The Future Is Unclear (2/?)
Title: The Future Is Unclear
Summary: Lemonade Mouth: some stories are worth telling, despite their ambiguous and indefinable endings.
Warning/Spoiler: Non-linear storytelling.
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Wen/Olivia, Scott/Mo, Charlie/Victoria, Charlie/Mo, Scott/Stella, Ray/Stella
Author's Note: So I just realized that last chapter was symmetrical, and then this one is full of parallels and reflections.
The Future Is Unclear
2: my medicine
The illusion of dying hair and tired eyes grips at her; each time her eyes fall on her mother, the sight cuts into her heart. Everything's blurry and everything hurts, but her hands can't stay still and her legs are about to give out from under her.
Her brothers are curled up beside their mom, one at her feet and the other at her side. She's stroking one's hair, but her hands are shaking too and her eyes are stuck on Stella. Mrs. Yamada looks healthy, with mere wrinkles and bags under her eyes; she's breathing steadily and she's smiling naturally. But Stella can't help but see the shadows of darkened gazes and wrinkled skin and hoarse voices.
"Mom – " she says, her voice cracking and crumbling. Mrs. Yamada just nods her head, summoning her daughter towards her, and Stella flies to her mother for an embrace. The tears clog her eyes, but she refuses to let them fall, so they sit behind her pupils. They stagnate and swirl around in her stomach, and Stella's heart breaks into tiny pieces, each one cracking against the floor like shattered glass.
"Shh," whispers Mrs. Yamada as she comforts her children. Stella just studies her face; her parents are staring at each other, silent conversations that Stella used to wish she understood. But for that moment, the five stay in the hospital room, hoping for something to hope for.
The sun is only just setting, the summer warmth sitting in the air and embracing the couple as they walk holding hands. Charlie's thumb runs across the back of her hand, and she smiles sadly at him.
He's been noticing her subdued stance, her subtle displeasure. She's sad, she's upset, and he doesn't know why.
So he asks. "Victoria – what's wrong?" They stop in front of a quaint book store, the lights long off and the door long closed. Remnants of people finding their final stops for the night cloud his right side as he turns around and faces her. "You've been acting upset all night."
Victoria looks up at the sky, as if studying the twinkling stars and their mysteries. It takes a minute before she leads Charlie silently to a bench, her hand barely holding his fingers.
She pauses before speaking, her tongue lining her lips as she chooses words cautiously. "Charlie – I can't do this anymore. It's not fair to you, or to me." Her voice is soft but firm, and the iron settles in his gut. He can sense where this is heading and he doesn't like it.
"Vic – "
"No Charlie," she interrupts, continuing and letting the words fall. "I like you – you're a really sweet guy and you're attractive and I'm sure there are lots of girls out there for you." Memories of a similar rejection are evoked and he wants to scream. "But this isn't working. You're always touring or performing or something and we barely spend time together." She sighs deeply and her hand lingers near his face as she pushes strands of hair from his eyes. "And you're too – too, I dunno – "
"I'm too what?" he asks bitterly, snapping his head back from her fingers and trying his best to suppress the temper that threatens to build. Boiling, he seethes internally, everything matching too well to another rejection that for some reason hurt more and hurt deeper. "Say it."
"Innocent," she finally says, her search for a better euphemism a failure. "You're too eager and kinda naive and I just can't – I'm sorry, Charlie, this just won't work."
"Okay," he says after a moment. She's staring at him, and Charlie knows she's doesn't mean to hurt him. But every moment he's looking at her hurts his chest until finally he stands. "Can you get yourself home? Because I really want to leave now."
"Um, yeah," she stutters, watching him carefully. His shoulders feel burdened, his back seems heavy, and he just wants to sleep. Her eyes flash with something resembling worry, but scarlet taints every pigment. "I live on the next street, I'll be fine."
Charlie nods, his eyes darting around hoping to avoid her gaze. "Cool. Good."
"Charlie," she says and he has to look at her once more. "We'll still be friends, right?"
He can't help it, but he laughs. "Sorry, Vic, but I don't think I can. Not now, anyway." He turns around to start walking, but her voice keeps him still.
"So you can stay friends with Mo after she rejected you, but not with me?"
Her question cuts him and he doesn't know why, so he snaps. "Leave Mo out of this – this is our breakup, and she doesn't have anything to do with it."
"Mo has everything do with it, doesn't she, Charlie?" Victoria's voice is still soft but still hard and there are traces of pure sincerity that garble Charlie's thoughts. "You act like you like me, but you treat Mo like your girlfriend. You remember her favorite color, her favorite songs, her favorite foods. You get me flowers and chocolates, but you get Mo things that matter – rosin, bracelets, books. Why is that Charlie?"
"She's my friend – "
Victoria laughs bitterly, but it isn't harsh. Her smooth voice cuts through his rough one. "Whatever lets you sleep at night, Charlie. But know this – no girl likes being second." And she walks away, her steps a graceful dance in the night. Charlie watches her, following her white cardigan in the breeze, until she turns the corner and is gone.
