up?" I ask eagerly, hoping to find out what the news he cryptically texted about was.
"Jake- fuck, I messed up, I shouldn't have- what am I gonna do?" He said anxiously, sounding almost out of breath.
"Hey! Slow down, what's wrong?" I questioned.
"I'm such a fucking idiot! Why did I think this would be a good idea? Jake, I'm so sorry-"
"Tyler! Calm. Down. Just take a few deep breaths," I said. After a few moments, I can hear his breathing steadying on the other side of the call. "Okay, good. Now, what's wrong?"
There's a short pause as he tries to find the right words to say. It sounds like he's been crying. What even the fuck has been the past twenty-four hours?
"Can- do you think I could crash at y- your place for a few more nights? I don't know what to do."
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lamortexiii · a month ago
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Cryptic Mystic: In the End
To bounce off of the previous blog posting, I thought it would be fun to just hop right on into the topic of what happens after we die. After all, we just finished talking about souls and a bit of astral projection last time. From transcending to another place/dimension to reincarnation, there truly is a lot to cover when you start diving into the many beliefs and ideas that surround death and mortality/immortality. But what differentiates the scientific facts from myths and stories of olden days? For those who believe in one defined means to an end for us all, how do you know for a fact that what you believe is true? Have you ever questioned what is life after death? Hell, is there a life after death? Or maybe… it’s something else… something so obscure that our tiny human brains are nowhere near possessing the capabilities to understand it. In the end, readers can decide for themselves what is more likely to be true, or maybe… the answer to this cryptic question has been right in front of us all along? Maybe it is a combination of what we know but do not yet understand. Let’s talk shop, shall we?
Death. Happy for some, a time of joy and celebration for others, but likely a time of sadness and grief for most. Some welcome death with open arms, while yet others fear their mortality. The numerous speculations on what happens after we die is overwhelming. There are far too many ideas and beliefs that people hold in this regard. I’ll briefly cover a few of the more popular beliefs as to not make this blog super lengthy - because, ya know, your attention span and whatnot. 
Scientifically, there are two types of death: clinical death and brain death. Clinical death is characterized by major organ failure (e.g. heart, liver, kidneys, etc.) until the body is completely rendered of functioning and the individual is officially pronounced dead. In brain death, solely the brain stops functioning, but the other organs within the body continue to work within their normal capacities. Creepy fun fact for you: the heart can beat for up to 30 minutes on its own after all brain cells have died. Once the heart stops it’s adios amigo. The remaining major organs that were barely hanging on have now lost blood flow, and life has ended. More creepy death fun facts: the gastrointestinal tract can live on its own for up to 3 days, and the complete decomposition of a body takes roughly 30 years! Crazy science stuff. 
Now let’s take a look at some common beliefs and speculations of what happens when/after we die. Again, I want to remind you, readers, that in my eyes there is no right or wrong answer here. I am a firm believer in everyone having their own beliefs and respect all of them regardless of how obscure some naysayers may think that they are. I enjoy hearing stories from followers that help to further broaden my thought processes. If you ever have an interesting story or want to chime in with your thoughts please feel free to leave a comment here or shoot on over to Instagram and we can rap about it. 
The belief that we transcend to another realm/dimension has been around for thousands of years and has been studied for decades. There is a lot to uncover here between recent scientific discoveries and human belief. Many people believe that many other dimensions exist, however, scientific exploration hasn’t fully found the golden answer to if and what these other dimensions may contain if they do indeed exist. We know that Earth has at least three dimensions: space—length, width, and depth—and one dimension of time. Modern physics posits that there is at least a fourth dimension of space, but that we can’t experience it. Maybe we can? Maybe we do but just haven’t put a label on it? Maybe the odd phenomena that happen across the world that people describe as being ghosts, aliens, and other paranormal activities are actually from the next dimension or another. There has been speculation that extraterrestrials come from another dimension through a portal that is already here on Earth rather than from the sky (outer space). 
Give me an R! Give me an E! Hell, this word is too long and I’m not going to put you through reading a silly cheer for 5 minutes. Reincarnation - yet another commonly held belief of what happens when we die. For those of you who may have never heard of reincarnation, here is the quick and dirty version of the definition. Reincarnation posits that when we die our spirit/soul/whatever you want to call it, moves on to a new host. This host could be a human baby that is born the very second that you die OR you could possibly find yourself reincarnated as an animal, tree, flower, or any other living thing that you can find on Earth. Interesting concept indeed.
My favorite belief, that we go to Heaven or somewhere similar, is one that is believed by millions of people across the world. Wouldn’t it be nice to die and go to another world/place where nothing can do you harm, and just live out the rest of your existence in peace? Well, if you can believe it then it may just happen that way - or maybe not. I am fairly certain I have mentioned this in previous blogs, but religion can be thought of as a coping mechanism for that which we do not know or understand; the human way of putting a label on something to make ourselves feel better or like we are a part of something divine and much greater than us. Which, in all actuality, we very well may be a part of something divine and much greater than us, however, it is my personal opinion that we honestly have no fucking clue about the extent to which that is. 
Now, this next one I threw in here because I personally found it to be interesting. In 2017 I was having a conversation with a friend about mystical things such as portals, extraterrestrials, etc. My friend informed me of a research video on YouTube about a company called CERN. He described this Swiss company as having built a circular-shaped machine that when you throw something into its core it disappears. However, other items have come through this machine and into the room from… wherever the other side is? Basically, these people have created a portal and no one knows about it. You’re welcome for the information. Within this research video, the guy who was describing all of this stuff went on to talk about how China had gifted the statue that sits in front of the CERN building. This particular statue is reported to represent the end of time and hell on Earth. There is a whole mythical background story about this statue - you need to check it out. The irony between the statue and this machine they made is uncanny. It made my jaw drop. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I haven’t been able to find the YouTube video again, so I am not sure if it got taken down because the guy exposed something that was supposed to be secret, or maybe I just suck at YouTube searches. Either way, I encourage you to do some digging on this one, because this type of information could potentially support the whole soul/spirit transcending into another realm/dimension belief. I am not a physicist, so I could be explaining this all wrong. You’ll just have to check out their website for yourself and see what it’s all about. → home.cern
There is also the belief that when we die nothing happens. We are dead and it is the end of who we once were. This belief is often held by Atheists and some Satanists if we’re using labels. However, many people believe this who aren’t subscribed to a religion or don’t want to necessarily put a label on who they are/what they believe. This is the grim reality of our existence. Maybe it all means… nothing… Now isn’t that depressing. 
Then there are near-death experiences, which brings a whole different perspective into the mix. People all over the world have encountered near-death experiences. Many report shockingly similar experiences and stories. Some say they see a white light and follow it to a place of peace. I have heard people say that while they were legally deceased they found themself in a field of flowers or floating within the cosmos. A common theme found within these individuals is that once they have had their near-death experience, they aren’t afraid of death anymore - they welcome it with open arms. One woman on a documentary that I watched even went as far as to say that she didn’t want to come back from where she was and was disappointed when she was revived. These experiences could possibly support the theory of transcending to other dimensions or that there is a “heaven.” I can’t explain it, but I still find the information interesting to ponder upon. 
Our mortality is evident, but what really happens when we die? These are just a short collection of ideas and beliefs that have been around for ages, however, there are many more to consider I’m sure. What do you think? Or should I say: what do you want to believe? Ultimately it’s your choice. Whatever brings you peace, serves you well, and is the right answer for you is what I advise you to turn to. This flesh and blood will decay for each of us one day - it’s inevitable. It is for this very reason why I say live life to the fullest. Regret nothing. Do what best serves you. Do what makes you happy. Take chances. Above all else - be the best version of yourself that makes you happy.
Cryptic Mystic Blog by PsychVVitch
www.LaMorteXiii.com
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animebw · a month ago
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Binge-Watching: Pokemon Master Quest, Episodes 61-65
In which this long journey finally reaches its end... and another one begins.
End of the Line
And just like that, it’s over.
I mean, Pokemon as a whole is far, far, far from over. It’s still running today, a good two decades after the final episode of Master Quest. The franchise is still massive and dominant in the geek sphere beyond what almost any other anime properties have achieved. It’s probably going to be a long time before Pokemon as a whole truly ends. But barring the few banned episodes I’m planning to check out next? I’ve finally finished the Pokemon TV show’s initial run of 276 episodes. The Johto League has concluded with some rando winning the ultimate prize, Misty and Brock have returned to the lives they lived before starting on their journey, and Ash has left all his Pokemon behind save Pikachu to start a new adventure in the world of Ruby and Sapphire. Which is a pretty big deal when you stop and think about it. This isn’t the first time Ash has travelled to a new region, but this is the first time that Pokemon’s done a hard reset on the status quo to start things fresh again. Ash isn’t just wandering into a new part of the world with his usual gang, he’s leaving everyone and everything behind and starting with a completely fresh slate. None of the old characters we’ve become attached to, human or Pokemon, are gonna follow us anymore; we’re going to build an entirely new team and friend group fresh, and hope they’re as memorable as Misty, Brock, and all Ash’s many Pokemon. That’s a huge ask to make of an audience that’s stuck with a show this long, especially an audience of kids. They’ve spent years getting attached to the old gang, and now you’re asking them to cheer for their replacements just as hard? You’re almost guaranteeing disappointment.
