Devil You Know, Devil You Don't

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Now, I'd like to get this newspaper out by the end of the month, so if any of you are having trouble, please let me know at least a week before the deadline. If you have any questions about your assignments, meet me in my office after school tomorrow--I'll be around until 5 o'clock, at least."

Mr. Hobbs gave a look around the computer lab, but every teenager in the room had their eyes fixated on the screens in front of them, oblivious to the fact he was even still there. In the silence, the hum of the computers filled in where crickets could not.

"Alright then," he said with a nervous chuckle. "If that's all, I'm taking off. You guys have a good afternoon--make sure the last one out locks the door, alright?" He paused, waiting for a response; only Kenzie, with her back facing towards him, craned her neck around to give him a small smile. "Alright, then. Bye guys."

As the door to the lab clicked shut behind their teacher, Margo looked down on the slip of paper in front of her with dread. Margo Kane: Community Spotlight was written in bold letters at the very bottom, almost as an afterthought. Community Spotlight, the bland vegetables of the school newspaper. Margo was used to being given the projects no one else wanted, but this one was positively insulting. Community Spotlight meant actually talking to people. In the community.

Margo's eyes traced over the rest of the Club member's assignments with resentment and envy. Ethan was doing a piece on the art department's most recent projects; Mack Leman, known for his dopey wit, was assigned to write a humor column; Kenzie, to no one's surprise, was writing about some of the new Tech installments at the school; even Daisy got to cover sports, which half of her friends either participated in or cheered for.

There was no doubt in her mind: Margo had been given the leftover. The misfit in the bunch, just like her.

"Ah c'mon Margo, it won't be so bad," Kenzie said from across the table, eyeing the sick greenness flushing Margo's cheeks. "Mr. Hobbs wouldn't have given it to you if he didn't think you could handle it. Maybe he thought it would be good for you, to get out and do some interviews?"

"He's crazy," Margo mumbled into the hands cupped over her face, trying not to whimper. "You wanna trade?"

Kenzie's face fell a little. "I love you Margo, but... Technology? You couldn't even plug your mouse into the right port, this morning. You wouldn't know half the stuff you'd be writing about."

Margo knew Kenzie was right--and honestly, it was probably true for every other topic going into this edition of the newspaper--but it didn't make her feel any better. If anything, it just made her more aware of the gaping hole where her "specialty" was supposed to be. Everyone else had their little niche... Ethan and his art, Mack and his jokes--but her, just a channel for someone else's greatness. Fabulous.

"There's got to be someone you know you can interview--I mean, your family is full of big shots, isn't it? Your grandpa used to be a detective, your grandma owns the art studio--there's lots of possibilities, there?"

Margo scowled. Yes--another reminder that everyone in her family was amazing but her. And yet... "Actually..." Margo, who'd started pacing to get her thoughts moving, stopped beside Kenzie and gave her a quizzical look. "Maybe I could interview my Dad? I mean, he made the first sentient simbot, his time machine, discovered a way to--"


"--get murderous lunatics out of prison?" A loud, angry guffah came from behind Margo, startling her. "Yeah, sounds like a real awesome role model to be writing about."

"Daisy, you don't know what you're talking about," Kenzie snapped, grabbing Margo's hand and lightly tugging her in the opposite direction. "It's Margo's article, she can write about whoever she wants to."

Daisy rolled her eyes. "No, I'm pretty sure it's you that's blind, four-eyes. But fine--she can write about her father. It's not like anyone will read it, anyways."

Both Kenzie and Margo took a rather deep breath as Daisy started to turn away, but their relief was short-lived. "Actually, you know what, Margo?" Daisy retorted, spinning around to face them again. "Write about your Dad. I think it's a great idea."

Margo's hands shivered. "R-really?" she asked, skeptical.

"Yeah. That way, when he finally croaks, you don't even have to write an obituary--you'll already have one."

Kenzie gasped. "Daisy--!"

"What?! It's true, and everyone knows it! He's only got what, 5, 6 months left? Really, it would be convenient--all you have to do is rerun the piece, and add a little tagline at the end: The Great meddling Bradley Kane, finally bit the dust after a long battle with his big, fat ego.

"DAISY! Don't talk about her Dad like that!"

"Why? I mean, it's only fair--if my Dad has to die because of her idiot of an aunt, hers might as well, too."

"Why you stupid--Margo... Margo? MARGO!"

Please try to be patient
and know that I'm still learning.
I'm sorry that you have to see
the strength inside me burning.

But where are you my angel now?
Don't you see me crying?
And I know that you can't do it all
but you can't say I'm not trying.

-- The Hill, Marketa Irglova ~ CLICK TO LISTEN ♫ --

The whole world spun. Underneath Margo's fingers and knees, the cold tile rolled back and forth, barely holding up her capsizing stomach. The smell, the cold, it all made what was left of her lunch keep coming even when she thought she might finally be able to stop.

The sick feeling in her gut began to subside as she weakly collapsed against the back of the bathroom stall's door, but when she raised her hand to wipe the corner of her lip, she saw her fingers shiver through her foggy vision. It wasn't the world that was shaking: it was her.

When she finally was able to put her weight back on her feet, Margo carefully slipped out of the stall and stumbled to the sink. She smartly avoided looking at what she was sure would be a horribly accurate reflection of how she felt.

Margo cupped her hands under the faucet, bringing water to her lips and swishing it inside her mouth--but it did little good. She could still feel the sour taste of bile at the back of her throat, threatening to escape again each time she remembered Daisy's words:

It's only fair, that he's dying.

It's only fair.

After several more minutes of just trying to squeeze some air back into her lungs, she decided to escape the horrible stench the bathroom now had. Margo's fingers tenderly pushed the door open, and she shuffled back out into the hall.

Several steps out, she heard a small chuckle behind her. "Your stomach finally have enough of those crappy school lunches, Klinger? Sounds like you were barfing up a whole year's worth, in there." Ian's voice was thick with amusement--the kind that made Margo's stomach do another double-dutch in her belly.

Margo angled her face away from him and kept moving. "Leave me alone, Ian," she spoke--instantly wishing she hadn't when the sobs suddenly began flooding out again.

"Hey hey hey, quit the waterworks, Margo--I was only kidding!" When she didn't turn around, Ian's hand reached out and snatched her arm, pulling her to a stop; but still, she didn't look at him. "What the hell's the matter?"

"Just go away," Margo said softly as she reached her free hand  up to her face, gingerly trying to erase her tear stains. "Please. Just let me go."

"Not until you tell me what's wrong," Ian snarled, his grip becoming tighter on her arm. "C'mon, spit it out."

But Margo remained silent. She became a ragdoll in his hand, limply swaying with the forceful sobs she tried to stifle in her chest. The longer she stood there, the angrier he became, until he finally couldn't take it anymore.