All he sees is red. He spins around and kicks the bench. Flipping hair out of his face, he stalks off towards home, ignoring the throbbing in his toes and heart.
"So are you going to tell me or not?"
Olivia looks up to Wen's inquiring face. Her feet are resting on his legs, both of them sprawled on a couch watching The Breakfast Club, and his eyes are looking at her inquisitively. Olivia glances at the TV screen – it's almost her favorite part – before pausing the movie with a sigh and facing Wen completely.
"Something's up with Charlie and Mo and Scott. And Stella," she adds, emphasizing the pause between certain names.
Wen sighs. "Yeah, I figured. Mo and Scott were acting really – well, awkward," he says simply. "And Stella's been preoccupied. But Charlie's been fine."
"For the most part, yeah," concedes Olivia, "but he's still slightly jumpy around Scott. I dunno – I don't think he's completely over Mo."
Wen snorts. "Oh, he's definitely not over Mo," he says dryly. "But I don't see why he'd be jumpy around Scott."
Olivia shrugs. "I don't know – oh well, we shouldn't be gossiping about our friends," she says with a small smile.
"True," says Wen, a hand falling onto her foot. She ignores the sudden fire that ignites her nerves, instead attempting to subtly wriggle her foot away. Wen raises an eyebrow at her movements. "Ticklish, are we?"
Olivia immediately drops all emotion from her face. "No. I was just moving it around to make it more comfortable."
Wen grins widely, his eyes glinting mischievously. "Oh you are so ticklish, aren't you?"
"No!" she protests, but Wen has already started tickling her foot. Olivia squeals, trying to move out of the way, but Wen has her legs pinned and has moved up to her side. "Wen! Stop it!"
"Admit you're ticklish then!"
"I am not ticklish – " she starts, but his fingers probe deeper into her waist and her giggles interrupt her speech. "Okay! Okay! I'm ticklish!"
"And who is the greatest person ever?"
"How is that relevant?" she asks, but he's still tickling her and she's starting to lose her breath. "Wen, you are the greatest – person – ever; so stop tickling me!"
His fingers stop moving immediately, but they linger on her skin and she's staring into his eyes. Her stomach's twirling in a familiar pattern; her heart is beating incredibly fast. Her eyes keep moving to his lips, and she subconsciously realizes her tongue is running along her own lips.
There's a moment that passes in silence.
Then his lips crash into hers, and she can feel his arms snaking around her and she's still horizontal and her mind's reeling but she's kissing him back. She's kissing Wen and this is finally happening.
Wen breaks it off first; his breathing is irregular and she's panting but her eyes are locked onto his face. He caresses her cheek and tucks a strand of stray hair behind her ear. They say nothing, just staring at each other, until Olivia scoots forward with her knees tucked beneath her, both of them sitting up now. Wen doesn't move, his eyes fixed upon hers; she kisses him softly, hesitantly. His hand remains in her hair, but the other rests on her leg and Olivia knows that if she stops, her heart would be screaming.
But she stops later anyway, and Wen's grinning adorably and Olivia can't stop beaming.
"So," she finally says, breaking the easy quiet. "Um."
"Yeah," whispers Wen, his gaze finally falling to the floor. "So, um, are you doing anything tomorrow night?" Olivia shakes her head, her heart still pounding wildly. "You want to, um, I dunno – do something?"
Olivia can't help but let the giggle escape. "Do something? How romantic," she teases him, glad that kisses can't eliminate the ease. "I'll love to do something with you, Wen," she answers, with a smile.
Wen's grin grows wider. "Wonderful. Great. Um. How does dinner sound? At seven?"
"That sounds perfect," she replies quickly, eagerly. She bites her lip and backtracks. "Uh, I mean, yes. That'd be – great."
"Great." Wen hesitates for a moment, but then he quickly lays a kiss on Olivia's forehead, and she feels the tingling begin. Wen turns back to the television. "So, um, shall we continue?"
"Right," says Olivia, trying to hide her grin, but her eyes glitter and she pulls herself against Wen's side, pressing play. His arm falls naturally around her shoulder and she leans up against him.
As she watches the dancing montage on screen, memories of paralleled moments in her own life – her heart flutters at the thought of the five of them, just hanging out doing nothing – soothe her as she sits in his arms. Nothing's perfect yet everything feels that way.
Sticks crash onto drums, vibrating against the pulled over skin. Each beat sends a shiver down his spine, sends adrenaline pumping through his blood. Repeated rhythms, timed crashes – he slams down his hands in unison, ending the set, as his foot hits the pedal.
He takes a deep breath and pockets his drum sticks before heading to his kitchen.
That's when the doorbell rings.
Charlie's the only one home so he opens it to find Scott staring back at him, shuffling his feet on the welcome mat. "Hey," greets Charlie, surprised. "What's up?" He swings the door open fully, but stays in the doorway.
"Can we talk?" says Scott, his voice laced with an emotion Charlie can't quite recognize. Anger? Sadness? Fear?
"Uh, sure." Charlie moves back to let Scott in but the guitarist shakes his head.
"Let's just stay out here."
