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selling acid was a bad idea

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sEP__TEMB&R

 

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Nicole’s knee hurt, more than usual. The bum knee had come to gain a kind of psychic prowess, letting her know when something bad was about to happen. It had stung just before Champ and his crew jumped her that one time mid-July and before her flunked World History II quiz a few weeks ago. And of course, earlier tonight.

Fat lot of good it had done her.

It also could have been the concrete. Nicole was sitting on the floor, there were no beds in her cell. She was up against the wall, head tilted backwards, eyes shut. The floor, startlingly cold for September, was so hard and unpleasant it could have been covered in rusted metal spikes and been more comfortable. However, standing would only add to her limp when they let her go.

If they let her go.

Nicole groaned, the pit in her stomach deepening. She was trying to stay cool, trying to remain in control. Who knows what Nedley would say to her? A year ago this would have been unthinkable; now Nicole was surprised they hadn’t got her sooner.

There was some drunk idiot singing in the tank a few cells down. Terrible alto moans forming what she assumed were English words, maybe. Nicole pressed her fingers in her ears, desperate to drown out the sound. The noise still came through. Nicole felt like her head might bust, add it to the list of injuries.

“Sheriff!” She called out, banging her fingers against the bars of the cell. “Could I please get some advil?”

There was no answer. The singing continued.

“Sheriff?” She tried again. “Anybody!”

The singing almost seemed to get louder. Nicole sat back. Nedley wouldn’t have left her here to suffer all night would he? He wasn’t a cruel man, far from it. A flash of panic came over Nicole, visions of her parents and teachers and everybody finding out. The walls seemed to get tighter around her.

“Nedley!” Nicole’s voice choked. She stood slowly and groaned as her knee shook under the pressure. “I’m gonna fucking explode! I need some advil!” She slammed her hands against the metal, the light in the municipal county’s office too bright to keep her eyes open.

“I have some.”

Nicole looked out from her cage and saw the last face she’d want to.

“Waverly Earp.”

Waverly was standing a few feet back from the bars, eyes wide. In her hands was a tiny plastic bottle, the contents rattling.

“I always carry some.” She popped open the childproof protective casing and a few pills slipped out. “Two or three?”

“What?” Nicole was still staring at Waverly’s face, not quite sure if she had ended up dropping a few micrograms earlier.

Waverly sighed, not looking at Nicole.

“Do you take two or three pills? I usually do two.”

“Oh,” Nicole stated, “oh yeah. Um, two.”

Waverly held the advil out in front of her and didn’t move. She locked eyes with Nicole for the first time and a shame ran through the jailed woman.

Fine meetup this was, and Waverly seemed terrified of her.

“It’s not like I have a shiv back here, Waverly.”

She didn’t laugh.

“So what are you doing in the tank then?” Waverly’s eyes narrowed, “Are you drunk? I heard you don’t drink.”

“I don’t drink.” Nicole repeated, telling the truth.

“So why did Nedley bring you in?” Waverly folded her arms, a strange look on her face. Nicole shuddered, this was the longest conversation they’d ever had. Not for lack of trying. She mainly knew Waverly as Champ’s girlfriend. She’d met at her parties and been nice, nice enough. Nicole tried to be nice to everyone, especially back then. She got the feeling Champ liked her, he kept bringing Nicole around for parties.

Nicole remembered very clearly the first night she ever saw Waverly about a year and a half ago, wearing the tiniest dress and the sweetest smile. It was Oscar’s place, the first party of the year, everyone was trashed. Nicole was sober, but on seeing Waverly Earp, she felt like she could have been sick right away. It was that kind of unrequited crush, one that was so far gone Nicole could barely stand to look at Waverly and Champ together anymore. Especially now that Champ’s tune had gotten so sour.

Her knee was killing her.

“Could I just have the advil, Waverly?” Nicole asked.

“If you talk, I’ll get you some water to wash it down with.” Waverly was smart and bargained well, Nicole knew that. With her sister, it never hurt to be whip-smart at an auction. “What’s Nicole Haught doing in jail?”

Nicole couldn’t help but feel her heart speed up at Waverly remembering her name.

“Is that a promise about the water?”

Waverly cracked a smile for the first time that night.

“Pinky swear.”