"Margo, look at me!" he barked, tugging her arm and swiveling her around to face him. "Talk to me, dammit!"

Margo continued to resist, raising her hands to try and shield her face; in response, he latched his fingers around her wrists and drew them down against his chest. She turned her face to the side; he tried to follow it with his own. They continued their clumsy pasadoble until Margo finally became too weak to fight, and her weight slowly shifted against him.

"Daisy," came her soft answer.

Ian made a noise closer to animal than human. "What did she do."

"She said... my dad... deserves to die."

"She what?!" Margo felt Ian's body begin to shake with rage; even his fingers felt as if they were vibrating against her skin. "And you did what--you ran away?!"

Margo's head bobbed loosely to the side. "I didn't know what to--"

"Yes, you do! You're not an idiot, Margo--you know exactly what to say!" Another tear began to trickle down Margo's face and her hands started to pull up to hide it; Ian tugged them back down, shaking her whole body along with her arms. "Why can't you stand up for yourself, Margo?! Why do just sit there like a dead fish and let her walk all over you?! Don't you see what this is doing to you?"

"I--I just--I just can't, Ian--"

"FINE!" Ian's fingers released her, almost making her lose her balance when her weight was suddenly her own responsibility again. He walked past her, taking the first few steps up the staircase to the computer lab. "If you won't stand up for yourself, then I will!"

"NO!" Her voice reined him to a halt. "DON'T!"

He looked back at her over his shoulder and threw his hands up in frustration. "Margo, someone has to shove that girl's head into the floor, and if it's not going to be you--"

Margo's sobs turned to wails. "Why is your s-solution to fix everything always breaking something else?!"

The air surrounding them became still and cold. Ian had stopped moving; his foot had frozen mid-air above the step, until gentle gravity pulled it back to rest on the floor. The emptiness swallowed them, until Ian came completely off the stairs--but in a strange role reversal, it was now Ian's eyes that refused to meet Margo's.

"Ian, I didn't mean--"

"Yeah, you did. And you're right. You're always right." She watched through tear-burned eyes as his hunched shoulders began to fall from his ears, weighing everything--even his gaze--towards the floor. "Breaking things... it's all I'm good for."

"That's not tr--"

"I'm sorry, Margo. I keep forgetting nothing I'm capable of is good enough for you."

She would have followed him, but she knew her words had cut deeper than what an apology could repair. And she felt sick--sicker than she had before--but there was nothing left in her tummy except regret.

For once second, he had let himself become vulnerable again, and she wasted it--wasted the ounce of good she had been trying to dig up for years. All he wanted was to help. Maybe not the right way, but he hadn't backed down. He never had when she needed him.

But now she did, more than ever before, and all she had was silence.

"I'm not leaving until I get some answers, Lamont! You don't just wake up one day and totally forget about someone's existence! It's impossible--even for me!"

"Lil, please... Can we talk about this later," Lamont grumbled, trying to avoid Lilobot's earnest gestures as she followed him around the science lab. "I just want to finish your diagnostic and go home."

"What, so I can go home worried that I am going to wake up tomorrow and not remember my family or my friends? Something is wrong, Lamont! I know it! Please, I need you to--"

"Alright, fine." Heaving a heavy sigh, Lamont leaned against a nearby machine. His eyes were clouded with frustration, Lil could tell--but she wouldn't back down. This was too important.

"What happened," Lil asked, plainly.

"When you told me about what happened with Tanner... how upset you were... I couldn't bear to see you suffering like that. It was too much. So when I transferred you to your new body--I just... didn't transfer those memories. I thought you would be happier without them."

Lilobot immediately felt her Positronic Emotion Chip flaring into anger. "You deleted part of me without asking?! Those were MY memories, Lamont! MINE! If you thought I would be better off without them, you should have asked me, first! It was not your choice to make!"

"You're right," Lamont sighed, nodding. "It was foolish and... selfish. I'm sorry."

Lil opened her mouth to continue ranting, but when she registered what was saying, and studied him for a moment--she suddenly became even angrier. "What else did you delete, Lamont."

He shook his head, avoiding her eyes. "Just Tanner."

"Do not lie to me. I can tell when you are lying--your ears turn red and your eyes run away. Stop avoiding it--just tell me! These are my memories we are talking about, I have the right to know!"

"We kissed." Lamont's head flopped down onto the machine, 'facepalming' against the back of his hand. "You happy now? We kissed. And I freaked out, and I erased it."

"We... we kissed? But... but when?!"

"Right after the procedure. You were so happy, and I was so happy, and my marriage was already on the rocks, and just... I don't even know how it happened. I came over to help you up, and we just--it just happened."

"You don't understand, Lilobot," he continued, growing more and more upset as he recalled the events. "I couldn't do that to my son. It wasn't something I would usually do, and... it was just such a huge mistake. I didn't want it to be a mistake you had to live with, too. I didn't want anyone else to know. So when I hooked you up to make sure everything had transferred fine--I made sure you wouldn't remember. If I could have done the same thing for myself... I would have."

"So all this time.. you have been lying to me, about us. About your feelings for me."

Lamont shrugged. "I have a wife. I have a son. If you knew what it was like, Lil... you would know why I did what I did."

"I may not understand completely, but... I get that you had the best intentions. I have to know, though--do you still feel that way? About me?"

She scanned his face, hoping for some sort of reveal; she waited for his words, but they never came. After a moment, she knew, he wouldn't say; either he would hurt her all over again, or he would hurt his wife. There was no win, no matter what he said.

"Okay, fine, you do not have to tell me--but you understand, Lamont... Why I have to ask you to give me my memories back. You still have them, right?"

Lamont nodded slowly, and pointed towards a nearby computer. "They're on a harddrive marked XR-1010 Backup. When we do the diagnostic... I'll put them back. If that's really, really what you want."

Without hesitation, Lilobot nodded. "It is."

An hour later, when she left the Science Facility, everything was finally as it was. Tanner. Lamont. Every moment, down to the last exquisite detail, just as clear as they day she'd lived them.

She couldn't say if it's exactly what she expected--there's no way she could have known just how much hurt she had endured, and would now have to suffer alone--but... oh, it was worth it. 

Even though every memory resurfaced a brilliant new wave of pain, she had two things back that no one should ever have to lose: her first love, and her first kiss.

And so they linked their hands and danced
'round in circles and in rows
And so the journey of the night descends
when all the shades are gone.

-- Mummer's Dance, Loreena McKennitt ~ Click to Listen ♫ --

As the hours crept up on midnight, Margo tossed in a restless sleep. It had been years since she'd had night terrors, but even though they'd passed, she always felt like she was always half asleep, searching for a comfort that no nightlight or heavy comforter could give.

She tried to pull the blankets closer, but the frosty window radiated the chilling night straight through to her bones. Fall days were wonderful--fall nights, not so much.

So, when the noise began, Margo was awake enough to hear; she sat up in her bed with a start. "What the--" she gasped, her eyes glued to the front window.

