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The Calming Neon Lights In Our Dark Stormy Skies

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The tenth grade girls are all at Pizza Hut, their favorite hangout spot from seventh grade until the end of time. It's the first year the most popular group of friends at Martin Van Buren High aren't so talkative. One could even say they've drifted apart, but on this night, something led them all to the same spot and they decided to sit down and have cheeseburgers, fries, and chocolate milkshakes.

"I can't believe it's been a year already," Lorna Morello says somberly, breaking the silence.

Alex Vause bows her head like she always does when she's going to cry. Daya Diaz slurps her drink and Flaca Gonzales takes a huge bite out of her burger. Alex sniffles. "She's still missing. The cops have not found her body."

"The news report said they're ready to give up, basically, and say she's dead...presumably," Daya tells them. "Fucking incompetent assholes."

Flaca swallows her food. "Do you girls think something happened to her that night?"

"We were all at my house. Franny was there watching us. She would've noticed Piper leave," Lorna murmurs.

"No, she was an expert on climbing up and down fire escapes like the one outside your house," Daya counters the brunette Italian.

"She always wanted to scare the shit out of us," Flaca says. "At our last sleepover with the five of us, that worked. She loved to play jokes-"

"It would just be easier to say she was raped and murdered," Alex grumbles. "It doesn't take this long to find a young blonde girl, especially if the reward is fifty thousand dollars."

Lorna sees the pain in her best friend's eyes. "Don't lose hope, hon. Piper's gotta be alive."

"Yeah," Daya agrees.

"Man, I wish I had your optimism," Flaca mumbles.

"So do I," Alex agrees.

"I cannot believe you're still a virgin, Al," Piper says while handing them all red cups of Coke laced with alcohol in them. "All of us have done it, why not you? Oh, I know! It's your endless fantasies about Cate Blanchette, right?"

The girls chuckle awkwardly and Alex looks down at herself shyly. "Haven't found the right person, I guess..."

"Come on, who cares, sex is just sex," Daya tells her.

"I'm shocked that you haven't tried stuff with your mom's boyfriend," Piper answers.

Lorna ignores Piper's comment and scoffs. "Maybe to you, Daya! God, the next guy who fucks me for money is so going down!"

"What, you haven't gotten your revenge yet?" Flaca asks. "If Ian did that to me-"

"You'd curse him, we know, you goth freak," Piper finishes for her. "Lorn, you should do something."

"Mess with his car," Alex suggests, giving Lorna a wink.

"Don't give her any ideas," Piper mutters. "We all know Looney Tunes Lorna is a little crazy."

Lorna glares at the blonde and her mood changes from cheerful to furious. "Don't call me that ever again."

A few seconds later, Piper apologizes and then the group is back to gossiping and giggling like the best friends forever that they are.

"Daya!" Aleida Diaz screams from the kitchen. "That better be you who just came through the door!"

The young Latina sighs. "Yes, Mom, I'm home."

"You were supposed to put Emiliano and Christina to bed a half hour ago! They're in your room, probably flushing Barbies down the toilet or something! Get the fuck in there! We have to go out soon!"

"Sorry, sorry, my bus was late," Daya mumbles. She knows her mother is too busy getting high with her latest man, Cesar, to bother taking care of her baby sister and brother. Aleida uses her pregnancy as an excuse, but she's been like this ever since Daya was born, probably even before that.

"Daya!" Christina squeals excitedly when the fifteen-year-old walks into her bedroom. She wraps her arms around Daya's legs. "Look, I drawed all over 'Miliano! He sleepin'." She giggles and Daya shakes her head at the sight of her brother covered in markers. A tube of lipstick was on the floor and Daya recognizes it as hers. She kneels down next to her sister and wraps her in her arms.

"Sweetie, you know you can't do that to your brother. You gotta help me clean him up. Are you guys hungry? I fed you enough before I left, right?"

The four-year-old shakes her head no. "I want more macaroni and cheese!"

"I used the last of it...I guess Cesar has to get us more food tomorrow. I'm sorry I didn't pick up anything for you."

Christina pouts and sighs sadly. She looks up at Daya with round, curious eyes. "Where you go, sissy?"

"I needed to get myself something to eat. I was starving."

" okay?"

Daya doesn't realize she has tears in her eyes until Christina asks her that question. She'd be lying if she said she was fine. Her living situation definitely isn't the dream. As much as she loves her kid siblings, she wants a mom who knows her inside and out, who would hold her as she cries. Someone who is much older, smarter, and braver than she is. Sometimes, she dreams that Aleida actually gives two fucks about her and then when she wakes up to reality, she bursts out sobbing.

Her friends made her life so much easier, but now that Piper's gone, they'll never have that same closeness again. She remembers when Alex's, Flaca's, and Piper's moms and Lorna's big sister, Franny, would each take a turn lifting her responsibilities off her shoulders and babysit Christina and Emiliano so she could have a night out with the girls. The mothers had also tried to help Aleida get clean, but it was no use. She just enjoys packing heroin and taking it way too much. She'd snapped at them to mind their own damn business, and that was the end of it.

Daya blows out a huge breath and takes out her hoop earrings. "I will be, hopefully soon, baby." She gently wakes up her brother and washes him off in the tub, and then Christina wants to join him. She gives them both a bubble bath and then after drying them off, she changes them into their pajamas and puts brand new diapers on them. Christina gets a Barbie onesie while Emiliano wears blue pants and a red long-sleeved shirt. "Wait here, I'll get you something to eat." She gives them a coloring book and crayons. "Keep it on the paper, not on each other, please."

When she gets into the kitchen, she sees that it's empty. There's a note from either her mom or Cesar. We'll be back whenever, probably morning. Here's a twenty for groceries.

She opens the cabinet and finds nothing, so she tries the refrigerator. "Bingo," she whispers to herself as she pulls out a box of pizza. There's two slices left, so she takes one. She heats it up on the stove and blows on it until it cools down enough as to not burn Christina's little tongue. She plops the piece on a paper plate and brings it to her bedroom.

"Hey, please stop jumping on my bed, that's dangerous. You could fall off. I have some pizza..."

"Yay!" both children shout happily.

"Where Mommy?" Emiliano asks innocently as Daya tears the pizza in half and hands them each a tiny slice.

"She went bye-bye," Daya answers.

After they finish eating, Daya gives them water and then she places them inside their respective cradles, kisses them good night, and then gets into her own bed.

"Love you," Christina calls out.

"Love you," Emiliano echoes his sister.

"I love you too, angels," Daya murmurs while smiling.

Diane Vause comes into her daughter's bedroom on Saturday morning and strokes her raven locks until Alex's eyes flutter open. She blindly reaches for her glasses and accidentally knocks them off her bedside table. "Shit," she groans under her breath. "Mom, can you-"

"I've got them, honey." Diane hands Alex her glasses. "Watch your language, young lady."

Alex rolls her eyes and smirks. "Sorry, Mother, but youtry dropping your glasses like a loser."

"You're not a loser! Remember what I told you a long time ago? You're a winner. You're the coolest girl in the world."


"So, you saw your friends last night, huh?"


"How was that, after a year of being apart?"

Alex rubs her bleary eyes open and puts her glasses on while sitting up in her bed. "Weird, I guess...but it was good to kind of reconnect. Without Piper, it's feels like something's missing. She was the glue that kept us all together."

"You should arrange something with them and just bond."

"It's strange...all of us were friends with Pipes in our own's not the same. I'll see how we do on our first day back at school."

"Why don't we go shopping before I have to work at Friendly's, just you and me? That'll be fun, huh?"

"Ehh..." Alex isn't much of a shopper, except for when it comes to Hot Topic. She loves their band tees and dark blue jeans. Her mother insists that she gets her love of rock from her dad, Lee Burley. He supposedly used to be a musician who threw awesome concerts, but she wonders why he's not famous anymore.

"We'll go to your favorite store!" Diane promises her.

"Okay, then!"

They eat pancakes with eggs on top and then watch a few movies before Diane takes them to Hot Topic. The music is so loud that they can't hear each other.

"I'm going to step out, this is not my kind of place!" Diane shouts. "I'm still gonna keep my eye on you, though, so don't you steal anything!"

"I won't!" Alex knows that her mom isn't worried about her shoplifting. It's more the fact that her best friend vanished and Diane doesn't want the same thing to happen to her daughter.

The tall black-haired girl sifts through the clothes and looks at a few. She grabs some jeans, a dark red shirt with a white skull and crossbones on it, a gray leather jacket, and fishnet stockings.

"Alex Vause in her natural habitat," a Spanish accented voice says behind her. She turns around to face Flaca, who's dressed in a black and white striped shirt, ripped jeans, and gray boots. She has a few blue stripes in her hair. Last night, the stripes were purple. Alex has always admired Flaca's fashion sense, and vice versa.

"So we meet again, it must be fate," Alex answers with a grin. "Nice highlights! They match your lipstick."

"Thanks. I love your makeup," Flaca says.

"Thank you." Alex looks outside and notices Diane talking to Theresa Gonzales. "Your mom doesn't like it in here either?"

Flaca shakes her head no. "Nah. She's gotta find a dress to sew for this lady's wedding, so I can't stay for long. We can catch up for like, five minutes while they chat, though."

"Yeah, it'll help take our minds off..."


"How are Marco and Pedro?"

"I've caught them watching porn twice."

Alex laughs. "They should be friends with Mikey and Cal. I swear, the number of times they've hit on me..."

"I'm sorry," Flaca apologizes.

"No, it's cool...hasn't Mikey tried to get with you before?" Alex doesn't want to mention anyone in Piper's family since it'll just remind her of the blonde. It hurts too much. She has no idea how Flaca can do it.

Flaca nods. "Lorna punched him when he hit on me."

"It happens when you have little brothers who aren't that much younger than you."

"Yep...hey, are you getting all that?"

"Of course, hello!" Alex holds up a red corset. "You should totally wear this for Ian."

Flaca grabs it from her while chuckling and puts it back. "Ay dios mío, Alex, you're dirty! My mom would kill me!"

"I know, dude. I was joking. So...what did you do this summer?"

"My mom sent me to camp like always, but it wasn't boring this time. You know how you make a friend and they live so far away from you and it's like, really depressing, because you'll never see this girl again?"

"Oh, yeah?"

"I met this chick, Maritza Ramos. We roomed together. We got each other's numbers and found out we live near each other and even go to the same school! She's hella nice. She's also into punk like us."

"Awesome! I was thinking...we should totally do band together."

"Oh, yeah, that would be fun!"

"Also, lunch, you and me?"

"I actually planned to eat with Maritza...we got close over the summer...but you can totally join us!"

"Wait, your bunkmate from camp?"

Flaca scoffs. "She's so much more than that. We're like sisters."

"Okay, well...I get it. Did you tell her about...?"

"It's all over the news, so she knows. She comforted me a lot."