“Alright.” Nicole’s voice was raspy. “Alright.”

 

 

Waverly got her a water and some crackers from the break room. The voice in the other cell had gone silent.

“I’m glad she’s sleeping.” Waverly muttered, handing the goods through the bars.

“Who?” Nicole asked.

Waverly gestured and rolled her eyes. “Wynonna.” She shrugged. “They called me into collect but nobody’s here.”

“That was Wynonna singing?” Nicole whistled, “Good lord.”

Waverly laughed, “Try living with that golden voice coming out of the shower every night.”

Nicole processed that information and downed her medicine.

“So she’s living with you again?”

Waverly’s eyes shot back to Nicole’s.

“What do you care?”

Her hands went up, plastic cup still in the right one. “I don’t.”

Waverly gave a curt nod.

“I just- last I heard, she had her own place.”

Waverly sneered, not mean. “Who told you that?”

She blushed, feeling stupid, like she usually did around Waverly. Stupid and awkward and silly and too tall and all the worst things. “I just heard it.”

“Don’t believe everything you hear.” Waverly replied, sing-song. Now Nicole was laughing, and Waverly followed. They trailed off and the station was silent.

“They call you to pick up your drunk sister?” Nicole’s tone was genuine but Waverly bit back anyways, forever defensive.

“She was just a little tipsy, and yes. I have to be responsible for her.”

Nicole cursed silently. Avoid the sister thing, idiot, I thought you knew how to read a room. Waverly must have felt her receding into a more private headspace, so she snapped twice. Nicole swung her eyes back around and they were suddenly very close. Waverly was only inches away from the bars.

“You’re avoiding the subject.” Waverly said, “I should take back my water.”

“All gone.” Nicole opened her mouth wide to prove it, letting out an “ahh” good enough for any dentist.

Waverly chuckled, incredulous. “Yes I believed you, Nicole.”

Nicole wondered silently if there was a way to hang herself without the bedsheet.

“But…” Waverly continued, pushing some hair behind her ears, “I remembered you saying you would explain your appearance tonight in the ol’ Ghost River Municipal County Police Station.” A terrible thought popped into her head. “Oh God, Nicole, did Champ do something again?”

Nicole’s eyes widened, Waverly’s concern was so genuine. After her former jock friends had kicked the shit out of her, she hadn’t heard anything from Waverly. She was only the hospital for a week or so but no Earps came by. She had wondered if Waverly ever even got the news or if it was swallowed up in the blaze of summer. Nicole saw Waverly once after the incident and they’d avoided each other’s eyes. It felt safer that way.

“No.” Nicole didn’t say anything else, so Waverly pressed her.

“Cause if he did, I’ll… he’ll be sorry.” Her threat was lame and they both felt it. Nicole didn’t really want to talk about Champ. Even when they were friends, she barely liked him.

“It was nothing to do with Champ.”

“Good.” Waverly said. She seemed as relieved as Nicole to change the subject. “So what was it then?”

Nicole sighed and slumped back onto the ground. She felt Waverly join her. They weren’t far apart, separated by a row of steel. Nicole didn’t want to lie to Waverly, and besides everyone would know soon enough.

“I was selling… stuff.”

Waverly’s mouth opened but nothing came out.

“Well, I sold acid to a cop.”

“To a cop, Nicole?”

“I didn’t know he was a cop, obviously.” Nicole rushed, pushing her hair out of her eyes. It had grown unruly, she hated how long it was these days. “He didn’t seem like a cop.”

“But you had acid to sell to him?”

Nicole sighed, pausing, pausing. Waverly’s eyes were really deep and dark and lovely.

“Yes.”

Waverly sat back.

“Wow.”

“Yep.”

“Wow.”

“Stop.” Nicole shoved her face into her hands, hiding a slight blush. “My folks are gonna fucking kill me.”

Waverly hadn’t blinked since the mention of the acid. She crept towards the bars, trying to look in Nicole’s eyes. Her hand poked through cage, grabbing onto Nicole’s shirt and pulling her close. Nicole stared back, wide-eyed.

“What are you doing?”

“Are you high right now?”

Nicole’s mouth tightened.

“I only sell it.”

Waverly’s grip loosened and Nicole fell back against the concrete.

