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Fish On

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      “You’ve never been fishing?”

      Cheryl and Toni are sitting in a booth at Pop’s. Which had become a common place to find them in the few weeks. Cheryl isn’t entirely sure how the topic of fishing, of all things, came up in conversation. And she’s not very happy about the way it seems like this conversation in going. “No, and before you even think about it, I do not want to be around a bunch of slimy, disease-spreading creatures that swim around in their own filth.”

      “You’re so dramatic.” Toni grins, and whenever she does that, Cheryl melts just a little, not that she’d ever admit that. Cheryl rolls her eyes trying to keep the smile threatening to form on her lips from appearing. “You practically live on Sweetwater, Cher. Your dad seriously never made you go fishing at least once?” Cheryl scrunches her eyebrows, and her eyes hold a tinge of sadness in them for a second. “I think he might’ve taken Jason out a few times.”

      “Not you?”

      “I don’t think mother would find it very ladylike.” Cheryl thinks back to all those times her mother has yelled at her about her outfit, or how she had gotten her new shoes dirty, or other such trivial things. She thinks about all the different ways her mother would kill her for sitting in a booth with some drop dead gorgeous southside serpent, with much emphasis on the drop dead gorgeous part of that, and talking about fishing. Toni scoffs. “Well, then I guess we have no choice, but to go down to Sweetwater tomorrow.”

      “Did you not hear me when I said that I am not going fishing.”

      “I did, and I’ve decided that you need to experience it, for your own good.”

      “No, I really don’t.”

      “Please, for me?”

      Toni makes a face that looks like a toddler begging for candy, and she has this look in her eyes that lets Cheryl know she isn’t going to let this go. “Fine, but only because you are way too cute when you beg.” Toni’s face lights up and she smiles ear to ear. “Does Cheryl Bombshell think I’m cute?”

      “Cheryl Bombshell thinks you’re really annoying and that you should shut up before she changes her mind.”

      “So cute?”

~ ~ ~ ~

 

      Cheryl thinks that it’s ridiculous how big of a deal Toni is making about this. All day she had been talking about how ‘The Cheryl Blossom’ was going fishing. Everytime Cheryl talked to her she cracked some joke about how Cheryl better not hook herself or fall into the river. She even informed her on all of the different species of fish in Sweetwater (all of which Cheryl forgot). She even taught Cheryl about all the different terms. And Cheryl thinks there are way too many terms and phrases used specifically for fishing. Really, the only thing she got out of Toni’s countless lessons was that when you catch something you say, “fish on.” And Cheryl only remembered that because of some stupid commercial she keeps seeing.

      And here Cheryl is, stumbling down the muddy shore of Sweetwater river holding a heavy box full of who knows what, a fishing rod, and a net, all while wearing a pair of Toni’s old rubber boots that are incredibly difficult to walk in. Cheryl is, to say the least, not in a great mood. Now, it wasn’t all bad. Cheryl did have the ultimate pleasure of seeing gang-member Toni wearing an actual, real life fishing hat. Cheryl hadn’t even thought those were real up until today. And spending time with Toni was always a plus. Well, usually.

      “Cheryl, here, just take the worm and stick it on the hook.”

      “I am not touching one of those things.”

      “You’re being ridiculous, it’s not going to kill you.” Cheryl rolls her eyes. “You don’t know that.”

      “Yes, I do, now buck up already.” Toni held out the slimy, wriggly thing towards Cheryl. And Cheryl is about to say some snarky reply, but the sun is high in the sky and is somehow making Toni look even better than usual, and she’s doing that grin thing which makes Cheryl’s heart flutter, and her eyes look like little chocolate drops that are melting in this heat, and now Cheryl is holding a dirt covered, disease-infested worm.

      “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Cheryl held her arms out as far away from her as possible, so as to keep that wriggly monster on the end of her line unable to spread its many possible diseases. “You’re dead to me, Topaz.”