Charlie frowns but steps outside and closes the door behind him. "So…"
"I know you used to like Mo," Scott blurts out, his eyes drifting from concrete to walls. "And I know you guys are obviously still very good friends, but you're dating Victoria and Mo's dating me, so I just wanted to set things straight." His voice is firm, but there's a certain softness in it; Charlie understands that Scott's trying to be friendly and nice, but protective and stand his ground.
Charlie mentally commends him. "Okay."
"I understand that you guys hang out all the time – but I'm sick of the flirting."
Internally, Charlie's guts jerk in a rapid rhythm – I don't flirt with Mo, I don't, I don't – but outwardly, he just frowns deeper. "What are you talking about?"
Scott sighs. "You know exactly what I'm talking about."
Charlie doesn't think he does, but his heart pounds a little faster and wisps of guilt churn in his stomach and he knows he does. "I don't like Mo like that. Not anymore." Even as the words leave his lips, he feels the dirty lies cake inside his mouth.
"Okay," accepts Scott, and Charlie feels the culpable creature gnaw at his heart a little more. "I trust you."
"Good." Charlie dawns a smile, flashing his eyes in what he hopes is a friendly and bright manner. "Maybe we should all go on a double date some time; I'm sure Victoria will be up for it."
"Maybe, yeah." Scott runs a hand through his hair with a sad smile. "Well, I got to go – um, see you later at practice?"
"Uh, yeah," says Charlie, trying to stop the frown from falling onto his face. Scott nods goodbye, his hands stuck in his pockets, and walks away. Charlie's face falls for a moment, before he straightens his back and takes a deep breath.
He's dating Victoria, Mo's dating Scott, and everyone's happy. That's exactly how it should be.
His attempts at conviction only squeeze his heart some more.
Mo takes a deep breath and knocks three times.
The door swings open, and Victoria greets her in confusion. "Hey! What're you doing here?" She throws a hasty look behind her shoulder before turning back to Mo.
The bassist takes a deep breath again and plasters a friendly smile onto her face. "Hey, can we talk? If this isn't a bad time or anything – "
"No, of course!" says Victoria brightly, though her eyes seem to flash in anxiety. "Something wrong? Is Charlie – "
"Charlie's fine," continues Mo quickly, hoping to let the words flow smoothly. "Um, it's actually about – well, you."
"Yeah. Um, I hope this doesn't sound rude or anything – but I hope you're not leading Charlie on," says Mo, her voice quiet yet harsh, each syllable echoing across her teeth. Her eyes flitter between Victoria and her shoes, counting the pink and black specks of the concrete.
Victoria raises an eyebrow, her fingers running down the edge of the doorframe. She steps out of her house, shutting the door behind her. "What would make you think that?"
"You haven't been around lately and Charlie's getting worried," says Mo simply. "And you and I both know he's too naïve to think the worse of you. And I hope I'm just overreacting." Mo narrows her eyes, letting her voice rise and her foot take a step forward. "Don't hurt him."
Victoria laughs and the sound unnerves Mo, sending shivers down her back. "You're telling me to not string Charlie along? How hypocritical of you."
"What are you talking about?" Mo recoils, hurt at the accusation that she'd ever hurt Charlie. She'd told him her feelings ages ago, and they were cool now. They were friends, simple as that. "Charlie knows we're just friends."
"Yeah, but do you?" counters Victoria flatly. "Because you sure don't act like it."
A moment passes and Mo's mind reels. "What are you talking about?" she repeats, her mouth disconnected from her mind, images and colors and sounds passing in blurs.
"Maybe you should ask your boyfriend, he might be able to answer that," says Victoria, emphasizing the existence of Scott in her life. A part of her brain scolds Mo for letting her protective instincts rule, but the other part of her polishes the light bulb. "But as for your initial concern – don't worry about Charlie. His heart will be broken one way or another."
Choosing to ignore the beginning part of her response, Mo frowns. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"I can't go telling Charlie's friend about his breakup before him, can I?"
The words sink in slowly, each sound swirling in a pattern of realization. "So you are breaking up with him," states Mo, no question in her voice.
"I guess I am," replies Victoria softly. "So I guess your instincts were right. Maybe you should listen to them more often." Her cryptic words hover in the air before Mo for an instant, and she wonders if Victoria knows more than she lets on. Mo wonders if she's missing something, if there's something that she should see but can't. But before Mo can process any further, Victoria smiles again and steps back. "If that's all – "
"Um, right," says Mo awkwardly, glancing at her feet and stepping backwards. "I'll see you around, I guess."
"Maybe," says Victoria with finality in her tone. She swings open the door and steps into her refuge. "Good luck, Mo. And listen."
"Listen," repeats Victoria, her smile a little kinder and little more amused. "Bye."
The door shuts closed and Mo blinks at the white frame and red door. She stands in silence for thirty seconds, allowing her breathing to regulate, before spinning around and leaving.
Listen. Listen to your instincts. Mo wants to laugh it off, but something tickles the edges of consciousness and Mo just wants to know what to do. The frustration builds in her chest and she wants to scream; but moreover, she wants to cry and she wants to do it with his arms around her. And that scares her the most.