“Where do you get it?”

“A couple different places… whatever!” Nicole stood suddenly, forgetting about her knee. She yelped in pain, causing Waverly to rise in concern.

“Nicole?”

She eased off the knee, rubbing the pain out. “Why do you need to know where I get it, Waverly?”

Waverly was still, looking very serious.

“I don’t, I guess.”

Nicole stumbled back and picked up her packet of crackers. She pulled at the wrapper but her hands were trembling like there were crickets running around them. She dropped the crackers, cursing.

“Waverly, I’m sorry, could you…?” Nicole started but Waverly grabbed the fallen package before she could finish. They had peanut butter inside them, a knockoff brand.

“When was the last time you ate?” Waverly asked, tearing open the plastic with her teeth. Her voice became muddied.

Nicole shook her head. Waverly sighed and handed the stale crackers over. Nicole shoved two in her mouth.

“You need protein.” She started, “It’ll help your knee.”

Nicole shot her a look and Waverly stepped back.

“Sorry… Sore subject?” She smiled again and Nicole couldn’t stay mad at all. The smile was worth hearing what a thousand doctors had said about the knee; about supplementing the calories she won’t be burning; about going gluten free; about re-upping for physical therapy. She’d listen to any of that crap if it was coming from Waverly Earp.

“Nothing will help the knee, Waverly.”

“Fair, fair.” She paused for only a moment before sliding back in. “But have you considered yoga?”

“Have you considered letting me finish these crackers in peace?” Nicole joked.

Waverly’s eyes narrowed and she stood, grabbing her purse and moving down towards the front desk.“I think I hear someone out front, I have to go sign for my sister.” She called out, as hostile as if they were strangers, no worse than strangers. “Enjoy your crackers, Nicole!”

A streak of pain hit the knee again.

“Waverly!” Nicole hit the bars. “Fuck! Waverly, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to-”

The doors to the cell hall slammed.

“Fuck!” Nicole kicked the wall, smartly, with her good leg. “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”

Wynonna had woken up and started singing again.

“Fuck.” She whispered.

 

--

 

Nicole opened her eyes and Nedley was staring at her. For once her back hurt worse than anywhere else.

“Federal time, kiddo.”

Nicole coughed, her throat ragged. She reached for the plastic cup Waverly had brought her but it was empty.

“Did you hear what I said, Haught?” Nedley leaned in, a strange kind of anger painted on his face. “You could do federal time for this.”

“Sheriff, I...” Nicole wheezed.

“If this wasn’t your first offense and,” He sighed, “if I didn’t know you to be a good kid, I would have no choice but to charge you.” Nedley held up the tabs Nicole had received less than a week ago, they were a little discolored, a shitty looking batch. “LSD is a schedule one drug, you know that?”

Nicole nodded.

“Did you call my parents?”

Nedley held her gaze, his mustache bristling.

“Of course I called your parents, Haught.”

Nicole leaned her head back.

“Fuck.”

“Watch it.” Nedley stood, groaning as he rose. “You better watch it from now on, Haught. Graduation is only nine months away. Are you really gonna screw yourself over like this?”

Nicole didn’t respond, her fingers rubbing sleep out of her eyes.

“You should get to class.”

Nicole stood slowly.

“I didn’t get any sleep last night on the floor, I wanna go home. I wanna sleep.”

Nedley laughed sadly. “I think school’ll be easier to deal with right now, your folks sounded pretty heartbroken this morning.”

Nicole scratched at her face.

“You know, Sheriff, you’re probably right.”

 

 

At school, there was Waverly who, at eighteen years old and a hundred and ten pounds, swarmed Nicole the first chance she got. This happened to be in the eight-stall girl’s bathroom on the second floor of Purgatory High.  

“You really sold acid to a cop last night, huh?

Nicole sighed. “Yes, Waverly, I really did.”

Waverly watched her, very careful.

“I don’t believe you.” She stated, proud.

Nicole was too tired to even offer a response.

“See, I know you have this whole different image going for you now, like,” She paused, “disgraced former jock type thing, but listen, I know Nicole Haught. And I know she would never be caught dead with a pinch of someone’s leftover weed, much less selling, much less selling acid.”

Nicole swallowed and turned into her sink. The water was freezing which was exactly what she needed.