On the other hand, it makes sense why Pokemon would settle into this routine of hard resets for every generation rather than keep the same cast for eternity. The longer a franchise runs in the same continuity, the more impenetrable it gets to newcomers. Imagine if Pokemon was like One Piece and just ran on forever with the same cast of characters and plot progression. Would anyone still be keeping up with it twenty years later? Would any new fans be able to get into the new show if it means catching up on 500-plus episodes of backlog? Would any old fans still care after they’d grown into adults? The resets don’t just reset the status quo for the characters, they reset the franchise for the audience as well. It’s far easier to get into Pokemon when you just have to catch up on the most recent season instead of, well, all of them. If you’re growing up in the era of Diamond and Pearl, as I did, you can jump right into Ash’s Sinnoh adventures without worrying about those times he palled around in three other continents’ worth of adventures. Sure, you risk losing your old audience, but it opens you up to gain new audiences at regular intervals. And so long as the show itself is basically okay on a consistent basis, you’re pretty much guaranteed an eternal fanbase of eager kids and still-invested adults, all with their own fond memories of what Pokemon meant to them as a child. It’s a deviously clever marketing strategy and an effective storytelling hook. And it’s probably one of the biggest reasons Pokemon’s remained so relevant throughout the years; there’s always opening for a new audience to get involved and discover what’s so cool about making adorable plush animals beat each other into the dirt.
Farewell to Arms
But hey, that’s all meta and marketing and broader scope stuff. In terms of the show itself, what matters is that Ash is leaving basically everyone and everything behind. And to its credit, it makes sure to give everyone a very nice goodbye. Well, everyone except Brock, who gets unceremoniously shuffled off screen without so much as a warning. Like, Misty gets a whole half-episode to angst over leaving Ash and make peace with the fact they’re going their separate ways (and some last-minute shipteasing for the road, because of course there is), and then Brock says out of nowhere, “Oh shit, that’s right, my contract’s expiring and I’m getting kicked out too! Welp, guess this is it, Ashy Boy, catch you later when they bring me back for Diamond and Pearl!” It’s kind of unintentionally hilarious. As is the later scene where Ash survives a Team Rocket attack by using the fork and spoon Brock left him to climb out of a pit. Holy shit, that made me laugh way harder than I think it was intended. I know you’re trying to have a good old-fashioned “My friends will always be there for me even when we’re apart” trope, but that was possibly the dumbest execution of that trope I’ve ever seen. Why couldn’t Ash just use one of his Pokemon to escape? This is before he’s left them all with Professor Oak, he should still have them on him.
But hey, other than that, the goodbyes all work. Gary’s following in his grandpa’s footsteps to become a Pokemon researcher, and I wish him all the best. I like how he and Ash end up trading the halves of the first Pokeball they found; it’s a nice little way to bring their arc full circle (also: ”I’ll make Gary proud of me too!” This kid’s got it baaaaaaaad). I also like how sweet Misty’s goodbye is; she and Ash really do care about each other, and the episode doesn’t shy away from letting them show it. I don’t know what it is, but something about Ash tearing up always gets the feels flowing for me. He’s such a cheery kid most of the time, but seeing him genuinely emotional- not even cool crying, just straight-up quivering sobs- hits like a truck every time. I might’ve cried myself, were it not the fantastic gag of Misty and Brock showing back up to interrupt Ash’s whispered goodbye to them (”Go on...” skjdfhsdhkf you absolute dorks). I’m really gonna miss them, that’s for sure. But time moves on, and this show must move on with it. So let’s say goodbye to what’s been, with one last showing by our old friend Ho-oh, and look forward to what’s to come. Farewell, Johto. Hoenn, ahoy!
Odds and Ends
-I realize I haven’t talked about the actual conclusion of the Johto League, but that’s because it was honestly kind of a letdown. We very quickly slip back into the “Everyone goes down in a single hit” school of Pokemon fights, which is neither interesting nor exciting. Only Charizard and Blaziken’s final showdown felt appropriately awesome.
-”What kind of crazy- I mean, what a unique strategy!” akjdhakd announcer-san please
-”It seems to be... dancing?” Totodile best girl.
-”Starting off asleep is a really great line of defense!” Always look on the briiiiight side of life!
-NEVER WAKE SNORLAX UP BEFORE HE’S READY HOO SHIT YOU FUCKED UP
-”Surrender to my pirouette or prepare to fight!” Aaaah, good to have your guys back.
-”Do you believe in love at first sight? Or should I walk by you again?” Lmao, nice.
-”Smell my breath! It’s as fresh as you are!” “You might want a mint.” askldjaskd WASTED
-oh my god they actually fixed her bike
-”Let’s show them what a real team of losers is supposed to act like!” Team Rocket, forever the GOATS.
-”Shorter on the back and sides, anyone?” lol wut
-Okay, Ash’s heroic sprint toward the future being interrupted by a Team Rocket pitfall was genuinely hilarious. Never change, you incredible losers.
-”This seems so much safer in the movies!” dkfhsdfhgsdf
-Wow, ending on a cliffhanger? That’s unexpected.
And that, folks, is the end of Pokemon Johto. Wow. Expect my closing thoughts later tonight, as well as what show will take its place!
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fullytenaciouscat · a month ago
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Podcast: Can AI fix your credit?
Credit scores have been used for decades to assess consumer creditworthiness, but their scope is far greater now that they are powered by algorithms. Not only do they consider vastly more data, in both volume and type, but they increasingly affect whether you can buy a car, rent an apartment, or get a full-time job. In this second of a series on automation and our wallets, we explore just how much the machines that determine our credit worthiness have come to affect far more than our financial lives.
We Meet:
Chi Chi Wu, staff attorney at National Consumer Law Center  
Michele Gilman, professor of law at University of Baltimore
Mike de Vere, CEO Zest AI
Credits:
This episode was produced by Jennifer Strong, Karen Hao, Emma Cillekens and Anthony Green. We’re edited by Michael Reilly.
Transcript:
[TECH REVIEW ID] 
Miriam: It was not uncommon to be locked out of our hotel room or to have a key not work and him have to go down to the front desk and handle it. And it was not uncommon to pay a bill at a restaurant and then have the check come back. 
Jennifer: We’re going to call this woman Miriam to protect her privacy. She was 21 when she met the man she would marry… and.. within a few short years.. turn her life… and her financial position… up-side-down.
Miriam: But he always had a reason and it was always someone else’s fault.
Jennifer: When they first met, Miram was working two jobs, she was writing budgets on a whiteboard, and she was making a dent in her student debt.
Her credit was clean.
Miriam: He took me out to dinner and he took me on little trips, you know, two or three night vacation deals to the beach or, you know, local stuff. And he always paid for everything and I just thought that was so fun.
Miriam: And then he started asking if he could use my empty credit cards for one of his businesses. And he would charge to the full amount, about 5,000 and then pay it off within, I mean, two or three days every time. And he just called it flipping. That happened for a while. And during that, that just became a normal thing. And so I kind of stopped paying attention to it. 
Jennifer: Until one day…her entire world came crashing down.
Miriam: I had, let’s see a six year old, a two year old and a four year old and it’s Halloween morning and we’re in the dining room getting ready to take her to preschool. And, um, the FBI came and arrested my husband and like, it’s just like the movies, you know, they go through all your stuff and they send a bunch of men with muddy boots and guns into your house. 
Jennifer: A federal judge convicted her husband of committing a quarter million dollars of wire fraud… and Miriam discovered tens of thousands of dollars of debt in her name. 
She was left to pick up the pieces… and the finances.
Miriam: I mean my credit score was below 500 at one point. I mean, it just plummeted and that takes a long time to dig out of, but I have learned that it’s sort of a little by little thing… which I had to educate myself on.  I mean, since this whole debacle here, um, I’ve never missed anything. It’s like… more important to me than most things… is keeping my credit score golden.
Jennifer: She’s a survivor of what’s known as “coerced debt,”. It’s a form of economic abuse… usually by a partner or family member.  
Miriam: There’s no physical wounds. Right. And there’s, this, isn’t something you can just like call the police on somebody. And, and also it’s not usually a hostile situation. It’s usually pretty, it’s a calm conversation where he works his way in and then gets what he wants.
Jennifer: Economic abuse isn’t new… but like identity theft, it’s become a whole lot easier in a digital world of online forms and automated decisions.
Miriam: I know what an algorithm is. I get that. But like, what do you mean my credit algorithm? 
Jennifer: She got back on her feet… but many don’t… and as algorithms continue to take over our financial credit system…some argue this could get a lot worse.
Gilman: We have a system that makes people  who are experiencing hardship out of their control, look like deadbeats, which in turn impacts their ability to gain the opportunities necessary to escape poverty and gain economic stability. 