      “Oh? I bet I could change that.” Toni raises her eyebrows taking a step towards Cheryl. Cheryl feels heat rise to her cheeks as she tries to suppress a smile. “Flirting isn’t going to get you anywhere.” Toni moves closer to Cheryl, their faces now only a few inches apart. “It’s gotten you here. With me. Alone.” Toni draws out the last word, reaching her hand up to Cheryl’s cheek. She can’t help but notice that Toni smells painfully good, a mix of cinnamon and roses. And her eyes, ugh, Cheryl was going to faint. Her heart is racing, and is she sweating? Oh God, Toni could probably tell if she is. Cheryl is certain that they are going to kiss, but then Toni takes a step back, clearly beaming from the effect she had on Cheryl. “You’re such a tease.”

      “You love it.”

      Toni casts her line out easily into the water. Cheryl, though, she has no clue what she’s doing. She tries to copy what Toni does. She swings the pole back and launches it forward, but the string doesn’t actually hit the water, it just floats awkwardly in the air. Toni sees that and chuckles. “Cheryl, you have to let the line loose.”

      “I know, I’m not an idiot.” Cheryl looks down at the rod trying to figure out how, exactly, you let the line loose. “There’s a button on the side of the reel, press that.” Cheryl presses the little button and watches the hook fall to the dock. “No, Cher, here. Reel up the line again.” Cheryl obliges, turning the little handle. Toni walks behind Cheryl, wraps her arms around her, and takes her hands. The shorter girl’s chin is propped up on Cheryl’s shoulder, body leaned against her back, and Cheryl thinks she might need to check her pulse. “Press down on the string with this hand, and then press the button.” She leads Cheryl’s hands to where they need to go, sending electricity through Cheryl’s body. “Okay, now bring the rod back, throw it forward, and let go of the string.” Toni listens to her own instructions leading Cheryl’s arms back, forwards, and then finally grabbing her hand to let the line fall into the water. “And now, we wait.”

      The two girls sit at the end of the dock, each holding a fishing rod. Their feet just grazing the water below, with the sunlight shining on each of their faces. Each stealing glances at each other, both in a comfortable silence. Toni hoping to catch something, Cheryl praying they don’t.

      “You know, Cher, when I was young my dad used to take me fishing here all the time.” Toni looks up at her, with those warm, brown eyes. “Yeah?” Cheryl edges her on. “But then, when he lost his job, we stopped going. We lost our house, we lost just about everything. My dad joined the serpents, they helped us out of our hard times. But, my dad got wrapped into a lot of shady shit. Dealing drugs, drinking all the time, he started being really, rough, I guess, with my mom.” Cheryl looks at her, concern in her eyes. “Never me though, don’t worry, but he hurt people, Cher. A lot of people. And then one day, he was just gone. And he was a real asshole in the end, and sometimes it’s hard to see him as anything but that.” Toni’s eyes were tearing up and Cheryl grabbed her hand. “I’m so sorry, Toni.”

      “Do you know how he died, Cheryl?” Toni’s voice is shaking, and she’s trying to hold back a sob. Cheryl shakes her head in response. “He was shot. In the head. No one knows who did it. The police barely looked into it, since it was gang activity, or drug dealing, or something so bad it doesn’t deserve to be found out. He died on this day, five years ago.”

      “Toni…” Cheryl squeezed her hand, trying to find the words to comfort her. “And you know what the worst part is?” Toni pauses and Cheryl shakes her head, even though the question is rhetorical. “That’s me, Cher. That’s who I’m becoming. I joined the serpents. I’ve hurt people. Christ, I held down a girl while a part of her arm was cut off and didn’t even flinch. The serpents have done so much for me and I’m so proud to be one. But days like today, this jacket? It’s feels like nothing but a death sentence.”

      “Toni, you’re not your father. You’re so much better than him. You’re so kind, and caring, and you’re better than most of the deficient people in this barbarous world.” Toni let’s out a small chuckle at that line. “You’ve made my life, and so many others’, exponentially better. And I don’t know much about the serpents, but I know that they aren’t as bad as we all make them out to be. And I know that this jacket, is so much more than a death sentence. You aren’t your father, Toni. You’re so amazing, it’s unbelievable.” Cheryl pauses to place her hand on Toni’s cheek. “Toni, this life you’re so scared of living? You’ll never live it, because there’s not a chance in Hell you’ll do or be anything less than… stupéfiant.” She drew out the last word, both girls leaning in. Cheryl feels electric, with Toni’s lips inches from hers. Her heart’s beating smile a minute, only getting faster the closer the two get. But of course, Cheryl’s worst fears came true.

