Clarke Griffin doesn’t care about much.
She lives vicariously through the ancient goddesses of the history channel and the different landscapes that Bing cycles through. She doesn’t bother with politics—her roommate Bellamy argues that feeling the Bern is necessary if she wants to remain his friend, so it’s safe to say that she’s gracefully fallen to the bottom of his friend list, has a plethora of his dirty underwear in her hamper to prove it.
She prides herself on adamantly not caring, but then Bellamy left his laptop open on the goddamn coffee table—with a brown ring where his mug used to be, the tendency to overflow his drinks not lost on Clarke’s sticky fingers—and she loses her shit.
Shit, she’d like to remind, she didn’t think she had.
Her eyes strain as they read over the article’s title five times before she even gets to the first sentence.
MULTIDIMENSIONALITY AND WHY YOU CAN’T REMEMBER LAST WEEK
By Alexandria Woods
Clarke most definitely can’t remember last week, can barely even remember this morning. She’s never thought hard about it, always believed herself to be so distracted by imagining her next art piece that she simply wasn’t listening that one time Bellamy had told her to turn the stove off—it was a tiny fire, more of a scare than a tragedy, more like Insidious and less like The Human Centipede.
Clarke prepares herself to read through the article when she hears Bellamy’s shower shutting off. She has at least ten minutes to read and another ten to process all in the time it takes the boy to pucker his lips in the mirror and style his hair three different ways before growing tired and letting it flop over his eyes broodily.
She’s absolutely out of breath when she’s done, her skin feeling almost like it’s trying to crawl off of her bones.
Bellamy saunters out of the bathroom with a ridiculously large gust of steam trailing him like he just stepped on stage at an Ozzy Osbourne concert. He finds Clarke on the couch, nothing unusual, but it’s her pasty pale face that makes him wonder if she’s ill, makes him press the back of his hand on her forehead in search of a fever.
When she doesn’t smack his hand and tell him to stay away from her with his “jerk-off palm”, he worries.
“What’s going on?”
Clarke turns to him with wide eyes, blue and seething.
“Fuck this dimension.”
The boy rolls his eyes and paws at his laptop, just now noticing the way that it’s perched on the coffee table, half on the edge and half on Clarke’s knees. He exits out of the twelve tabs that Clarke had opened while he was gone, titles ranging from UBIQUITOUS LIVING: WHY YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG to an eleven year old on Yahoo! wondering WILL MY NAIL COLOR CHANGE WHEN I TRAVEL THROUGH TIME?
Bellamy turns the television to Clarke’s favorite channel—The Food Network—and goes to make some tea.
When he returns to the living room, cups filled to the brim with warm ginger, his fingers burnt from the liquid sloshing out of its confines and onto his skin, he’s met with a very flustered blonde smirking devilishly at an email on the computer he locked.
(His password is phatdaddy and he forgets every time that Clarke is the one who set it up for him.)
He sets the tea on the table and wipes his hands on the front of his shirt, grabbing his laptop and immediately changing his password, reminding Clarke that she has a computer of her own that she can fuck around with.
(His new password becomes GreekGBellamyB.
Clarke is using his laptop when he gets home from work two days later.)
SUBJECT: MULTIDIMENSIONALITY AND WHY YOUR ARTICLE FUCKED ME UP
Clarke Griffin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
to Alexandria Woods <email@example.com>
i’m not starting this email off with any trite sentiments like excuse me or thank you or i’m sorry for bothering you because i won’t mean them. i’m here to talk about your article about multidimensionality. listen, do companies fund these types of articles now? are we so bored with mainstream media and the ridiculous amounts of casualties in countries america pretends to care about that we have to start wondering about the many versions of ourselves?
are you fucking kidding me? i can barely stand one version of myself, to think that there are many of me going around and making decisions is enough of a thought to make me want to crawl into a coma.
since you just up and went and posted your own damn opinions on the internet, where innocent people like me go to continue to give zero fucks, here is my opinion:
if you aren’t satisfied with who you are in this dimension, MY dimension, then “brush up on yourself” and jump into the next one. but don’t go around talking about many worlds and reincarnation and time like it ain’t no deal.
if you need a nudge, call me.
Lexa can’t bring herself to check any other emails in her inbox, instead choosing to read and reread the same message from a strange Clarke Griffin.
The subject had immediately reeled her in, and she was honestly expecting some sort of praise—wasn’t being fucked up by something a good thing nowadays?
She doesn’t even care that it’s a big kick to the crotch, believes that criticism is actually more helpful than praise. Lexa can feel the anger exuding from her computer, and though she believes it to be rightfully misplaced, she can’t help but sit at her desk, smiling stupidly and ignoring her unfinished article on climate change.
(GLACIAL WARS: REVENGE OF THE ICE. Admittedly, it’s not her best work, though her editor-in-chief seems to like the pop culture reference.)
She starts typing up a response to the email, reading it over a handful of times before sending it as her lunch break looms closer.