Someone was on the porch. At first she thought it might be Mud, but he hadn't been back since the night she followed him home. That and, as she listened closer, the footsteps had a distinctly solid *thump* to them; unless Mud had gotten himself a thick pair of boots, it was definitely human.

The better part of Margo wanted to hide, or scream for Alesha, but the curious side of her always won. She climbed from her bed, shrugged on her slippers, and tentatively inched towards the window as if it would arise from the wall and snap her with a large set of jaws.

In a way, it did.



Margo's eyes met upon the fierce face of the demon horse, sending her arms waving wildly as she stumbled back and fell, *fwump*, onto the floor.

"Marrgo? Margo? Ye in t'ere?" came a muffled voice from the other side of the glass. Dylan's face appeared in the window shortly after, lighting up with a smile when his eyes met her own.

"Dylan," she said, her mouth gaping. "What are you doing here?"

"Oy've come teh rescue you from certain boredom," he responded, flashing her a whimsical smile. "C'mon outside, I can barely hear yeh."

Margo tiptoed through the front door as quietly as possible, latching it shut with her breath caught in her chest. "Vvv vv v vv v vvvv, ugh it's cold out here," she grumbled, regretting not grabbing her jacket as well. "So what are--ah ah, I think your horse is going to eat me."

"Badger? Neeeh, he's a bit ornery but he won't bite yeh 'less I tell him to," Dylan chuckled.

Margo frowned with disbelief. "So why are you here?"

"Well, I'm goin' on a bit ov an... adventure, yeh might call it--and I thought, well don't I know teh perfect girrl to take wit meh. You do like sneakin' out in teh middle of teh night, don'tcheh?"

"I--not really," Margo sighed, biting her lip. "That was kinda just a one time thing. Besides, I really shouldn't. My mom might notice, and... I have school tomorrow... and..."

"Do ye always make t'is many excuses? Come now. You want to come. I can see it in yehr eyes."

Margo flinched away, shaking her head. "I shouldn't."

When her head dipped, she felt Dylan's rough fingers thread through the loose locks around her face, gently combing them back to uncover her eyes. "Course yeh should. What's a pretty lass like you gonna do boxed up in here, anyways? Yehr comin' wit meh." When she remained unmoving, he continued. "Come now. Say it. I'm cohmin' wit yeh."

"I--" Margo finally looked into his gaze and suddenly became lost in the piercing, hypnotizing insistence in his eyes. "Okay. I'm coming with you."

When she finally relented, he grabbed her hand, and led her and Badger to the edge of the road; once there, he swung himself up onto the massive horse's back with the acrobatic grace of a feline. Margo couldn't help but feel the sting of jealousy.

"Are ye sure you don't want any help, t'ere?" Dylan said with a laugh as he looked behind him, where Margo had begun to try to pull herself up, as well.

"No, I want to do this, myself," she insisted, determined that this time, she would make it without the helpful guidance of her riding instructors. "Just... gimme a second..."

"C'mon now, yehr struggling--here, Alley Oop!" Dylan slung his arm under Margo's shoulder and hoisted her up, looping her behind him. "See? Bettehr. Yeh ever been on a horse before?"

"I--once," Margo sighed, her face flushing red.

"Aah, well--just hang on, then? Ol' Badger's got a bit offa jumpy trot, but he won't t'row us--I slipped a bit o' beer into his trough earlier, that usually puts him in a nice good mood," Dylan laughed. When Margo gave him an uneasy smile back, he gave her a wink, and softly clucked Badger from stillness.

Dylan wasn't exaggerating--Margo could feel her brains bouncing up and down in her head as they rumbled down the road, leaving soft hoofprints in the frosty sidewalk behind them. Compared to this, Bean had been a dream; now, without even so much as a saddle blanket, her rump felt like it was slowly turning to mashed potatoes.

"Come on, don't be shy--yeh can squeeze in a littow tighter," Dylan teased, noticing her queasy expression. "It'll seem a bit less harrsh that way."

She reluctantly obliged, and in a way, it did help; but the foreign smell of him might have been part of it. Campfire, patchouli, and a touch of something spicy she couldn't quite place; it all filled her lungs and warmed her, melting away the last unease she had being so close to what was, to her, a complete stranger.

"Where are we going?" she finally asked, opening her eyes to see the autumn world slowly passing by.

"Someplace special--you'll see."

Margo didn't open her eyes again she felt Badger's trot slow to a stop; releasing her deathgrip from Dylan's tummy, she gently slipped off to the ground with his help, and then looked up.

"My grandmother's art studio?" she asked, her eyebrows scrunching up in confusion.

"Oh, yehr grandmot'er owns it, eh? Ain't t'at a coincidence," he said, surprised but not annoyed. "She has good taste. C'mon, let's go 'round back."

As they slipped up the back steps, sudden realization hit Margo over the top of the head. "We're not... going inside, are we?"

"Why ov course we are," Dylan said, slyly winking. "It'll just be a minute, this lock's a wee bit tricky."


"Don't worry, I do it all the time!"

"But--it's illegal!"

"It ain't illegal unless someone finds out, lass," Dylan chuckled, before turning back to the door and sticking something in the lock that, to Margo, looked like nothing but a long hairpin.

All her previous hesitations suddenly flooded back, tenfold. Her eyes flitted along the road, searching for any sign of movement; there was nothing, but it didn't change the fact that Margo could swear, they were being watched. "I don't like this," she whimpered, biting her lower lip.

"All done! C'mon, Marrgo--let's get that shiverin' body of yehrs inside before yeh to ice."

Margo had been inside the Bottega hundreds of times since she was born--she'd even had several birthdays, here--but now, with everything coated in shadows and silence, it felt like a a haunted graveyard.

"I w-want to go home," Margo stuttered, hiding her face in her hands. "Please, let's just--"

"Nonsense, we just got here! Besides, there's somet'in I want to show ya," he responded, his smile wicked. "Just stay there and look pretty, mmm?"

She watched as he darted around the room, chucking various tools into his pockets and dragging a clay block to the sculpting stand. The ease at which he did it--and the innate knowledge of the room he seemed to have--left her breathlessly uneasy.

"Are you sure this is okay?" she wheezed, biting her nails.

"Who cares?" he shrugged, raising his chiseling to the block to begin working.

"Well.. maybe the person who owns all this stuff?"

Dylan shrugged. "Does anyone really own anyt'ing, Margo?  Besides--you said yehrself, yehr grandmam owns all t'is... so I guess t'at just means ye'll be able to smooth everyt'ing over for us." He sent her another confident, easy wink that weakened her knees and silenced her tongue.

It was a long time before she said anything else; occasionally Dylan made a sly comment, but the sensation of watching eyes left her unable to relax. "What about Badger?" she finally asked, realizing that she hadn't even seen Dylan tie him up outside.

