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The Bottle Cap

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"Listen, it'll only be for maybe an hour or two," Olivia pleaded, clasping her hands together under her chin. "C'mon. I haven't seen any of them in so long. Please?"

She watched her father's face as it crumbled into dust at her feet. He rolled his eyes and nodded, refusing to look her in the eye as she squealed, as if it would only encourage her.

"Two hours. Maximum." He emphasized the word by jamming his finger down on the granite countertop. Olivia couldn't care less, jumping around and launching into a celebratory hug that her father only half returned.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you! I love you so much."

"I know." He sighed, rubbing his temples but smiling.

And that was all it took. Young and hopeful, Olivia raced back to her room like it was a ticking time bomb. After diving onto her bed, displacing the several stuffed animals that resided there, she hummed a little tune to herself. She took her time booting up her laptop, a light smile ghosting her lips. Young. Hopeful.

"Okay. Three o'clock. Start a meeting; share meeting link; wait to let people in," she sighed, leaning forward. "Waiting."

Time is a weird thing, right? I mean, when you need it to really move, it crawls. And, well, when you need it to stop...

"Three oh five. Check the group chat."

Olivia's smile never wavered, but there was an undeniable crack in it now. It almost looked like fool's gold-- pretending to be something it isn't. She bit her lip as her fingers traced the familiar lines of her phone case. She closed and reopened the chat, watched the blinking line in the chat box, typed and deleted messages. The feed stayed stagnant for several minutes more. Radio static from DMs, too. The silence was agonizing; it chewed through her bones like sickness.

"Three ten," she muttered to herself. Her arms found their way to her hips, rubbing up and down as if to comfort. It wasn't very convincing. "It's okay. They're... just running late."

Olivia nodded her head vehemently, blinking hard. She shouldn't panic. Ten minutes late is no big deal. Ten minutes late for five people? And none of them bothered to text? Something was wrong. She shook her head harder, as if the thoughts would fly out with them. She rationalized. Breathed. Everything was fine. She was late all the time! Why should she hold her friends to a different standard? 

Because it's my birthday.

Her eyes flickered somewhere they didn't want to go. Sucking in air felt like choking on sand.

"Three fifteen." 

She didn't know why she felt the need to say the time aloud. It wasn't some grounding technique or anything; it wasn't helping. She searched for something she would not find in the silence. Waiting felt like small eternities passing between now and the end. Olivia never liked endings.

"Did they forget?" she uttered. The words dragged out of her as if on their own accord. She rushed to stuff them back in. "How could they forget?" And she laughed, despite herself. It was a gut-wrenchingly pitiful sound-- the kind one makes when they know nothing is funny. The sound they make when they feel like an Atlas holding the world on their back, holding on by a shoestring just knotting itself over and over again until the edges fray and the string dissolves. But she sucked it up. She breathed. She did all she knew how to do; counted. Days and seconds passing aren't so different, after all. Neither is counting forwards or back.

"Three twenty. They must be having technical issues. Did I not set up the meeting right?" The words came out of her in a stream of excuses. Her hands danced over the keys, double, triple, quadruple checking the meeting, the chat, the link, the computer, the chat. But scrolling through the messages gave her no peace of mind, only more questions. Where are they? Why aren't they here? Why doesn't anybody remember?

Why doesn't anybody ever care?

"Three thirty. They forgot about me. They don't care." The sound of Olivia's voice fell into a pile on her lap. They were puzzle pieces that no one wanted to put together, least of all herself. She drew herself closer, like a sun caving in on itself. Her chin rested on her knee, legs curled up-- something to hug. Eyes that were glassy and unseeing stared past the Zoom meeting, beyond the pixels, beyond the walls, into nothing.

Even stars die, she thought, casually, briefly. The biggest, brightest things in the universe and they just up and die. They can't handle the weight of it all, and one day they just... implode and make new stuff and it doesn't even matter. Everything just goes on. Like they weren't even there. We probably wouldn't even see the light from here.

"Three forty-five." The ticking of the clock was off rhythm with her heart, she'd noticed. She'd noticed a lot in those forty-five minutes. Turns out spending your birthday alone does that to you. But oh! No, Olivia. Think positive. They haven't abandoned you yet, you still have an hour and fifteen minutes to go. Sorry, twenty days to go. Who'll show up in that time? It's a fun game she liked to play. Who actually cared? She tapped the side of the computer, cocking her head slightly as a notification appeared. A tiny frown. "Yes, I would like to stay in this meeting. I am the host! I am a host unto myself." The last part was whispered, and she laughed quietly at the absurdity of the statement.