"Marisol, vamanos!" Theresa waves Flaca over.

The tall Latina rolls her eyes. "Mama's callin'."

"Well, it was cool seeing you," Alex says as she and Flaca quickly hug each other.

"Yeah, same. Bye!"

Alex pays for her clothes and then walks out of Hot Topic. "Hey, Mom. Funny running into them, huh?"

"Yeah, but they always go here. So do we. It's a coincidence. What did you get?"

"I'll show you at home."

When Flaca and her mom get back from shopping, she realizes something. Out of their old group of friends, she and Alex are the only two who have dyed parts of their hair blue, they both are being raised by a single mother who loves them deeply, and they share a favorite music genre, which is rock. She wonders why everyone fell out of touch just because Piper isn't here. It was so easy talking to Alex, just like it is with Maritza, but somehow, it felt different.

When the girls first met in middle school, they had nothing in common, really. Nobody cared for Flaca's How Soon is Now obsession, Lorna was insistent on finding love and even naming her future children and picking random boys as her soulmate although she was only twelve, Alex was always getting picked on by Jessica Wedge just because she had glasses and wore what the kids called bobos, and Daya was reserved and described as a coconut. Piper had many friends, made up of white girls with blonde hair and blue eyes, just like her.

One day, she ditched every single one of them and invited Flaca, Lorna, Alex, and Daya to sit with her at lunch. It was so strange. None of those girls, except Flaca, had a friend in the world, and Piper chose them. To this day, Flaca has no idea why.

Flaca's former friend from seventh grade, Cat, had moved away, and she always tried to impress a guy named Arturo and his friends, but she was for some reason, on the outskirts of their circle. That's when she knew she needed new kids to hang out with, so of course, when Piper started a conversation with her about pink panties and how she could develop a business of selling them around school, Flaca latched onto her desperately.

Then, Piper sought out the rest of the girls. She gave Lorna some good flirting tips, told Alex she looked cute in her glasses, and offered to babysit for Daya's new baby sister. It felt like she was collecting the girls who sat by themselves and weaving them together. Slowly but surely, she got them to come out of their shells and form a connection that could never be broken. Separately, they were the weird loners, but together, with Piper as their leader, nobody dared to speak one nasty word about them.

Piper sat back and watched the four girls have their own conversation. They found out they were all poor and sometimes got made fun of, even though Lorna believed that everyone loved her, but they were just too afraid to show it.

The girls would link arms while talking and giggling as they walked through the halls at school. Piper would sometimes tease people. Even though she could be downright mean, they still looked up to her. Nobody wanted to get on her bad side.

Flaca and Lorna are the only ones who have stood up to her, and once, Flaca was dangerously close to being kicked out. She had to persuade Piper to let her back in, and from that moment on, she never defended herself again. Lorna was really who Piper was terrified of, and Flaca loved her for it. Lorna was the tiniest of them all, but she sometimes got a look in her eyes that says she meant business and she wanted to kill someone, as in seriously harm them.

Thinking back on this while lying on her bed, Flaca's confused on how she feels about Piper's disappearance. She should be sad and probably mourning, but she's accepted that Piper isn't going to come back. It's been an entire year, and she's a bit tired of grieving. She just wants them to give her a funeral and a proper burial once they finally find her body. Some girls at school last year said Piper probably had it coming and that she may have pushed someone off the edge.

Flaca and Maritza had played with an Ouija board at camp and they asked it if Piper was still alive. They'd stared at it until Maritza thought she saw the pointer move and accused Flaca of pushing it toward the letter Y.

"I never did such a thing!" Flaca exclaims.

"Look, it went to the E!"

The taller Latina rolls her eyes at her bestie. "You did that, Maritza."

"Nah! I'm tellin' you. Now the S."

"Okay, if she's alive, then what ghost is moving the pointer? This is stupid!"

Maritza gasps sharply. "I just saw her!"

Flaca shoves her and she laughs. "Don't play like that!" They giggle together until Flaca starts crying and Maritza holds her and rocks her back and forth.

Lorna shrieks and Franny Morello comes running into her room. "What's wrong?"

"My lipstick is missing! I need it for my date with Vinnie tonight! Oh, I've looked everywhere and I still can't find it!" Lorna continues to rummage through drawers. "Who the fuck took it?"

"He loves you with or without-"

"No," Lorna insists. "Amber Rose, where is it?"

"Don't you have a thousand others? How do you even remember the name of-"

"I gotta have this one, Francine. It's enchanting."

Franny rolls her eyes. "Lorna, you're-"

"What, you got something to say?" she asks, offended. She stands on her tiptoes so she appears taller than she is.

"You can borrow mine."

"No, no, you don't understand. See, Amber Rose is what draws a man in. It's seductive. I can feel it in my heart. He'll go nuts over it!"

Franny sighs. "I'll help you look."

Mikey stands in the doorway, holding up a silver tube. "Missing this, weirdo?"

"You asshole!" Lorna shouts and jumps up to bop the back of his head. "Gimme that!"

"Michael Morello, don't be a brat!" Franny scolds him as he returns it to Lorna.

"Chill, it's just a prank."

Lorna flips him off and applies her lipstick. "He's so immature! Last week, he was wearin' my bra outside his shirt!"

"He's done that with mine, too," Franny says. "You gotta remember that he is a twelve-year-old boy."

"I'm still annoyed! Now...your opinion, please." Lorna smooths down her red dress and twirls around. "Don't I look like Maria from West Side Story? I did my hair like Rihanna, you know, when she curled it."

"Oh yes, you're beautiful, like always," Franny tells her.

"This night is extra special. It's our one year anniversary."

"I know. Congratulations."

"We're gonna get married!" Lorna says in a singsong voice. "We already did the nasty, if you know what I'm sayin'? He is much better than Joey."

Franny smiles. "He's gonna come getcha?"

"Fuck yes."

Lorna admires herself in the mirror and then the doorbell rings. She quickly goes down to get it. She swings open the door and throws her arms around her boyfriend. "My, don't ya look spiffy in a tux!"

"Thanks, I rented this." He bends down to whisper in her ear, "You don't know how badly I wanna tear that sexy dress off you."

Lorna giggles as he helps her inside his car. "I love you, my Italian stallion."

"I love you too, my little lasagna."

She kicks off her heels. "How about we do it right now. I'm wet already."

"We should eat first, Lorna."

"Come on!" she whines. "We're hungry for each other, I can sense that."

"We're in front of your house!"

"We can go somewhere in private."

Vincent drives them to the restaurant and Lorna sits back, pouting and folding her arms across her chest. "I can't believe this! What, you don't love me?"

Her boyfriend sighs. "Not this again-"

"I'm small and cute. Why are you turning me down? Is there someone else on your mind? I knew I shouldn't have left you alone with my sister that day." Lorna also remembers when Piper used to flirt with him by calling him Vinnie boy and squeezing his muscles in his arms. One time, she got so furious with her that she pounced on her in the girls' locker room and gave her a black eye. Piper didn't say a word about how she got her shiner. She knew she deserved it.

"Lorna, you're insane. I can't..."

"What?" she growled. "Spit it out. I'll kill her."

"I just lost my appetite. I'd never cheat on you, I swear! Why do you always assume that?"

"The girls are always all over you! It's like I gotta fight 'em off!"

"You don't need to. Just because other girls are into me, it doesn't mean that I'm giving into their advances. Don't be so jealous and kinda turns me off."

Lorna's seething. She tries to keep her temper under control. "Let's eat," she says in a strained voice.

"I'm taking you home. You need to relax."

She starts crying and gasping for air. "Don'"

"I'm sorry, but I'm not hungry anymore..." Vincent says while shaking his head.

"We're done!" she explodes. She wants to hit something, like his car, for example. All she needs is a bat. He should not have given her those insults. "You broke my heart! Imma destroy somethin' of yours!"

"Shut the fuck up, you psycho!"

Lorna balls her hands into fists as her whole body shakes. "! I hate you!" she snarls while gritting her teeth.

"What's gotten into you, the devil?" He stops at her curb. "Get out now."

"I'm so glad we used a condom," she says in a calmer voice.

"Out!" he barks. "Your face is a mess with eyeliner and mascara dripping down your cheeks..."

Lorna slides out of the car and holds herself while sobbing hysterically. She runs to her house and almost trips on her porch steps. She knocks on the door until her knuckles hurt. Franny opens it and Lorna dives into her sister's arms.

"He's been runnin' around on me!" Lorna wails. "This ain't happenin'...but it is..."

"Oh, sweetie," Franny murmurs while rubbing Lorna's back in soothing circles.

"We ain't together no more."

"Good, you don't need him."

Lorna can't sleep that night. All she wants is her revenge.

At five in the morning on Sunday, she takes a bus to her ex's house with Franny's keys in her bra, a metal bat in her hand, and an egg in her pocket. She explains to anyone who asks that she's going to baseball practice and they told everyone to bring their own bat. It's heavy, but she's a strong girl. Even though she's little, she packs a punch, is what Franny always says. Her friends would say that too.

She gets off the bus and tiptoes to the Muccio's front yard. The sun hasn't risen and she hopes they sleep like the dead. Piper would be quite proud of her.

Lorna walks up to Vincent's car, plucks Franny's keys out of her bra, and etches a little message into the side of his car, Fuck you! Stay with her, you bastard! She raises the bat over her head and shudders as her heart beats hard in her chest. She brings it down harshly on the windshield, feeling good when the impact makes a boom and creates a spiderweb crack in the glass. She makes some dents on the side of his car, messing up the paint job. She strikes his tires with so much force, air hisses through the now flat tires. She smashes his windows, breaks his side mirrors, swings her bat onto the trunk a few times, beats his tires, and hits his headlights and tailights until they fall off his car. She throws her egg at his totaled vehicle and it's completely covered in yolk, whites, and shells. She steps back and gasps, being careful not to step on any broken shards on the ground or cut herself on the jagged edges of the glass on his windows and whatever is left of his windshield. She's damaged his car big time, but he totally deserves it.

She can't register the sound of the car alarm until she hears Vincent yelling at her, "What the fuck have you done? I'm calling the police!"

"You should've been faithful."

"Oh my god, my car," he mutters while running his hand down his face. "You dumb bitch! You're paying for this, you know that, right?"

"Little boys who don't know how to keep it in their pants when they got a girlfriend don't get a car."

Vincent throws his hands in the air. "I never did anything!"

"My bus is almost here. Toodle-oo!"

A cop car stops by her and a tall man steps out. His nametag reads George Mendez and he grabs Lorna before she can even attempt to run away. He slams her against his car and locks her in handcuffs. She's sweating and trembling with fear.

The next thing she knows, she's at the police station. Franny is talking to the arresting officer as Lorna nervously sits in the waiting room. She keeps trying to tell herself it was worth it and since she's just a child, the punishment won't be too bad. She hopes Franny will be able to afford the cost, because she can't. It was all Vincent's fault for cheating on her.

