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just like the rain

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The rainwater drips through the cracks in the ceiling
And I’ll have to spend my time on repair
And just like the rain I’ll be always falling, yeah
Only to rise and fall again

.

She’s so irritated with this guy who’s taking away the champagne that she almost forgets why she’s been chugging it in the first place, but then the van drives off and a disheveled Liam Booker appears, and now her blood is boiling again.

They stare at each other long and hard, and he’s wobbling on his feet just enough for Amy to guess she’s not the only one who’s been driving up their BAC all night, and she’d laugh at the parallel if she weren’t so fucking mad.

She opens her mouth and stumbles forward a step, but then there’s a hand on her elbow.

“Don’t you fucking dare,” Lauren snaps under her breath as she pulls her back to the tent, keeping to the outskirts of the enclosure so they’re out of Farrah and Bruce’s way, but Amy stumbles over her high heels and knocks over a champagne glass and suddenly their parents’ eyes are on them.

“I’ll get someone to clean that up,” Lauren calls out, throwing Amy a look.

Farrah is eyeing Amy carefully. “Girls? Is everything okay?”

Amy barks out a laugh and earns a stern nudge from Lauren, but she just rolls her eyes. “Everything’s great.”

“You two just go back to being husband and wife,” Lauren says sweetly. “Let’s go,” she hisses to Amy.

“Alright, fine,” she grumbles, “Just let me take these fucking heels off.” She clutches Lauren’s shoulder for support as she yanks at each strap, but her movements are clumsy and Farrah crosses her arms over her chest.

“Amy, are you drunk?”

She ignores Farrah in favor of finally kicking off her shoes, and one of them goes flying under a table. “Sure hope Karma isn’t in there,” Amy mutters, “Wouldn’t wanna interrupt anything.”

“You know what, we’ll come back for those,” Lauren announces. “I’m just going to bring her upstairs, Farrah. Don’t you worry about a thing.”

“Wait, Mom, I have a question,” Amy slurs even as Lauren drags her toward the house. “Karma and I broke up, so am I still grounded?”

Farrah and Bruce exchange glances.

“I just wasn’t sure if you were punishing me for dancing with her or for being a lesbian, y’know? Sometimes it’s kind of hard to tell with you.”

“Amy, let’s go—”

She shrugs out of Lauren’s grip and her voice rises. “You really shouldn’t punish me for either of those, because you know what? She and I were never even dating. We were just—well, she was—I…” Amy pauses as her throat thickens, and she can’t really see her mom anymore because there are tears in the way. “I just feel all this shit, and she doesn’t—” She sniffs and wipes her nose with the back of her hand, and when Lauren gently takes her other one, she lets herself be pulled away.

They make it up the stairs and to Amy’s bedroom, but Lauren keeps walking until they reach the bathroom and closes the door behind them.

Amy catches her reflection in the mirror—hair tangled and falling out of its arrangement, and a gross blend of tears and mascara running down her cheeks—and rolls her eyes. “Why are we in here?” she manages.

“Mostly because when you throw up you’ll want a toilet nearby. But also because I think we both need neutral territory right now.”

Amy wonders what she means by that, but then thinks about curling up in her bed and seeing the framed photo of her and Karma on her nightstand, and she leans back against the wall and sinks to the floor. She brings her knees to her chest, pushes her hair out of her face with both hands, and takes a deep breath. “I shouldn’t have told her,” she whispers thickly.

“That’s a load of crap,” Lauren replies as she fixes her hair in the mirror.

“No, it’s—” She swallows a sob. “She’s never gonna look at me the same. I’ve been lying to her this whole time, and she’s—this is so fucked up,” Amy chokes out as she takes a shuddering breath and more tears fall.

A few moments later there’s an irritated sigh and Lauren lowers herself to the patch of floor next to Amy and hands her a tissue. Amy takes it and wipes her cheeks, then squeezes the tissue as hard as she can and opens her palm, letting it fall to the floor. “Thank you,” she mumbles.

“Whatever.”

She sniffs again and stares at a pinprick of red on her knee where she cut herself shaving this morning. “So, first you got me a piece of not-poisoned cake, and now you’re babysitting. Why are you being so nice to me?”

Laurens shrugs. “Like I said earlier. Getting dumped sucks.”

“I told you, it’s not even a real breakup. We’re just not faking it anymore.”

“You’re drunk and bawling your eyes out on the bathroom floor because things crashed and burned with someone you love.” Lauren is carefully examining her fingernails. “That’s a breakup.”

Amy tilts her head back against the wall and stares up at the ceiling for a long moment while Lauren’s words spin around in her head, then she snaps back to attention when something suddenly occurs to her. “Where’s my phone?” she asks, glancing around like it will somehow materialize within arm’s reach. “I need… I need my phone.”