God, Olivia. When did you become such a drama queen?

She didn't notice the hot trails of tears blazing down her cheeks. She didn't notice them when she curled into a ball beside her computer either, nor when her body started shaking with the intensity of her sobs. She didn't even notice when the tell-tale jingle of a new meeting member rang through the room.

"Um. Hey."

A brief pause, and then, the aftermath. Olivia shot up as if the words had been thundered through the house and not muttered, just for her to hear. She clutched her clothes to her skin, knuckles white with the pressure. Air came out of her in short, hiccuped bursts, and she gasped the oxygen back into her as if she was scared of losing it. A part of her wanted to cry more at how pathetic she surely looked.

And Daisy had never seen anyone with such sad eyes before.

"Hello," Olivia whispered. The sound of her voice was that of the ocean rushing forward to meet the shore-- heartbreakingly desperate. She wanted to clean herself. She wanted to sit pretty and smile and talk about eighteenth birthday things. And yet every word caught and every muscle stilled. She was so utterly and completely at a loss for: words, reasons, excuses. Her lips pressed together and she held everything in. Bottle cap, remember?

Daisy searched the girl she knew. She raked her gaze over every inch of Olivia, and despite not knowing what she was looking for, she still came up short. What was the story here? Daisy absently tore the loose skin off the inside of her cheek, chewing it in deep thought. What was going on?

"Hey," she repeated, then mentally kicked herself. "Already said that. Whatever. Um. Happy birthday! Are you... are you alright?"

Something flashed in those brown eyes. An emotion Daisy couldn't name, not that Daisy had ever been any good at naming emotions. She sat, trying to logic it all out, but felt so viciously out of her depth before that vulnerable friend of hers.

"I'm..." Olivia smiled, and it was so unconvincing that Daisy almost laughed. Almost. "Yeah! Just tired, y'know? Why... why were you late?" She asked it in such a light way, but that didn't erase the weight of the question.

Where were you?

Daisy blinked. Again. Once more. In another second of absent thought, the taste of blood filled her mouth and her eyes widened. Another nasty habit to break, she supposed.

"My mom was on the phone with my dad again. They were fighting," Daisy looked anywhere but Olivia's eyes. Her gaze eventually rested on the clock behind Olivia's head, where she felt quite comfy. "She's just really loud. And emotional. It gets... hard. To listen to. I'm sorry I'm late." Her eyes reached Olivia's, and once again that same chill filled her veins, seeping deep in the marrow of her bones. A shiver overtook her. "I didn't mean to be."

"It's okay!" But the response was quick, instinctual. Prepared. Daisy had noticed that before about Olivia. She was very genuine, but very 'what-you-want-to-hear'. It had never piqued her interest before, but it had a chokehold on Daisy's train of thought now. Had it always been like that? Where does Olivia start and the problem-solver end?

"It's not," Daisy answered bluntly. "I should have texted. That was my bad."

Olivia looked confused at that, but didn't say anything. Her hands found her hair, and she twisted and tugged until Daisy winced.

"Hey, stop that. It looks like it hurts."

Olivia's eyes widened ever so slightly and she looked down at her hands.

"Oh. Um. Yeah, sorry. I didn't even notice."

"You don't have to apologize, you know."

"I know."

The silence that followed was painfully long. Neither girl seemed to know what to say, avoiding the other's eyes. They didn't want to acknowledge anything real. Olivia ran her fingers up and down her thigh, feeling the skin there. It was warm, contrasting her cold hands. She felt real, and that unnerved her. She didn't want to. Her breathing was even now, flowing in and out of her lungs easily. She felt that too, felt every atom of it. Somehow that made it harder.

Look, you've made Daisy uncomfortable. You got what you wanted, but at what cost?

"Shut up," Olivia whispered. Daisy's head rose from her hands.

She was talking to her mom. It was probably an important conversation, and you interrupted it. You made it all about you.

"No, I didn't."

"What?"

Olivia looked like she'd seen a ghost when she and Daisy's eyes met. Her mouth opened and closed a couple of times before she found her words.

"Sorry! Didn't realize I was, y'know, saying that out loud." The pity in Daisy's eyes made her want to strangle her. "Don't look at me like that."

"Like what?"

"Like I'm a puppy on the side of the road. Really, it's not that big of a deal. I'm glad you're here." She shot Daisy a look, as if to emphasize her point. "Really. Thank you."