      Cheryl feels a sharp tug at her line. And since she’s only holding onto the rod with one hand it jolts her away from Toni and almost into the water. “Toni! Fish on! Oh my god!” Cheryl silently cursed this insufferable saboteur for interrupting their moment. And this thing was big. Cheryl could barely stay on her feet. The rod lurched at an almost ninety degree angle towards the water. “Set the hook, Cher! Set it!”

      “What the hell does that mean?!” Cheryl tried reeling up the line, but was really struggling. “For god’s sake, are there whales in this river?” Cheryl was starting to be able to turn the little handle. “Here, Cher, let me-” Toni’s rod lurched towards the river, with Toni almost stumbling forward, but quickly catching herself. “Fish on! Holy shit!”

      Finally, they both started to get ahold of whatever was on the end of their lines. Of course, once Cheryl reeled hers in, Toni had also reeled hers in. And the two girls burst out laughing when they saw that they both had caught the same fish. A huge fish. A huge fish that Cheryl Blossom had been plotting the murder of minutes earlier. However, seeing Toni’s face light up at the sight, relieves a bit of Cheryl’s anger. She decides maybe she can forgive the cruel thing. And Cheryl is a little proud of their catch. Maybe she could get used to this.

      “Okay, Cheryl, since there’s two hooks lodged in this things throat, you get the honors of holding him down.”

      “You’re kidding.” Toni had dragged the fish onto the dirt to prevent it from flopping back into the water. Cheryl had, respectively, placed herself as far away from the slime-covered creature as possible. “Sorry, my dear, but you’re gonna have to get your pretty hands dirty.”

      “I hate to break it to you, but I’m staying right here, have fun with that.”

      “Cher, just hold it down.”

      “No way, that repulsive monster is carrying around god knows how many diseases and as long as I’m breathing I am not going to risk my perfect health so that you can flaunt that fish.” Cheryl crosses her arms, decision set in stone. There was no mortal force that could bring her to ruin her perfectly manicured nails for this.

      Of course, Cheryl should have known this mindset wouldn’t last, as Toni was no mortal force. She could break Cheryl with a simple look. Around Toni, Cheryl feels like flying, feels invincible. She can see colors unimaginable to the human eye. Around Toni, Cheryl loses her sense of humanity and gains a feeling beyond the state of mortality. Her sense of judgement is clouded by pretty smiles and sparkling eyes, thus bringing forth a feeling not even the most practiced writers could hope to describe. She’s no longer Cheryl, but an everlasting flower, dancing along to the wind, growing side by side with others overtaken by the feeling of love.

      Cheryl sits with both hands covered in slime, holding down some god-forsaken fish and she realizes how deeply she cares for the girl sitting in front of her. She stares at the girl’s perfect features, her skin glowing in the sun. Cheryl finds it unbelievable that this girl can look this good with her hands dug into a fish’s mouth. And as disgusting as this adventure has been, Cheryl makes a mental note to come here more often with Toni. Because Cheryl hasn’t found herself this happy in what feels like a long time.

      When Toni lets the fish go, she apologizes to the thing and tells it to live a good life. Cheryl knew that the chances of that fish surviving for longer than a minute were pretty much impossible, which she felt that monster deserved, but it just made Toni all the more endearing. And in that moment Cheryl decides that she needs Toni. She doesn’t care if she gets fish slime all over Toni’s perfect face, or if she gets some on hers. All she cares about is being with her. And so, Cheryl cups Toni’s face in her hands and connects their lips. Toni’s hands find the back of Cheryl’s neck. There aren’t any fireworks when they kiss, or anything dramatic, but there doesn’t need to be. The kiss in of itself is enough. Cheryl feels her skin tingle, and her heart leap, every part of her is flying. She feels free. Finally. In this moment, there is no one else in the world, just Cheryl and Toni. After what feels like eternity and nothing all at the same time, they part, both smiling ear to ear.

      “Fish on.”