Monday, February 28, 2011
The weeks fly by after Jerod and Amelia finally announced they were a couple. It was as if everything had fallen into peace; all the worries that had once troubled the budding musician fell into a disembodied void, leaving Amelia happier and more content than Naomi had ever seen her.
The way Naomi saw it, though, Amelia had been hypnotized; as all her worries floated away, so did her cares.
But, to any outside observer, everything was perfectly normal: Jerod and Amelia were a couple of lovebirds, bound at the hip so much that if you wanted to speak to one, you inevitably had to speak to both of them at once. They were practically never apart.
They weren't exactly 'getting to know' each other in the traditional sense, though, as it was hard to find when the two actually spoke to each other; as far as anyone could see, all they could do in each other's presence was keep their tongues down each others' throats...
... even in other people's presence.
It wasn't something they seemed to be able to contain, anywhere. Everywhere Amelia went, Jerod went--and whereever 'there' was... Well. Let's just say that mother's were shielding their children's eyes quite frequently in the lovers' presence.
That wasn't to say they didn't take it into private places, though; that just gave them more freedom to do it again...
... and again...
... and, again.
Unfortunately, Amelia seemed oblivious to how her relationshipwas affecting everyone around her--in particular, Naomi. Over the passing weeks, their couch probably saw more attention than it had every day they'd owned it, combined.
From Naomi, though, there was never a word of complaint; Amelia's choices were her own, and her best friend had no choice but to not interfere.
However, as the weeks turned into months, something began to change about Amelia; before their very eyes, every moment Amelia spent with Jerod began to shed her innocence... it was if, with their first kiss, a lulling poison had begun to overtake her...
... to transform her. What was left was not the fragile flame that Naomi had tried to shelter for so long; it was a blackened butterfly, a woman who'd been exposed to the darkness of the world--and embraced it.
She was gone every night, jumping from bar to club with Jerod, submerging herself in all the culture the night world had to offer: dancing, fighting, gaming, gambling... even spending enormous amounts of time inhaling fumes at the bubble bar, leaving her in a haze for hours that--Naomi could only assume--was why she had suddenly ceased to care about anything but having fun, and having Jerod.
And yet, in her eyes, nothing had ever been more clear.
Over time, Jerod had begun to open up something inside Amelia she'd never known existed: pure intensity. She began to understand why he lived as he did, free from rules and cares and obligations. The colors around her had never been brighter, nor had the air ever tasted sweeter.
Her senses had become unimaginably overwhelming--though, one could never be sure whether it was the bubble bar or Jerod that was causing that. Was it love, or was it something more?
As much as Amelia had changed and the band had been forced to accept her metamorphosis, they couldn't hold it against her; with Jerod's help, the success of their music skyrocketed. Amelia had never written pieces more full of emotion and passion, leaving every club in town--including the Prosper Room--begging to have the girls come and play for them.
They hated to admit it, but it was because of her change that they were suddenly in the spotlight.
Pretty soon, their 'gigs' turned into 'concernts'; the roar of the crowd was a drug even Naomi enjoyed. People came from miles around just to see them play, filling the rooms wall-to-wall just to listen to their music.
With Jerod's help, the Yelling Birds released their second album, which sent them into a popularity that made Gwen's small town obsession with their music look just as obscure as it really was. They weren't mainstream, but they were definitely on the way there.
Yes--The Yelling Birds were on their way up...
... but three of the girls weren't so sure if it was worth the price that had had to be paid. As much of a pain as the old Amelia had been, they would have traded their fame... just to have her back.
She'd spent what felt like hours making them, but looking down at her plate, Naomi had absolutely no desire to eat her pancakes. After one bite, her stomach had felt full, toiling in her belly and making awful grumbling noises--an anxiety she'd felt every time she'd eaten in the same room as Amelia since Jerod had entered her life.
The sounds coming from the television were distant in her ears; all her focus seemed to pour into those stupid pancakes--the stupid pancakes she'd worked hard on for Amelia, but never receieved a thank you.