Jennifer: But others argue the right credit-scoring algorithms… could be the gateway to a better future… where biases can be eradicated… and the system made fairer. 
De Vere: So from my perspective, credit equals opportunity. It’s really important as a society that we get that right. We believe there can be a 2.0 version of that, leveraging machine learning. 
Jennifer: I’m Jennifer Strong and in this second of a series on automation and our wallets… we explore just how much the machines that determine our credit worthiness.. have come to affect far more than our financial lives. 
[IMWT ID]
Jennifer: It used to be when someone wanted a loan…they formed relationships with people at a bank or credit union who made decisions about how safe, or risky, that investment seemed.
Like this scene from the 1940’s Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life… where the film’s main character decides to loan his own money to customers to keep his business afloat…. after an attempted run on the bank.
George: I got $2,000! Here’s $2000 this will tie us over until the bank reopens. All right, Tom, how much do you need?
Tom: $242.
George: Oh Tom. Just enough to tide you over until the bank reop—.
Tom: I’ll take $242!
George: There you are. 
Tom: That’ll close my account. 
George: Your account is still here. That’s a loan!
Jennifer: These days banks make loans without ever meeting many of their customers… Often, these decisions are automated… based on data from your credit report… which tracks things like credit card balances, car loans, student debt… and includes a mix of other personal data…   
In the 1950s the industry wanted a way to standardize these reports… so data scientists figured out a way to take that information… run it through a computer model and spit out a number…. 
That’s your credit score… and it’s not just banks who use them to make decisions. Depending on where you live, all sorts of groups refer to this number… including landlords…insurance companies… even, employers.
Wu: Consumers are not the customers for credit bureaus. We are, or our data is the commodity. We’re not the customers, we’re the chicken. We, we’re the thing that gets sold….
Jennifer: Chi Chi Wu is a consumer advocate and attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. 
Wu: And so, as a result, the incentives in this market are kind of messed up. The incentives are to serve the needs of creditors and other users of reports and not consumers.
Jennifer: When it comes to credit reports, there are three keepers of the keys…. Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. 
But these reports are far from comprehensive… and they can be inaccurate. 
Wu: There are unacceptably high levels of errors in credit reports. Um, now the data from the definitive study by the federal trade commission found that, uh, one in five consumers had a verified error on their credit report. And one in 20 or 5% had an error so serious it would cause them to be denied for credit, or they would have to pay more. 
Jennifer: Complaints to the federal government about these reports have exploded in recent years…  and last year during the pandemic? Complaints about errors doubled.
These make up more than half of all complaints filed with the C-F-P-B — or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau of the U-S government.
But Wu believes even without any errors, the way credit scores are used… is a problem. 
Wu: So the problem is employers… landlords. They start looking at credit reports and credit scores as some sort of reflection of a person’s underlying responsibility, their value as a person, their character. And that’s just completely wrong. What we see is people end up with negative information on their credit report because they’ve struggled financially because something bad has happened to them. So people who’ve lost their jobs, who’ve gotten sick. Um, they can’t pay their bills. And this pandemic is the perfect illustration of that and you can really see this in the racial disparities in credit scoring. The credit scores for black communities are much lower than for white communities and for Latin X communities, it’s somewhere in between. And has nothing to do with character. It has everything to do with inequality.
Jennifer: And as the industry replaces older credit-scoring methods with machine learning…she worries this could entrench the problem. 
Wu: And if left unchecked, if there is no intentional control for this, if we are not wary of this, the same thing will happen to those algorithms that happened to credit scoring, which will be, they will impede the progress of the historically marginalized communities.
Jennifer: She especially worries about companies who promise their credit-scoring algorithms are more fair because they use alternative data….data that’s supposedly less prone to racial bias…
Wu: Like your cell phone bill, or your rent, um, to the more funky fringy, big data. What’s in your social media feed for the first type of alternative data that is sort of conventional or financial, um, my mantra has been the devil’s in the detail. Some of that data looks promising. Other types of that data can be very risky. So that’s my concern about artificial intelligence and machine learning. Not that we should never use them. You just, you have to use them, right? You have to use them with intentionality. They could be the solution. If they’re told one of your goals is to minimize disparities for marginalized groups. You know your goal is to be as predictive or more predictive with less disparities.
Jennifer: Congress is considering restricting employers’ use of credit reports… and some states have moved to ban them in setting insurance rates… or  access to affordable housing.
But awareness is also an issue.
Gilman: There are a lot of credit reporting harms that are impacting people without their knowledge. And if you don’t know that you’ve been harmed, you can’t get assistance or remedies,
Jennifer: Michelle Gilman is a clinical law professor at the University of Baltimore…
Gilman: I wasn’t taught about algorithmic decision-making in law school and most law students still aren’t. And they can be very intimidated by the thought of having to challenge an algorithm.
Jennifer: She’s not sure when she first noticed that algorithms were making decisions for her clients. But one case stands out… of an elderly and disabled client whose home health care hours under the Medicaid program were drastically cut.. even though the client was getting sicker…
Gilman: And it wasn’t until we were before an administrative law judge in a contested hearing that it became clear the cut in hours was due to an algorithm. And yet the witness for the state who was a nurse, couldn’t explain anything about the algorithm. She just kept repeating over and over that it was internationally and statistically validated, but she couldn’t tell us how it worked, what data was fed into it, what factors it weighed, how the factors were weighed. And so my student attorney looks at me and we’re looking at each other thinking, how do we cross examine an algorithm?
Jennifer: She connected with other lawyers around the country who were experiencing the same thing. And she realized the problem was far bigger …
Gilman: And when it comes to algorithms, they are operating across almost every aspect of our client’s lives.
Jennifer: And credit reporting algorithms are the most pervasive.
Her firm sees victims who get saddled with unexpected debt…sometimes due to hardship…other times from medical bills…or… because of identity theft, where someone else takes loans in your name… 
But the impact is the same…it weighs down credit scores… and even when the debt is cleared, it can have long-term effects.
Gilman: As a good consumer lawyer, we need to know that sometimes just resolving the actual litigation in front of you, isn’t enough. You have to also go out and clean up the ripple effects of these algorithmic systems. A lot of poverty lawyers share the same biases that the general population does in terms of seeing a computer generated outcome and thinking it’s neutral, it’s objective, it’s correct. It’s somehow magic. It’s like a calculator. And none of those assumptions are true, but we need the training and the resources to understand how these systems operate. And then we need as a community to develop better tools so that we can interrogate those systems so that we can challenge these systems.
<music transition> 
Jennifer: After the break… We look at the effort to automate fairness in credit reporting.
[midroll]
De Vere: AI helps in two ways: it’s more data and better math. And so if you think of limitations on current math, you know, they can pull in a couple of dozen variables. And, uh, if I tried to describe to you Jennifer, uh, with two dozen variables, you know, I could probably get to a fairly good description, but imagine if I could pull in more data and I was describing you with 300 to a thousand variables that signal and resolution results in a far more accurate prediction of your credit worthiness as a borrower.
Jennifer: Mike de Vere is the CEO of Zest AI. It’s one of several companies seeking to add transparency to the credit and loan approval process… with software designed to account for some of the current issues with credit scores… including racial, gender and other potential bias.
To understand how it works…we first need a little context. In the U-S it’s illegal for lenders (other than mortgage lenders) to gather data on race. This was originally meant to prevent discrimination.
But a person’s race has a strong correlation with their name…where they live… where they went to school…and how much they’re paid. That means…even without race data…a machine learning algorithm can learn to discriminate anyway…simply because it’s baked in.
So, lenders try to check for this and weed out the discrimination in their lending models. The only problem? To verify how you’re doing you kind of need to know the borrowers’ race… without that…lenders are forced to make an educated guess. 
De Vere: So the accepted approach is an acronym BISG and it basically uses two variables, your zip code and your last name. And so my name is Mike De Vere and the part of California I’m from, with a name like that I would come out as Hispanic or Latin X, but yet I’m Irish.
Jennifer: In other words…the industry standard for how to do this is often flat out wrong. So his company takes a different approach.
De Vere: We believe there can be a 2.0 version of that—leveraging machine learning. 
Jennifer: Rather than predict race on only two variables…it uses many more…like the person’s first and middle names…and other geographic data – like their census tract… or school board district.
He says in a recent test in Florida, this method outperformed the standard model by 60-percent.
De Vere: Why does that matter? That matters because it’s your yard stick to how you’re doing.  
Jennifer: Then, he takes an approach called adversarial de biasing.
The basic idea is this. The company starts with one machine learning model that’s trained to predict how risky a given borrower is.
De Vere: Let’s say it has 300 to 500 data points to assign risk for an individual.
Jennifer: It then has a second machine learning model that tries to guess the race of that borrower… (based on the findings of the first one). 
If the predictions of the second model match the outputs of the race predictor… he says it means the system is encoding bias…and should be adjusted… by tweaking how much it weighs each of the data points.