Franny shakes hands with the cop and walks out. "Come on, Lorna, we're going home."

"What's gonna happen to me, is he dropping the charges?"

Franny doesn't answer. She just takes Lorna to her car and they get inside. Finally, she says, "Mendez is giving Vincent the money to replace his car. Meanwhile, you need to apologize. This is so humiliating. You're grounded! What did I teach you to do when you're mad, huh? You would've been fucked without me!"

"I'm sorry, Franny," Lorna mumbles. "I didn't hurt nobody...just a little vandalism, that's all, to let him know that he can't screw with me ever again."

"You should give him a written apology."

"I'm not gonna. I'll just...say it to his face at school. How did I get away with it? I don't understand, what did you tell Mendez?"

"I explained that we were poor with a sick mom and a crippled dad and you were acting out without considering the consequences, which is all true. He understood and he offered to help us."

"Thank you so much, Franny. You're the best sister ever."

Lorna's taking a nap later that afternoon when she hears banging and moaning somewhere in the house. She groans and stretches as she gets out of her bed to see who Franny's hooking up with this time. Her eyes widen and she feels disgusted when she steps out of her room and sees Mendez pressing Franny up against the wall and kissing her all over like a sleazebag.

"I owe her one," she whispers to herself while going back inside of her room.

A boy and a girl burst out of a complete stranger's house with a load of cash. "Come on, come on, go, go, go!" Nicky Nichols yells at them. "I'm fucking holding the door open for you! The owner is almost here!" As her friends pass her quickly, she slams the door closed behind her and they race down the street. "You wanna hitchhike your way outta here?" Nicky asks. "There's someone selling good heroin on 125th Street. It's not too far."

"You're already high," Drew points out and Jade laughs.

"I meant that for you, assholes! Besides, a chick can't have too much heroin, right? There's no such thing."

"You're right, man," Drew says. They stand on a street corner under a dark blue sky and hide their money in their pockets and bags. They hold their thumbs up until a car stops by them.

"Please don't be Marka," Nicky mutters, mostly to herself.

It's a man who rolls down his window. "You kids need a ride someplace?"

"Yeah," Jade answers. "Uh...125th Street?"

"That's a bad area...are you sure?"

"Just let us in," Drew practically begs.

All of a sudden, police sirens wail loudly. Nicky's friends take off, leaving her in the dust. She tries to chase after them, but they're too fast. The cops don't even notice her, so she just turns around and gets into the backseat of the vehicle. "I need you to get me to the back alley on 125th Street, please."

"You in trouble, young lady?"

"Nah, I just can't drive, all right? I'm uh...meeting my mom," Nicky replies in a shaky voice. "She doesn't want to go home by herself after work."

"I see."

Nicky buckles her seatbelt as the man drives them down the traffic-filled street. She knows this is risky and she could get killed at any moment, but she doesn't see the point in living if she's homeless. She has no place to go.

"Stop here," Nicky directs him, and he does. She gets out and makes her way towards an African American woman who's smoking while collecting money from haggard-looking people like herself. She combs her fingers through her frizzy hair and hugs her sweater tighter around herself, as it's getting cold.

She hands her wad of cash to the woman, who gives her heroin in return. "Can I have a smoke, too?" she asks.

"Only if you tell me your name, you piece of white trash," the lady responds with a smirk stretched across her face. "You gotta be what, twelve?"

"You're about four years off, bitch," Nicky retorts. "I'm seventeen in April. I've been keeping track. Don't ask me how."

Some guy slaps her bottom and she rolls her eyes when he leaves. "Douchebag!"

"Are you some kind of a whore?" the woman asks rudely.

"Nope, I'm Nicky Nichols. How about you?"

"Vee Parker. Now sit down right over there and I'll give you the best weed I got."

"Thanks." Nicky kneels down into a corner of the brick walls surrounding them and pulls her knees to her chest. She takes the cigarette from Vee and puffs on it slowly. It's great until she starts coughing. "Is this fucking stale?"

Vee chuckles. "No, you just got too excited with it. Positive you haven't taken heroin already?"

"It doesn't matter. I need it all."

"Do you have someplace to sleep tonight?"

Nicky shakes her head. "Hell no."

"I run a very special business and if you join me, I could give you the life you deserve."

Nicky doesn't have much faith in people. Everyone turns on her, even her own family and best friends. It's why she's turned to drugs. "A warm shelter, food, and water is all I need, Ms. Parker."

"Alright, you've got the sad eyes. I'll take you to my house."

Nicky is pleased and grateful. Even though they haven't had the best start, this lady was friendly enough to take her in. Ms. Parker brings the blonde girl to her beat-up shack. There's already one African American boy and girl her age sitting at the kitchen table.

"Hey, babies, happy to see you for dinner! This is Nicky Nichols."

They wave at Nicky and shake her hand. "I'm RJ and this is my sister, Taystee. She works at Shake Shack."

"Hey, there!" Taystee says in a friendly voice.

Nicky smiles. "What are we having?"

"Patience, my dear," Ms. Parker chides her. "You need to all help me."

"Yes, ma'am," Nicky murmurs.

"What are you going to do for a job?" Ms. Parker asks.


"Then you need to go to school."

"Are you fucking serious?"

"Watch your mouth!"

Nicky jumps at her tone. "Um...I just don't see how it could help me..."

"Ain't you enrolled?" Taystee wants to know.

"I dropped out. It was boring."

"Then you're gonna sell heroin outside of Martin Van Buren High to contribute to the rent, do you understand?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Make sure you don't get caught, though, because I'm not bailing you out of the youth center for being an idiot. You better be sneaky."

"I will. I promise. I'm really good at it."

"There's my Nicky girl," Ms. Parker says while patting the top of her head.


Chapter Text

Thank you for beta'ing, thecharmedwerewolf! Did anyone watch Suicide Squad in theaters? It's based on the DC comics with Harley Quinn who reminds me of Lorna, from the unhealthy love obsession to the cute New York accent! The movie was amazing, 10/10 would recommend!

*moya sestra-my sister


*vamos a hacer el desayuno ahora-let's make the breakfast now

"So, how's it working out for you, with the boys-excuse me, men- being at college for the first time?" Gloria Mendoza asks her Russian co-worker while they begin preparing the day's meals.

Galina Reznikov, otherwise known as Red, shakes her head at the Spanish woman next to her. "I never thought saying goodbye to my rambunctious children would be so hard. I'll see them on Thanksgiving, that's what I keep telling myself. Maybe Lida will come back pregnant with hers and Vasily's child and I'll be a babushka at forty...or Maxim or Yuri will get into something or pull pranks on the dean...but I'm hoping they'll be good."

"Your kids will be well-behaved, I'm sure. You and Dimitri have raised them to be gentlemen."

"You are so damn right."

"I hope Julio and Benito turn out to be like them in eighteen years," Gloria murmurs, referring to her two boys, ages two and four. "I'm glad my sons are still with me."

Red's best friend, Norma Romano, silently smiles at the ladies as they chatter away.

An African American woman about Red's age walks into the backroom. "Bunch of clowns," she grumbles. "Hello, ladies."

"Claudette, hey!" Gloria greets her, and Red hugs the other chef. As the redhead does so, she feels immense pain in her back.

"Oh, I'm getting old," she mutters. "My back has been aching a lot these days."

"I'm so sorry," Claudette tells her and Gloria rubs Red's back. Norma gives her a sympathetic look.

"Which clowns were you talking about earlier, Claudette?" Red wants to know.

"This group of girls in the library...Taystee Jefferson, Poussey Washington, Janae Watson, and Cindy Hayes...little rascals they are! They were talking way too loud and I was trying to read before work."

"Oh, shut up, you probably want to secretly adopt Taystee," Gloria teases her.

"I would if she didn't already have a foster mother," Claudette admits. She wipes up a spill on the counter. "Don't make a mess, be careful!"

Norma takes hold of Gloria's arm and she winces. The mute lady stares at her with a scared expression on her face. "Norma, what is it?"

Red squints at Gloria's face, trying to see if the baby of their group really has a black eye. It's very faint, but it's there. "How'd you get that, moya sestra?" she wonders out loud and points to her own eye.

Gloria scrambles eggs in a bowl and pours in milk. "It's nothing, I probably don't get enough sleep."

"You flinched when Norma touched you. If someone is hurting you, we have weapons and we aren't afraid to use them," Claudette says.

"I'm fine, okay? I know you're all protective of me because I'm ten years younger than you, but you really don't need to freak out about my lack of sleep! I'll catch up on the weekends. ¡Vamos a hacer el desayuno, ahora!" They jump at her suddenly harsh command and start working. They know they need to hurry up before the meanest members on the staff come in and demand their breakfasts.

Lorna rolls her eyes after cleaning up her mom's piss and helping her dad out of bed and into his wheelchair. It's usually Franny who does all this and sometimes shares the work with Lorna, but now Lorna has to do it since Franny is with Mendez. Lorna feels sicker than her mom when she thinks about how Franny wound up in this situation.

"If I had just kept my temper under control..." she mumbles under her breath. "No!" she argues with herself. "He had it coming!"

She hears Mikey's alarm blaring and runs into his room. "Hey, wake up, you lazy butthead! That noise makes me want to throw your clock across the room!"

"Ugh, I'm awake, so knock it off, Lorna!" her brother groans while rubbing his eyes open. "Go away! It's not my fault that your school starts earlier than mine!"

Lorna gets dressed in her room and applies eye makeup and her signature lipstick. She goes downstairs to find Franny cooking breakfast and Mendez sitting on one of their kitchen chairs with a towel wrapped around his waist. He smirks at her, and she wants to dive into a hole and never show her face again. His mustache honestly creeps her out since it makes him look like a pornstar.

"Good morning, Lorna," Franny says pleasantly. She turns to the cop. "Uh...Officer Mendez, I think you ought to put something decent on. My sister's here, so..."

"No problem." He leaves and then Lorna goes up to Franny.

"I ain't coming to the wedding," the tiny girl hisses.

"Stop it!"

"Well, when are you gonna kick him out? This is awkward."

"I can't send him home without food."

"He can get a donut. You don't gotta be his whore. You did it once yesterday, and that should be plenty. He didn't need to go out with you and sleep over at our place. What do Ma and Pop think? Mikey and I are just kids! I'm sorry. I really and truly am, Franny. I won't do...that again!"

Franny sighs heavily. "Lorna, just grab a waffle, pile fruit and whipped cream on it, maybe some syrup if you're not too busy. Oh, and have orange juice too. It's all on the table."

Lorna blows a breath out through her teeth. She hears her mother's scratchy voice calling out for her. "I have to tend to Ma...again." Lorna groans as she turns away.