'I don't know why I even do it anymore,' Naomi thought to herself, her nose shrivelling in disgust as she looked at the whipped topping on her pastry stack. 'All of this... All the promises... They weren't worth this.'
Naomi felt herself clear her throat before she even realized she was about to say something. "So uh," she spoke up, catching herself unprepared without anything to actually ask. "Do you want to.. um... go to the laundromat with me today? I'd like some help carrying everything over there, and we haven't really had the chance to spend much time alone, lately..."
"So?" Amelia asked, slowly taking a bite of fruit off her fork with her teeth. "You don't really need my help with that, do you?"
"No, I guess not... I just thought..." Naomi stopped. It was useless.
She finally decided to shove a forkful of pancake in her mouth for good measure when Amelia stood up to dump her plate off in the kitchen--but she didn't expect to hear a response, so when Amelia spoke up, her fork-holding hand froze in mid-lift.
"Fine, I'll go," Amelia groaned as the clang of her plate hit the sink. "Beats sitting around here waiting for Jerod. He said he wouldn't be back for a few hours."
Naomi had to surpress the giddy feeling that put a tingle at the base of her neck; really, there wasn't anything to be happy about... but she still couldn't help but smile just a little bit.
"You needed my help for this," Amelia groaned as she watched Naomi dump laundry soap in with their dirty clothes. "You've gotta be kidding."
"I did say it was more about spending some time alone, didn't I? There's some things I want to talk to you about."
"Really," Amelia said, sarcastically rolling her eyes. "And what did you need to talk about, exactly?"
"I uh, I just--" Naomi froze mid-sentence as she spun around to face Amelia. If there was anything she hated about the 'new' Amelia, it was the fact that she was really good on calling her bluff.
"I wanted to ask if everything was, you know, okay between you and Jerod," Naomi finally finished.
"It's, like, amazing, Naomi," Amelia responded, shrugging up her shoulders. "Almost psychadelic. It's like every time he walks into the room, suddenly I'm the queen of the world, ya know? I've never felt this way about anybody."
Naomi could feel a frog in her throat as she tried to come up with something to say back. "I meant more like... If your guys' relationship is alright."
"What do you mean by that?" Amelia asked, raising an eyebrow.
"It's just... I've been hearing rumors about him messing around and stuff, you know," Naomi shrugged. "Like, that he's been going on dates with other girls behind your back."
"Oh yeah?" Amelia scoffed. "Like with who?"
"Like, with..." Naomi almost fumbled. "With... Gwen."
"Gwen?! Are you serious?! Did she tell you that?!"
"I.. uh... Yeah," Naomi shrugged.
"I knew it! I bloody knew it! Ever since she said that she 'couldn't tell me who she was dating cuz it's a secret', and since she started trying to make her hair the same color as Jerod's, and... Oh my gosh."
"I can't believe her! Can you believe her?! I can't! Or maybe I Can! The wench!" Amelia kept rattling on and on, leaving Naomi slowling backing away from her, trying to avoid any 'killing of the messenger' that Mia might decide to inflict.
"I'm sorry, I'm just... telling you what I heard..." Naomi whispered, trying not to make eye contact.
Amelia buried her head in her palms. "What am I going to do Naomi? This is a nightmare. Jerod would never do something like this to me... It's all Gwen, all that stupid Gwen, trying to steal him away from me--she always did think she was better than me..."
"That's not true," Naomi said slowly. "And you should just... keep calm about it. Honestly, I've always thought there was something up with Jerod--I mean, I don't think you should stay with him. He's bad news, Mia. I don't want to see you hurt. Maybe you should, should... you know--" Naomi felt her throat knot up again. "Break it off--"
"No, I gotta go," Mia said, pointing towards the exit. "No one is getting near my Jerod. Gwen? She's gonna pay. That wrotten little witch is gonna pay."
'But Mia' is no way to stop an angry woman, though. As Naomi tried to grasp for her friends arm to try to stop her, she watched her flee out the door, and watched her disappear out of sight through the double glass doors of the laundromat's entrance.
