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day to day

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There is a lot for Caroline to consider just walking through her house, now, not even including her mother, darting around corners of her life occasionally and popping up when Caroline is unprepared, wanting to be maternal, know what she’s up to, blah blah, Caroline got over wanting anything resembling mothering instincts a few years ago. She certainly doesn’t want it now.

All things considered, there are more trying things in Caroline’s life at the moment, the least of which is keeping a secret (or, re-keeping a secret, or whatever it’s called when someone has known something once and doesn’t know it again. It’s not just a word hanging around in a thesaurus, somewhere, either -- but it doesn’t matter. Caroline was always much better at the ‘do’ part of life, rather than the ‘hang around and research and figure it out part.’)

Each day she keeps figuring out different things about herself, about everything around her. She doesn’t need an alarm to wake up, barely even needs to sleep if she wants to stay up and do something. The birds wake her up in the morning, a natural alarm clock, and the creaks of the house at night still into silence only punctuated by her mother’s footsteps on the stairs.

Her mornings usually start with her mom, usually on her way out the door, coffee on in the kitchen, the closest to making breakfast Caroline is sure she’ll ever get outside of special occasions.

Her mornings usually
really
start with school, mildly pointless but still enjoyable when she gets to take charge. It’s even easier now to head off more than one committee at a time, though she finds herself stressing even more about every little detail.

She sees Bonnie before Elena, most mornings, the ease of their friendship dissipated into a sort of wary, stilted welcome, no hugs in greeting, no wide grins. Caroline tries, though she’s not exactly trying anymore. At some level, Bonnie scares her just a little with what she can do, just as she supposes she scares Bonnie at some level, back. Not Bonnie herself, but what Caroline has the power to do, now.

Elena is better than Bonnie, though there is an undercurrent of something else in their friendship, now. Caroline feels less -- not threatened, not whatever Caroline felt before that she didn’t want to admit to herself. They’re probably closer now, in some ways, and Caroline enjoys the fact that she can walk arm in arm with Elena to class and talk about things that are easy and normal, just as they can talk about things that Caroline can’t talk about with anyone else.

(Least of all Bonnie. Or Matt, and oh, Matt. Caroline doesn’t know what to do with Matt, she doesn’t think about him except for how she does, all the time, wondering and trying to figure everything out.)

Mostly her days are the same. They sound different, louder, and look different, brighter. All in all, though, they are the same -- maybe with some added danger, Damon flitting in and out of her on near even footing, not at all like, well, before.

Except her days
aren’t
the same, not really. She has a constant hunger inside, pressing and swelling against her ribcage, low in her stomach. She feels like snapping at people, at the inane things girls talk about in the bathroom that Caroline herself used to jump at the chance to talk about, too.

It bothers her, most days, the fact that she isn’t the same person anymore, not at all, and yet everyone thinks she is. Everyone sees her as Caroline, headstrong and committed to the town and to school, to going far in life and beating everyone else out (with a smile) in the process. That’s not her anymore -- or, it is, in some ways intensified, in some ways not -- she still
wants
to be good, the best, and she still wants to organize and lead and get perfect grades, stemmed from a desire to impress her mother so many years ago and now just some sort of ingrained habit.

(Sometimes Caroline wonders about the rest of her life, about what sort of new habits she’ll make with all the time stretched out in front of her, or what habits she’ll leave behind.

She wonders too much about the future, more than she did before when the future was just about going to a good school, getting a good career, starting a family. Things that she won’t be able to do, not really -- she’ll have years to go to school, but not in the same way, but a family? That’s something she can’t have, not really. Stefan and Damon have the closest thing to real family together, and that’s a pretty miserable example.)

Except beyond all of that, Caroline greets each day with a little bit of excitement. She knows she’ll notice something new about the day, about the sounds and sights and people she’ll meet and people she’ll have to resist, in many different ways.

The stretch of the future spread out in front of her is daunting, long and large if she can survive through it -- though she’s confident she can. She has herself, and she has protection from a lot of people, even Bonnie if it ever came to her life, Caroline is sure of it. She might even have Tyler, maybe Matt, maybe everyone at once.

She can protect them, too, now, for the future. Everyone she loves, everyone close to her, in ways she never could have before, never really a maternal or protective sort of person. Now she has reasons to protect, people to take care of because she can. She’s learning now more than ever how to be herself, to take and give and resist and sometimes do all three at once in ways she never knew was possible, nothing learned from her mother in any capacity except maybe her stubbornness.

Caroline worries everyday, she gets stressed out and she freaks out and she hates herself, maybe a little, but not as much as she loves what she’s been given. Freedom beyond any sort of definition of the word, responsibilities she can thrive on, learning more about herself and the world every day, and everything is just as awesome as it is scary and -- Caroline is okay with that.