Halfway through her run to Alberta Morello's room, she stops at her own and goes inside of it. Too many things are happening all at once and she can't handle the stress. She stares at her West Side Story poster and her dream board filled with cutouts of guys and pictures of vacation spots from magazines and inspirational words. "There's definitely a third Bora," she whispers to herself. "It doesn't matter what anyone tells me."

"Nice room," a deep male voice says from behind her, and she nearly jumps out of her skin. She spins around to face Mendez.

"Get away from this house, you pervert."

"You're lucky your sister's hot, otherwise you would've been Inmate Morello." He slaps her bottom and then squeezes her boobs, which are covered by her shirt. She gasps sharply. "You are forming into quite a nice young lady."

"Fra-" she starts to yell, but he covers her mouth with one hand and strokes her hair with the other.

"Aw, Lorna, there's no need to be a tattletale. I just wanted to feel you up for shits and giggles. I don't rape, you should know that. You could blow me for drugs, but that's about it." Slowly, he removes his hand from her lips. "You don't look like a junkie," he growls in a low voice while tracing her cheeks, mouth, and chin with his long, disgusting fingers. "Aw, don't be scared. I won't hurt you. Remember, you got away with a serious crime. You are not innocent in any way, shape, or form, sweet cheeks."

"Neither are you. That's sexual harassment."

"Yeah, but I come from a rich, smart family while yours is poor and uneducated. Who are they gonna believe?"

"You're a worthless animal!"

"I like my women feisty." He winks at her while sniggering.

She can't wait to get to school and tell Franny to sue him.

A cute, older, white boy no more than eighteen walks up to Daya on the crowded bus. "Is it okay if I sit here? It's just...there's no room...I would've taken my car, but it's in the shop."

She scoots over a bit and sits her backpack on her lap while chewing her bottom lip anxiously. "Sure."

"First day of school?" he asks, plopping himself down next to her.

"Mm, yeah, did the backpack give me away?" They chuckle at the same time.

"Sorta. Are you nervous? You look it."

"Oh, me? No, no, why would I be?"

"Well, it's okay if you are. This is a new school, I've never been to Martin Van Buren High before. What's it like?"

"My friends are there, so it's not too bad."

"What's your name? I'm John." He stuck out his hand for her to shake.

"Daya...Diaz." Her hand fits so well in his. It's almost like they were made for each other, even though they literally met five seconds ago. She notices he's chewing something. "What are you eating?"

"Oh, gum. I'm just finishing this up before school starts. You're not allowed to have it in class. Want some?" He pulls a packet out of his pocket and hands her a stick.

"Yeah, thank you." She pops the piece of gum in her mouth. "Mmm, peppermint!"

"Is that your favorite?"

"It is!"

"Mine, too."

She can't believe she's hitting it off with this guy. He's making it so easy for her to talk to him. Suddenly, she wants to tell him everything about herself, from what she likes to draw, to her life at home.

"Look, there's Litchfield Penitentiary. It's a women's prison," he says, pointing out the window as she follows his finger. "A friend of mine works there."

"Oh, I wouldn't wanna end up in that place," Daya murmurs, "although my mom might..."


"Nothing," she mumbles quickly. Their bus stops at the school. "We're here!"

He gets a serious look on his face. "Daya, it was very nice to meet you. I hope we can get together sometime."

"Well, John, that would be fun!"

"I know this is a bold move, but would you mind if I kissed you?"

She gapes at her crush, open-mouthed. "Not at all."

John lays a kiss on Daya's lips that leaves her sighing and itching to go further with him. "I'll see you around," he says.

" too."

"Since you're the new girl, I'm gonna give you a tour of the school," Flaca tells Maritza. She leads her best friend around the place and shows her the different classrooms. "Most of the teachers here are alright, but kind of strict. The vice principal can be a dick at times, but he's mostly nice. His name's Mr. Caputo. Word is, he's fucking the bitchy principal, Mrs. Figureoa, or as we like to call her, Fig. One of the guidance counselors, Mr. Healy, can be an ass if you're not straight, rich, or white, so he would be no help to us whatsoever. They have a better one named Ms. Berdie, so we'd probably mostly go to her. She also in charge of the Drama Club. Which teachers do you have?"

Maritza looks at her classroom schedule. "Hm, looks like Mr. Dixon-Geometry, Ms. Vause-English, Mr. Piscatella-Physical Ed, Ms. McCullough-History, Mr. Stratman-Spanish, and Mr. Humphrey-Biology."

Flaca groans. "Oh, shit! You got Humps and Piscatella? least the women are nice and I'm in a few of your classes, so I can keep you safe."

"Back up...what's wrong with the men, especially the two you mentioned by name?"

"You should ask to switch. They are so gross, Maritza. You don't wanna know."

"Well...why aren't they fired?"

Flaca shrugs. "Beats me. It's probably some bullshit about not having enough evidence for a case against them. They act like security guards that give out cruel and unusual punishments."

Maritza frowns. "You're starting to scare me now."

"I'm sorry, I'm just trying to warn you. I got Mr. Luscheck for woodshop, Mr. Kowalski for Geometry, Mr. Bennett who is the new English teacher and really hot, Ms. Jones for P.E., that ugly ass Humps, and Ratman, er, Stratman. I would drop the class if you weren't in it."

"I need to hear about Piscatella and Dixon. What did they do? I just...I want to be prepared. I hate Geometry and hockey enough as it is."

"Okay, Piscatella is very large. He's like, taller than Caputo and Fig and he even scares the lunch ladies. We thought the lunch ladies were terrifying, especially Miss Claudette and La Red, but oh, no. It's fuckin' Piscatella, dude. He forces you to run until you throw up, and then he demands that you clean up your mess and keep going. He also thrusts dodgeballs at you if you're not paying attention. Dixon is just a plain old asshole. I mean they both are, but last year, he asked to see this girl's watch and then he stepped on it, crushing it so it wouldn't work anymore."

"Got it. I won't do anything to piss them off...or wear a watch. What's so bad about La Red and Miss Claudette?"

"You gotta let them warm up to you, bae. Don't make fun of their hairnets. Piper made that grave mistake last year and ended up with a tampon in her English muffin."

"Ugh, that was dumb of her! Okay, well, I won't insult them, no problem. That would be disrespectful. Anything else?"

"Don't be uppity and ask for shit that's not on the menu. They serve what's available."

"Alright. Um...when are cheerleading tryouts? I was one at my old school."

"There's signs for them by the gym and they're being held after school. I don't participate in that, but I know a few girls who would most likely want you on their squad. Look out for Lorna Morello and Brook Soso. I'll point them out to you at lunch. Piper Chapman used to be head cheerleader, but now those two are trying to beat each other for the spot. You have to be very peppy-annoyingly so. Are you cool with that?"

"Yeah!" Maritza cheers and jumps up while throwing her arms out in a V-shape. "I can kick too, but I don't think I'm allowed to do that in the middle of the hallway. I wouldn't want to accidentally hit someone."

"I love your enthusiasm!"

"What can I say? I'm excited! Are you gonna do any extracurriculars?"

"Hell yeah, band and yearbook!"

"I'll join band as well. I've got a lot of time on my hands."

Flaca smiles at her smaller friend and wraps a protective arm around her. "I'll take you to the principal's office so she can get you settled in. I don't want you lost at your new school and running into douchebag teachers or students."


Later, she gets the strangest text. She thinks maybe Piper's ghost is haunting her. Maritza would have a field day with this.

Does Ian like dating a vampiress? I don't think so, which is probably why he hasn't visited you at school lately like he did last year. Just stick with Maritza, she's a true friend. So am I. xx P

The school is already abuzz with activity, even though homeroom doesn't start for another half hour. Nicky stuffs her hands in her pockets and they close around large bags of heroin. She's hiding behind the building, but she can see kids from grades nine through twelve get out of cars and buses and walk up the steps leading to the front entrance. Parents hug and kiss their children goodbye while one of them heads into the school after ruffling her daughter's hair and giving her a peck on the cheek. Nicky tries to smile, but it brings tears to her eyes.

Two girls near her share a hug while giggling together. She can hear their conversation faintly.

"Hey, you look pale. Are you sure you're fine?" the taller one asks. She has glasses and long black hair with two blue stripes in it. She's wearing a band tee and ripped blue jeans. Nicky recognizes her as the girl with the loving mother.

"Yeah, I'm...I'm alright. So...what did you do for the rest of the weekend?" the girl's tiny friend asks. The brunette only reaches the raven-haired girl's shoulders. Nicky almost laughs at their height difference until she realizes these two could be her first customers since they're just standing in one spot and nobody is coming up to them. She leans against the wall and folds her arms across her chest, hoping they'll notice her first.

"I saw Flaca at Hot Topic."

"Why am I not surprised? Well, I went on a date with Vinny for our first year anniversary! That's how long we've been goin' out. Oh, it was so romantic!" the girl with the cute accent and forties curls says. She grins, showing a perfect set of white teeth surrounded by crimson red lips. She's in a blue jean dress with spaghetti straps and it hugs her body perfectly. Both girls look hot, but this one is downright beautiful, along with sexy.

Nicky clears her throat and they glance at her, surprised. "Hey, what are your names?"

"Tell us who you are first, sketchy," the short girl says with a smirk.

"What makes you think I'm sketchy?"

She looks Nicky up and down. "Well, let's see, you have on a totally baggy outfit, a beanie that's almost covering your eyes, your hair reminds me of a street person's, you're probably high, and you smell like marijuana. You can't smoke on campus, that's the rules. Everyone knows that. Are you new? You need a hairbrush."

The blonde shakes her head no. "Nicky Nichols, at your service, little miss. I like myself just the way I am, thank you very much, you puny, judgemental person."

"I'm Alex Vause," the other girl says.

"If you must know, my name is Lorna...Morello," the tiny one introduces herself, "and I resent you pokin' fun at my size!"

Nicky holds her hands up in surrender. "Hey...Lorna, chill. It's very nice to meet you both. wanna buy some heroin? I got it all right here...and a bag in my bra, too," she whispers. "It's a secret."

"Man, I didn't bring enough money for that," Alex mutters. "How about we meet and exchange my cash for your drugs before school tomorrow? Heroin is the best."

"She's my ultimate girlfriend," Nicky agrees. Lorna looks horrified. "Hey, kid, looks as if you wanna miss out?"

"Don'tcha be callin' me kid, ya hoodlum! I'm fuckin' fifteen years old!" Lorna snaps and walks away, pulling Alex along with her. Nicky bursts out laughing because Lorna's acting like a baby kitten that thinks it's a tiger. It's adorable and she can't believe she's falling for a girl who's treating her like she's garbage. Besides that, Lorna has a boyfriend. Nicky curses herself for crushing on yet another straight girl.

"Damn you, Alex, you really need that wild child's shit?" Lorna asks. "I oughta turn her in to the authorities. I mean...she doesn't even go here, I don't think. She's a drug dealer who belongs in hell!"