“I am not asking you to believe me.”

Waverly wrinkled her nose, very sweetly.

“Good, because I don’t.”

“Fine.”

“Great! We’re on the same page then, huh?” Waverly exclaimed. She was picture perfect, made up and wearing something gorgeous and Nicole’s mind wandered to the flaming mess she must appear to be. She dared not look in the mirror, looming like a ghost a few inches away.

“Guess so.”

Waverly looked triumphant.

“But…” Nicole turned, not caring about the dark circles, “If you ask Milo Puente where he gets his stuff from, you might be surprised by his answer.”

Waverly’s resolve weakened ever so slightly.

“Milo Puente? You sell to Milo Puente?”

Nicole smiled.

“Guess we’re not on the same page after all.”

Waverly’s mouth shut tight, a frown decorating her frosted lips. Nicole took a step forward, her own lips chapped.

“And Waverly, you do not know a goddamn thing about me.”

And with that, Nicole walked out of the bathroom feeling better for having beaten the smartest girl in her grade, and much worse for that girl having been Waverly Earp.

Waverly herself couldn’t do much else but stand still, listening to the automatic faucet continue to run and run and run.

 

 

Later, Waverly couldn’t stop looking at Nicole Haught. And Nicole couldn’t stop looking back.

At lunch, their eyes seemed to connect near constantly. Waverly would flutter her gaze away, back to the book in front of her or the creamed corn she was pushing around or Champ’s fingers playing with her braid.

Then a few minutes later, she would check and of course, Nicole was watching. And the game started again.

As if running into her on the Wynonna rescue mission last night wasn’t bad enough, now they seemed to be on an interception course. They saw each other between every period, not to mention all the classes they apparently shared. After the incident in July, she must have blacklisted Nicole in her mind, shutting out that guilt so easy. Now the floodgates were damn wide open.

“Stop. You’re in this class?” Waverly asked as Nicole stepped into ENG 407.

Nicole, a walking corpse, only nodded.

Waverly frowned, she wasn’t obtuse or oblivious. She had known Nicole for a little while last year when she was still the breakout star of the basketball team. A transfer sweeping in and nearly single-handedly leading Purg High to its first championship win in decades, it made big papers, national papers. There were interviews and broadcasters and important recruiters swarming a town without a Starbucks to its name. Champ liked her, even if he was a bit jealous, and she came to parties and didn’t drink and was very nice to Waverly. Extremely nice. She complemented her outfits and stuff. Very nice.

Sure they’d never talked-talked, but Waverly had always liked Nicole, even after things fell apart.

Even after she tore her ACL, even after the scholarships vanished and she stopped coming to parties. Waverly liked Nicole even when Champ and his roving band of idiots had turned on her, even after they beat her up a little one night. She was sweet and pretty and maybe a little mysterious. Maybe a little interesting.

Maybe a little sexy.

Waverly pulled her hair up, it was a cool damp end of September, the humidity turning her head to frizz. She swallowed.

Nicole moved away from her but Waverly gestured, she mouthed something like ‘come here’.

She shook her head and took a seat in the back, a typical choice so Waverly was learning. She grit her teeth and picked up her binder.

Nicole was shaken awake as Waverly plopped down next to her.

“I think we need a redo.” Waverly said, extending her hand. “I’m Waverly Earp.”

“I know who you are, Waverly…” Nicole felt her heart begin to pound. This was more than she could handle in one day. “Why are you-?”

“No.” Waverly groaned and hit Nicole softly with her copy of Slaughterhouse-Five. “No, now you say: And I’m Nicole Haught.”

She stared at her until Waverly signaled something with her hands and Nicole stammered into a half-baked roleplay.

“And I’m Nicole Haught.” She felt ridiculous.

Waverly grinned. One thousand watts.

“See, we’re getting somewhere with you.”

Nicole shook her head, smiling nervously.

“Where exactly are we getting?”

Waverly tilted her head, looking around before leaning in.

“Look, I asked Milo Puente about… what you said.” Waverly paused, bringing her tone further down. “You’ve been doing this all summer.”

“Yeah.”

“Well!” Waverly’s voice cracked, “It’s a shitty way to make money.”

