“This is all your fault,” Jacob says, bitterly. “If you hadn’t had that stupid fucking idea, Gabby, we would be fine.”
“It was a good idea,” Gabby protests. “How was I supposed to know that the storm of the century was gonna hit us?”
“Maybe if you’d like, checked the weather?” Noah says.
Everyone stops and squints at the empty patch of air that Noah’s voice is coming from.
“This is so weird,” Liv says. “This is so weird.”
Liv wakes up on a streetcorner. In Dublin.
It’s not like Liv has never woken up on a streetcorner before. Liv wouldn’t say she makes a habit of waking up on streetcorners, but she’s done a few in her time, usually accompanied by several absence slips that she then had to forge signatures for.
At least this time she’s not in a gutter. Takes ages to get that kind of stink out of your hair.
She picks herself up off the ground and shakes her head, dusts off her thighs and squints. She knows it’s Dublin because Mum likes Dublin, and there’s a distinctness to the way it looks and the way it smells and the way the lamplight falls across her hands.
She’s never woken up on a streetcorner in pajamas, though.
Last night she fell asleep with her phone on her face, halfway through a text to the group chat. She’s pretty sure she was in her own bed, and she’s equally sure she didn’t sleepwalk to Dublin. A) she doesn’t sleepwalk, b) to Dublin?
She looks down at her feet and sure enough, her phone is on the ground next to her. Battery’s almost dead but not entirely.
She should call Aaron; Aaron’s her guardian, Aaron loves her. Aaron will know how to get her out of here and back home.
But Aaron is so stressed all the time, and Robert’s going to fucking glare, and Liv just - doesn’t want it. She has been enough trouble for Aaron; she is always enough trouble for Aaron. She knows he wants her but she sometimes thinks, sometimes knows, that it would be better if she were to just - disappear.
Gabby’s voice is rough. “Liv,” she says, and then coughs, clears her throat. “It’s like six in the morning?”
“I think I’m in Dublin,” Liv says. “Don’t hang up, I know this sounds mental.”
“What the fuck,” Gabby says. “Snap me.”
Liv fumbles around with her home screen, swipes for the nearest street sign, sends it through.
A sharp inhale. “Fuck,” Gabby says. “Did you take a bus or something? Did you run away last night? You’re supposed to tell me before you do shit like that, you know I’d-”
“It’s not like that,” Liv says, urgent. “I’d never leave without you, I promise.”
“Okay,” Gabby says, grimly. “So you’ve somehow - ended up in Dublin?”
“Yeah,” Liv says. “I don’t know what happened. But I’m stuck and I’ve got no money and I don’t know what to do-”
“Just get back home,” Gabby says. Something sharp vibrates through her voice, through the phone, through Liv’s skin. “God, you just need to do it, Liv.”
Liv wants to do what Gabby wants pretty much all the time but this is different. This is like, she’ll die if she doesn’t, like she has to.
Her bones are humming. Her skin is humming.
She takes a breath, and-
“Holy shit,” Liv says.
Gabby stares at her. Her hair is up in a messy loose bun and her eyes are very, very wide. She is wearing pajamas and sitting in her bedroom at Mulberry Cottage and that’s where Liv is, too. “Well,” she says. “I didn’t expect that.”
Last night they were on the green; Gabby had swiped a bottle from Lawrence’s cupboard, Liv had gotten some spliffs from a boy at school, Jacob had brought some crisps and Noah was complaining, in his quiet Noah way, that Charity had forgotten about the permission slip he needed to go on the class trip to Manchester.
“I’ll sign it for you,” Liv said, taking the bottle from Gabby. “I’m great at forging signatures.”
“Me too,” Noah said. “But I’m gonna get it in the neck when I’m gone for two days, aren’t I? That’s if she notices.”
“I’ll tell her,” Liv said firmly. “I’ve got you, Noah.”
He sighed. “All right.” She knew that kind of sigh but she couldn’t do much about it; she’d only just got Aaron and it was so nice to have him, to have someone who would have her back no matter what and look after her and love her, but she wished Noah could have him too.