De Vere: So those 300 to 500 signals we can tune up or tune down if it becomes a proxy for race. And so what you end up with is not only a performant model that delivers good economics, but at the same time, you have a model that is nearly colorblind in that process. 
Jennifer: He says it’s led to more inclusive lending practices.
De Vere: We work with one of the largest credit unions in the U-S out of Florida. And so what that means for our credit union is more yeses for more of their members. But what they were really excited about is it was a 26% increase in approval for women. Twenty-five percent increase in approval for members of color.
Jennifer: While it’s encouraging… Anyone claiming to have a fix for decades of harm caused by algorithmic decision-making… will have a lot to overcome to win people’s trust.
It’s a task made even harder when the proposed fix to a bad algorithm… is another algorithm.
The Treasury Department recently issued guidance – highlighting the use of AI credit underwriting as a key risk for banking… warning of the costs that come with their opaque nature… and adding a note that, quote, “Bank management?.. should be able to explain and defend underwriting and modeling decisions.” 
Which… even with the most transparent tools… still feels like a tall order. 
And without modern regulation it’s also unclear just who monitors these credit scoring monitors… and who decides whether things like phone data or information from social media are fair play?
Especially while the end results continue to be used for non-credit purposes… like employment or insurance.
 [CREDITS]
This episode was produced by me, Karen Hao, Emma Cillekens and Anthony Green. We’re edited by Michael Reilly.
Thanks for listening, I’m Jennifer Strong. 
[TECH REVIEW ID]
from MIT Technology Review https://ift.tt/3fflsxA via IFTTT
0 notes
jamesstegall · a month ago
Text
Podcast: Can AI fix your credit?
Credit scores have been used for decades to assess consumer creditworthiness, but their scope is far greater now that they are powered by algorithms. Not only do they consider vastly more data, in both volume and type, but they increasingly affect whether you can buy a car, rent an apartment, or get a full-time job. In this second of a series on automation and our wallets, we explore just how much the machines that determine our credit worthiness have come to affect far more than our financial lives.
We Meet:
Chi Chi Wu, staff attorney at National Consumer Law Center  
Michele Gilman, professor of law at University of Baltimore
Mike de Vere, CEO Zest AI
Credits:
This episode was produced by Jennifer Strong, Karen Hao, Emma Cillekens and Anthony Green. We’re edited by Michael Reilly.
Transcript:
[TECH REVIEW ID] 
Miriam: It was not uncommon to be locked out of our hotel room or to have a key not work and him have to go down to the front desk and handle it. And it was not uncommon to pay a bill at a restaurant and then have the check come back. 
Jennifer: We’re going to call this woman Miriam to protect her privacy. She was 21 when she met the man she would marry… and.. within a few short years.. turn her life… and her financial position… up-side-down.
Miriam: But he always had a reason and it was always someone else’s fault.
Jennifer: When they first met, Miram was working two jobs, she was writing budgets on a whiteboard, and she was making a dent in her student debt.
Her credit was clean.
Miriam: He took me out to dinner and he took me on little trips, you know, two or three night vacation deals to the beach or, you know, local stuff. And he always paid for everything and I just thought that was so fun.
Miriam: And then he started asking if he could use my empty credit cards for one of his businesses. And he would charge to the full amount, about 5,000 and then pay it off within, I mean, two or three days every time. And he just called it flipping. That happened for a while. And during that, that just became a normal thing. And so I kind of stopped paying attention to it. 
Jennifer: Until one day…her entire world came crashing down.
Miriam: I had, let’s see a six year old, a two year old and a four year old and it’s Halloween morning and we’re in the dining room getting ready to take her to preschool. And, um, the FBI came and arrested my husband and like, it’s just like the movies, you know, they go through all your stuff and they send a bunch of men with muddy boots and guns into your house. 
Jennifer: A federal judge convicted her husband of committing a quarter million dollars of wire fraud… and Miriam discovered tens of thousands of dollars of debt in her name. 
She was left to pick up the pieces… and the finances.
Miriam: I mean my credit score was below 500 at one point. I mean, it just plummeted and that takes a long time to dig out of, but I have learned that it’s sort of a little by little thing… which I had to educate myself on.  I mean, since this whole debacle here, um, I’ve never missed anything. It’s like… more important to me than most things… is keeping my credit score golden.
Jennifer: She’s a survivor of what’s known as “coerced debt,”. It’s a form of economic abuse… usually by a partner or family member.  
Miriam: There’s no physical wounds. Right. And there’s, this, isn’t something you can just like call the police on somebody. And, and also it’s not usually a hostile situation. It’s usually pretty, it’s a calm conversation where he works his way in and then gets what he wants.
Jennifer: Economic abuse isn’t new… but like identity theft, it’s become a whole lot easier in a digital world of online forms and automated decisions.
Miriam: I know what an algorithm is. I get that. But like, what do you mean my credit algorithm? 
Jennifer: She got back on her feet… but many don’t… and as algorithms continue to take over our financial credit system…some argue this could get a lot worse.
Gilman: We have a system that makes people  who are experiencing hardship out of their control, look like deadbeats, which in turn impacts their ability to gain the opportunities necessary to escape poverty and gain economic stability. 
Jennifer: But others argue the right credit-scoring algorithms… could be the gateway to a better future… where biases can be eradicated… and the system made fairer. 
De Vere: So from my perspective, credit equals opportunity. It’s really important as a society that we get that right. We believe there can be a 2.0 version of that, leveraging machine learning. 
Jennifer: I’m Jennifer Strong and in this second of a series on automation and our wallets… we explore just how much the machines that determine our credit worthiness.. have come to affect far more than our financial lives. 
[IMWT ID]
Jennifer: It used to be when someone wanted a loan…they formed relationships with people at a bank or credit union who made decisions about how safe, or risky, that investment seemed.
Like this scene from the 1940’s Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life… where the film’s main character decides to loan his own money to customers to keep his business afloat…. after an attempted run on the bank.
George: I got $2,000! Here’s $2000 this will tie us over until the bank reopens. All right, Tom, how much do you need?
Tom: $242.
George: Oh Tom. Just enough to tide you over until the bank reop—.
Tom: I’ll take $242!
George: There you are. 
Tom: That’ll close my account. 
George: Your account is still here. That’s a loan!
Jennifer: These days banks make loans without ever meeting many of their customers… Often, these decisions are automated… based on data from your credit report… which tracks things like credit card balances, car loans, student debt… and includes a mix of other personal data…   
In the 1950s the industry wanted a way to standardize these reports… so data scientists figured out a way to take that information… run it through a computer model and spit out a number…. 
That’s your credit score… and it’s not just banks who use them to make decisions. Depending on where you live, all sorts of groups refer to this number… including landlords…insurance companies… even, employers.
Wu: Consumers are not the customers for credit bureaus. We are, or our data is the commodity. We’re not the customers, we’re the chicken. We, we’re the thing that gets sold….
Jennifer: Chi Chi Wu is a consumer advocate and attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. 
Wu: And so, as a result, the incentives in this market are kind of messed up. The incentives are to serve the needs of creditors and other users of reports and not consumers.
Jennifer: When it comes to credit reports, there are three keepers of the keys…. Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. 
But these reports are far from comprehensive… and they can be inaccurate. 
Wu: There are unacceptably high levels of errors in credit reports. Um, now the data from the definitive study by the federal trade commission found that, uh, one in five consumers had a verified error on their credit report. And one in 20 or 5% had an error so serious it would cause them to be denied for credit, or they would have to pay more. 
Jennifer: Complaints to the federal government about these reports have exploded in recent years…  and last year during the pandemic? Complaints about errors doubled.
These make up more than half of all complaints filed with the C-F-P-B — or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau of the U-S government.
But Wu believes even without any errors, the way credit scores are used… is a problem. 
Wu: So the problem is employers… landlords. They start looking at credit reports and credit scores as some sort of reflection of a person’s underlying responsibility, their value as a person, their character. And that’s just completely wrong. What we see is people end up with negative information on their credit report because they’ve struggled financially because something bad has happened to them. So people who’ve lost their jobs, who’ve gotten sick. Um, they can’t pay their bills. And this pandemic is the perfect illustration of that and you can really see this in the racial disparities in credit scoring. The credit scores for black communities are much lower than for white communities and for Latin X communities, it’s somewhere in between. And has nothing to do with character. It has everything to do with inequality.
Jennifer: And as the industry replaces older credit-scoring methods with machine learning…she worries this could entrench the problem. 
Wu: And if left unchecked, if there is no intentional control for this, if we are not wary of this, the same thing will happen to those algorithms that happened to credit scoring, which will be, they will impede the progress of the historically marginalized communities.
Jennifer: She especially worries about companies who promise their credit-scoring algorithms are more fair because they use alternative data….data that’s supposedly less prone to racial bias…
Wu: Like your cell phone bill, or your rent, um, to the more funky fringy, big data. What’s in your social media feed for the first type of alternative data that is sort of conventional or financial, um, my mantra has been the devil’s in the detail. Some of that data looks promising. Other types of that data can be very risky. So that’s my concern about artificial intelligence and machine learning. Not that we should never use them. You just, you have to use them, right? You have to use them with intentionality. They could be the solution. If they’re told one of your goals is to minimize disparities for marginalized groups. You know your goal is to be as predictive or more predictive with less disparities.