"Ah, he's fine," Dylan smiled. "He won't wander off. If anyt'ing he'll just curl up and go teh sleep."

"But what if someone sees him?"

"Eesh, yeh sure know how to work up a storm worryin', don't yeh? So what if he's seen? So what if we're caught? Rules only matter if you let 'em."

"I just don't feel good about this," she said in a hushed whisper, looking out through the foggy glass of the door.

"Sounds like you don't feel good about lots of t'ings," Dylan sighed. "But it's no matter--I'm finished, anyways."

He reached out a hand and guided her to his position, looking over her shoulder as she looked at his 'final product'. "Whatcha think, Marrgo?"

Margo wasn't sure what she was seeing--was that... was that her?

"It can't be," she gasped, shaking her head. "I'm not--and it's so--"

"It's beautiful, just like you," Dylan lulled, resting his hands on her shoulders, dipping his lips towards her ear. "She's a little rough around the edges, but t'at's what makes her perfect."

"Hey--hey Margo, where yeh goin'?!" Dylan's eyes grew wide as Margo suddenly bolted from his grasp, darting down the hallway and disappearing into the kitchen. "Come back!"

When he caught up with her, she tried to hide her face--but it was impossible. There were already tears forming, and Dylan was anything but blind.

"What's teh matter? Was it t'hat hideous?" he said with a rough chuckle, reaching his hand out to stroke her arm.

"No, it's just... I've had such a bad day, and that--the way you're treating me--I'm just so... so confused, Dylan, and--"

"Ssssh, sshhhh, t'ere's nothing to be confused about, Margo." She turned around to face him, only to be lightly grabbed and tugged towards him. "Yehr a beautiful girrl, you deserve to be shown."

"Maybe, but--" she tried to draw away, but Dylan's hand was bracing her back, leaving her no where to move but closer. "This is all just moving so fast, and--"

"Life is short, Margo. Do yeh want to wait one more moment before you live it?"

She had no arguments left--and even if she did, he wouldn't have it. And why would she want to say no? He was gorgeous, and he smelled like mulled wine, and he rode a horse like a bird rides the wind, and his voice could melt chocolate, and his eyes could see right through her, and--

Their lips touched.

As a kiss, it was everything she had ever imagined--and more. All else in the world, in that moment, became meaningless. He felt so wrong, and yet so right, with nothing now that could stop her from saying yes. 

He was a shadow on the moon, a breeze on the fire, a knock on the door: but in that moment, she was his moon and his fire and his door, and there was nothing else she'd rather be.


Tramps and Trouble

Friday, November 9, 2012

At times, the hours and days fly by without notice, and before anyone can remember to mark days off the calendar, the trees begin to reveal their true nature and the morning walk to school is clouded with the fog of chattering breaths. In a way, it had flown by this way for Margo--summer seemed like a recent memory, and though she loved fall, she still didn't feel ready to cage her hands into mittens. On the other hand, though, it seemed to move painfully slow--ever since Christina and Rachel had promised her riding lessons at their very own Academy.

So, when the day finally came, Margo awoke like a child on Christmas morning--her face frozen into a smile, and her body humming with both excitement and anxiety. She couldn't get there soon enough... or so she thought.

The drive to Appaloosa Plains was a slow and silent one. Margo had convinced her mother to drive her "just that first time"; it was hard enough to deal with the pressure of riding a horse for the first time, did she really need to endure travelling on a bus with a dozen strangers on the way there?

"I promise, just this one time, Mom," Margo pleaded with her eyes wide, threatening tears. Alesha never had a chance.

Alesha tried to make small talk on the way there, but Margo's repitoire of responses was limited to "Mmmhm"s and "Uh-huh"s. "Just remember to have someone take photos for me, okay?" her mother buzzed. "And call me as soon as you're done, you have school in the morning and I don't want you to fall asleep in Chemistry again, I don't want another phone call from Professor Nielson. Besides, it would really make your father proud if you were able to talk about your class with him..."

Her litany faded away into the gentle hum of Margo's daydreams--dreams that put castles on the rolling hills they travelled, their rooks just barely showing in the thick clouds coating the horizon. The oil pumps bobbing up and down in the middle of fields grew faeries that jumped up and down on them like a rotating see-saw; the trees that shivered in the wind were just shaking hands as they parted ways; the tractor harvesting crops was an insatiably hungry monster trying to switch to a vegetarian diet.

It was a strange but lovely world--instantly shattered the moment Lawrence Equestrian Center's"sign appeared before Margo's eyes.

"Oh there you are, Margo! We're just about to get started!" Margo saw Rachel's arms waving from a large, fenced in area not far from the parking lot as she slowly climbed out of the vehicle.

"Remember to have fun, sweetheart," she heard her mother's voice say behind her as the car started pulling out of the drive. "Call if you need anything."

Margo's heart stopped as she got a good look at where she was heading. She wasn't sure why, but she had somehow expected that it would just be her learning to ride today--or maybe one other person. But as her eyes scanned the small arena, she spotted one, two, three... five horses. And, to match them, five girls her age.

She approached slowly, as if trying to tread quietly past a herd of flighty deer. Unfortunately, Rachel had already spotted her, so she wasn't going to escape,  now. "Aw come now Margo, don't look so nervous! This is exciting! I'm so glad we're finally getting started," Rachel said with a smile, sending a casual glance at the small group of girls behind her.

"Margo?" A voice Margo vaguely recognized spoke from the middle of the circle. "Oh, hey, it's Margo! Hi, you!"

It took her a moment, but she finally caught the source of the greeting: a girl that she did not know well, but with eyes that made her family instantly recognizable. "Ch... Charlotte?" Margo whispered, shocked.

"Yeah, Charlotte Seymour, Josh's little sister!" Margo's stomach twisted into knots. "Josh has told me loads about you, but I didn't realize you'd be coming here for classes, too!"

"... Oh. That's... cool," Margo responded, unsure.

After a moment, though, the twists in her stomach began to burn, as well as the pale color of her face.

She'd been so focused on Charlotte, that she hadn't noticed the blonde standing next to her.


"Yeah, Josh talks about you lots--I hear aaaall about it from Natasha," Daisy said with a light smirk. "I'm actually surprised to see you, here--I didn't realize your family could afford to eat anymore, let alone pay for riding lessons, what with your Dad's hospital bills and all."

"Daisy, that's quite enough," Margo heard Rachel interject from the side. She let out a small sigh of relief, but Daisy's eyes will still trained on her, full of suspicion.

"Alright, girls--gather round," Christina called from behind them, waving them into a rough semi-circle in front of her. "Looks like some of you have already met, but let's introduce ourselves, shall we? Daisy, since you seem so excited to share, why don't you go first."