Jacob blew smoke into the air. He was trying not to think about David, everyone knew; he and Gabby had the careful “don’t talk about our dying dads” brittleness in their eyes. It got particularly bad sometimes and it was bad today.
Compared to that, Noah and Liv really couldn’t say much; having absent dads, who you’d really never known and who were also pieces of shit, was better than watching the dads you loved die slowly, by any measure.
“Nobody will talk to me,” Jacob said, eventually. “I keep asking, but nobody will say anything.”
“I wish they would shut up,” Gabby said. “At least they listen to you when you say stuff. Everyone just ignores me and thinks they know what to do.”
Adults did always know what to do. It was fucking annoying every time.
Noah sprawled out across the grass on his belly, shot a careful look at Liv, through his eyelashes.
Gabby and Jacob continued to talk around their dying fathers in miserable commiseration.
Liv ate a crisp and wondered where her mum was. Dublin; probably in bed, watching a film. She’d called yesterday, asked Liv about school and boys and homework.
Sometimes Liv thought, why doesn’t anyone want to stay with me, but that was petty and selfish and stupid, when Noah was right there and everything was worse for him. At least Liv had Aaron. And Aaron wasn’t an at least at all; Aaron was brilliant. Aaron was a mess but he loved her so much, and believed in her, and even if it had taken him seven years to find her, he had in the end and that was the important thing.
Gabby passed Liv the bottle and she took an easy swallow, passed it along to Jacob. Her mouth burned and her lips had gotten that familiar slightly numb feeling.
The sky rumbled, ominously.
“Whoa,” Jacob said, shading his eyes to look up.
Liv followed, leaning her shoulder against Gabby’s, closing one hand on Gabby’s knee.
The clouds cracked open and rain came down in a cold, immediate wave.
Lightning hit Liv first. It was like - she’d never felt anything like it. It coursed through her like she was on fire, for a moment, all of her, but it was a clean and clear sort of feeling, and she stretched her arms out, almost welcoming it. Out of the corner of her eye she saw that Gabby had been hit too, and Jacob and Noah, their bones illuminated, all of them shining.
She thought, strangely, of angels; of sitting in the back pew at church, waiting for everything to be over, and tipping her head back to look at the stained glass, flush with sunlight, streaming in.
And then it passed, as quickly as it had come; she blinked, looking around, as her friends picked themselves up off the grass, staggering to their feet in the downpour.
“We should go home,” Gabby said, yelled it over the sound of the rain. “It’s not going to get any better.”
They were all stunned and drunk and a little high.
Another bolt of lightning hit the trees near them.
“Shit,” Jacob said.
They all stood there for a moment longer, getting soaked through. Liv’s sleeves were smoking very slightly. “Better go,” she said, reaching out for Noah.
“See you tomorrow,” Gabby yelled, and pressed a kiss to Liv’s cheek. Her eyelashes were dark with the rain, and her lips cool against Liv’s skin.
Liv and Noah parted in the doorway; Liv poured herself into the shower, dumping her clothes in a damp pile on the bathroom floor, crowding herself into the spray.
“Are you all right?” Aaron yelled, through the door. “Liv! Noah!”
“I’m fine!” she yelled back, staring at her fingers underneath the water. She felt - like she was tingling. Like something had happened. Like something had changed.
She passed Noah on the way out of the bathroom and he smiled at her, shakily, and she reached out to ruffle his wet hair. “Night, kid.”
“Night,” he said, still under her fingers.
Then she went to bed and opened the group chat, which was creatively entitled “emmerdale sux” and typed out, get home ok? Gabby said, yeah everyone slept thru??? wbu??? and Liv said, yeah we’re in and then got halfway through i think aaron might b onto us, before she fell asleep right there, in her pillows.
They are in the back room of the Woolie, where Jacob has been for twenty minutes, since Noah called him and said, Nobody can see me.
Basically, it’s not been a good morning for any of them.