"Oh, uh," Daisy backtracked. "Yeah, no problem? I mean, what kind of friend would I be if I missed your birthday?"

The silence was back, this time with a vengeance. Daisy silently cursed her stupidity. What a fun thing to say when she was, in fact, the only one of their friends who actually showed up. Way to rub salt in the wound. She scratched the back of her neck exasperatedly and sighed heavily.

"You know what I meant."

"Sure."


Daisy left after fifteen more minutes of the most awkward interaction known to man. The second her face left the computer screen, Olivia collapsed backwards onto her bed. She didn't know what to make of the interaction. To be fair, she'd spent most of it trying not to spiral in front of Daisy. But then again, Daisy spent it trying to really talk to her-- even if it was the most horribly awkward conversation ever.

She probably just felt sorry for you. You're really easy to feel sorry for.

Olivia rolled her eyes and dragged her hands over her face, pulling her skin along her skull. When she pulled her fingers from her jaw, her eyes blinked open to be met with her ceiling, in all of its cosmic glory. The rubbery, off-yellow stars that her parents bought her when she was, like, seven were still plastered all over it. They didn't really shine that much anymore when the lights were out-- too old. They just kind of glowed this muted green, so dim you might think your eyes were tricking you. The kind of stars you'd only know for certain were there if you saw them in the light. There were a couple of planets and rocket ships thrown in the mix too, but seven-year-old Olivia had placed those on the edges of her ceiling. Gotta give the stars the most room; who cares about Saturn and some dumb rocket?

She traced the paths between them now, re-drawing the lines of constellations she constructed in the second grade. They were an artwork lost to time; something poetic to be said about childhood. The stardust must have gotten in her eyes as she traced. Tears mingled with the starstuff and fell off her cheeks like falling suns. So, so many falling suns.

Someone once said that salt must be holy. It's in the sea and our tears! What a cool thing to think about.

In the sea, in her tears, and now in her mouth.

Olivia gripped the edges of the sink as hard as she physically could, swishing the salt around in her mouth before spitting it down the drain. Her fingers clumsily tangled with items in her medicine cabinet, hunting for a cup to chase the taste from her mouth. She knocked aside a bottle in her frantic search, and the pills inside scattered on the shelf upon impact. Where was a bottle cap when you needed one?

She gargled several cupfuls of water until the salt was nothing but a faint memory. Her knuckles brushed the corner of her mouth as she made eye contact with herself in the mirror. 

"Wow, you look like a walking corpse." She laughed slightly, fixing her hair a little. Air entered her chest, then left. Olivia turned to go back to her bed, ready to count more stars, but gave her reflection one more glance. "Happy birthday.... I hope it was a good one."

They probably wouldn't even see the light from here.

Chapter Text

Daisy wrestled with sleep that night, and lost miserably. It was one of those nights where you slip in and out of consciousness to the point where you can't separate the sleep from the wake, nor the nightmare from the reality. When she closed her eyes, all she saw was the way Olivia looked at her-- or rather, the way she hadn't. She replayed her brown eyes, darting just past the camera; her hands, hugging her waist and tugging her hair; her cheeks, still damp, still red. The logical side of Daisy wanted to believe that it was because the group had mostly missed her birthday party. But the small voice tucked deeper in her brain had a hunch that there was something more to it, and that small belief killed her.

Olivia, who always wore a sunshine smile. Olivia, who was the first at your side when you needed someone. Olivia, who she'd never seen cry before.

Daisy eyed her cell phone with underlying dread, toggling between her DMs with Felix to hers with Olivia. Who to approach first? She bit her lip until the familiar taste of copper hit her tongue, and she winced. She really needed to start working to break that habit.

NotDaisy: hey felix can we talk pls

 

FelixJacobs1: Sure. What's the problem?

 

NotDaisy: it's about olivia

 

FelixJacobs1: Oh? What about her?

 

NotDaisy: ur kidding right?

 

FelixJacobs1: ...No?

 

Daisy's grip on her phone tightened as she tried not to flip her shit on Felix. She needed to give him a little grace; he wasn't the only one who didn't show up. Besides, it's not like this was the first time his stupidity has led to situations like these. The dude was crazy book-smart, yes, but that didn't exactly translate to emotional intelligence.

 

NotDaisy: why didn't you show up to her meeting thing?

 

FelixJacobs1: Aw man... I totally forgot about that. I was busy studying for an exam I have on Friday.