"Well--my name is Daisy de Wynter, I'm a Sophomore in High School at Twinbrook High, and my family recently purchased the beautiful Mumba--" she pointed to a gray Arabian a little ways away. "So I have a little experience riding--I'm mainly just here for a refresher course." Margo almost gagged at the fakeness of Daisy's smile.

They all went around and introduced themselves; aside from Daisy and Charlotte, there were two other girls, both from the Plains. One was a rather shy Junior named Rena who had never ridden before, and the other a loud but nice-looking Senior named Bridget, who was here more as a 'teacher's aide' since she was a minorly accomplished rider. Both got rather sour looks from Daisy, which made Margo feel a bit more relieved; at least she wasn't the only one here Daisy despised.

"Alright guys, let's go meet the horses you'll be riding!" Christina waved a beckoning arm and started leading them towards the four-legged creatures standing idly on the opposite side of the arena, looking thoroughly bored.

"Except for Daisy--" Christina shot her an annoyed glance. "You all will be riding some of our finest LEC horses. They are all incredibly well trained, obedient, and even-tempered--you have nothing to be nervous about with them. They've all been used many times to teach beginners, so they're used to it. They'll take great care of you, I promise."

"Charlotte, you'll be riding Rocky," Christina said while pointing to a gelding Margo instantly recognized; he was one of the horses she had been taking care of at the ranch in Twinbrook. "He's a bit older, but he was a solid competitor in his prime."

One by one, the girls were paired off--Charlotte to Rocky, Daisy to her own Mumba, Rena to a nimble, shy mare named Harley Quinn, and Bridget to her previous training partner, Easter, a rather odd paint with a pink nose like a rabbit.

Last, was Margo.

"Margo--this is Espresso. Between you and me," she said softly, making sure the other girls weren't listening heavily. "He's the finest guy we've got here. He's incredibly smart, and he'll always do exactly what you want him to, if you know how to ask, right. He hasn't competed yet, but I think he's got a lot of potential to do well... Think you'll be able to coax it out of him for me?"

Margo gave this 'Espresso' a long, hard look.

He wasn't Dusty Dame, that's for sure. Dusty was always blanketed with a thin coat of mud; this guy was so clean he was practically shining. Dusty was... well... fat. This guy? Margo could see the muscles rippling in his shoulders as he shifted weight between his feet. Something about Dusty had always felt secure--like she was just as much an outsider as Margo was--but Espresso was the top of his class, valedictorian, quarterback, and Danny Zuko all in one package.

At least, that's what she thought, before... the face.

As Margo burst out laughing at the weird, tilted smile he gave her--complete with goofy, wiggling ears--Christina almost choked. "Oh, right, I forgot to mention--he's a bit of a bonehead. Thought you might like that." She smiled, tossled Margo's hair, and walked away.

Jock and comedian. Maybe he would grow on her.

"You're goofy," she said to him softly as she grabbed his lead rope. "I think 'Espresso's' a bit too formal for you... You're a bit more of 'Bean', hmm?" He almost seemed to whuffle in approval. "I thought so."

"Alright guys, take your horse's lead rope, and spread out so you have plenty of room," Christina called from behind them. "Walk slow, but commanding. Remember, you're in charge--the horses will know if you feel nervous, so try not to show it. Keep your shoulders up, and lead them like you're the only one that knows the way. They'll respect you more if you don't doubt yourself."

Margo tried to listen, but she could feel cold prickles at the back of her neck. She cast a quick look; Daisy was only steps behind her, impatiently waiting for Margo to get Bean out of the way to give her more room.

"Sorry," Margo mumbled, trying not to look Daisy directly in the eye.

After a couple of minutes, each pairing had several feet of space between them--and so came the moment Margo had been dreading.

"Now, I'd like you guys to pull yourselves up into the saddle. If you need help, just call one of us over and we'll give you a hand up, but I'd like you guys to try it out yourselves, first."

Margo gulped as she began watching the other students. Bridget pulled herself up into the saddle as if she'd been born there; Daisy took a little longer, but still managed to do it without help. Charlotte, unfortunately, was still a bit too short for Rocky, so she got to stand on a stool to get on him. The last was Rena: try as she might, she kept sticking her foot into the stirrup at the wrong angle, and it was clearly frustrating her.

"Rena, honey--it might help if you put the right foot in," Rachel said softly behind her, trying not to chuckle.

"Margo? Aren't you going to try?"

Christina had snuck up on her. "I, uh," Margo stammered, biting her nails. "I'm just watching everyone else so I can... see how... I guess." She shrugged as well, trying not to betray her nerves to her teacher. A futile effort, at best.

"If you need help, I'm right here," she responded, smiling.

Margo looked up at Bean. Was she crazy, or did he just grow a foot and a half in the last few minutes? "You're... tall," she gulped under her breath, looking up at him worriedly. "Can't you just... sit down?" He snorted--yeah, not gonna happen.

Margo looked back over her shoulder at Christina, who shook her head. "You're doing fine, hon. Take your time." She gave a reassuring smile, that didn't reassure Margo one bit.

Alright. Foot in...

... arms up...

... leg over...


"Bout time, Margo," Daisy groaned, herself looking boredly perched atop Mumba. "Thought we might be riding in the dark by the time you got your ass in the saddle."

"Well, I... Hnn." With a small whimper, Margo turned her eyes away. She had no idea how to retort at something like that, even if she had had the courage to.

The next few moments, while ingrained in Margo's mind as the most wonderful, defining moments of her life, were a bit of a blurry, goopy mess.

She had always heard that the first few moments you ever ride a horse are the most amazing thing to ever experience--but at that particular moment, it was... not. As Christina instructed them where to go and how to tell their horses to turn and move forward, Margo's heart was pumping blood so hard to her body that everything was throbbing. Eyes, hands, toes. Her nose itched, but she clung so tightly to the reins that she couldn't raise her hand to ease it.

It was pure joy, but pure discomfort.

The party moved forward in a single-file line; Bridget, much more experienced than the rest, took point. Charlotte, having trouble getting Rocky to stop searching for carrots, took rear. Slowly but surely, they began circling the arena, like a square carousel without music or a pole to cling to. Margo felt lucky that Bean knew what he was doing; she was having enough trouble just figuring out how to hang on.

"Margo--Margo, I need you to move." The words that came from behind her were almost as anxious as she felt. And... from Daisy?

"What do you mean--I am moving!" Margo whimpered, trying to tell Bean to go faster--but he was already as close behind Harley as he could be without stepping on her tail.

"No, I mean--turn! Turn him!"

"I-I--I can't," Margo muttered, not even wondering to question why Daisy was making an odd request.

Pretty soon, it was apparent. With a brave glance over her shoulder, Margo saw it happen: Mumba, who had already been acting a bit strange around the other horses, suddenly had had enough. Stopping right in her tracks, she began tossing her head, and--when her rider couldn't seem to figure out what to do--decided that there was only place to put her.

On the ground, knocking the air clean out of her.