They have tried everything they can think of. Paint doesn’t stick, Charity is suspicious of all the yelling, and Liv’s phone said they could do something with the microwave but nobody believes her. Noah’s proved ten times that it’s actually him and not a prank, by moving various parts of various people’s bodies and also bits of furniture.
They’re in a terrible film. Like, a really budget teenagers with superpowers film. One of those ones where the special effects team is just one guy with a bunch of bits of string, except that there are no bits of string, just Noah, who is twelve years old and now invisible.
“I’m scared,” Noah says.
Jacob reaches out, into the air between them. “I know,” he says. His hand curls like it’s tangled up in someone else’s and then he shivers, and says, “Noah?” in this faint, terrified voice.
The air shivers, and there Noah is, in his pajama pants and a t-shirt with a cat on it and his hair sticking up.
Liv’s never been so relieved in her life. She reaches out and pulls him into her arms, and usually he’s whiny and resistant but she thinks he must be freaked out, too, because he just goes soft and pliable and tightens his hand in the back of her top.
“You smell like smog,” he whispers.
“Shut up,” she says, kissing the top of his head.
Jacob is crying, very softly. Gabby puts her arm around him. “Is that how you feel all the time?” Jacob asks. He’s shaking; Gabby’s holding him up.
“I feel okay now,” Noah says, chewing on his lower lip. “That’s weird.”
It turns out like this: Noah is invisible when he is sad, and Gabby can make people do what she tells them. Liv can teleport, which is the most useful thing any of them got from the lightning strike, and Jacob hurts so other people don’t have to, which is losing the fucking jackpot if Liv’s ever heard it.
It’s a Friday. Technically they have school.
They make it as far as the bus stop, but Jacob says, “It’s loud,” and his face is so tight and pinched up, and when Noah reaches across to rest a hand on his shoulder he exhales, hard, and leans into Noah’s hand.
“Okay,” Gabby says. “C’mon, we’ll go.”
“How does it work?” Liv asks. They have gone to the woods behind Home Farm, where there are no other people to make Jacob’s head spin.
“I feel things,” Jacob says grimly. “Things that didn’t come from me. This is shit, oh my god,” and then he pauses and turns to Gabby and grabs her and kisses her.
“What!” Gabby says, spluttering.
Liv’s heart goes very fast.
“Not me,” Jacob says, wiping his hand across the back of his mouth. He looks right over at Liv, who has been carefully avoiding dealing with any of those feelings, thank you very much, and only told Jacob about them one time in confidence when she was absolutely bladdered.
Gabby’s eyes follow Jacob’s. She twists the corner of her mouth. “Keep control of yourself,” she says to Jacob, very firmly. This time, Liv is paying attention, looking for it: there’s something different in the cadence of Gabby’s voice, something flashing in her eyes.
Jacob shivers, and wraps his arms around himself. “Hey,” he says. “That’s - that worked.”
“You’re welcome,” Gabby says, and reaches out and ruffles his hair.
Charity is wearing white and she looks tired. She looks tired a lot, lately. “Oh, Noah, did you really have to drag everyone in now? We’re really busy.”
Noah flickers: for a moment Liv sees the back of the bar through his body.
Jacob sees it too. Jacob flinches, like a kick to the gut, and then he shakes his head and reaches across the bar and closes his hand on Charity’s wrist.
“What are you doing?” Charity snaps, but then she goes still for a second, under Jacob's hand.
“She loves you,” Jacob says, like a revelation. “Oh, Noah, she loves you so much.”
Charity says, “Jacob?” But then she turns to Noah and holds open one arm and Noah flies into it, wrapping his arms around her waist and burying his face in her chest and she, startled, puts one hand down onto his shoulder and says, “Oh, love,” and holds him very, very close.
“I should go home,” Gabby says, sticking her hands into her coat pockets.
“Me too,” Jacob says. “You okay, Noah?”