Nicole rolled her eyes, “Don’t go all D.A.R.E. on me, Earp.”

“Don’t go all snarky sassafrass on me then, Haught” Waverly hit back, dead serious.

Nicole stifled a laugh, which Waverly easily caught.

“I’m being serious, Nicole, do you know what this could do to your college chances?”

What college chances, Waverly?”

Waverly opened her mouth but was silenced by the bell, the English teacher entering just behind it, late from lunch.

Waverly turned her focus outwards and they didn’t talk for the rest of class. Nicole caught her eye a few times and fiddled with her mechanical pencil, but the back row was quiet. After they parted ways, Waverly didn’t see Nicole for the rest of the day.

Later that night, alone in her room, she found a note scrawled in the corner of her English binder.

‘I am a basketball player who cannot play basketball.’

And that was it.  

 

 

Nicole made it home and of course, her parents were there, tear soaked.

“We just want to know what we can do!” Her mom pleaded.

Nicole was twisting a strand of hair around and around, ceaselessly.

“Nicole.” Her dad sounded tired.

She didn’t say anything.

 

--

 

Nicole wasn’t in class the next day, Waverly realized it right away, her eyes now open. The rumors spread so fast she knew the full story by second period. Three week suspension; full schoolwork responsibilities; someone needed to bring her notes.

Waverly’s hand went up uncomfortably fast.

“We share most of our classes.” She said coolly, not giving anything away.

She left school with double the paper-load and tried to remember which house was Nicole’s.

 

 

The doorbell was broken and there was an apology note telling her to knock, which she did.

“Hello?” Waverly called. “Nicole?”

Nicole didn’t answer, but the door wasn’t locked. Waverly was always one to mind her manners however she hadn’t been able to get Nicole off her mind all day. She couldn’t miss her.

She eased through the front door, closing it softly. She called out once more but nobody answered. Waverly didn’t remember seeing any cars in the driveway either.

It couldn’t really hurt, she figured, to take a quick look around. Some of this stuff was pretty important to the central lesson plan anyways. Waverly checked in the small kitchen and the living room and even tiptoed through what looked like an office space, maybe for her mom or something.

It was a small house, smaller than Gus’.

Waverly turned her gaze to the stairs and walked up, letting her boots sink into the carpeting. There were several rooms, only one had the light on. She marched, determined to hand over this load of crap.

She walked through the door and had a heart attack.

Waverly had found Nicole.

Very asleep and extremely naked.

“Fuck.” She whispered, dashing back outside the doorway and pressing her shaking frame against the opposing wall, well hidden from view. She shut her eyes and tried not to think back on everything Nicole had left lying outside the covers.

This is a friend of yours, her brain screamed, you are being a pervert.

Waverly placed a hand on the doorway and knocked softly.

“Nicole.” She said, “Nicole, it’s Waverly.”

She heard movement, followed by a quick grunt and a crash, what sounded like Nicole falling to the ground.

“Waverly?” Nicole’s voice came through after a terrible silence. “What the fuck.”

“I... uh… I have your homework?” She said, still cowering behind the door.  

There was another pause and then some shuffling.

“Give me a minute.”

Waverly could hear her blush through the drywall.

 

 

“Some people would ring the doorbell.”

“Your doorbell is broken.” Waverly smiled, setting the second round of missed work down on Nicole’s desk. It was covered up by trophies, medals, and other various sporting accoutrements. There was an even a cute photo of Nicole with a ball, smiling while girls played just behind her. She must have been eleven.

“This is adorable.” Waverly picked up the frame.

“Before my growth spurt.” Nicole was now wearing a loose sweater and jeans. Waverly was avoiding eye contact at all costs, desperate to stop the flashbacks that were having a greater effect on her than she’d care to admit. “I was terrible.”

“Liar.” Waverly said, knowingly.

Nicole rolled her eyes as Waverly brought the last binder out of her bag.

“That’s a lot for one day.” Nicole eyed the massive stack of papers in front of her.

“We’re coming up on midterms, you’ll still have to take them.” Waverly instructed, sounding like her mother. Nicole put her head in her hands and groaned loudly. “Really, that’s a bit melodramatic.”

“I am so fucked.”

Waverly looked at her, a lie forming.