"Daisy!" Christina called, her eyes instantly full of panic. "Daisy, are you alright!?"

"I'm... fine..." Daisy choked, coughing and sputtering as she tried to gain her bearings again. "Just... ow."

As Rachel ran to Daisy's side to help her up, Margo carefully began sliding herself off of Bean's back.

"Are you sure you're alright," Rachel asked worriedly, gently poking Daisy's ribs and the back of her head and neck. "Nothing broken?"

"Ugh, stop, stop," she grumbled, waving her off. "I told you, I'm fine."

"It's her, fault," Daisy added, as soon as Margo took a few steps forward. "I told her to get out of the way, but she wouldn't listen! She just sat there, looking stupid."

"But I... why did I have to move?" Margo asked, hushed.

"Haven't you met Mumba? I thought it was your job to take care of her at the ranch," Daisy snarled. "But I guess if it hasn't got through your thick head--Mumba doesn't like being boxed in by other horses. She needs more room to move, and you weren't giving it to her."

"Daisy, that's not her job." Rachel's interjected, her face lined with fury. "Margo's job is to mind Espresso, not accommodate you and your... horse," she snapped, sending a sour look Mumba's way. "If you absolutely insist on using Mumba during these training courses, it's your job to make sure that you can control her, and if not, make sure she's not a risk to the other students. I've already given your mother my protest to allowing her in these classes--she's not fit to be a training horse, and she shouldn't be here. We made an allowance on the condition you could handle her--do I need to change my mind?"

"I... no, but..." Daisy struggled to find an argument, but Rachel hadn't left her much wiggle room. "Fine, I'll be more careful."

As Rachel and Daisy continued discussing ways to accommodate Mumba--begrudgingly, on Rachel's part--Margo began wandering away... away from Daisy, away from Rachel, away from Bean, her heart heavy in her chest.

"Honey, where are you going?" Christina said, stopping her and holding her in her tracks. "It wasn't your fault. Why don't you hop back on Espresso?"

"I know it wasn't, I just... I don't want to be in the way," Margo sighed, shrugging her shoulders up tight. "I'm not sure I'm good enough to ride him."

"Sweetie, do you think I would have paired you and him together if I didn't think you were the best fit?" Margo shook her head at Christina. "I asked you here because I know you can do this. All it takes to be a great rider is love for your horse, hard work, and cooperation--three things I know you can do. Don't listen to Daisy, or anybody else that wants to tell you you aren't good enough--with Espresso's help, I know you're going to be the best rider here."

"... Bean."

Christina looked at her, puzzled. "Bean?"

"Yeah. Espresso Bean. That's what I've decided to call him."

Without blinking, Christina began to laugh--so heartily that even Rachel and Daisy paused to look over and see what was wrong. "And a Bean he is," she said, wiping a tear from her eye. "See... I knew it: you guys will get along just fine."

Margo returned to Bean's side a bit hesitantly--there were many eyes flickering too and from her, still confused what had even happened.

But Bean, not missing a beat, raised his head and gently butted the side of her cheek with his nose. What he was trying to say, she wasn't sure (though she was sure he was trying to say something); but, if she knew anything, it was that he, like Christina and Rachel, saw more in herself than she did.

"I guess we're stuck together now," Margo smiled, rubbing the length of his nose. "So I guess you should know--I kinda suck at a lot of things, and I might suck at this, too. But if you help me, I'll give it all I got. Think you're willing to give it a shot?"

In his own, Bean-y way, he smiled in response.


This was starting to become a problem.

Granted--it was a problem when it first started. Korva's delight in causing mischief is something that no one but her seemed to understand, but it had started to get progressively worse since her first little 'prank'. Whoopee cushions, shower dye, smoke bombs--you'd think those were the extreme, but that was just where it started. A little embarrassment was forgivable. But this...

... this was getting out of hand.

Alesha had given up nail biting in second grade, when Amelia, her then and forever best friend, had started painting them every sleepover. It had been a long time since those sleepovers, but the habit-break had stuck--until Kory.

It was something that hit her as she began chewing her nails on the way down the stairs to the principal's office. It was her daughter that was being called in--why did it make her so nervous? She couldn't explain it, but this time, she had a gut feeling Korva had finally gone too far.

"There you are--" Principal Clark ran up the Alesha the moment she turned the corner towards the main offices. "Sorry, I don't mean to be impatient, I just..."

"What's she done, this time," Alesha asked in a tired, unsurprised voice.

"Well, I... I don't even know how to say this without--"

"Just tell me," she asked, impatient. After being called down from her classroom 10 times so far this year, she was no longer shocked.

"Well, it started this morning--they brought in a bunch of animals for a science exhibit: mice, reptiles, some large rabbits... it was all fine, until Korva decided to let them out of their cages..."

Alesha sighed. "Nothing new."

"Yes, well--that's not the worst bit. While the adults were trying to track them all down to return them, Korva... stuffed one of her fellow students in one of the cages."

"She... what?!"

"It was rather traumatizing for the poor girl--apparently she had made some sort of comment about how her mother had a fur coat just like one of the rabbits, and that... put Korva over the edge, so to speak."

"You're kidding."

"I wish I was, Alesha. I know your daughter has some rather interesting perspectives on animal rights and green energy and the like--all rather remarkable for a girl her age--but... this has got to stop."

"I know, Chris, but..." Alesha sighed. "I've tried everything. She simply won't listen. Brad's illness has had a really hard toll on her... she idolizes him a great deal, I think she sees everything she's doing as a punishment to what caused him to become sick. It doesn't quite make sense to any of us but to her..."

"I understand Alesha, and I empathize with your family a great deal--but you have to realize, if this behavior continues any longer, I won't have any choice but to expel her. And for a child her age, that's not going to be easy to recover from."

Alesha sighed. "I... I know. What do you suggest?"

"I know this is the last thing you want to hear, but have you thought about boarding school?"

"Chris, you know I can't move her that far away from her father--"

"Yes, but that may be part of the problem. Seeing him constantly the way he is... it may be a trigger for these emotions."

"I just don't know. I've thought about it, but Kory... she's so fragile. It could make things worse."

"Possibly, but you really should give it some consideration, Alesha. What if it were one of your own students? What would you tell their parents? Just keep it on the table. That's all I'm asking."

Alesha slowly nodded, then carefully patted her colleague on the shoulder. "Thanks, Chris. I appreciate your honesty."

Down the hall, Kory could hear the adults murmuring. She couldn't hear exactly what they were saying, but she knew they were talking about her--knew what they were saying couldn't be good. It infuriated her--shouldn't she at least be kept in the discussion? She wasn't an infant; she could handle hearing what they had to say...

They were stupid. All of them, stupid. If they all would just listen, if they would all just do what she wanted them to--

"Kory," came her mother's voice above her. "It's time to go home."

Korva sat completely still, refusing to move or respond.