“If you think I’m going to let you drunk-dial Karma, you are out of your f—”

“Not Karma,” she says, shaking her head, “Jasmine,” and she finally pulls her phone out from between her boobs.

Lauren is staring at her. “Who the hell is Jasmine? And why was your phone in your boobs?”

“She’s from SYZZR. And she has a Vespa. And I kissed her, which was really stupid, but then we talked and she said to call her, and I need to call her.” Amy brings the phone to her ear. “And I hate carrying a purse.”

As the other line rings she thinks about the last time she said that, about slashing the news van’s tires and how quickly her mom’s smile vanished and how proud Karma was that she’d told the “truth”…

She doesn’t realize she’s crying again until Lauren takes the phone out of her hand and brings it to her own ear. “Jasmine? This is Lauren Cooper speaking for Amy. We have a situation.” Pause. “Yes, that kind of situation.” Pause. “Could be better.” Pause. “Look, if you think I’m the Twenty Questions type—”

The corner of Amy’s mouth twitches into a small, wobbly smile that then splinters and she lets out another string of sobs, and she’s vaguely aware of Lauren staring at her in mild horror.

“Whatever species of lesbian you identify as, you are way more equipped to handle this than I am, and I need backup now,” she all but growls into the phone, and when she speaks again, her tone is far more pleasant. “I’m glad we have an understanding.” Lauren sets the phone face down on the floor. “She’s on her way,” she announces matter-of-factly, as if Amy’s face isn’t in the middle of its best Niagra Falls impression, and folds her hands neatly in her lap.

As the stretch of silence gets longer and longer, there’s a voice in her head that’s getting louder, until all she can hear are the last words she’d ever wanted to come out of Karma’s mouth.

You’re just confused.

Just not like that.

I slept with Liam.

“You did the right thing, you know,” Lauren says quietly just as Amy’s chest starts to explode. “I know it didn’t work out the way you wanted, but you still did the right thing.”

Amy’s bottom lip is wobbling and she shakes her head. “Then why does everything hurt so much?” she croaks.

“Because people suck, and you deserve better.”

“But she’s—” Amy swallows thickly. “She’s my best friend, I can’t—”

“Yes, you can.”

Amy is crying again and abruptly decides she doesn’t have the energy to sit upright anymore; she shifts to lean against Lauren, but she’s still dizzy from the champagne and ends up falling into her lap instead. “M’sorry,” she mumbles when she feels Lauren stiffen, “I was aiming for your shoulder.”

Lauren takes a deep breath and lets it out in a huff. “Whatever. What’s done is done. But if you get any mascara on my dress, I’ll kill you.”

“I think I cried most of it off already, so.”

A few moments later she feels two brief taps on her shoulder, but when she cranes her head to look up, Lauren just arches an eyebrow at her.

What?” she demands, almost defensively, and Amy wonders if those taps were intended to be comforting pats.

“Nothing,” Amy mutters, and finds herself trying to blink away her tears so she can study the glossy teal nail polish on Lauren’s toes.

Her phone begins to buzz against the floor a few feet away and she feels Lauren lean over to grab it.

“It’s about freaking time,” she snaps. “Front door’s open. Upstairs bathroom.” Lauren puts the phone back on the floor and looks expectantly toward the doorway. “Your SYZZR sister just arrived.”

“Oh no,” Amy groans, “I probably look like shit.” She looks up at Lauren again. “Do I look like shit?”

Lauren smiles sweetly. “You don’t want me to answer that,” she says, and then her eyes snap to the door. “You’re here! Thank God.”

“Man, you didn’t tell me she was horizontal.”

“That’s a more recent development.”

Amy shifts a little so she can look up at Jasmine, who’s already got a half-sympathetic, half-amused expression aimed at her.

“How you holding up?”

She shrugs. “Everything sucks.”

“So that’s where we’re at, huh?” Jasmine replies as she perches herself on the edge of the counter.

“Aren’t you going to help me with this?” Lauren asks, gesturing at Amy.

Amy aims a weak pout at Lauren’s feet. “I’m right here,” she grumbles.

Jasmine shrugs. “Looks like you’ve got it all under control, to me.”

Amy hears the back of Lauren’s head hit the wall with a dull thud. “You can’t be serious.”

“Y’know, if you’re just gonna bitch about it…” Amy says, pushing herself out of Lauren’s lap until she’s relatively upright, but she overdoes it and almost slumps over in the other direction.

Jasmine arches an eyebrow and glances at Lauren. “On a scale of Pope Francis to Caroline from Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, how smashed—?”