Amelia was on a rampage--and it was entirely Naomi's doing.
"You're such an IDIOT!" Naomi groaned at herself, slapping her palm against her forehead. She'd just made a grevious mistake--and told a grevious lie--and now, she knew, she was going to face the consequences.
'This is a really nice building,' was the first thing Amelia thought to herself as she stood at the foot of the apartment complex a hop and a jump from the old theatre. Though all the skyscrapers in Bridgeport looked a bit like shining pillars of light, something about this one seemed to glow as she stood at it's base and looked up at it's peak.
Though many things had changed about Amelia, one thing that had not was her sense of wonder--if anything, it had multiplied to an extraordinary degree. In fact, a month ago it was unlikely that standing at the foot of a building at night would make her marvel at it's beauty.
And, a month ago, it was unlikely that she would have ever found herself breaking into someone's apartment.
The thought made her lips draw into a smile yet again. "This is so awesome," she cackled to herself, looking back over her shoulder to make sure that there wasn't anyone coming up the street towards the complex. People came and went from apartments all the time, but what was the fun about breaking into someplace if you didn't get to be all criminal about it?
She giggled again. "Gwen, you're about to meet your match."
Amelia was lucky that as she entered and exited the elevator onto Gwen Mayweather's floor, she ran into no one. There were so few doors on each floor that Amelia was sure she wouldn't run into anyone--especially not Gwen.
As far as she knew, Gwen was going out tonight on one of her "dates"; conveniently, Jerod also had some sort of big deal with one of his recent art pieces and he didn't want Amelia to be bothered to come. Yup, Naomi was right--something was fishy.
So, here she stood, in front of Gwen's door--but just to be sure, she pressed her ear up against it to listen for any noises within. "Nope, nothin'," she murmured to herself.
First things first--she tried the doorhandle. No dice. It was possible she would've gotten lucky, but in a town like this, you just weren't that trusting.
"Alright, so I guess we're doing this the hard way." Amelia pulled a pin from her pocket and--with a little hesitation--pushed it into the lock and began to fiddle. "Thanks, Dad," she laughed to herself. Amelia's father had taught her how to open a door 'in case she got locked out'. Yeah right.
She couldn't help but let out a little squeak of surprise when, in fact, the door did open. "Wow, that's a first," she muttered as she pushed the door open a little further. Again, she listened: ... but heard nothing.
Sneaky sneaky sneaky... Sneaky she was as she walked on inwards, careful not to make too much noise in case the neighbors knew Gwen wasn't at home.
Suddenly, Amelia felt it. "This is why my dad's a theif," she whispered with a smile. "It's way too much gosh darn fun." Again, a shiver of glee rattled up her spine. Thievery, however, wasn't why she was here.
Still... for a moment, she contemplated it. "Wow," she said again. Gwen had a nice apartment; it was much smaller than the one Naomi and Amelia were in, but for one person? This was the ritz. Not only that, but Gwen had taste... and probably money. The place had a really awesome feel to it; she wondered why she'd never been invited here, before.
"Heck, even the view is better," she thought as she turned towards the window.
In the distance, she could barely make out her little red brick building; it was a stain on the gray and white towers Bridgeport was famous for. If things kept looking up, maybe she and Naomi could move into somplace better.
Or... she and Jerod could move into someplace better. Yeah. She'd like that.
"Alright Amelia, stop dinking around," was her exclamation as she wheeled around to look for what she came for--and, lucky for her, she was right. Gwen did have a computer.
She took another brief glance around, but the place was meticulous; if Jerod had ever been here, there was no other way she was going to find out.
Amelia's luck wasn't running out; the second she scooted the chair into the desk, just bumping the keyboard brought the screen to life--and, true to Gwen's character, there was no scary Log In screen awaiting her. Just a nice, organized desktop and a few application aliases ready to be clicked on the left.
"This is way too easy," she chuckled.
"Alright... w... w... w... dot... simbook... dot... com..." She watched the letters pop up in the URL bar with a little bit of nervousness.