“OH!” She shouted. “And they told me to… tutor you! You know, to keep you in the loop and everything. I’m supposed to come over after school’s out and fill you in. You know, standard stuff.” She laughed strangely.

Nicole raised her head, staring.

“They want you to tutor me? During my suspension?”

Waverly nodded rapidfire.

“Is that so weird?”

Nicole coughed and shook her head.

“Not weird at all.”

 

--

 

Waverly arrived the next day and Nicole was waiting for her in the kitchen, fully clothed.

“It’s good to know when people are coming over.”

Waverly’s eye twitched. “I’m sure.”

Nicole slid a sandwich cut into triangles towards her, peanut butter.

“Um, thanks.” She paused, “For the crackers and everything the other night.”

Waverly smiled and picked up a corner.

“Hey, anything to score some free electric Koolaid whenever I need it, right?” She bit into the sandwich and Nicole burst out laughing. Waverly couldn’t help but join her, mouth glued shut with the monstrous amounts of peanut butter Nicole Haught had smeared onto this sandwich.

“I have more stuff for you.” Waverly managed to swallow. “We should look at it.”

Nicole took a breath and relented.

“Okay.”

It was the history shit that really tripped her up, fortunately that area also happened to be Waverly’s specialty as she glibly let Nicole know.

“Oooh come on, I love the Heian period. This’ll be nothing.” Waverly went digging through her bag and came up with some dusty tome that made Nicole sneeze just looking at it. “I found some supplementary reading at the library last week. Art, culture, massive orgies. Good stuff.”

“Jesus.”

“Wipe that look off your face.”

Nicole blushed and Waverly grinned at her affect.

Yeah.

So as stated before, she wasn’t blind or anything. Waverly could feel the way Nicole looked at her just as easy as with any random guy. She wasn’t sure if Nicole thought her attraction was well hidden but it wasn’t, not even to Champ who had commented on the tension multiple times after their falling out. Waverly remembered things like ‘at least that bitch won’t be hitting on my girlfriend anymore’ being thrown around, which she took issue with. Nicole had never been anything but respectful when they had spoken, which was barely. Unlike so many of Champ's friends. 

Still, Waverly knew her body, she knew where people looked and Nicole was always looking. She had set the initial rush it gave her aside, brushing it off to hormonal stuff. Until it became recurring. And now it was constant.

Waverly wasn’t attracted to Nicole persay, that wasn’t the right word.

Nicole let out a little frustrated groan, her eyebrows creasing in confusion. Without thinking, she started chewing on the eraser nub of her pencil.

Waverly swallowed, choking out a visual.

Okay, maybe she was a little bit attracted to Nicole, but she was attractive. The time off the court hadn’t let her body go to waste, even if she did look skinnier than when she had moved to Purgatory little over a year ago. Her eyes were darker but they could still catch fire.

“What is it?”

“These fucking dates.”

Waverly smiled softly.

“Hey, hey,” she reached out her hand to touch Nicole’s, bringing the pencil to a stop, “dates are less important than the bigger stuff. It’s not: who did what when. It’s broader than that. History is like, why do people do anything at all, you know? Where did we come from and where are we going? All of these Japanese people from like a thousand years ago can tell us something about right here, right now. You and me.” Nicole stared at her and Waverly suddenly felt embarrassed, pulling her hand away. She was blushing. “Sorry, that was dumb.”

“No, it was…” Nicole searched for a word. “It was really cool.”

Waverly laughed.

“It definitely was not.”

Nicole smiled back.

They worked and Nicole started to get it and then really got it. Waverly couldn’t help but feel little blips of pride, she knew Nicole wasn’t dumb. It’s almost like she was playing at it, lowering people’s expectations.

“Do you wanna take a break?” Waverly asked, setting her own ballpoint aside. “I could kill for some fresh air.”

Nicole nodded but then shook her head.

“We should just finish up.”

“Oh,” Waverly stilled, “okay.”

 

--

 

“I don’t really get her.” Waverly said through a mouthful of apple. “Sometimes I feel like she’s opening up and being really friendly, like last year and then: bang! I hit a wall.”

Chrissy laughed, “She’s broken pretty bad, hun. It’s not like she was ever an open book.”

“Yeah,” Waverly admitted, “I guess not.”