"Lorna, calm down! We're not doing anything of the sort. I'm sure she's not selling it to be evil. She might just need the money."

"If you take her stash, you'll get addicted and turn into a bum."

"I just want to try it."

"Well...what if you don't have what you owe her and she hurts you? I'm only worried about you because we're friends. We may not be soul sisters anymore, but...I don't want you to die or get badly injured."

"Thank you for your concerns, but she was harmless. When we turned down her heroin, she just accepted the fact that we didn't want any. Besides that, she's not much taller than you! I could knock her down if she got violent."

"I guess you're right...hey, let's go see Red."

Alex can't stop thinking about Nicky. She wants to see what's under her outfit. Nicky seems like a rebel and it turns Alex on immensely. She follows Lorna to the cafeteria and they slide up to the counter where Red and her co-workers are standing.

"You guys should really have chairs," Alex comments.

Gloria points her index finger at Alex. "Yo, white girl, you're right! They won't give us those, but we get a break in between mealtimes."

Lorna leans her chin in her hands as she props her elbows up on the counter. "Red, let's say you had to kill someone."

"Oh, this is fun," Red murmurs while folding up a rag after wiping down something in the back. "Who's on your shitlist now?"

"This bitch who really got on my nerves...but you know, compared to some sluts on the cheer squad and the shower pooper, she's really not that bad."

"What did this poor girl do?"

"She was strung out and trying to offer us heroin. She insulted me a few times-"

Red reaches over the counter and swats the top of her head. "That's not a reason to want her dead, Lorna. She might need help. Maybe she doesn't have proper guidance at home. Where is she?"

"She was loitering outside of the school last time we saw her," Alex says. "She's totally stoned."

"Do you know her name?"

Lorna and Alex nod. "Nicky Nichols," they answer Red in unison.

The older woman storms out of the cafeteria. "She probably left," Lorna mutters defeatedly.

"She'll be back tomorrow," Alex responds. She nudges Lorna. "Good call telling Red."

"Yeah, well...I didn't want her to become a problem."

"If that were my daughter, she wouldn't even have heard of the stuff until she turned thirty," Gloria cuts in. "She was a teenage girl, right?"

"Mm-hm, she looked it," Alex replies as Lorna nods her head yes.

Red comes back into the cafeteria with a defeated look in her eyes. "I searched for her, but she was nowhere to be found. I hope she's alright."

"Me, too," Alex agrees.

"Me, three," Lorna chimes in.

You're lucky your sister got you out of this one. Jail makes people crazier than they already are. God knows you don't need that after the stunt you pulled last year, and all because of a boy. You better stop that mail scam because Franny isn't doing you any more favors. xoxo, P

Lorna reads the anonymous note three times over, trying to figure out who could've written that to her. It didn't look like Piper's manuscript, but then again, she may be pulling a prank on her. She'd always loved watching Lorna go insane. Lorna rips up the note and throws it into a trashcan nearby. She goes back to her locker to put away the books she doesn't need.

Vincent and a bunch of his friends come up to Lorna. Her ex slams his hand on the locker next to hers and she sees Alex, Flaca, Daya, and a bunch of other girls watching in stunned silence.

"You couldn't even apologize, Lorna?" he demands. "I have to wait five weeks for a new car!" he screams in her face.

"I'm sorry...I just haven't seen you yet, and I decided not to seek you out like a creeper...and just wait until we came face-to-face with each other. I apologize for that...and your car. I lost it yesterday."

"You're always losing it! I feel bad for the next guy you seduce! You're like that goddamn wacko in Fatal Attraction! No wonder you never had friends until Piper. Now because she's gone, I guess you're back to being lonely. You better not go around telling everyone I got you pregnant because we used a condom!" he shouts and then exits the area with his friends trailing after him.

"I thought you told me-" Alex started, but Lorna shakes her head. She can feel herself beginning to cry, so she hides her face in her hands and her shoulders rise and fall quickly with sobs. She senses Alex hugging her. "That's okay...I know breakups suck...and you don't always want to spill the truth right away."

"Oh, Lorna," Daya murmurs softly while rubbing her back in soothing circles.

"I'm so sorry," Flaca adds and strokes her hair.

"He doesn't know that he cheated on me with a whore!" Lorna wails in Alex's arms. "That's it...I'm plotting my revenge. I'm getting a new boyfriend. The first guy I see in school...I'll flirt with him and we'll go out as a couple. Watch me. I'm very good at it!"

"I know you are," Alex murmurs. "He'll be so jealous that he won't even know what hit him."

Nicky has gotten away from the school in just the nick of time. She walks down empty alleys in the area where she'd met Vee, looking for people who might want her drugs. A store's alarm goes off somewhere and she runs to the source. A young blonde girl with a necklace in one hand and a journal in the other is racing down the street with a few security guards close behind her. Without thinking, Nicky grabs the kid and gets a close look at her. She can't be more than ten or eleven.

"Hey, let go of me, you asshole! Fuck you!" the child yells, but Nicky doesn't listen to her.

"Wanna get sent to juvie, blondie? That's where you're headed. Keep your mouth shut and let me do the talking," Nicky instructs her in a hushed, urgent voice. "I'm so sorry, officers, my little sister has a severe brain disorder...she's legally intellectually challenged. She doesn't know that shoplifting is wrong."

"I need it," the kid hisses. "I'm gonna pay the store back."

"Where are your parents?" one of the cops asks.

"They're at work. You don't need to call them. We'll be okay. Her babysitter was supposed to be taking care of her, but I guess she gave up on our family, so it's just me for today. Boy, is someone gonna get an ass-kicking!"

"Alright, well, you kids be safe," the policeman says as he takes back the necklace.

"Thank you."

Once the officers leave, Nicky breathes a sigh of relief.

"Look, I'm sorry if I scared you-"

"Who the fuck are you?" the preteen asks.

"How about thanking me for saving your ass?"

"Sorry...thank you."

"You're welcome. The name's Nicky...Nichols. I'm sixteen. What about you?"

"Tricia Miller. I'm eleven."

"You homeless?"

Tricia shakes her head no. "I'm just...gettin' away from it all. My stepdad rapes me and my mom doesn't believe it...the usual. Plus, I wanna look nice. You let that man take my jewelry. I keep this journal so I can write down everything I took and how much each thing cost so that when I get the money, I can pay for it. It might be late, but it works for me."

Nicky's heart goes out to her. "You're sweet, you know that, kid? The problem is, that's not how it works in the real world. You don't buy now, pay later. The five-finger discount...yeah, that's a felony!"

Tricia suddenly hugs her and then looks up with pleading eyes. "Can I go home with you?"


They get back to Vee's house in five minutes. "Hey, I'm here!" Nicky calls out. "Vee?" There's no answer. Tricia stays closely behind Nicky like a magnet. She opens the door to the living room and a scream is trapped in her throat.

Vee is doing the nasty with her foster son and they're both getting pleasure out of it. She claps her hands over her eyes, even though she can't unsee the disgusting act that had just occurred right before her. After shutting the door quietly, she tiptoes away from the area with her new friend. " you like that nickname?"

"It's alright."

"Trish, we're gonna go see my sister Taystee at her job, okay?"

"That's fine."

Nicky pulls out the bags of heroin and hides them under her bed in the room she's sharing with Taystee before Tricia can see them. She takes Tricia's hand and leads her outside and on the street corner. After waving down a cab, they get inside of it and she asks the driver to take her to Shake Shack.

"Have you eaten?" Nicky asks. "I'm sure Taystee will give us something for free. I won't have a penny to my name after paying that driver."

"I had something from Whole Foods this morning."

"Oh, that's good. I'm not that hungry either, I guess. So...hey, about that bastard you used to live with...uh, if you're triggered by anything, just tell me, okay?"

Tricia nods her head yes. "I will."

"Is he locked up?"

"No, I just took off. I don't think he cares that I left, and neither does my mom."

"My mom and her boyfriend neglected me, so I ran away," Nicky says as they get out of the cab and walk into Shake Shack.

"Good thing."

"Taystee!" Nicky shouts. She waves the other girl over.

"Hey! Who's this little girl?"

"Her name is Tricia. I caught her shoplifting, so I made up this cool story about how we were sisters and she didn't know any better because she's just not there in her head. She doesn't have parents so I hope Vee lets her live with us."

"Ooh, nice! Uh, not the part about her being an orphan, but the other sh-crap."

"It's okay, you can swear in front of me. I've heard it all."

"So...Tricia, why don't you have a look at the menu? You might find something you like."

"I don't wanna steal from Taystee."

"Since you're family, I'll let you have it on the house."

Tricia smiles at the African American girl. "Yo, thanks."

"Vee was fucking our foster brother," Nicky whispers to Taystee.

"Girl, say what? Oh man, that's sick! That bitch is high!"

"She must be! That's why I had to get out and not let Tricia see."

"You can stay in here until I finish my shift. How much did you sell?"

"Nothing. These kids are way too smart for the shit Vee's having me pull. I may have someone interested, though, so I'll try again tomorrow."

"Good luck telling Vee that."

"Welcome to English class," the teacher says after having just written Mr. Bennett on the blackboard. As soon as he faces the sea of students, Daya can't make her mouth close. She tries to look neutral. Flaca sends her a sly grin. John looks as shocked as Daya does. He fumbles with his papers on his desk and almost spills his coffee. "Sorry, uh, first day jitters, I guess. So, my name's on the board...try to spell it right. We are going to start the year off with To Kill a Mockingbird, so pass these back, please."

Daya's phone buzzes in her pocket and she sneaks a peek at it. The text that has just come in gives her a heart attack. Bet you didn't see that one coming. Don't worry, your mommy's a grave robber, too. Love, P

She has no idea who sent her that message. It could've been Piper playing a game, but she isn't sure.

The second surprise of the morning is when Suzanne Warren, or Crazy Eyes, walks into the room just as the bell rings. She's holding hands with a girl who has blonde hair cut to her chin and her hair is in fat little braids instead of in multiple twists on top of her head.

"Hey, Dandelion!" Suzanne calls out as Piper and Daya are walking down the street eating ice cream and talking about their upcoming sleepover. "How are you, baby girl? Dandelion, you wanna come and play with Mommy?"

"Oh my god, pretend we didn't just see or hear Crazy Eyes," Piper whispers to Daya while wrinkling her nose in disgust.

"Just say hi and move on," Daya suggests as Piper snickers.

Daya and Flaca stare at each other and raise their eyebrows, since they can't fully grasp that Suzanne has really gotten herself a makeover. She used to be obsessed with Piper and her clique, but now, her attention is focused on another blonde.

"I got a new Dandelion now," she mutters while sitting down. "This is Maureen Kukudio." Both girls wave at the Latinas and smile widely, like they're sharing a deep, dark secret.