“Somewhere around Jack Sparrow, I believe.”

She nods, chewing the inside of her cheek, and then her eyes shift over to Amy’s. “So what happened, dude?”

Amy lets out a soft laugh and wets her lips. “Exactly what we all knew was gonna happen. I told Karma how I feel, and it ruined everything.”

“Okay, it is not your fault that she was too dense to notice you ogling her every ten seconds,” Lauren interjects.

“Just because she didn’t figure it out on her own doesn’t mean it’s okay that I lied to her.”

Jasmine shakes her head. “There’s a huge difference between self-preservation and being an asshole. You’re allowed to want to protect your heart.”

Amy’s bottom lip is wobbling again and she clenches her jaw, then swipes at her nose. “Yeah, and I did a real good job of that,” she deadpans. “I fucked us both over.”

“Alright,” Jasmine replies, slipping off the counter and holding out her hands, “Get up.”

Amy rolls her eyes and crosses her arms. “Fuck off.”

Now Lauren picks herself up off the floor and mirrors Jasmine’s position. “Now,” she snaps, giving Amy a look; Amy huffs and lifts her arms and lets them pull her back to her feet, but the sudden movement makes her stomach lurch and she barely makes it to the toilet in time to puke up what vaguely resembles the wedding cake from earlier.

“I’d say I told you so,” Lauren says, “but that would probably make me a bitch.”

Amy sucks in a ragged breath and manages a “Probably,” and after another heave, she collapses against the bowl. “I never drink,” she pants.

“There’s a first time for everything,” Jasmine replies, her tone sarcastic but gentle.

The words echo around in her skull for a long moment before Amy realizes there’s a lump in her throat that has nothing to do with regurgitated desserts.

I slept with Liam, Karma’s voice tells her again; Karma slept with Liam even though Amy had given her that impassioned speech at homecoming about first times being special, being with someone you love, and even though those words had stopped Karma from losing her virginity in the backseat of Liam’s car, and even though Karma had told Amy that she stopped sneaking around with him ages ago.

“Okay, I know I said I wasn’t good at this shit, but friends do not let friends cry into toilet bowls.”

Amy feels a hand on her left elbow, then on her other one, and then her arms are hooked around two different sets of shoulders and she’s being lifted to her feet again. “Wait,” she says, glancing at Lauren as she and Jasmine start to ease her toward the door, “we’re friends?”

Lauren blows a few strands of hair out of her face. “We are not having a moment right now, Raudenfeld,” she growls, then cranes her head to look at Jasmine. “Actually, we should take her to my room. Less… triggers.”

“Aye aye, captain,” Jasmine replies, and together they turn around and head in the opposite direction.

Several moments later Amy is deposited onto Lauren’s bed, and she glances down at her hips before staring up at the ceiling. “I’m gonna wrinkle my dress,” she mumbles.

Lauren rolls her eyes. “I’ll get you some new clothes.”

“Really?” Amy asks, legitimately surprised that Lauren is volunteering to go into her room, let alone sift through her closet.

“We might be fresh out of any croquembouches for you to obliterate, but you actually look really nice in that dress, and I’ll be damned if I let you find a way to ruin it on my watch.”

She vanishes from the room and Jasmine stares after her for a long moment before shaking her head with a small smile.

Amy curls up on her side now, facing Jasmine. “What?”

“Ah, nothing.” Jasmine takes a seat near Amy’s head and starts to gently rub her back. “Just… I dunno. It’s too bad she’s your stepsister.”

Amy frowns at the comforter. “What d’you mean?”

“Nothing,” she says with a soft chuckle, “Nothing at all.”

“Do you, um—” Amy nibbles her lip for a beat. “Do you think I did the right thing? Telling Karma how I feel?”

There’s a small sigh. “I think you stumbled into a really shitty, unfair, impossible situation, and that honesty was the only real option you had left. How does that one Fray song go? ‘Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same’?”

“They also have one that goes ‘Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend somewhere along in the bitterness.’”

“Alright, look. If you need to make yourself a sad playlist and wallow for a few days, that’s fine. But this is an opportunity for you, dude. Use this breathing room to meet new people—y’know, maybe some actual queer girls,” Jasmine says, squeezing her shoulder playfully. “Invest in someone who isn’t so wrapped up in their own shit that they can’t see when you’re hurting.”

“I hope you appreciate how excruciating it is for someone like me to sort through a wardrobe like yours,” Lauren mutters as she returns with a handful of clothes, which she promptly tosses at Amy’s face.

Amy glares at her and sits up, swinging her legs over the edge of the bed and finally picking up the shirt. “This is my doughnut shirt,” she says, shooting Lauren a confused glance.