“Hey,” Chrissy lowered her voice, “has she talked about… that shit that went over with Champ?”

Waverly took another bite and looked at where Nicole would be sitting, alone.

“Not really.” Waverly said. “Not at all.”

 

--

 

Nicole was still waking up at eight, unable to break that habit. Her parents seemed more exhausted than usual in the mornings so she stayed in her room until she heard both cars leave. They worked in the city, not many business opportunities in a town like Purgatory.

She had a hundred unread messages from people on either end of supply and demand, everyone wanted to know what the cops had said, or if she was cut off, or that they were cutting her off, or that they needed her more than ever. Nicole felt exhausted.

Her side business, which had been going so damn well up until that night, had already paid for a new bike and a few spare meals here and there. Most of it went into savings where she was hoping to accrue enough to start renting a place after graduation. She felt like more of a burden every minute she was under this half-assed house arrest.

Waverly was coming over earlier than usual, her last few periods had been canceled because of a flu going around town. Both teachers were out.

Waverly.

Nicole didn’t know what to make of her continued appearances. Ever since their reunion at the station, her presence seemed unavoidable. What was admiration from afar was becoming up close obsession. Not to mention her knee was killing her, it had been since she’d arrived home more than three days ago.

Waverly was kind, kinder than Nicole had even known. Something about that terrified her. She remembered people who were kind before her injury and who then had acted like she’d personally wronged them, like she’d chosen this.

“I brought froyo.” Waverly showed up several hours later and handed her a shovel-shaped spoon. “I wasn’t sure what flavors so I just went with choco/vanilla swirl, I figured, who doesn’t like choco/vanilla swirl right?”

Nicole smiled, keeping to herself that fact that she wasn’t crazy about choco/vanilla swirl.

“Thanks, thank you.”

“No problem!” Waverly slung her backpack around, landing on the countertop with a thud. “I got lots of cool stuff for today, especially from advanced calc. I honestly think she’s just messing with us at this point.”

“I called the school this morning.” Nicole said, interrupting.

Waverly paused, blinking three times.

“Oh?”

“They didn’t know anything about the tutoring.”

Waverly faltered. “Oh.”

Nicole took a deep breath.

“Nicole, I-”

“Waverly, what do you want from me?”

Waverly seemed hurt, drawing back.

“Want? What does that mean? I don’t want anything from you.” She pushed away from the counter, pacing towards the fridge with the froyo cup in her hand. “You’re the one who wants something.”

“Excuse me?” Nicole slipped into defense. “You’re the one who keeps coming to my house.”

Waverly grit her teeth. “I didn’t realize how much you hated the sessions.”

“I don’t hate them.” Nicole sighed. “I just… I don’t get it, Earp. I really don’t.”

“What?” Waverly asked, bewildered.

“So we went to a couple parties last year, you got drunk a few times.” Nicole felt a pressure building. “Fine, that was fun. We barely knew each other.”

“You never said anything beyond, ‘hello’.” Waverly interjected, her arms crossed.

“Whatever, so I was nervous.” Nicole said, “I was the new kid. You all were intimidating.”

“We all liked you, Champ liked you.”

“Yeah.” Nicole smirked. “I’m sure he did, but a couple months later, he’s the one breaking my ribs, he’s the one shit-talking me to your friends.” Nicole paused, “And you’re the one acting like none of it even happened.”

Waverly’s face burned.

“And all of sudden, you wanna be friends? Why?” Nicole demanded.

She didn’t say anything, the frozen yogurt was melting into Waverly’s hands.

“Am I some project? Are you gonna help save me?” She laughed, “The poor lowly drug dealer?”

Waverly opened her mouth but Nicole wouldn’t let her.

“Is this easing some guilt for you? For letting all that happen? I hope it isn’t working. I really hope you still feel like shit about it.”

Waverly smashed the cup into her face, bleeding chocolate and vanilla all down her shirt.

“Fuck. You.”

Waverly grabbed her bag and stormed out, the door slamming louder than Nicole had ever heard it before. She wiped syrup from her eyes, fighting the desperate urge to run after her. Trying to ignore that relief and that sorrow all mixed in with yogurt.

Nice going, Haughtshit, happy now?

“Still on the same page, huh.” She muttered.

 

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