 

Screw giving him grace-- Daisy was prepared to kill a man. She ground her teeth together as she typed her next message, fingers flying across the screen.

 

NotDaisy: holy shit felix. what do you mean you forgot, how the hell could you

 

Daisy took several deep breaths, clenching and unclenching her fists. This was something to address as a group, not something to drag Felix for.

 

NotDaisy: you know what, it's not my problem

                I need your help to set something up for her 

 

FelixJacobs1: Set something up?

 

NotDaisy: yeah,, I was the only one who showed up. she was really upset about it. really upset

                 I've never seen her like that

 

FelixJacobs1: Oh. I don't think I've ever seen Olivia upset before.

                       Sure, I'll help.

                      What do you have in mind?

 


 

group chat: the sweet shop six (6)

 

FelixJacobs1: Hello @everyone. Daisy and I wanted to set up a time later today for the six of us to get on call and play UNO, considering most of us were unable to go to Olivia's birthday Zoom last night. What say you?

 

BESTOFTHEBEST: "what say you"🤓

 

FelixJacobs1: That is what I said.

 

KingJulian: lmao cut him some slack naya

 

NotDaisy: um,,, did you all miss the part where felix was inviting you to an Olivia Birthday Do-Over? or are we ignoring that too?

 

PrincessKath: Omg!! Sounds like fun, I'm in!!!!! ❤️

 

NotDaisy: thanks katherineanyone else?

 

olivia<3: Guys it's ok, I get it. It's alright. You don't have to plan a do-over or anything. I mean, Daisy was there!! :)

 

NotDaisy: I know we don't have to. but we are

 

BESTOFTHEBEST: wait what games are we gonna be playing???

 

KingJulian: I was wondering the same thing ^^^

 

PrincessKath: Oh also! What time? Just so I know 🥰

 

FelixJacobs1: It will be at 3:00.

 

KingJulian: 👍

 

olivia<3: Wait, you guys are really doing this?

 

NotDaisy: yes

 

BESTOFTHEBEST: can't wait guys

                             cya

 


 

Olivia's eyes didn't leave the chat for a good while. She didn't know what to make of it; it was a tempest of mixed signals and hypocrisy. She wasn't crazy, right? One minute, everyone's missing her birthday, and the next they're all eagerly agreeing to get on call? What's different this time? Is it because Daisy's asking and not her?

Probably. Why would they want to celebrate your birthday anyway?

No. Daisy said this was a do-over of her birthday. As in, this was still for her. Right? Olivia's brow furrowed and she massaged her temples, rising off of her bed for the first time that day. It was all too much to think about. She paced her room, trying to untangle the mess she was presented with. What was the motivation here? Did something shift and she missed it?

Do they care?

"Daisy, why would you do this?" she muttered to herself, approaching her bathroom. Her eyes avoided her reflection in the mirror in a practiced fashion, gliding over to the cup by the faucet. After filling it with water, she splashed it on her face, letting it down her cheeks like icy fingers. It was oddly comforting, in a way. It felt familiar, like staring up at the sky and letting the rain soak her to the bone, knowing she had a warm house to run back to. Where was the house now?

Olivia sunk to the floor by her sink, still holding the cup in her hand. The plastic rolled between right and left, and she watched it intently: chin on knees, hair in front of eyes, expression blank. She stayed this way for a while, but it felt like no time had passed at all. Time is a weird thing, right? She thought of her clock, wondering what time it was. Her mind flickered to what was pinned to the wall beside it. Involuntarily, she flinched. What time was it? How much was left? She wish she didn't know the answer.

"Nineteen." Her voice sounded like sandpaper against a stone.

They say time flies when you're having fun, but Olivia wasn't. So why was it all slipping through her fingers? It felt weird, wanting everything to freeze. Weirder still, wanting for something she knew would not happen. She had wanted so desperately to prove herself wrong, only to have played the fool for four aching years. Four years full of ignorance, interrupted. 

She could be Hollywood famous for all of the acting she had done.

Too bad she didn't have the time.

 


 

Daisy watched the clock with an intensity that rivaled that of a volcano. She certainly felt like one, bubbling and stewing, pressure building up as she stared down the passing seconds. It was two minutes to three, and she sat alone in the group call.

Suddenly, a small ding pierced the tension.

"Daisy!!" an unmistakable voice squealed. "It's been so long! How are you? I've missed you!"