"Congratulations," Daya hears herself say awkwardly as Flaca gives the couple a thumbs-up.

Alex is changing in the locker room before her physical education class. A piece of paper flutters down to the floor and she grabs it, wondering why it fell out of her locker along with her gym uniform. Her eyes scan the message and then she's confused. She adjusts her glasses to see if her vision will improve, but she did read it right.

Why don't you just admit that you're a dyke? You like being in that girls' locker room way too much. xo, P

"P? Piper?" she asks herself out loud. It can't be her. She isn't alive.

"Alex, let's go, you don't wanna be late!" a girl behind her says. "I know you miss her, but..."

"Yeah, sorry, Sylvia," Alex mutters. "I'll be there in a sec."

"Dayanara Diaz, Marisol Gonzales, Lorna Morello, and Alex Vause, please come to the principal's office," Fig announces over the loudspeaker.

"Oooh, someone's in trouble!" Sylvia teases her, and Alex rolls her eyes. She wonders why Fig is calling her and her former best friends, but she figures it's probably about Piper's disappearance.

"At least I don't have to deal with 'Ol Yeller' or Mr. Large and In Charge," Alex murmurs, referring to Piscatella. She heads to Fig's office and sees Daya, Flaca, and Lorna going there, too.

"Hey," they all say to each other at the same time. Flaca opens the door for them and they thank her.

"Hello, ladies," Fig greets them. "Why don't you take your seats on the couch. Officer Mendez is here to speak with you."

A tall police officer with spiky black hair and a thick, dark mustache stands in front of them while they sit down. Alex is between Lorna and Flaca, and Daya is on the other side of Flaca. Lorna goes completely white and Alex is curious as to why she has this reaction upon seeing Officer Mendez.

"He's probably just gonna ask us questions about Pipes," Alex whispers to Lorna, who nods in understanding.

All of the girls' phones chime at once and they take them out of their purses.

"Wait, you got one, too?" Flaca asks Alex.

"Yeah, I..."

"It came in at the exact same time yours did," Daya mumbles.

"Ditto," Lorna says.

I'm going to unravel your secrets, one by one, and you'll be jailed by the time Mendez is done. -P

Wow, what a great turnout this was! Thank you to Boris Yeltsin, nnicholsnlyonne, HannahMiley1fan, Deerveng, ladyglorificus, haleypadilla229, thecharmedwerewolf, peanut-brained, sherlollyshipper, ManveerluvsVauseman, and A Star In My Universe for reading and reviewing!

Chapter Text

Thank you for beta'ing, thecharmedwerewolf and nnicholsnlyonne!

"I am investigating what happened to Piper Chapman around Labor Day of last year. You four were very close to her, correct?" Mendez asks.

"Yes," they say altogether.

"I just want to let you know that I will work as hard as I can to find out if your friend is dead or amongst the living. I will speak with each one of you since I want to know what kinds of relationships you had with her. I'm not sure if she didn't get along with one of you, or if she preferred one friend over the other-"

"Are you saying one of us could've done something, because we didn't!" Daya interrupts him.

"Not at all. I just need everything she gave you, like gifts. I'll speak to Ms. Morello first."

"Shouldn't you be questioning us with an adult present?" Flaca asks while folding her arms across her chest. "We're like, minors."

"I didn't feel the need to. Ms. Morello, follow me, now!"

Lorna gulps and does as he says. They go into a private conference room and she sits across from Mendez at a table.

"Do you remember how Piper was feeling the night she vanished into thin air? Was anything out of the ordinary?"

"No, it was just like any other night. We were just five girls at a place. She enjoyed playing tricks on us, so when she left the house, we knew she'd come back...but she didn't. Alex went outside to check on her, but then she came back and said Piper was nowhere to be found. That's when we filed the police report."

Mendez scribbles something on his notepad. "Did she have any enemies who might have taken their revenge too far?"

Lorna nods. "Yes, a few. She was a bit of a bully...but I can't think of anyone besides Tiffany Doggett who would actually...commit murder. I thought you already caught her."

"Oh, no, she's getting released tomorrow. There was evidence that she didn't do it. They got into a little fight, but Piper didn't die from her injuries. How did you get along with Piper? I know you tend to fly off the handle at times."

"Well, she was one of my besties. We didn't even so much as argue," Lorna lies straight through her teeth.

"Really?" he asks, standing up.

"It's true. Everything was cool between us."

"You're not even looking at me."

"That's because you manhandled me, you creep! Why would I wanna stare at someone who touched me without my permission? You're gross!"

"I know the four of you are hiding something, but don't worry, I will find out what it is."

Lorna leaves when he dismisses her. He calls Alex in next.

"How was it?" Daya asks Lorna.

"He asked me stuff...similar to the questions we all got last year. He's very suspicious of us."

"Why? We didn't do nothin'!" Flaca says.

"Well, we were her friends...and we got the same story to tell the cops. Just don't nobody mention that she was popular, otherwise he might think we were jealous of her and simply..." Lorna makes a slicing motion across her neck with her finger.

Alex's mother comes up to them. "Hi, girls. Alex texted me about the inappropriate cop. He isn't allowed to interrogate minors without an adult there." She opens the conference room door and storms inside, just when Mendez is screaming at a crying Alex about a love letter she'd written to Piper.

"What was this, huh? Did you two have a lover's quarrel? You must have realized she would never go for you because she's straight, so you shot her dead!" Mendez starts to read the letter out loud in a falsetto voice. "Dear Piper, I know you think of me as just a friend, but I love you so much more than that. I apologize if that makes you feel awkward, and you don't need to do anything with that information. You don't even have to talk to me for the rest of your life. I want you to be happy with whoever you end up with, even if it isn't me." Alex tries to grab for it, but he doesn't let her have it.

"Excuse me?" Diane yells. "What are you doing, accusing my daughter of murder? She'd never do such a thing! You know you're supposed to question kids with their parents or guardians around!" She pulls Alex into a hug. "I will call your supervisor! I want you off this case!"

Mendez smirks. "Too bad, Mama Bear, I'm already on it."

"God, what an asshole," Daya grumbles.

"I'm going to stab a voodoo doll of him," Flaca adds.

"Excellent idea," Lorna compliments her.

"Let's go, girls, we're leaving," Diane says, ripping the letter out of Mendez's hands. She points at him. "Get ready for a lawsuit and a restraining order to be put against you if you bother these poor girls again."

Alex looks humiliated as she walks away from them quickly, but they have to run to catch up with her. "Sweetie, having a crush on your best friend is nothing to be ashamed of!" Diane tells her.

"Well, I'm out, now you all know!" Alex sniffles and wipes her eyes under her glasses. "I knew you'd accept me being a lesbian...but I didn't want you to find out like this. wasn't just a crush. We kissed, and I...I felt things. Then, she told me she was into guys."

"That's okay. I mean, I'm sorry that she did that to you...but I'm sure she cared about you a lot as a friend," Lorna murmurs and puts a comforting hand on Alex's arm. "It doesn't make you a bad person. You're still the same girl you were two years ago."

"Yeah," Flaca agrees. "You love Hot Topic and you're into chicks, just a couple of the many facts about you."

"We don't care who you date, as long as you're happy," Daya chimes in.

"Thanks," Alex says and they each give her a hug.

"Flaca, where are you?" Maritza whispers to herself. It's been twenty minutes of Mr. Humphrey droning on and on about dissecting frogs later for a project. He's describing it so graphically that it grosses her out. She wishes her best friend was there so she could make funny faces at her to distract them both from the lecture.

"Today, I'm going to talk about how babies were made and demonstrate it. I need someone to be my little helper, so who will she be? This is a new game I'm playing." Maritza glances around the room in confusion as the teacher walks down the aisles, patting each of the girls' heads while saying, "" When he gets to her, he shouts, "Goose!" while sifting his hand through her hair. It makes her extremely uncomfortable, even though it only lasted for a second.


"Come on up to the front of the classroom, newt." He sniggers. "That means newbie."


"Everyone knows that a man and a woman fuck to make a baby!" one of the boys interjects. "What, are you gonna take her clothes off and rape her in front of us or something?"

"Pete, you're such a moron!" a girl hollers. She glares at Mr. Humphrey. "If you're going to do something like that to her, we'll call the cops."

"Miss Harper, be quiet!" Mr. Humphrey snaps at her and Maritza begins to get nervous. She stands up on shaky legs and lets the teacher lead her to his desk. He turns her around to face him and starts pushing himself into her. She backs as far away from him as possible, but he's still way too close to her with his rock-hard stick inside his pants. She wants to throw up. "That's how you do it, boys and girls. Then, she gets fat for nine months. My sperm will connect with her egg, create a fetus, and come out of her cunt as a screamin' banshee!" Finally, he lets her return to her seat and Flaca comes in the second Martiza sits down. The taller Latina hands a piece of paper to Mr. Humphrey and he barely looks at it.

"Hey, what did I miss?" Flaca asks Maritza in a hushed voice. "Are you okay? You look like you're gonna pass out."

Maritza's eyes water with tears as she tries to hold them in."Humps is a creep. I hate him."

"Ladies, shut up and pay attention!" the teacher barks at them.

At the end of Geometry class, Daya goes into her English classroom to talk to Mr. Bennett once everyone is gone. "Why didn't you tell me you were a teacher?"

"I thought you were one."

"What? Yeah, right."

"No, really, I did. You look very grown-up for a fifteen-year-old."

"Well, I assumed you were eighteen. My bad!"

"We can't do this,''s wrong."

"Yeah, I know, but I'm not really a kid anyway. I haven't been one since I was like, twelve, because I'm the primary caretaker of my siblings. My mom is almost never home, and when she is, she's...not being a parent. Besides all that, I like you. I don't care how old you are. Butterflies dance in my belly when I so much as think about you. Don't you feel the same?"

He looks outside and closes the door quickly. Daya takes this as a good sign. "I'm twenty-three and you're not even at driving age yet! Fig and Caputo will have my head and I have worked so hard for this job!"

"I'm almost sixteen. Come on, we can sneak." Daya nibbles on her bottom lip and puts her hand over his. She stares into his eyes and gives him her cutest smile.

"Damn it-" he begins to say, but then he slams her into the wall and starts making out with her. "Supply closet? I've got five minutes til my next class."

"Yeah," she says through gasps of air. "Sounds good."

Flaca and Maritza walk together to Ms. Vause's room since Flaca is being overprotective and taking Maritza to wherever she needs to go. "I should tell Fig that Humps touched me, right?" Maritza asks.

"You can try, but she won't see it as aggravated sexual assault."

"It's coercion and he made me physically sick! Remember when you held my hair back while I was bent over the toilet? That was just five minutes ago! I still have the taste of bile in my mouth, and not just from the vomit!"