"Yes! This is fantastic," Amelia giggled. It couldn't have been better; browsers that saved passwords were possibly the coolest things on the face of the planet. In fact, she didn't even have to wait for auto-fill--the thing just signed in right as she hit enter, leaving her on Gwen's homepage, waiting for it's next command.
Amelia went straight to work. First, she scanned her wall. "Nope, no Jerod." Then, she scanned her inbox. "Still no Jerod."
In fact, the more Amelia looked, the more she began to realize that not only was there no evidence that Jerod had said anything to Gwen, they weren't even friends. He wasn't on her contact list, hadn't ever sent an invite... The two probably would have never known each other existed if Amelia hadn't been dragging him along like a leashed puppy.
There was only one more thing to check: deleted messages.
Something stuck out at Amelia the second she clicked the link. Naomi. Naomi, Naomi, Naomi; from top to bottom, her entire browser was suddenly a giant block of receieved messages from her best friend. "What the heck?" she whispered, still in shock. She knew Gwen and Naomi were friends, but even Amelia didn't have a reason to keep this much personal correspondence with someone.
With a little hesitation, she clicked the most recently deleted message, and took a breath.
Sorry I couldn't make it the other night, I know you really didn't want to go to the movies alone with Kate but Mia was staying in alone with J and it had me worried. I still don't trust him, and like I explained to you the other day, I can't break my promise.
I'm really trying to take your advice, but it's just not that easy. She means the world to me, Gwen. I don't think I could ever find anyone else I love this much. As hard as things are right now, I just have to keep hoping things will change. I know you want better for me, but I'm okay. I really am. Even if this is the closest Amelia and I ever am, it's better than not having her in my life at all. Try not to worry, please?
Besides, someone in the band's gotta stay single to keep the fans hopeful, right? >:D
The sound in her ears was so loud that Amelia barely heard her fist slam against the desk. It was her heart, pulsing so hard in her chest that her cheeks began to swell with heat, causing sweat drops to line the bridge of her sunglasses.
She closed the window.
She put the computer to sleep.
She walked out the door, slamming it in her wake.
It wasn't until her feet met the ground outside--after pounding swiftly down each flight of descended stairs--that she finally stopped to try to catch her breath. The sound of the subway beneath the ground rattled in her ear drums, but still, her heart seemed to captivate her hearing.
It was all silent to her. It was all senseless to her.
"She... She lied to me. All this time. A lie. She... She..." Amelia could barely even understand her own words. Naomi had been in love with her. All this time, in love with Amelia.
Amelia wasn't even sure how she was supposed to feel, but the only thing that could come to her mind was one word: betrayal. After everything her father had put her through--ever lie he had ever told her, all the lies that she, Naomi, had tried to say she should forgive--Naomi had been doing exactly the same.
It took everything she had in her to not collapse to the ground in sobs, or wrench her heart from her chest to watch it break into dust in her very palms. This wasn't right. This wasn't fair.
With what air could reach her lungs, Amelia screamed upwards into the night sky a yell that echoed beyond the skyscrapers around her, and beyond the harbor across the way--but it did nothing to take away the pain.
After Amelia felt herself go numb from pain, she stumbled to the sidewalk in front of the building, but there was nothing she wanted to do more than call Naomi. She wasn't even sure what she was going to say--she just needed to hear her voice... needed to hear that she was still human.
But she wouldn't get that chance.
As she whipped out her cellphone in her shaking hand, she watched the light on it's window suddenly come to, and heard a fierce jingle of an incoming call erupt from it's speaker. Huh?
She didn't even bother looking at the caller ID as she pressed talk and put it to her ear.
"Uh, hello?" she heard her voice weakly speak into the microphone.
"Sweetheart? It's mum," responded the voice.
"Hey mom," Amelia groaned. "I'm really sorry, but this is a terrible time. I really can't talk right now."
"Please, don't hang up," she heard her mother say. The line went quiet for a moment, and then she heard a nose blowing in the background. "Mia, dear," Her mother said in an uncharacteristically somber voice. "It's... Farah. Your grandmother... She..."