Raven comes to her from a building over—because it’s her week to walk through the trenches of the New York City sidewalk—with her usual red jacket and Lexa’s favorite pastries from a bakery by her house.
“Heard back from Indra yet about the collaboration?”
Lexa wipes at her mouth as she responds, a smirk curling at the corners.
“She thinks it’s a good idea, thinks you’ll learn a lot from me.”
“Please, like I didn’t teach you everything you know.”
Clarke would be upset right now, but she has to remind herself that she doesn’t care.
Octavia points out that having to remind yourself that you don’t care means that you care.
Clarke very pointedly ignores her.
She had told Octavia all about the article yesterday, made sure to include the words fuck and bullshit as much as possible, and still she can’t seem to shake the feeling of existential dread that’s been painting figures on the back of her eyelids every time she tries to go to bed.
She’s been thinking about the beginning of the universe, wondering if something came from something or if something came from nothing—finds that either option is explosive and entirely too far away from her realm of understanding. She’s also developed a crick in her neck from looking up at the sky like a fucking moron, straining her vision to try to see the black beyond the blue.
She has a headache and a scowl and she wants to go back to the life she led before where the only worry was if she could pull off wearing the same underwear two days in a row.
She has her laptop open to an email in her inbox, the reason that her three years of practiced nonchalance are being erased, the reason for her distress.
She reads it aloud one more time so Octavia can really grasp at the meaty bits.
SUBJECT: CLARKE GRIFFIN, DESTROYER OF WORLDS
Alexandria Woods <firstname.lastname@example.org>
to Clarke Griffin <email@example.com>
I suppose I won’t begin with any pleasantries either.
I believe your email was supposed to make me cower, perhaps even ask my editor to scrap the article and blacklist it from the world, but you have actually made me more proud of it. If anything, you have revealed yourself as a modern-day Hans Moravec, destroying worlds before you can even imagine them.
My opinion was not meant to enrage, but I suppose that people who like to live in their own little bubble within a bubble don’t like to get near tacks and splinters. I won’t apologize for my sharp words, as you shouldn’t apologize for yours.
Tell me, why are you so unsatisfied with the prospect of more?
You don’t need to answer, and I won’t apologise for any possible over-stepping with my inquiry because we are, as you established, above pleasantries.
Octavia whistles under her breath.
“She made ripping you a new one so eloquent.”
Clarke glares and glares and doesn’t fizzle out.
The girl is on fire and she wants the world to know it.
Clarke doesn’t remember when she became so angry.
Well, she does, but she’s realized that sticking multicolored pins in her eye would be much more enjoyable than trying to tap into the reasoning behind every single melodramatic and self-deprecating thought she’s had for the past two years.
And trust her when she says that she’s tried time and time again to gouge her eyes out, but as soon as something comes even remotely close to her eyelids she screams bloody murder and proceeds to lose her shit. She manages to calm down by walking around campus barefoot, a manic look on her face that campus security does a good job of never bringing up. Something about the bottom of her feet burning slightly against the pavement outside really balances her chakras—or whatever spiritual realm inside her body Bellamy has decided to talk her ear off about this week.
This, somehow, leads to her current predicament—sitting on a bench outside the art building, feet bare and enjoying the breeze, her mind reeling from the nightmare she had twenty minutes ago, fingers speedily typing up a response to the email that’s been sitting impatiently in her inbox for the past three days.
SUBJECT: LESS IS MORE
Clarke Griffin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
to Alexandria Woods <email@example.com>
seeing how this isn’t a college essay and seeing how i don’t particularly like you, i’m gonna get right to it.
- this world is fucked enough, why would i want there to be copies of it? contrary to popular belief i DON’T like to be fucked from every angle.
- to disapprove any rebuttals—taking a word from your dictionary of condescension, you can have it back when i’m done—what makes you think that if this world is shit then the other would be sunshine? this world is built on a foundation of greed and ownership, and let me tell you something, no matter how many dimensions expand in the asshole of the universe, people will never change.
now, TELL ME, do you believe in god? or do you just believe that within the infinite copies of yourself, that maybe in one of them you’re the one calling all the shots?
if so, you’re doing a hell of a shit job.
Clarke hits send and then immediately questions her life choices.
Who has she become that she’s easily disturbed by nightmares of headlights, easily irritated by articles that try to make more of this existence than what’s given, easily able to detach from those that only try to love her as best they can?
She traces the stars with her eyes, her hands under her thighs, warm and ready to curl into fists at any sight of a strange shadow.
She’d like to think that her dad would be proud—concerned, definitely, but proud nonetheless.
Clarke takes her time walking back to her room. She shoulder-checks a drunken frat boy that stretches his hand towards her like a toddler with a shiny thing, picks up a stray cat that is more a child of this campus than a stray, and leaves him to his wonderment when she’s just outside her door, his black tail swaying seductively from side to side as it trots down the sidewalk.
When she walks in at just seven in the morning, the sky beginning to bruise and moan with color, Bellamy is sitting on the counter of the kitchen, sipping on orange juice and reading a text on Russian history.