"He'll just give her the excuse that it was part of his lesson plan and you have to do what he says because he's the teacher. I hate being controlled like this, and believe me, if I was there with you, I would've taken your place."

"You're the best friend anyone could ever have, but I don't want you to go through it either. No one should."

Daya walks out of Mr. Bennett's class, looking flushed. "I, uh, had a question for the teacher," she explains while rushing past them.

"That was weird," Flaca mutters. "Oh, well...enjoy Ms. Vause's class! She's my friend Alex's mom. You'll like her."

"Awesome! Bye!" The girls hug and then Maritza goes into her class.

Flaca heads over to Woodshop as the bell is ringing. Luckily, the teacher doesn't give a shit if she's late or even shows up. He's rude, but he's lenient. Mr. Luscheck is so lazy that he gives them terrible instructions and sleeps while the students work. She was in this class with Piper last year, and it doesn't really hit her until she sees Piper's empty seat. She may have been frightened of her numerous times, but that doesn't mean she wanted the blonde dead.

"Hey, you, the ghost is still here!" Luscheck gestures toward where Piper used to sit. He laughs at his own awful joke and hands Flaca a wooden birdhouse with written instructions taped to it. "Make something like this and get it to me by Friday."

"Alright," Flaca mutters.

She hears Janae Watson chuckle behind her. "For once, the cracker was funny. She's always gonna haunt us, that Taylor Swift knock-off."

"Hey, you start talking like that, and I'mma think you're the motherfucker who killed her! I mean, you've hated her ever since she beat you in that one race," Flaca hisses. "This is a sensitive subject. She was my friend since seventh grade, so piss off, why don't you?"

"I can't feel sorry for your loss because that bitch was not friendly. She was as fake as they come!"

"Yeah," Poussey Washington agrees. "She cheated, by the way. She tripped Janae and that's how she won. Everyone knows that, and when Janae called her out on it, guess who got sent to detention? Not your white friend, that's for sure! They actually thought my girl was gonna beat her ass up!"

Flaca could've seen that happen. Piper was unfair, but she had never cared to top Janae in track. "You both better shut up before I pull out your weaves!" Flaca threatens them. "How would you feel if someone in your clique died, huh?"

"Why are you sticking up for somebody that made fun of you for being emo? That doesn't sound like a friend."

Her eyes burn with tears because Janae is speaking the truth. Flaca really can't bring herself to miss the person who Piper was, but rather, the person Flaca wishes she was. "You just stay out of it."

"Whatever, let's leave her alone," Poussey mutters.

"Thank you," Flaca says.

"Wow, I thought I was gonna have to put that catfight on YouTube, but it never happened," Luscheck tells them. "That's too bad."

At lunchtime, Alex meets up with Flaca and a shorter Latina, who introduces herself as Maritza Ramos. Lorna and Daya join them a few minutes later and sit across from them at their table. Alex honestly isn't surprised, since they don't really have other friends to eat with. They don't talk about the interrogation or the text they all got because Maritza doesn't need to know about this. It really could've just been someone playing a mean trick on them.

"So, how do you guys know Flaca?" Maritza asks. Alex notices she's barely touching her food. "My name's Maritza."

"We all met each other through Piper," Lorna answers before stuffing a bite of macaroni and cheese into her mouth. "I'm Lorna, by the way."

"Nice to meet you. Are you doing cheerleading tryouts today?"

"Yeah, but I know I'll win head cheerleader. I'm already the it-girl!"

"Where's your rival, Brook?"

Lorna scowls and points at an Asian girl in glasses who's seated with Poussey, Janae, and Cindy. "She thinks she's so cool, but she's wrong! Everyone knows I'm the best."

"I like you already." Maritza gestures toward Daya. "Did I see you coming out of Mr. Bennett's room earlier? I recognize you."

"Yeah, you looked familiar. Uh, that was me...but like I told Flaca, I was talking to him about an, like what to expect in his class. Did I tell you my name? It's Daya."


Alex shares a confused look with Lorna, who smiles widely and mouths, She's blushing...

"Hello, girls," someone says behind Alex, Flaca, and Maritza. The girls turn around and Lorna and Daya appear to be shocked. "Oh, don't look so surprised! I go to this school, too, you know."

It's Leanne Taylor, who Piper used to bully for being Amish and pimply with greasy hair. Leanne is no angel, either. She's homophobic and the leader of a hate group at school called White Lives Matter. Even so, Alex feels a twinge of guilt for her, and the others do as well. It's written all over their faces, except Maritza's, who has no idea what's going on at the moment.

The girls' phones suddenly chime and Alex looks down at hers. Gee, I hope she doesn't still hold a grudge against you, but I wouldn't blame her if she did. This shit always comes back to you. -P

"Why so pale over a text message?" Leanne asks with a slight smirk on her now scarred face. "I just wanted to see if I was finally allowed to sit here at the cool table."

"Oh...that's...that's fine," Lorna murmurs without even glancing up. The girl plops down between the small brunette and the Latina, who probably wished they'd sat closer together so there would be no room for Leanne.

"New girl?" Leanne wonders aloud and jerks her thumb towards Maritza.

"Yeah," Flaca answers.

"Maritza...Ramos," Maritza says and stretches her hand out to Leanne. Alex senses that Maritza's just trying to dissipate the budding tension and weirdness.

"How is everyone?" Leanne asks while ignoring Maritza, who draws her hand back.

"Fine," the girls say in unison.

"You four are in synch...and with your fifth squad member, it's like as if Piper never left," Leanne says smugly. "Not so chatty now, are we? I bet you miss her a lot." With that, she gets up and struts away.

The five friends are all trying on Piper's clothes while dancing to music in the blonde's bedroom. They're also laughing and talking.

"This would look so cute on you, Lorna," Piper says while handing her a pink tank top.

"Thank you!" Lorna responds. She removes her shirt and slips the top over her head while looking into the mirror.

"Hey, Pipes, can I borrow these?" Alex asks, holding up a pair of black ripped jeans.

"Yeah, but you'd have to wear them as capris. You're getting taller every time I see you!"

"Check out this belt!" Flaca exclaims. "It's black and studded and everything!"

Piper takes a bag of Doritos out of Daya's hands. "Hey, if you want to have a chance of fitting into anything in my closet, hold off on the snacks, okay?"

"Sorry, I'm just hungry," Daya mumbles, appearing to be ashamed.

"She can wear a scarf of yours," Alex says to Piper, trying to make Daya feel better. Even though Alex had a thing for her, Piper could be harsh.

"Sure! How about my purple one?" Piper offers Daya.

"Thank you," Daya answers while slipping it on. "It's pretty."

"Oh my god, that is disgusting!" Piper suddenly yells, making them all jump. "Pennsatucky's creepy little brother, Donny Doggett, is spying on us!"

"Really? He's like, nine, isn't he?" Lorna asks, moving away from the window. Flaca rolls her eyes and Daya looks at Alex uncertainly.

"He's still being gross! Didn't his mother teach him anything? Where's his big sister? I bet Pennsatucky the holy devil put him up to this and he's getting enjoyment out of it! Come on girls, let's get out of here." Piper storms out of her bedroom and the rest of the girls follow her down the stairs and out of the Chapman house. "I'm gonna teach him a lesson he'll never forget!"

"Piper, he's a kid!" Alex yells. "Plus, isn't he intellectually challenged? He probably doesn't even know that it's wrong."

"That is no excuse! I'm at least ratting on him to his mother!"

"You are so dramatic!" Flaca groans.

"Ha, says the girl who threw a fit over not being able to see The Smiths in concert!"

"They are the best, okay?! You wouldn't get it," the tall Latina snaps at their leader.

"Slow down, I can't keep up," Daya grumbles while jogging.

"It's only next door, Daya the Dinosaur. Oh, look, I made a rhyme." Piper marches up to the Doggetts' front door and knocks on it. Tiffany Doggett opens it. "Pennsatucky, your kid brother is being a perv! We're in my house in our underwear and I see him...watching us! Get your mom. She should give him a little spanking!"

"No way, idiot." Pennsatucky tries to slam the door in Piper's face.

"Oh, Debbie!" Piper sings, but it seems like Pennsatucky's mother isn't home.

"Nice try," Pennsatucky says. Leanne Taylor appears behind her and Piper stifles a laugh.

"Don't worry. I'll get you some other way." Piper walks away from their house with the girls in tow. "You should've joined us when you had the chance!"

"What are you gonna do?" Lorna asks once they cross the street and go into Piper's house.

"Not just me...we are going to play a little prank on them!"

"Uh oh..." Alex says worriedly.

"I'm going to shit in a bag, light it on fire, leave it on their porch, and ring the doorbell. It's fucking classic, man!"

"That's gross!" Flaca and Daya exclaim at the same time.

"I don't think we should do, you can, but I don't really want to," Lorna murmurs.

"Me neither, it sounds dumb," Alex agrees. "What if we get arrested or hurt someone?"

"I can't go to jail," Flaca chimes in.

"I'm not gonna be responsible for any heart attacks," Daya adds.

"If you girls don't watch me do it, you're wimps!"

The four friends sigh while rolling their eyes, and Alex could tell Piper knew they finally gave in.

Fifteen minutes later, they come out of the house and Piper's holding a bag of shit and a cigarette lighter. They tiptoe to the Doggetts' front door, set down the bag, and Piper lights it on fire. The girls jump back as the flames rise higher and higher. The leader of their circle rings the bell and then they run away as fast as they can.

"Uh...why isn't anyone answering?" Lorna wonders out loud.

"I dunno, maybe they're busy?" Piper guesses.

"Well, they better hurry up. The house could catch on fire!" Alex lets her know.

They see Leanne coming out of the front door. "Bye, Tucky, see you-" She's cut off by her own frightened screaming as the flames wrap themselves around her. The girls watch in horror as Pennsatucky rushes to her aid and sprays her with a fire extinguisher.

"Okay, what was that all about?" Maritza asks.

"Nothing, it was just-"

"You know I won't judge you, Flaca."

"She doesn't like us because she's jealous," Flaca says. "You know, typical high school drama."

"I can tell that you're lying. You're not looking in my eyes."

"I don't wanna talk about it!"

"Y'all have some kind of secret that you're sharing. I'm really good at keeping my mouth shut about things like that. If you hide things from me, then I don't know if our friendship is real."

Flaca sighs loudly. "Okay...can we go somewhere in private?"


As Maritza and Flaca walk away, Alex puts her head in her hands. "Does anyone else have butterflies in their stomach?"

Lorna and Daya nod and raise their hands. "Do we trust Flaca's bestie?" Lorna asks.

"I don't know her well enough to determine that, but if Flaca really likes her, then she's gotta be willing to spill her guts."

"We permanently scarred Leanne," Daya whispers. "That changed us. We could've been charged with arson, but the cops blamed Pennsatucky."

"Technically, we didn't do anything wrong. Piper put the plan into action and we couldn't stop her," Lorna murmurs.