Daisy gave a small smile in return. It was weird to see Katherine so excited to see her-- the two had a history of not particularly getting along. They were still friends, of course, but they rarely hung out one-on-one. The likelihood of a fight breaking out went up the longer they were alone together. She couldn't deny, however, that for a brief moment she forgot all about her anger and was glad to see her idealistic friend.

"I missed you too, Kath. Your hair's gotten so long."

"Yeah, I'm having a bit of a Rapunzel moment. I don't trust myself to try cutting my own hair." She giggled at her comment, covering her mouth with her hand.

The other group members filed in one after another after that, Felix joining first, then Eugene, then Naya, and finally, Olivia. She entered with her camera off and her microphone muted, and it took a couple of minutes before she turned it on. Daisy tuned out of the conversation to observe her.

Olivia was back on her bed, cross legged, wearing her signature smile. Her hair was tied up neatly, unlike how it'd been the prior night. Overall, she looked fairly normal, and most would see nothing but everyday Olivia-- but Daisy had seen her the night before. She witnessed the breaking; she knew to look harder. Upon further inspection, she noticed the circles under Olivia's eyes, like bruises, hidden beneath her strategically placed bluelight glasses. Her clothes were heavily wrinkled, and she was wearing the same outfit she'd been wearing yesterday. Her bedroom was dark-- the curtains were clearly drawn tight. Daisy also noted with curiosity the pile of books and letters shoved haphazardly into her bookshelf barely in frame behind her.

"Excellent, we're all here." Felix adjusted his own glasses, and grinned at the group. Eugene and Naya whooped and hollered through the screen, and Katherine applauded gently.

"Yeah! Sorry I didn't make it to the OG party, Livs." Naya shrugged and stuck her tongue out at her comment. Daisy bit back her sharp reply, knowing that it wouldn't help. That didn't stop her from noticing the way Olivia's smile flickered.

"Livs? When's the last time you called me that, Naya?" Olivia rolled her eyes jokingly, and Naya laughed along with her. Daisy's eyes narrowed. Her interactions with her friends had never felt as staged as they did right then. It made her wonder: had things always been like this?

"Anyway," Daisy interrupted the odd interaction, "we should get started. I think Felix mentioned Uno? Does that work for everyone?"

The group all exchanged nods, agreeing to the classic game. In no time at all, a match was fired up and the friends were thrown into the heat of battle. In moments, Daisy was all but distracted from her main goal of observing Olivia, more focused on bringing an end to Naya's reign of terror; she'd won two consecutive rounds and stood to win a third if she didn't take her down. She gave herself excuses: Olivia seemed to be having fun too. Maybe Daisy had been reading too much into things? If people missed her birthday she would've been upset, too. Olivia crying doesn't automatically mean something deeper was afoot.

But that's all they were: excuses. And deep down, Daisy knew that, too.

"WOOOOO!!" Naya's victory cheer was loud and grainy through the speaker's of Daisy's laptop, and she rushed to turn down the volume. "Another victory for the reigning champion! Bow down, plebs! Up for another round? Just be prepared for me to kick your asses yet again!" Naya cracked her knuckles and started running in place in front of her camera, as if gearing up for battle. The girl was relentless.

"You're going down this time! I swear it. Your luck is running out, Jensen," Eugene cried dramatically, waving his fist at Naya, who had begun doing a victory lap around her bedroom. Felix rolled his eyes and muttered to himself about cheating and something about the luck of the draw. 

"This is so much fun!" Katherine clapped her hands, and the others stopped plotting vengeance to agree with her.

"I really missed you guys, I'm glad we could do this." Eugene gave a thumbs up to his screen, and Felix nodded enthusiastically, giving a thumbs up back. Katherine smiled.

"I'm almost glad we all missed Olivia's birthday yesterday so that we could all come together to do this as a group instead!"

Daisy had been watching Olivia's screen absently when the words left Katherine's mouth. She'd seen everything. The way Olivia's face dropped. The way her eyes turned dull and glassy, the same brand of hopeless they had been when Daisy found her, broken and lifeless alone on her birthday. The way her hands found her waist, her hair, pulling and tugging at her body like she could pull the skin right off of it. Like she wanted to disappear into the mess of it all.

There was a silence that fell over everyone, as they all took in the words with varying degrees of shock. It took a minute for Daisy's blood to boil-- she hadn't fully absorbed the weight of the words yet. She had time to watch the way Katherine sat, confused at everyone's surprise. The way Felix and Eugene's jaws dropped. The way Naya's hand slapped over her mouth with such a loud noise that it would surely leave a mark. Then, the grace period was over.