Jennifer: Congress is considering restricting employers’ use of credit reports… and some states have moved to ban them in setting insurance rates… or  access to affordable housing.
But awareness is also an issue.
Gilman: There are a lot of credit reporting harms that are impacting people without their knowledge. And if you don’t know that you’ve been harmed, you can’t get assistance or remedies,
Jennifer: Michelle Gilman is a clinical law professor at the University of Baltimore…
Gilman: I wasn’t taught about algorithmic decision-making in law school and most law students still aren’t. And they can be very intimidated by the thought of having to challenge an algorithm.
Jennifer: She’s not sure when she first noticed that algorithms were making decisions for her clients. But one case stands out… of an elderly and disabled client whose home health care hours under the Medicaid program were drastically cut.. even though the client was getting sicker…
Gilman: And it wasn’t until we were before an administrative law judge in a contested hearing that it became clear the cut in hours was due to an algorithm. And yet the witness for the state who was a nurse, couldn’t explain anything about the algorithm. She just kept repeating over and over that it was internationally and statistically validated, but she couldn’t tell us how it worked, what data was fed into it, what factors it weighed, how the factors were weighed. And so my student attorney looks at me and we’re looking at each other thinking, how do we cross examine an algorithm?
Jennifer: She connected with other lawyers around the country who were experiencing the same thing. And she realized the problem was far bigger …
Gilman: And when it comes to algorithms, they are operating across almost every aspect of our client’s lives.
Jennifer: And credit reporting algorithms are the most pervasive.
Her firm sees victims who get saddled with unexpected debt…sometimes due to hardship…other times from medical bills…or… because of identity theft, where someone else takes loans in your name… 
But the impact is the same…it weighs down credit scores… and even when the debt is cleared, it can have long-term effects.
Gilman: As a good consumer lawyer, we need to know that sometimes just resolving the actual litigation in front of you, isn’t enough. You have to also go out and clean up the ripple effects of these algorithmic systems. A lot of poverty lawyers share the same biases that the general population does in terms of seeing a computer generated outcome and thinking it’s neutral, it’s objective, it’s correct. It’s somehow magic. It’s like a calculator. And none of those assumptions are true, but we need the training and the resources to understand how these systems operate. And then we need as a community to develop better tools so that we can interrogate those systems so that we can challenge these systems.
<music transition> 
Jennifer: After the break… We look at the effort to automate fairness in credit reporting.
[midroll]
De Vere: AI helps in two ways: it’s more data and better math. And so if you think of limitations on current math, you know, they can pull in a couple of dozen variables. And, uh, if I tried to describe to you Jennifer, uh, with two dozen variables, you know, I could probably get to a fairly good description, but imagine if I could pull in more data and I was describing you with 300 to a thousand variables that signal and resolution results in a far more accurate prediction of your credit worthiness as a borrower.
Jennifer: Mike de Vere is the CEO of Zest AI. It’s one of several companies seeking to add transparency to the credit and loan approval process… with software designed to account for some of the current issues with credit scores… including racial, gender and other potential bias.
To understand how it works…we first need a little context. In the U-S it’s illegal for lenders (other than mortgage lenders) to gather data on race. This was originally meant to prevent discrimination.
But a person’s race has a strong correlation with their name…where they live… where they went to school…and how much they’re paid. That means…even without race data…a machine learning algorithm can learn to discriminate anyway…simply because it’s baked in.
So, lenders try to check for this and weed out the discrimination in their lending models. The only problem? To verify how you’re doing you kind of need to know the borrowers’ race… without that…lenders are forced to make an educated guess. 
De Vere: So the accepted approach is an acronym BISG and it basically uses two variables, your zip code and your last name. And so my name is Mike De Vere and the part of California I’m from, with a name like that I would come out as Hispanic or Latin X, but yet I’m Irish.
Jennifer: In other words…the industry standard for how to do this is often flat out wrong. So his company takes a different approach.
De Vere: We believe there can be a 2.0 version of that—leveraging machine learning. 
Jennifer: Rather than predict race on only two variables…it uses many more…like the person’s first and middle names…and other geographic data – like their census tract… or school board district.
He says in a recent test in Florida, this method outperformed the standard model by 60-percent.
De Vere: Why does that matter? That matters because it’s your yard stick to how you’re doing.  
Jennifer: Then, he takes an approach called adversarial de biasing.
The basic idea is this. The company starts with one machine learning model that’s trained to predict how risky a given borrower is.
De Vere: Let’s say it has 300 to 500 data points to assign risk for an individual.
Jennifer: It then has a second machine learning model that tries to guess the race of that borrower… (based on the findings of the first one). 
If the predictions of the second model match the outputs of the race predictor… he says it means the system is encoding bias…and should be adjusted… by tweaking how much it weighs each of the data points.
De Vere: So those 300 to 500 signals we can tune up or tune down if it becomes a proxy for race. And so what you end up with is not only a performant model that delivers good economics, but at the same time, you have a model that is nearly colorblind in that process. 
Jennifer: He says it’s led to more inclusive lending practices.
De Vere: We work with one of the largest credit unions in the U-S out of Florida. And so what that means for our credit union is more yeses for more of their members. But what they were really excited about is it was a 26% increase in approval for women. Twenty-five percent increase in approval for members of color.
Jennifer: While it’s encouraging… Anyone claiming to have a fix for decades of harm caused by algorithmic decision-making… will have a lot to overcome to win people’s trust.
It’s a task made even harder when the proposed fix to a bad algorithm… is another algorithm.
The Treasury Department recently issued guidance – highlighting the use of AI credit underwriting as a key risk for banking… warning of the costs that come with their opaque nature… and adding a note that, quote, “Bank management?.. should be able to explain and defend underwriting and modeling decisions.” 
Which… even with the most transparent tools… still feels like a tall order. 
And without modern regulation it’s also unclear just who monitors these credit scoring monitors… and who decides whether things like phone data or information from social media are fair play?
Especially while the end results continue to be used for non-credit purposes… like employment or insurance.
 [CREDITS]
This episode was produced by me, Karen Hao, Emma Cillekens and Anthony Green. We’re edited by Michael Reilly.
Thanks for listening, I’m Jennifer Strong. 
[TECH REVIEW ID]
from MIT Technology Review https://ift.tt/3fflsxA via IFTTT
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kayliemuses · a month ago
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cupboard – are you petty? - Not really
delilah – do you have any pets? - Two siamese cats!
misfire – do you want any kids? if so, how many? - Maybe. I change my mind a lot lol. I can see myself with 2-3 kids.
killer queen – what’s an outfit that makes you feel sexy? - I never feel sexy but an outfit that always makes me feel mostly confident is my ribbed sweater tucked into high waisted jeans with a blazer on top.
radio gaga – top five favorite songs? - All Too Well by Taylor Swift, Wild Heart by Bleachers, Saturdays by Twin Shadow, Sleep On The Floor by The Lumineers, and Exile by Taylor Swift ft Bon Iver
freddie – tell us about someone who has changed your life positively. - This might be lame, but Taylor Swift. Obviously she's not a person who is physically in my life lol but I've looked up to her my whole life as a writer and then also as a person, and I just think her music has enriched my whole life is so many different ways from just helping me cope, to providing me with inspiration for my own writing ventures, to just giving me a distraction from life when it gets tough.
brian – what is something you are passionate about? - Writing, love, and being good to people.
john – are you a creative person? - I think so. Sometimes I don't feel like I'm creative enough or in the way I want to be, but I do have a creative spark to me.
roger – what’s a common misconception about you? - I'm quiet and a little on the socially anxious side, so I think a common misconception is that I'm mousy or people can walk all over me and I won't say anything but actually I have really high standards and given the chance, I can be very direct with my expectations or feelings. Like sometimes I'll let things slide but if it continues happening, I'll usually be like "hey stop". On that note, I also think people don't ever expect that I'm really protective too. It's always fun when people think I'm quiet and then they're mean or disrespectful about someone I care about and I stand up for them because there's always this moment of surprise from people lol.
deaky – do you have any nicknames? - Not really. My aunt still calls me Kay Rae sometimes but that's an old one from when I was like super little lol. No one really has a nickname for me.
all dead – when was the last time you cried? - Yesterday.
don’t stop me now – what’s your go-to happy song? - Usually any upbeat Taylor Swift song like Shake It Off or ME! (Both of which get a bad rap for being "annoying" or "childish" which I respectfully disagree with because they're bops and they get the job done).
lover boy – are you a romantic? - Yes
maracas – what’s your prized possession? - I don't know if I really have one. Probably my phone I guess.
bites the dust – bassists or drummers? - I don't really have an opinion tbh. Maybe bassists?
live aid – what’s your dream concert line-up? - Probably like: Taylor Swift, Haim, The Lumineers, Conan Gray, The 1975, Of Monsters and Men, Halsey, and maybe Olivia Rodrigo. I've never really considered this lol.
clean machine – what’s your dream car? - Of all time, I would love to have like a 1970s chev convertible but realistically for me right now I want the Hyundai venue so bad.
mercury – if you could change your name, would you? - Yes, because I find my name childish sounding. I'm a writer and one of my biggest things about my name is that I don't think it sounds professional enough lol
drowse – how do you spend your lazy days? - Not doing my hair or makeup and just watching YouTube all day.
make love – what is your sexuality? - Heterosexual
hot space – what’s an unpopular opinion you have? - Ariana Grande's voice annoys me. I have no beef with her as a person, I just find her voice kind of annoying especially when she's doing that shouty notes thing or where she drags out her notes. It's kind of the same reason I don't like Carrie Underwood much anymore because of the constant up and down octaves. Drives me insane.