“What’s your point?”

“You hate this shirt.”

Lauren shrugs and crosses her arms over her chest. “Wallowing comes with certain allowances.”

“Thank you,” she says softly, then turns to Jasmine. “Can you unzip me?”

Jasmine reaches for the back zipper of her dress and Lauren immediately turns to the side and holds her palm up to block her view. “You’re changing right here?”

“What’s the big deal?” Jasmine asks, and she already has it all the way down to Amy’s lower back.

“The bathroom is literally ten feet away.”

“Which is about two and a half miles when there’s half a bottle of champagne in your bloodstream. Wallowing comes with certain allowances, right?”

Lauren huffs and fully turns her back to them. “Fine. Take off all your clothes in the middle of my bedroom, see if I care.”

Amy and Jasmine exchange glances.

“I don’t,” Lauren adds.

“Well, you heard her,” Jasmine says to Amy as she rises from the bed. “Up.”

Amy pushes herself upright and lets Jasmine help her shimmy out of her dress, and together they manage to get the shirt over her head and her legs into the sweatpants without any injury. She collapses back onto the bed with a groan. “God, since when is changing clothes so fucking exhausting?”

“Oh good,” Lauren says, turning to face them again, “Are we finally at the part where you pass out?”

A thought suddenly zips through Amy’s head and she sits up a little. “Hey, are you okay, by the way?”

Lauren just stares at her. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“You just broke up with Tommy, but we’ve been dealing with myshit all night. Do you, like, wanna talk about it?”

She crosses her arms again. “No,” she snaps with a shrug, “I’m fine.”

“You sure, dude? There’s plenty of room over here,” Jasmine says, gesturing to the patch of bed next to Amy.

“Wow, thanks for inviting me into my own bed,” Lauren mutters, but walks around to the other side anyways, and Amy scoots over a little to give her more space.

They both look at Lauren expectantly and she holds up her hands. “What do you want from me? He and I have very different priorities.” She shakes her head a little before blurting “I mean, for God’s sake, he was more interested in that stupid cat photo than the one Shane helped me take. I’m sure everyone saw this coming.”

Amy shrugs. “Just because you see it coming doesn’t make it hurt any less,” she says quietly.

“Fuck Karma,” Lauren and Jasmine reply in unison, one a bit more gently than the other; at first a small laugh bubbles from Amy’s throat, but soon she’s spiraling into tears again, and this time the floodgates open wide.

She might be choking out nonsensical swearwords and rhetorical questions, or she might just be hyperventilating into her kneecaps, but soon there’s an arm wrapped around her shoulders and she leans against Jasmine like she has no energy left in her body.

“Eat all the chocolate in your house,” Jasmine whispers in her ear. “Listen to Adele on repeat. Hold a pillow to your mouth and scream until you lose your voice. You’re gonna be okay, you got it?”

Amy manages a few nods and suddenly there’s a hand holding hers, a hand from Lauren’s side of the bed, and for some reason her lungs are calming down now, just a little.

“So, I don’t mean to abandon you in the middle of all this, but I’m supposed to babysit tonight, so I actually have to get going.”

Amy nods again and sits up so Jasmine can get off the bed.

“You’re leaving now?” Lauren asks incredulously. “What am I supposed to—?”

“Looks like you’ve got it all under control, to me,” Jasmine replies with the faintest hint of a smirk, and then glances at Amy one last time. “I’ll call you tomorrow, dude.”

Then she’s out the door, and Amy sighs. “This threesome was so much better than my last one.”

“I think you’re still drunk.”

“Probably,” she says, then lets go of Lauren’s hand and leans over until her head is back in Lauren’s lap.

“My shoulder is right here,” Lauren says with a tone that’s much gentler than her usual scolding. “How could you possibly miss it again?”

Amy’s eyelids droop closed and she lets a few inhales and exhales go by before answering. “I wasn’t aiming for it,” she murmurs.

A long moment later, there are shy fingertips ghosting through her hair. “Farrah shouldn’t have grounded you.” She pauses. “I wouldn’t have grounded you.”

“Nah, you would’ve grounded me for ruining your croquembouche.”

“Damn right, I would have.”

Amy can feel her breathing starting to slow. “You were a really good maid of honor.”

“Jesus fucking Christ, are you ever going to pass out?”

The lump in her throat is a lot smaller now. “You can trust me, y’know,” Amy mumbles. “Whatever those pills are for, I won’t judge you.”

Lauren sighs. “If I do, you probably won’t even remember it in the morning.”

The corner of Amy’s mouth twitches. “You’re still not gonna tell me, are you.”

“Not a fucking chance.”