After a few moments, Alesha became impatient. "Korva, come on. You can't just sit here all night."

"I can if I want to," Korva finally responded, lifting her head just enough to glance at her mother through the corner of her eye. "If I go, you're just going to yell at me. I'm not going anywhere."

"Yell at you? Yell at you?!" Alesha voice was hushed, but carried no less anger for its lack of volume. "If I want to yell at you young lady, I don't need to take you home to do that. I am... I am so disappointed in you. How could you do something like that to someone else?! How could you--"

"Pippin made me do it."

"Pippin? You're blaming your doll?"

"She talked me into it."

"Korva... I have seen you say some pretty immature things, but I think that is the absolute worst. Another girl is not only grievously upset, but injured, and you have the nerve to try and shift the blame onto your stuffed toy? That is low. Now come on--we're leaving."

As slow as possible, Korva carefully lifted her backpack off the ground, slinging it over one shoulder after withdrawing a large, happy looking doll from within. Alesha tried not to tap her foot with rage, but her daughter was clearly taking every step to make this as painful as possible.

"Ready?" she asked, trying not to blow smoke.

"Yes." Korva's lips snarled.

As they climbed into the car, no more words were spoken. Alesha knew, nothing she could say would make a difference; Korva knew, nothing she said would be understood.

They both tried turning on music, but as soon as it began to play, it left them feeling worse in their thoughts--so it was instantly shut off, leaving them in intolerable silence.

As they neared home, Korva pulled Pippin tighter against her chest, trying to capture any emotion that wasn't anger--but failed. It was all emptiness. Just a stuffed toy, in the enclosed space of the car.

"You hate me, don't you," she whispered, her eyes glued to the window opposite her mother.

Alesha bit her lip, closing her eyes as long as she could without veering off the road. "No. I could never hate you. You're my daughter, and I will always love you." But as her eyes opened, a tear escaped her eye.

They spoke no more words to each other; Alesha exited the car before Kory, slamming the door and walking to the house without even checking to see if Kory was behind her. She wasn't, but Kory watched her mother leave with a confused hatred, one still completely devoid of shame.

She returned to her room above the garage, tossing her backpack in the corner, and gently setting Pippin on the center of the floor. "Well... I guess that coulda been worse," she snarked to the empty room.

"I dunno, Kory... I think we mighta gone too far, this time." Behind her, clear as day, Pippin spread her hands in defeat, looking oddly sad for what was supposedly "just a doll".

"Nonsense--they don't listen. They never listen. The only way to make them is actions... they say they speak louder than words, right? So we make loud actions, and we make ones that can't be ignored."

"Yeah, but... are you sure they're even hearing what you're trying to say? All they seem to be is angry at you, not anything else."

"... I guess. Mebbe we'll just have to do something that's a bit easier for them to understand."

Pippin's head-bobble fell to the side, her face falling into confusion. "Huh? Like what?"

"Oh, I dunno yet... But we'll think of something. You'll help me though, right, Pip?"

Pippin smiled, her eyebrows wiggling in delight. "Of course, Kory. Friends forever, right?"

"Yup. Friends forever."


He's a tramp, but they love him
Breaks a new heart ev'ry day

He's a tramp, they adore him
And I only hope he'll stay that way

You can never tell when he'll show up
He gives you plenty of trouble
I guess he's just a no 'count pup
But I wish that he were double

He's a tramp, He's a rover
And there's nothing more to say

If he's a tramp, he's a good one
And I wish that I could travel his way

- He's a Tramp -- Disney's Lady and the Tramp (Click to Listen ♫) -

I really, really need to talk Mom into a spa membership, Margo thought to herself as she tried--and failed--to find a position comfortable on her bed. Back, stomach, side--no matter where she was, it all hurt. All she wanted to do was take a nap before going to work, but at this rate, it looked like it wasn't going to happen.

Apparently, the horse riding course had failed in it's advertising. "In a 12 week course, come learn how to ride, join the Academy team in beginner's dressage, jumping, and cross country competitions, and form a callous on your backside so large it can be seen from outer space! Those that are terminally out of shape need not apply."

Margo was laying in her pool of painful self-pity when the worst thing possible happened: the doorbell rang.

Crap, she thought as she struggled to bring her feet over the edge of the bed. Alesha was still at the school picking up Kory, which meant she was home alone--and though she hated answering the door, after one-too-many missed UPS packages, her mother insisted she learn to answer the door. Maybe I could just tell her I'm disabled from the waist down... Yeah, that wouldn't work.

Margo eased herself to the front door with a mixture of socially anxious dread and muffled whimpers--careful to avoid eye contact with whoever was at the door until she'd opened it all the way.

She wasn't sure who she was expecting--a solicitor, maybe one of Kory's friends--but him... him she wasn't expecting.

The boy by the fire...

... the man in the moon...

... the most beautiful human being she had ever seen.

"Hi," he said.

No, not said. Oozed. In just one word, Margo's already weak knees collapsed, leaving her clinging to the doorknob helplessly.

She could already tell--he was foreign. Even just the word "hi" sounded more like "hoy"; she couldn't place it--not yet, anyway--but it was just enough to make him all the more handsome. Boys with accents? They always are one step ahead of the game.

Suddenly realizing that she'd done nothing but stare for the last 10 seconds, she gulped her painfully dry mouth, and simply said, "Hi."

"Well den, now thet dat's out of the way--name's Dylan, by the by--Oy'll just... tis way to the kitchen, yeh?"

"Um... yes...?" Margo watched helplessly as the boy--Dylan--walked right passed her into the hall, his eyes carefully analyzing the entire room with a childish wonder.

"Wow, tis place is grand... Got a nice 'omey feel to it, bit too clean for me own tastes, though. Say, you never said yehr name--it's?"

"Margo... Margo May..." Her eyes were hyptonized as she watched him carefully tiptoe around the room, picking up objects and inspecting them from every angle. The clock, picture frames, vases: everything. It was almost as if he'd never seen the like before, and couldn't fathom what he was seeing--that, or he enjoyed leaving his fingerprints on everything he saw.

Suddenly, Margo snapped out of it. "Hey, you know, you can't just... walk into people's houses, and... touch their stuff..."

"Um, yeh, dat does seem abet rude, but if Oy recall correctly, a little lass about your build 'n color came into may home recently and started snappin' pictures o' my family wit'out askin'..."

Margo's face turned bright red. "Oh... yeah. Point taken."

However, the boy's face lit up with a smile. "S'alright, darrrlin', I gots a beautiful family, 'n I don't mind sharin', so long as you don't."

With the word 'darrlin', Margo was finally able to place it. Irish, she said to herself under her breath, as Dylan turned his back on her and ambled towards the kitchen. He's irish. ... But what are irish gypsies doing in Twinbrook?

"So um... You don't sound from around here," she finally got the nerve to ask, just as Dylan reached for an apple off the counter and took a bite with what she could only describe as 'playful carelessness'. "How... and why... did you get here?"