Noah nods. He is still holding onto Charity, like if he stops she’ll float away. But she’s letting him, and she’s holding on, too, even though it’s the middle of the teatime rush and Marlon’s poked his head out of the kitchen three times now.
“I’ll keep an eye out,” Liv says, quietly, so just Jacob and Gabby will hear.
“Call if you need us,” Jacob says, and then he looks back at them, carefully, with that sort of look Liv thinks she's gonna get used to noticing, the one when he's in someone else's head. “I think it’ll be okay.”
gabby thomas, 7:09 pm: liv i need u
Liv is starting to get the hang of this teleportation thing, she thinks. It’s like - a feeling in her chest that she has to look for, hunt for, and press down on. It’s easier when it’s about Gabby, though. Most things are easier when they are about Gabby.
“I told my dad not to forget anything,” Gabby says, quietly. “It didn’t work.”
Liv sits down next to her, so their knees bump. “What happened?”
“He started shaking. It was horrible.” Gabby bites at her lower lip. “I took it back and then he was okay, but I can’t help thinking, what if I did something, what if-”
He’s dying anyway, Liv thinks, can’t help it, but instead she puts her arm round Gabby like Aaron’s always doing when she’s upset. “He’s okay now, yeah?”
“Yeah,” Gabby says, taking an unsteady breath. Gabby never cries, like, barely ever.
She’s done it like three times in the past month and Liv hates it. Liv hates Ashley, too, for doing this; she hates David just as much. It’s not fair, she knows it’s not fair.
“I hate this,” Gabby whispers. “I hate everything. I hate all of it.”
Liv doesn’t know what to say.
Gabby twists sideways and Liv wraps her arms tight around Gabby, and holds on.
Liv leaves Gabby tucked into her bed, blankets over her, cried out. She is supposed to climb out the window, that’s what she usually does, but -
She reaches for it, that feeling, and closes her eyes.
When she opens them she is in her bedroom at the pub. There is the One Direction poster Gabby and Jacob put up as a joke on the back of her door; there is the dress of Gabby’s she borrowed last week spilling out of her dresser.
She hugs herself quickly and slips out the door, down the stairs.
He’s sitting on the sofa, flipping through channels. There must be something in her voice because he turns the tv off, immediately, and turns. “Liv?”
“I love you,” Liv says. “You know that, right?”
Aaron blinks at her. “Did you do sommat, Liv? Because if it’s David again-”
Liv shakes her head. She wonders if Jacob has put his hand on David yet, to take away his fear, his pain. She hopes not. She wants Jacob to be okay. She doesn't want to watch Jacob fall apart like she's watched Gabby, like she watches everyone. “I want to be here,” she says. “I’ve never wanted to be anywhere more.”
He gets up. She loves him; the broadness of his shoulders and the dark scrape of his beard and even that one hole in his jumper with the threads hanging out. “Liv,” he says, gently, in the voice he saves just for her. “Liv, come here.”
“I can’t fix anything,” Liv says, into the scratchy wool of his awful green jumper. She thinks she still has Gabby’s tears on her shoulder.
Aaron kisses the top of her head. “Nobody can fix anything by themselves,” he says. “But you can help.”
“I’m useless,” she says. “I just make everything worse.”
“No,” he says, and then he pulls back and looks at her, with his dark eyes and all his kindness. “You know, without you - I didn’t lie, any of the times I said all of it would have been worth it to find you again.”
Liv swallows, and bites her lower lip. “I was really scared this morning,” she says. “I - something’s happened, Aaron. I woke up somewhere else.”
He keeps his hand on her shoulder. He’s so steady; Liv’s been so unstable since last night, since forever. But not now, not here; she thinks even if Gabby told her to go, if Aaron was holding her, she might be able to stay still. “Where else?”
She closes her eyes and opens them again. “Not here,” she says. “I hated it, Aaron. I don’t want to be anywhere that isn’t with you.”
He hugs her again. “I told you didn’t have to do anything you didn’t want to do,” he says. “We’ll fix it.”
She tightens her hands in his awful jumper, and believes him.