‘39 – what are you afraid of? - Spiders, loss, failure/not achieving my dreams, living an ordinary or mundane life in which I never find joy or fulfillment.
borhap – are you happy? - No
jim – are you in love? - No
mary – are you friends with any of your exes? - I don't have exes, because I've never dated *finger guns*
mustapha – how many languages do you speak? - Just English
flash – favorite movie? - Hm, probably Clueless. It's always the first one that pops in my head lol.
las palabras de amor – what’s the most romantic thing someone has ever done for you? - They haven't lmao
tenement funster – are you a good flirt? - No, because I'm shy so I only laugh nervously
rainbow – best concert you’ve ever been to? - I guess Marianas Trench in 2013. I haven't really been to a crazy good show but I remember really enjoying that one. (But via Netflix Taylor Swift's rep tour is the best concert of all time)
scrabble – do you and your friends have any traditions? - We used to get together every halloween night or the night before depending on our schedules and watch every disney channel halloween movie. It was one of my favourite things, but Friend A moved to Vancouver and Friend B isn't in my life anymore.
seven seas – where have you always wanted to travel? - NYC, LA, Prince Edward Island, France, and Hawaii are the big ones, but lately I've really been wanting to see Charleston South Carolina, Edinburgh Scotland, and The Lakes District in England.
keep yourself alive – what keeps you alive? - Taylor Swift's music tbh lmao
liar – are you good at sensing when someone is lying to you? - If they're being obvious or hard to believe, yes, but if they're good at lying, probably not lol.
modern times – if you could go back in time, what decade would you travel to? - I have this weird longing to see Victorian London, maybe around 1830-60s. It probably wasn't a vibe, but I'm in love with Victorian London architecture and furniture so it is what it is. Also would have loved to enjoy the 80s.
japan – favorite place you’ve traveled to? - I haven't been outside of Canada so my list is short. I'd probably say Victoria, BC, but I never was able to fully enjoy it because I had a stomach virus when we were there so every time I ate I felt sick which feels very on brand for me.
garden lodge – what’s your dream home? - I literally have an entire pinterest board dedicated to this. It would be a cozy farmhouse/french country style cottage out in the countryside surrounded by fields and wildflowers.
disco – guilty pleasure? - Buzzfeed quizzes and romance novels.
sunglasses – how’s your eyesight? - Okay. I wear glasses, but my prescription isn't awful. Bad enough that I can't be without my glasses, but good enough that I'm not totally blind if I ever lost them. (I can't see distance so I mean I probably wouldn't get in the car and drive if I lost my glasses but that's beside the point.)
1977 – long hair or short hair? - I'm currently in a phase of needing to grow out my hair, but I generally love cute short hairstyles.
smile – when you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? - I wanted to be in business.
cheese toast – favorite food? - cheesecake
blazer – do you share your clothes? - With my sister sometimes yeah.
lap of the gods – if you could meet anyone, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you tell them? - Taylor Swift, and I'd probably just talk to her about personal stuff and then how she's been an inspiration to me as a writer.
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Amy Lee Dives Into the Tragedies That Inspired Evanescence’s ‘The Bitter Truth’ — Exclusive Interview
Congrats on the release of The Bitter Truth — how are you feeling?
Thank you, I'm feeling so happy that it's out. It's hard to really sum it up — awesome feelings of satisfaction. I'm really happy that it's out there and everybody's listening to it, it's cool to see the fans react to it and dig into it. We're going to be releasing our video for "Better Without You" (which came out on April 16), I'm so excited about the video!
So we're in a good, happy place right now. Looking forward to when we can be together again, for sure.
Obviously this wasn't your first record, but is the first new, original material you guys have put out in about a decade. Do you still find it nerve-wracking when you release new music, especially when fans have been waiting awhile for something new?
(Laughs) Well, I don't find it nerve-wracking as far as anticipating a reaction, I'm mostly just excited for that. It's just getting back into the groove of doing a lot of press and promo, and running around. And it's different nowadays with the pandemic because it's like, "Do your own lighting! Do your own audio! Do your own everything," and like, make it work from home most of the time.
So it's been a lot of work, but when you're working for something that you really love, it's worth it. I mean, it's fun. So I'm feeling good.
Have you seen any fan theories about any of the songs come up at all, and were any of them accurate?
That's a good question. I can't think of something off the top of my brain like that. I don't know, I feel like mostly they're just getting it. But you ask me whatever you want, and I will answer to the best of my comfort zone (laughs).
How did all of the personal tragedies that the band went through, and all of the events that have been happening in the world impact this album?
Those two things are literally the biggest lyrical catalyst for this time and for this album, particularly the grief. That's what started the whole thing. We started writing this album, focused on it, in 2019, at the beginning of the year. And I'm so glad we did, we had a bunch of writing sessions throughout 2019 in between touring, we'd just get together when we could and write. I was writing on my own, but just setting aside time as a band to write.
I lost my brother in 2018 at the beginning of the year, so that was just a really, impossibly hard life change. So I think I've learned, yet again, that the biggest challenges and the biggest pains in my life are usually what lead me to music, and it's hard to admit this, but what tend to make the best work for me. Not just grief, but challenges — things that are hard.
And the whole world has been going through incredible challenges over the last year, the last couple of years actually with everything going on, the pandemic and the fight for democracy in the world. All of that came at the right time, where I was coming out of grief. I'm still living in it, but processing it, and then this fire and this fight became a part of it. So the journey through all of that, that is the majority of what the album's about.
You kind of hit the nail on the head there because I was going to ask if you think that the best art seems like it comes out of a place of sadness and pain, since it is so cathartic for artists. And as you've called it — it's "writing to heal." So do you find yourself gravitating toward music that is more emotional?
You know, I don't even know if I can say it's "the best," but it's the deepest. It's the most meaningful. You have to go through something to have something to say that is going to touch somebody on a deep level. And for me personally, music has always been my therapy, my catharsis, the place to pour it out and spin it into something good that I can love and reflect on.
Instead of running away from all of the hard things in life, if I dive into them through music and really start pouring it out and processing there, it's like you're able to make it worth something. It wasn't just all a waste, because I have seen, over the last 17 years, with interacting with our fans how much that it can mean to them and help them connect and process and be something good in their lives.
Knowing that now, too, was something that pushed me forward in the times when I felt like it was too hard. Knowing that we were all going through something and our fans were down too and hoping for something, we promised we were gonna come out with a new album in 2020. We just all kind of made a pact at the beginning of the year when everything started getting shut down that we weren't gonna let anything stop us.
So how was your experience writing this album versus others in the past, and how do you think you've grown as a songwriter and a musician this time around?
We had to be brave. And you know, I have to say, it's weird to connect it to this, but Synthesis taught us something about being brave and trusting that something would work that we'd never tried before and just going for it.
I have always been the person who over prepares, practices for way too long before we get together, has everything totally run through when we're gonna play a concert that we've done before a lot of times. And I have broken from that routine so much in the past years.
Synthesis was important for us because we had to trust every day, the only way to do it was to work with a different orchestra every night. Having a different group of musicians onstage every single night was the only way to make that happen. You don't have time to have rehearsed the whole entire set with that group that day, and then play that whole concert that night, it's just not possible.
So we were literally playing the majority of our sets on that tour for the very first time with that group of musicians — without a click and everything else — just live in front of the audience. It was literally like a tightrope, like there's no way to know if something's gonna go horribly wrong, and we just had to trust that we were gonna be good enough musicians and performers to handle it and look at each other, and work through it and get to the next place.
Man, it was so satisfying, it was such a good experience, and it was so beautiful and rewarding. Part of the takeaway from that for me was to be confident and not to be afraid, and just to trust that we've got it in us to do what it is that we think we can do, that we dream of.
This year, going into it, we just started breaking rules. Before the pandemic even hit it was like, 'We don't have the whole album written. We just have a few songs and a whole bunch of pieces. We're not going on tour 'til March." That actually didn't happen, but we weren't planning to go on tour until last March (laughs).
Why don't we hit the studio for just a couple of songs and avoid burn out of having to have all of the songs before we go in, "Let's just go in for a couple of songs." It went really well, it turned into four and then we had to be apart for the rest of the album.