"We just let it happen," Alex mumbles. "There's no going back from it. Do you think Leanne's the one sending the texts?"

"She could be..." Daya answers. "Let's just block anything anonymous on our phones and laptops."

"Okay," Alex agrees, and Lorna nods. "We'll fill Flaca in on our plan once she gets her butt back here!"

"It wasn't your fault, Flaca," Maritza says, and Flaca breathes a sigh of relief through her tears. "You didn't mean to hurt her...and like you said, you girls didn't even wanna do it. You were just shocked and couldn't move, that's all. Leanne's a homophobic, racist bitch anyway, that's what you told me." Maritza wipes a tear off Flaca's cheek.

"Yeah, but we...we made Leanne's skin condition worse and got her friend in jail!"

"I thought she was arrested for murdering Piper."

"Well, yeah, that too, one should have to go down for a crime they didn't commit...and Leanne didn't deserve to get...burned. She didn't do nothin' to us. I'm surprised none of this fazes you."

"That's what true love's about, ain't it?"

Flaca nods. "Yeah. Thank you."

"You're welcome," Maritza says and then hugs her taller friend. "Did you ever tell your boyfriend, Ian?"

"We didn't say nothin' to nobody. We couldn't."

"I understand. I'm glad you told me, though."

"Me too."

Later that day, it feels like a brick has been lifted off the girls' chests when they're not receiving strange messages anymore. Lorna sees Christopher MacLaren by the gym. She smiles craftily at her friends. "Watch this, girls. I'mma make him go out with me. He's cute!"

"Good luck!" Alex says, giving her a thumbs up.

Flaca and Daya clap their hands with glee.

Lorna strides over to Christopher and crashes into him on purpose so they both drop the books that each of them are holding. "Oh, shit, I'm so sorry!" Lorna cries dramatically. "I totally didn't look where I was going...silly me!"

"Don't worry about it, that's okay," Christopher says. He gives her back her textbook and she grins up at him. She gazes into his soul. "Are you Lorna?"

"Yep! Lorna Morello. I'm in your drama class. There's so many people in there, though, you probably didn't recognize me. Oh well."

"No, I know you. I've seen you in the room. You're gorgeous...and Morello, that's Italian, right?"

Lorna nods while blushing furiously. "Mm-hm! So, uh...would you wanna go out with me sometime? I think you're very handsome." She squeezes his huge bicep and winks flirtatiously at him. "I adore your sweater."

"Well, thank you, that's very nice of you to ask, but...didn't you destroy Vince Muccio's car?"

"Come on, I don't bite, those were just rumors...and he did cheat on me."

"I've never met a hot girl who was so forward! You are way too sexy to be cheated on. I'll take you out for some coffee, how's that?"

Lorna beams. "That sounds delightful! Oh, I'm so excited! Let's go...tonight!"

"Actually, I have football practice and then a lot of homework. I'll pick you up tomorrow at five!"

"Okay, here's my address. Don't lose it," she says while writing it down on a piece of paper in her notebook, ripping it out, and handing it to him. "See you later, snookums!" She pats his cheek and walks away while swaying her hips from side to side. As soon as she joins up with her girls, she announces, "I've got a boyfriend!"

"Wow! That fast?" Alex asks doubtfully.

"Yeah! I'm like a guy magnet," Lorna states proudly.

"Congratulations!" Daya squeals.

"We're really happy for you," Flaca chimes in.

Lorna's friends watch the cheerleading tryouts and root for her and Maritza. The new girls on the squad have to make up some cheers and those who were already on it, had practiced theirs for about a month. They all do cheers with partners. Lorna and Ella go up first.

"You might be good at basketball, you might be good at track, but when it comes to football, you might as well step back!" They kick nice and high and their cheer is very loud, which is exactly what the coach wants. They sit down as everyone watches the rest of the girls. Tiff and Lily go up next.

"We are the Bumblebees, we couldn't be prouder, if you can't hear us, we'll shout a little louder! We are the Bumblebees, we couldn't be prouder, if you can't hear us, we'll shout a little louder! We are the Bumblebees, we couldn't be prouder, if you can't hear us, we'll shout a little louder! Whooooo!"

Then, Amber and Kay cheer, "Let's go Bumblebees, let's go, clap clap, let's go Bumblebees, let's go, clap clap, whoooooo!"

The fourth pair is Caitlin and Ines. "The Bumblebees are the best, better than all the rest. Let's go, fight, win! Whoohoo!"

"Bumblebees, Bumblebees, hear our roar, we will beat you more and more!" Brook and Maritza chant.

Last up are Liza and Tia. All of the girls are really good dancers and the coach says they all did well. They cheer, "We don't care what you say, we're gonna win this anyway! Gooooooo, Bumblebees! Whooooo!"

At the end, they all have to do a dance to Cha-Cha Slide.

"Wow, you all look really good cheering! You'll find out the results next week," the coach says.

When Lorna and Maritza come up to their friends, Flaca says, "You're probably gonna make it!"

"Oh, I know we will!" Lorna exclaims. She and Maritza smile at each other and giggle. "I'm totally gonna be the flyer because I'm the shortest girl here!"

As soon as she gets home, Lorna hears her sister yell, "Leave and don't come back!"

"Fine, you want me to go?" Mendez shouts back.

"Yeah, if you're gonna be questioning my sister without me there and trying to go through her room!"

"I'm just doing my job, Franny, and we both know that Lorna is a bad seed!"

"Hey! I don't wanna hear more garbage come out of your filthy mouth!"

"What did you do to my shit?" Lorna demands to know.

Mendez backs out of the house and she flinches away from him. "Nothing, your sister wouldn't let me touch anything."

Once he's gone, Lorna says, "Thank you, Franny."

"Yeah, you're welcome."

"How far did he get, really?"

"Well, I was doing laundry and he snuck into your room...I couldn't find him, so I searched the house while callin' out his name...and then I saw him goin' through your closet and sniffing a pair of your undies."

Lorna gasps sharply. "What? That dirty bastard! You gotta take him down!"

"Oh, hon, you know, I wish I could. The best we can do is hope he goes away."

Alex and Flaca are walking home from band club when they see a bunch of ambulances across the street, at Sylvia's house. "That's where Piper used to live," Alex murmurs while running toward the scene. She has to see if Sylvia is okay.

Paramedics are digging a hole in Flaca's backyard, and Sylvia stands there and watches with Flaca's mom behind her. "We found something!" a man yells. "Step back."

The girls gasp as they lift an unmoving blonde girl out of a hole, check her pulse, and slide her into a body bag. "She's dead," another man announces.

"Are you sure that's Piper Chapman?" Alex asks worriedly. She blinks back tears. "I wanna see her face...say goodbye."

"We're positive. I'm sorry, miss, we can't show you."

Alex takes a few wobbly steps back, covers her mouth, and falls into Flaca's arms while sobbing. Theresa hugs them both and Sylvia appears to be in shock.

"Was that..." Sylvia asks, and Alex nods. "I'm so sorry."

Once Alex and Flaca get time to themselves, they go into Alex's room and close the door behind them. "So...Piper wasn't sending the texts...but then who could know all of our secrets? We only told our deepest, darkest ones to Piper," Flaca says.

Alex wipes her eyes with the palms of her hands. "It doesn't matter. We got rid of them."

"No, we didn't. Check your phone."

Someone was in my room and they wrote on my mirror that that they're still here and they're not leaving in jungle red lipstick. If it's Leanne, we have to report her! -Daya

She's gone, but I'm not, bitches! Enjoy trying to figure out who I am, because you'll never guess. Of course, if you tell anyone about me, someone's blood will be on my hands. -P

"That's fucking creepy! This person must have known that Daya doesn't have attentive parents. Our moms and Lorna's sister would've spotted them in an instant," Alex comments. "Leanne doesn't know us that well, or so I thought..."

"Whoever it is, why are they not leaving us alone?"

"I guess our stalker has an ax to grind."

"Do you think we should just confess to the Leanne thing?" Flaca asks. "Maybe that will make them stop. We could tell the police we never wanted to..."

"No! We'll still get in trouble for aiding and abetting."

"Okay...I'm desperate here. Maritza knows about it...I don't want her to get hurt because of this."

"You don't have to mention P to her if you want to keep her safe."

"I know. I won't. It's just between the four of us."

It's late at night when Taystee finishes working. She drives herself, Nicky, and Tricia back home, and knocks on the door. Vee opens it right away. "Hey, babies, you missed dinner!"

"We ate at Shake Shack," Nicky says sourly and they walk inside the house.

"Who's this?" Vee asks and nods her head towards Tricia.

"I found her on the street...she's homeless and have to take her in, Vee. She's only eleven..." Nicky trails off. "No kid should be alone out there. It's fucking scary."

"That's fine. You can share a room with Nicky and Taystee, child," Vee tells Tricia. "One of you, fix her ratty hair!"

"I'm alright, yo," Tricia murmurs. "It's neater than Nicky's."

Nicky chuckles. "I'll kick your ass for saying that," she teases her younger friend.

"Get ready for bed. Nicky, come with me."


The older blonde follows Vee to her bedroom where a pile of bags filled with heroin are sitting. "My, would you look what I found dumped in the kitchen? What did I ask you to do?" she growls while grabbing a fistful of Nicky's hair and shaking her. "Huh?"

"I...I'm sorry, Vee! I couldn' one..." Nicky stammers. She's terrified because of the way Vee is glaring at her.

"What? Speak in full sentences, you brat!"

"They weren't interested," Nicky murmurs. She tries to make her voice not waver. "One girl was, but she didn't have the money. She'll get some tomorrow morning, I promise...and I'll do better next time. Let's face it, no one expects to pass someone selling drugs outside their school! This girl's friend said I was sketchy, so...and I don't do bad stuff!"

"If this happens again, you will be back on the streets again for good, do you understand me?" Vee threatens her.

Nicky gulps. "Loud and clear."

"Now go on and bring Tricia in here. I'll have her be with you. People love children, they're like bait."

"She shouldn't be around drugs. She needs to go to school. She's eleven! They'll call Child Protective Services on your ass."

"Excuse me? That wasn't a suggestion. You invite her to live with us, she needs to do something in this family."

"She can help Taystee at Shake Shack, not-"

Vee slams Nicky's head into the wall. "You are not listening to me! That girl is your ticket to you getting customers!"

Nicky gasps in pain. "Fine, but if she gets addicted, it's on you."

"She doesn't need to take the drugs, idiot! Besides, they're all over the house."

"Okay, you have a point..."

"Thank you. I'm glad we understand each other."

Thank you for reading and reviewing, A Star In My Universe, HannahMiley1fan, Boris Yeltsin, haleypadilla229, peanut-brained, nnicholsnlyonne, ladyglorificus, cornedout, and thecharmedwerewolf!