"Eh, we're what you'd call travellers," he spoke through a mouthful of apple. "Don't like stayin' no place too long. Start gettin' homesick for teh road. Few years back, we took the biggest move yet--'aven't looked back. Love this wee little country you got here," he said with a wry, amused grin. "It's full of alllll kinds of beautiful tings."

"Okay, so... why are you... here? You know... in my house?"

"You sure ask a lot o' questions, mm?" Dylan laughed. "Well, I came to offer you... a... proposal, o'sorts."

"A... proposal?" Margo almost swallowed her tongue, it was so dry. "What... kind of proposal?"

"Well, you sure seem to love Mud--"


"Aye, me dog. The one you've been luring to your house every night?"

Margo groaned--she'd completely forgotten what had even led her to Dylan's campsite, that night. "Oh."

"Well, Mud's a right pain in me behind, and me family's in need of a littow coin, so I was thinkin'--if you like him so much, why don't you buy him off me?"

Margo's eyes grew wide. "I... I... I don't know--I can't make a decision like that without asking my parents--"

"So what about your parents--it's your house too, isn't it?"

"Yes, but--"

"Come on, he's a wee bit dirty but 'e's got a harrt of gold and you won't find a pup more loyal den he--"

"No. I'm sorry... But no."

"... Oh." Dylan's face fell--along with Margo's stomach. Great, she thought to herself. I've gone and made him hate me... and all he wanted was to sell me an animal he loved so he could afford food or... something.

"I... Can I talk to my parents about it? I'm sure they'll say yes... We're just not doing so well ourselves right now, and a dog... it's a lot of responsibility, and I don't really have time, and--"

"Sssh, I get it, I get it, lass. You don't have to explain. I admit, I've been watchin' your house a bit--nottin' creepy, just curiousity--and I noticed, yehr Dad... he's left yehr Mam, hasn't he?"

"Well, no--he's sick... Hasn't been able to leave the hospital for the last couple months."

"Oh. Dat's... dat's really rough." Dylan's face fell into the first genuine, plain smile she'd seen him make, yet. "Oy'm sorry."

"It's okay."

And, for a moment--it was. It really was. As many times as people had said they felt sorry--that they understood, and sympathized--she had never really believed them until this boy. Something about his eyes told her: he'd been through worse. Much worse. Loss, separation... something.

The way his eyes looked into hers--dark, but with a heartening warmth--she had never felt quite as at peace with everything as in that moment, when he reached out and took her hand into his.

"Well... if you change yehr mind... you know where teh find me," Dylan said with his boyish half-smile, suddenly lifting her hand, and--with the gentlest of movements--brought her hand to his lips.

She was struck instantly with how rough they were. It may have been his stubble--he did have a bit of beard, making her estimate he was at least two years older than herself--but his lips felt harsh, too. Weathered. He was no pampered brat or city slicker--he'd seen rough things, and had no need to polish it off his exterior. His hands were calloused and his fingernails hadn't been scrubbed in weeks, but they were more tender than anything else she'd ever felt.

"Yeah... I guess I do." Margo melted.

"Margo, have you seen my--oh." Margo had been so absorbed in Dylan's eyes, she hadn't heard the front door open.

Alesha stood, frozen, as she watched the rather... surprising scene before her. "Uuuh... what is going on, here?" she asked, snapping Margo out of her fixation with Dylan's gaze.

"Oh, crap, Mom--Hi," Margo sputtered, spinning around so fast she nearly lost balance. "We were just--"

"--Making a business arrangement, as Oy'm sure Marrgo with tell you about, latehr," Dylan finished. "You must be the Missus," he added with a warm, smarmy smile.

"Yes--and... who are you?"

"Dylan O'Malley, at yehr service Mam." To Alesha's surprise, Dylan not only introduced himself like a gentlemen, but gave her a slight bow, as well. She was so taken aback she did nothing but stare as Dylan, without blinking, began guiding himself towards the door. "Now, I should be gettin' home before me own Mam starts callin' aftehr me--it was a pleasure to meet teh bot of yeh."

With another slight dip, he turned towards the door and let himself out, trundling down the front steps and out of sight.

"Uuuuuhh..." Alesha blinked a few more times. "What... was that?"

"It was... a boy..." Margo tossed a sidelong look at her mother, trying to smile innocently. And, failing.

"Yes, I saw that much," Alesha sighed. "Explain."

After a deep breath, Margo began to recount the last few months--how she kept feeding the dog, "Mud", and drawing him closer to the house; how she saw him run to a boy riding a horse on the hill above the house; how she followed the dog home one night to see who he was... And, of course, the conversation that had just happened. Althroughout, Alesha's face remained blank and tired.

When Margo finally finished, Alesha simply shook her head, rubbing her temples. "Margo..."

"Yes, I know--we can't keep a dog," she sighed, scuffing the floor with her boot.

"No honey, not that--you can't... you can't just act so recklessly like that. I know your curiosity gets the better of you sometimes, but between your Dad's illness and Kory acting out, I just need one person in this house to try and keep their head on straight for me... I am so overwhelmed right now, honey--just please, promise me, you won't do anything stupid?"

"So--so you're saying... we can buy Mud?"

"Maybe," Alesha sighed. "I have to talk to your father about it, first. But that's not what I was saying."

Margo nodded deftly, trying to give her mom the biggest, most reassuring smile she could muster. "I know, Mom. I'm sorry. I promise--I won't do anything stupid."

With a weak, exhausted smile, Alesha pulled her daughter close, and planted a kiss on top of her head. "Thank you, honey. I know I can count on you."

And yet, the more Margo thought about it, the more she realized--she wasn't entirely sure what she'd just promised her. What exactly would be stupid?

Would it be stupid to see him again?
To hold his hand again?
To look into his eyes again?
To dream about more?

Indeed, the longer she laid there--her body tired but her heart more alive than ever--Margo realized there was only one thing for certain:

If that was the case, she had just made a promise she couldn't keep.


Notes: As of this moment, I am officially moved back into our old house! It took a good 3 months longer than it should have, but better late than never!I can't make any promises that Desperate Sims will return to a "normal" schedule--it seems every time I promise to start posting more often, life finds a way to get in the way--but I am hopeful that being home again will help my enthusiasm to increase to where it was before I moved to Winnipeg and had all passion sucked out of me, haha.Thank you--all of you--for your continued support, as well as some of the messages I've received while I've been on break. You guys are an amazing bunch... I know I say it all the time, but I feel like I can never say it enough. I am constantly baffled by your kindness and patience. ♥ I could not be more thankful to have all of you stick by me!Cheers, guys! :)


About This Blog

This Blog is a fictional story written using the Sims 3 (tm Electronic Arts); it is written by the:

  © Blogger template On The Road by 2009

Back to TOP