It was another one of those moments where it's like, "Okay, we can either have faith and just say 'Fuck it, I don't know what's gonna happen with the pandemic or when we're ever gonna be able to go back and get together again in person. But I have faith that we're gonna find a way to work it out no matter what. So let's go ahead and start putting singles out.'"
It was either that or just wait and go, "Sorry everybody, I know we said we were gonna release music, but we're not going to." I didn't want to be another disappointment. There was so much of it last year, I wanted to be something that was proof that life could go on.
So the decision was just like, "Okay, we're gonna go ahead. We're gonna put out 'Wasted On You' and make a video from home, and then release another one in a couple of months." And it wasn't just about not knowing when we were gonna get back together, it was that the songs weren't written, and for me, that's terrifying. Like, before the songs are written, we're already on a promo schedule and talking about the album, releasing songs already and like, the clock is ticking in a way.
That was a lot of pressure to put on ourselves, but it really was just like, "We're just gonna have to have faith in this. I know we can do it somehow. We always do. In the end it works out, it's gonna work out!" And thank god it did, we finally got to get together, most of us, last end-of-July. Jen [Majura, guitarist], we still haven't seen since those first four songs right before the pandemic lockdown.
That's wild. I mean, it's out now, and it seems like it came just at the turning point in all of this with the vaccine and everything. Everybody's starting to get back on their feet.
Yeah, I think it's working out honestly. Because now, it's just come out and we can at least see the light at the end of the tunnel. Like you said, with the vaccines and stuff and getting back and eventually going on tour. Because the next thing that we're all just looking towards and dying for, is to play these songs live.
Absolutely. How do you think that these songs might translate live differently from anything you guys have done in the past?
It's just going to feel really good to have new material to play live, like so much of it. Because for so long, we've been playing shows a lot over the past, I don't know how many years, during this time that we haven't been putting out new music. So our live show has really just been about picking out hits and our favorites and whatever, and making set lists out of our music that's been there.
We finally have something that represents us now that isn't, there were a couple of songs on Synthesis, but literally since like 2011. We're a new band since then, a lot happened since then. So to put something out now that feels so exactly in tune with who we are, what our tastes are, what our abilities are, is just gonna feel really good. It's gonna be hard to play the old ones, honestly.
So let's dive into the album a little bit. Starting with the opener, I'm not sure if there's an actual significance to this or not, but is there a reason "Artifact" and "The Turn" are split into different parts?
They're different songs in my head, it was kind of a decision about the first bit, the second bit and "Broken Pieces Shine," like where the track markers were gonna go. And that was a tough choice for me because I know the majority of people aren't really listening in order on a CD, a lot of people are just plucking out a song.
So I want you to be able to click to "Broken Pieces Shine" and just hear the song, but it so needs that build-up, that's part of it in my mind. So it really was just a decision about clipping it.
The first part — "Artifact" — that's me in a hotel in the middle of the night on tour in 2019, just recording into my laptop. I just had an idea. We actually kept it and didn't re-record it, which was really weird, and I didn't expect to happen. But it just made sense in the end.
That next portion — "The Turn" — that's a collaboration between Scott Kirkland from the Crystal Method and myself. We just sorta met on tour one day and made friends, and decided, "Hey, send me stuff! I'd love to work with you, okay I'd love to work with you." And he sent me a bunch of stuff, and I sent him stuff. He had that bit of music sort of, and I rearranged it and wrote vocals to it and that turned into that part.
I knew early on that I wanted that into "Broken Pieces Shine" to be the beginning of the album because of the way the lyrics set it up. The first part, "Artifact," lyrically is just a dedication to my brother. I'm just gonna put it that simply — it's a dedication to my brother.
And then when "The Turn" starts, it's sort of just like this calling-us-back, like calling all of the spiritual forces in the universe back to ourselves and collecting all the pieces of who we've been, who we were, who we are and who we're gonna be.
After all this time that we haven't been out, it's like we need to just build into the moment where you finally hear the guitars come in. So that's part of it.
And then when "Broken Pieces Shine" happens... I've always sort of seen this album, the moment, like where it begins and what it's about, is it begins sort of at ground zero of a tragedy. The result of the album is about the journey getting back up.
So when I hear those guitars, and the first line starts, "There's no way back this time / What is real and what is mine / Survival hurts," it's like I see somebody face-down on the ground standing back up again and dusting off, clawing back up and then starting to walk forward and refuse to just lay there and die.
So that's the setup to the beginning of the album, and then the rest is plenty of ups-and-downs, and it's about plenty of things. But that's the beginning of the journey.
"The bitter truth" is a line that's repeated a couple of times throughout "Wasted on You." How did you go about choosing that as the title for the album, as opposed to any other phrase that's repeated throughout the album?
I think it really sums up a theme that we come back to a lot on the album, which is about facing the pain. The only way out is through, not just the pain, but facing the broken pieces, facing the things about ourselves and about our society that aren't perfect, that are flawed, that are broken or that are wounded.
Because we can't heal, we can't improve, we can't change, we can't grow and we can't ever leave the horror of the moment until we first accept the brokenness of ourselves. Until we accept that something's wrong, we can't fix it.
That song, "Wasted on You," that was one of the first ones that was really finished, and it was time to pick the album title and we were still writing songs. But it was already forming and I was like, "This sums up what we're talking about now and what we're going through in a really big way on an outward-in, inward level."
Based on the lyrics in "Wasted on You," do you consider yourself someone who has a hard time getting over things and moving on from things? What advice can you give to people who do struggle to move on from either failed relationships or a loss?
It's hard, because sometimes you're in a relationship that you just need to cut out of your life in order to move on. It's just true. It doesn't make you a bad person for you to just step completely away and cut somebody out of your life, and there are times I've had to do that. It sucks.
But you don't need to feel guilty about it if you're making a choice that's for health and stability and all of those things. But I think that we don't always have to do it that way either, and I do also think it's important to remember it's important not to just stuff stuff down like it never happened deep within yourself. I feel like it's better to hold onto your memories.
And even in those bad relationships, those bad breakups and those moments in time that you've had to move on from, I'm at a place in my life now where I'm not feeling anger anymore really. Not for the most part, even the people that were horrible (laughs). I'm not sitting around thinking about horrible, I wasn't able to actually still remember the good moments, too.
It's weird to say that. It took a really long time. But you only get one life. So I don't know, I try not to be the person who's constantly saying, "Oh that time was terrible, that person was terrible, everything about that was a monster," and flush it all away and forget about the parts about it that were why you were in that situation, too.
There's things that you need to move away from and then there's also things that you need to learn from, as well, so it's better not to forget, I guess is the right way to say it.
In "Yeah, Right," you talk about getting paid. Is that a literal reference to getting paid by an actual job, or is it in allusion to something deeper?
Uh, it's about money (laughs). I've seen money change people more often than I would've liked to. And it's always in a negative way.
Well I guess maybe this follows suit, does "Better Without You" happen to be about the music industry?
Part of it is, but it's not entirely about that. "Better Without You"... so each verse is dedicated to a different person or entity in my life along the way. And they go in order. I don't want to name-call, and I've carefully avoided doing that with this song and it's hard because they're about really specific things to me.
If you know me personally, then you know who it's all about. I don't really want to drag people into things many years later. So it starts out a long time ago (laughs) in the first verse with some battles there — a big one for independence. All of it was really a fight for independence.
The second one is the one that's more for the industry. And then the third one kind of brings us to today, in our world and the world around us. I sang the last few lyrics to "Better Without You," including the bridge, the day they called it for Biden. Not to make it political, because the song isn't really. But that was in my heart. I mean, "It's over. It's over now." Feeling it. And it felt so good to sing it knowing that it was true, at least in regards to Trump
Wow that's cool, I wouldn't have looked at it like that. There were a couple of songs where I was wondering if it was about a relationship or something on the grander scheme, and you letting go of that.
Yeah, it is. And it's funny because I don't want it to seem like it's all about the label. It's really not. That's been part of my journey, but there is stuff that's been way more personal than that, and harder. But when I say "the industry," it does mean more than the label. It's just the whole world of people that surround you when you're doing this.
And there was definitely more to it than the label that I was fighting against and struggling with during my journey, but one of the things that I remember being a threat at times was like, "If you don't do this or you don't do that, then it's just all gonna fall apart. You're not gonna have it. This is all gonna crumble. Everything that you have."
And I'm looking at it and going, "I don't want what I had. I want my future, I have an idea for something more." So the chorus, "As empires fall to pieces / Our ashes twisting in the air / It makes me smile to know that / I'm better without you," going like, "It's okay, go ahead. Let it burn down. Let the old idea of the tiny thing that you thought this could be go ahead and burn down because I have an idea for something bigger."
Can you explain the chorus of "Blind Belief," specifically the lines, "We hold the key to redemption / Let icons fall?"
This is another one that's a little bit in the political zone, or social. Why do we believe what we believe? Why do we do the things we do? Why are the laws that are in place, some of them aren't there for good reasons. Some things are just the way they are because they've always been that way.