"What the hell did you just say?" Daisy's voice was dangerously low. The lack of volume was the worst part; it held the power of a dam within it, seconds from bursting. Katherine realized in that moment that she'd messed up, and the emotions that washed over her face were almost pitiful.

"Oh my goodness, wait, no. I'm sorry. I didn't mean--"

"What? Katherine? What didn't you mean?" Daisy's voice rose with every word, but remained sharp and contained. The threat of snapping loomed over everyone's head like an anvil. "You know what, no. I don't care what you meant. I want the answer to a different question. Why weren't you at Olivia's party yesterday? Hm?"

The lack of response was borderline painful. Daisy's face was a death sentence. Katherine was tearing up, desperately trying to backtrack.

"I... I... My dad, he... he got COVID and--"

"Okay, Katherine. Your dad got COVID. Is he in any real danger from it?" Katherine shook her head. "That's good. I'm glad. Good for him." Her words were laced in sarcasm and they stung like a slap to the face. "So. Why weren't you there?"

"Well, you know, just because he's not in huge danger doesn't mean that I wasn't concerned. He's my dad. I just wanted to take care of--"

"Katherine." Daisy barked. Katherine's mouth shut immediately. Even through the screen, she looked bone white. Everyone else in the call watched in stunned silence; Olivia's camera was off again. "I don't care. You have a phone. Use it. You could have texted." Daisy's eyes raked the other screens, disgusted. "YOU ALL COULD HAVE TEXTED."

"Listen, Daisy," Eugene put his hands up, trying to calm her down.

"I don't want to hear it from you, Eugene! What was your excuse? What were any of your excuses? I don't care. I was the only one there, and I was late. There are five. FIVE OF US. How did none of you think to maybe tell Olivia that you wouldn't be able to make it?" The girl had begun tearing up at this point, but ignored it. There was only one thing she cared about. To hell with anyone who noticed that she was crying. "She sat in that call for forty-five minutes before I got there. Alone. Waiting for her friends, who hadn't even bothered to tell her that they weren't coming. Could you imagine? And now you have the audacity to play games and laugh and talk about how you missed her, when you haven't even said sorry? None of you even mentioned yesterday. I cannot believe you. Any of you."

Katherine sobbed into her hands, and Daisy watched her without remorse. The others were all sitting guiltily, hanging their heads or wringing their hands as they were forced to stare the consequences of their actions in the eye.

"I'm so sorry," Katherine choked out in between sobs, without looking up from her hands.

"We all are," Naya muttered, kicking something in the back of her room, "but that was a really oblivious thing to say, even for you, Katherine." The last part was quiet, intended for no one to hear.

But Naya was never very good at being quiet.

"No. Shut the hell up Naya, you don't get to talk about being oblivious, okay?" Daisy snapped at her, and Naya cocked her head in confusion at the comment. "You, of all people, should have been there." She gave the soccer player a pointed look that Daisy knew she wouldn't be able to decode.

"What does that mean?"

Felix winced and started, "Hey, Daisy, this isn't the best time to bring up--"

"Felix, stay in your goddamn lane." The words were spat viciously, but were effective, and Felix's mouth flattened into a thin line. "Naya, have some freaking common sense. Do you pay any attention at all to the way Olivia talks to you? You ever think about how..." Daisy paused, breathing heavily, as if the words pained her. "You ever think about how it's different than the way she talks to any of us?"

"What?" The words were miniature enigmas to Naya, and it was killing Daisy slowly. She bit her lip as Naya started rambling excuses, and she bit it harder when Felix started talking, and she noticed the blood of an opened wound when Katherine and Eugene's voices layered in. The last bit of Daisy's self control vanished with the silence.

"You are the most oblivious person on the planet Naya Jensen! I hate you! I hate you all!"

"That's not fair!"

"You were late to the meeting! You don't get to talk."

"Let Olivia speak for herself."

"You're blowing this out of proportion!"

"Let's just all calm down."

"Stop arguing!"

"You're an idiot!"

The voices were loud, and hot, and they screamed until the words tangled together into an unintelligible mess of accusations and arguments, until a familiar noise cut through the mess like a hot knife. It all petered out the second Olivia left the call. Everyone stared at the spot on their screens where her black one had been, silent and cold and listening. The realization crept down their spines individually, and a collective shiver overtook them as they registered the severity of what had happened.

And they all sat for a minute.

And they all forgot to breathe.

And they all ignored each other when, one by one, they left the call, soaked in silence and regret and an unspoken shift in what had once been so secure.