And I think we've reached a time where we need to say, "That's not enough. We need to make changes that make sense for how much our world and our awareness has grown, and how we need to be better." We need to improve over time and not just leave things the way that they are.
I was actually writing those lyrics, being inspired by the Confederate statues coming down. We can still love our ancestors even if they made mistakes, and we can actually love them better, we can actually do better for our world. It doesn't have to be a betrayal if your grandparents thought differently than you.
We can only grow by moving forward and making better and better decisions as the generations go on. And if we want this place to get better, then we need to admit that things are wrong!
Saying "We hold the key to redemption" is saying you don't have to stand by something that's wrong. Go ahead and let icons fall! Just because something is the way it is and it's always been that way doesn't make it right. We should be asking those questions, and sometimes change is good. It's nothing to be afraid of.
To wrap up, of all of the topics that you cover on The Bitter Truth, what are you hoping at the end of the day that people will take away from this album as they sit with it?
I hope they feel empowered, I really do. I didn't go into this writing process feeling empowered, I started to feel that way through the process. It starts from feeling human, feeling vulnerable, feeling fragile and feeling broken.
But as I start to work, especially together with my friends, with people that support me and I support them, having a band is a really cool thing. Just having something to work on together last year and the year before, amidst the pain and the loss and the frustration, just made it so much better. It was such a healing thing for all of us, and I'm hoping that that same healing and empowered feeling can spread to those who listen to it. I really do.
Instead of just wallowing in grief, we found a way through the music to feel strength and inspiration and hope for something better in the future. I think, if there's a punchline, the biggest thing is that life is worth living.
I think that's something that people need to hear right now, because there has been so much to just feel sad about, so much to feel depressed and frustrated about and helpless, without a voice. Like, "It doesn't even matter what you do, I'm just one little drop in the bucket." But it's not true, that's a lie. We are strong, and change is happening.
And the greatest losses that we can imagine, we actually can overcome and there can still be good things left in life to experience, you just don't know what they are yet. If it can be empowering and spread hope to people, that's what I would most hope for.
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Garden work + soft babes (bonus points for domesticity + “you don’t have to do that”)
Things I will never be over - Chris and Melissa being awkward cats who absolutely do not know how to relationship. Post-series as per usual, PG-ish, also on ao3.
The unexpected plus side of finally having some quiet – Melissa can live her best plant-lady life without worrying about all of it getting trampled.
Honestly, it is weird with most of the kids off at different colleges. She had gotten so used to her role as accidental pack mom for a whole herd of god-knows-what – and she still isn’t sure what some of the younger ones actually are, never did get an explanation for the boy who can apparently turn invisible and still turns up on her porch from time to time – and now just as suddenly it is reduced if not over. Which is to say, there are still non-human beings that automatically become her problem at work and occasionally call her at weird hours because she’s a reliable source of comfort and normality, but the remaining local faction does not need her the same way right now and she is fine with that.
So, with only so much long-distance worrying she can do before she either gets bored or goes crazy (she’s not sure which is more likely), and the relative state of quiet having lasted a couple months now, Melissa has time to plant flowers and figure out her own relationship issues. And apparently today she gets to do both at once.
This was not the plan, she would like to point out. She is perfectly capable of doing relatively light yard work on her own, and how hard could it realistically be to dig a few holes for rosebushes anyways. But in that way that these things apparently happen now, Chris is around today and attempting to make himself useful, and while this was not how Melissa intended for her afternoon to play out, she has never said no to a genuine offer of help.
Besides, it’s a good excuse to stare at him while she figures out what conversation they’re currently avoiding.
She’s not sure if they’re going slow or if they’re both too traumatized from past relationships to do much of anything or… there are a lot of possible explanations for the past year, all of them neither comforting nor problematic. At this stage in her life, she can’t afford to be too impulsive, and she’d been convinced for two years that she was going to die alone because other obligations came first and then-
“Where did you want this one?”
The man she may or may not be falling in love with is holding a pink rosebush like he is not sure what it even is and it’s the cutest thing she’s seen in years.
It’s easier to show than tell. Melissa walks over and taps her foot at a spot by the corner of the house – best to keep pointy things away from anywhere they might get trampled or driven over. Late March might be a little early for this sort of project, but she’d like to enjoy the pretty for a while before something has the opportunity to get it, and given how chaotic summer is likely to be…
“You don’t have to do this,” she says for the sake of formalities, and because she’d like to get any potential fights over with. Not that she expects that, not with him, but her instincts are still too defensive and-
“You need help,” he replies, not at all a question. This is why she likes him, she thinks. Trying to get him to talk about or even admit feelings is a losing battle unless something else has gone very wrong, which is to say that in this current quiet post-everything phase of their lives it is probably never going to happen, but what he does not say he still shows. Protectiveness is an expression of love, figuring out why her dishwasher was making weird noises is an expression of love, attempting to help with her projects is an expression of love.
She knows on some level this is still a very bad idea. He’s a good man, yes, but he’s reckless and unreliable and-
No. Not so much anymore. Not since whatever the hell happened six months ago that she did not ask about because all she needed to know was she was the person he needed in the middle of the night for once not wounded, she was the person who just needed to be calm and yet not because she had also been through her own personal hell and no one makes great choices at three in the morning and-
“Something wrong?”
Damn him. Damn him and his pretty eyes and his constant fear of being the cause of her distress.
“No,” she says too quickly. She blinks, realizing that in the time she spaced out he managed to dig a decent enough hole for the rosebush and is now waiting for further instructions. And to think that for once she wasn’t distracted by the pretty even though it was right there and-
“Whatever you need…”
“Has anyone ever told you you’re too cautious?” This would be a better scenario if she didn’t look like hell, she thinks. Hair up in a messy bun, dirt on her face, she’s not actually sure where this tshirt came from or who it originally belonged to… this is the sort of conversation a woman who actually planned for this shit would try to do in a dress, but she is more reactionary than that and-
He looks at her all deer-in-the-headlights like that is not at all where he expected she was about to go. “No?”
There are so, so many things she wants to say right now. Moving slow is one thing but they don’t have to, not anymore, not with no normal-person obstacles in the way. She has run this hesitant relationship situation by everyone else in her life who might have opinions on it – a decade of her various loved ones sabotaging her predictably awful taste in people has taught her a few damage-control techniques – and all have given their approval for a situation that, at this current moment, Melissa is unsure will actually happen in the form she wants.
And maybe that’s the problem. She’s been too content with the glacial pace, too content with avoided conversations and little kindnesses and hesitant kisses and never talking about that one exception the same way they didn’t talk about her other impulsiveness, and at least this time they have stayed in each other’s lives, at least this time she didn’t try to run, at least-
“At some point we need to figure this out. The me and you part. Where this is going, if it’s going anywhere, if you’re ever going to-“
“I don’t want to weigh you down. You know that.”
Melissa rolls her eyes. She is not in the mood for whatever the hell self-loathing spiral he’s currently in, she is not debugging that, she is tired of all these defenses and-
“Every other man I’ve been with has had no problem taking what he wants. How the hell are you the first one who’s thought I’m breakable?”
It comes out too quickly, the only way she’s capable of doing anything here apparently. So she’s dated a few assholes, and at one point wasted ten years of her life being married to one. Show her any woman her age who doesn’t have skeletons like that, she’d love to see it. And she is well aware that the current version of this man opposite her right now has changed so much from when they first crossed paths, had everything brutally taken away before he could be fully human, and there may still be that darkness and…
And she does not care, she thinks as she waits for whatever conflict-avoidant response she’s about to have to deflect. Even if he wasn’t ridiculously her type, he’s one of two people in her world who can exist alongside all her other complications and she ruled out the other one as an option ages ago. It’s either this or dying alone, and she suspects he views her similarly.
“You are breakable,” he says slowly, and now is a bad time for her to be thinking about how hot his voice is but here they are. “You deserve better.”
She laughs. “You’ve seen my past. What I deserve has never been a factor.”
“I don’t know how to do this like normal people.”
Ah yes, there it is, the elephant they always try to avoid. Melissa knows better than to ask questions about the whole lowkey-cult-adjacent past, but she knows that’s where the baggage comes from. Whereas she has always been what he would define as normal, and she’s still occasionally a trainwreck.
“Does it matter? I’m not asking you to move in or marry me or any of the shit that I’ll probably have to do if I want it because you are so determined not to overstep and… I just want something. More affection. Play with my hair and tell me I’m pretty. Stuff like that.”
“I don’t read signals very well.”
“I have noticed.”
“I can try. If that’s what you want.”
“We’ve been avoiding defining the relationship for a year. I’m not sure it is a relationship. Yeah. I want.”
She expects another defensive comment – and that’s what they are, she knows, his various fears manifesting in ways that she is not the right person to fix – but instead Chris turns back to the task at hand. There are still a few more flower bushes in the back of her car and apparently that’s a good enough reason for him to let it go and-
“It’s okay,” she murmurs as she points out where he should put the rosebush’s mate. “I’m not good at normal either.”
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