He doesn’t bat an eye at her homecoming at such an hour, instead motions with a toe at a mug of coffee that he poured for her. She sighs in relief when she spots no rings of liquid on the countertop.
Clarke lets the morning ring in her bones like the low hum of the florescent light in their kitchen.
She doubts that her day will proceed just as brightly.
Lexa is not an easily irritable person.
Has she taken down a three hundred pound man because his misogynistic attitude was putting a damper on her evening? Of course.
It’s safer to say that Lexa is not an easily irritable person, unless provoked.
It does not take much to provoke her.
“I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this. Can you tell me one more time?”
Indra looks unimpressed, as she often does.
“You’re covering the art showcase at the university in a week’s time.”
Lexa releases a sigh that leaves her lips puckered, leaning back in the uncomfortably stiff chair of Indra’s office. She has a distinct feeling that these chairs are supposed to take three years off the life of anyone who enters so they feel the need to never return.
“Am I being punished for something? Because I’ll apologise. I have a gift basket at the ready for whoever wants it.”
Indra gathers papers in a file titled ARK ART EXPO and staples them together. Lexa discreetly flinches at the sound. Though she knows that she’s Indra’s favorite, she is still suspicious of the woman who always seems to have a bite of everyone’s lunch in the office without their knowing. She swears she caught Indra with a bean stuck between her teeth on a Wednesday—Indra has a schedule for her lunches, Wednesdays is pasta, Fridays are beef patties—and it just didn’t add up.
“I assign everyone with opportunities I think they will make the most of. Are you questioning my decisions?”
Lexa picks up the files like they’re made of gold.
“Of course not. I won’t disappoint.”
Indra hums under her breath and begins to angrily type on her computer.
Lexa takes that as her cue to leave.
“An art showcase? Jesus, who’d you piss off?”
Lexa rolls her eyes as Raven works on the back of her television—which she clumsily knocked a glass of water down the back of, very Signs-esque.
“Apparently no one.”
She flips through all the resumes and brief descriptions of every artist at said showcase with a bored expression. She went from multiple dimensions to climate change to art showcases at the local university, all in the span of a month, she’s beginning to think that someone has it out for her. She guesses that it’s Ontari in the cubicle beside hers, who always congratulates her in a very petty tone. Lexa starts to imagine tiny voodoo doll versions of herself and she shudders.
She groans when she comes across a name she wasn’t expecting.
Raven peeks her head over her television set, hair wild and barely tamed by her ponytail.
Lexa covers her face with her hands, her response muffled and low, eyes shut tight thinking about how she has to edit the email she’s had sitting in her drafts for an hour.
“I’ve been going at it online with a teenager.”
When Clarke was thirteen years old she broke her arm in two places and didn’t even look the slightest bit uncomfortable when she was getting it set; at eighteen she completely wrecked her car after an exceptionally tiresome fight with her inner demons, and the next day she simply went into a dealership and bought a more expensive one; at twenty-one, when her academic advisor told her that perhaps switching majors this late in the game wouldn’t be worth it, she promptly told her to fuck off.
To summarize: Clarke Griffin doesn’t care.
But when some of her art was selected for the grandest showcase that her school has to offer, she cared a little.
When her art teacher had broken the news to her and given her proof to qualm her doubt, she folded the flier six times and stuffed it into her bra so the evidence of her success would brush up against her skin with every step she took. The skin just below her collarbone was red when she got home that night, but all she did was take a picture of it, the words it hurts to be this talented under her bright smile—but after she received many comments on the gram wondering if that was a hickey or a bruise, she simply deleted the post and opted to inform everyone via word of mouth.
She called Octavia first, her happiness spreading down her body farther than it has since she can remember.
“Guess who just got validated!”
“You’re never this happy over something that doesn’t involve you, so I’m guessing it’s you.”
“What do you mean? I was totally happy for you when you and Lincoln got a puppy.”
“Yeah, because it’s something you can play with. Anyway, congrats on the showcase, where’s my invite?”
“Wait, how’d you know?”
“I saw a flier on campus. Bellamy also emailed it to me three times just to make sure I got it.”
“Oh, then this call is no fun.”
“It’s always a pleasure to hear my voice.”
After she hangs up on Octavia, Clarke doesn’t even let her high spirits fall when she sees a new response in her inbox.
Until she gets to the end of it.
SUBJECT: A GOD’S FAREWELL
Alexandria Woods <firstname.lastname@example.org>
to Clarke Griffin <email@example.com>
Though the image of your flexibility was not warranted, I can always appreciate good imagery.
I don’t know anything of the unfortunate turns your life has taken, but it’s clear that there’s no lack of them. I assure you that you are above everything that’s trying to bring you below, but in the company of maintaining our very clear battle of wits between enemy and enemy, I’d like to throw up my white flag. I can send you a million messages dissecting my opinion and my research, and you can send me a million responses that could disprove them all, for that is the beauty of science: it’s a guessing game and nobody is any closer to the truth.
With that being said, I believe it best if we stop arguing via email because of conflicts that have arisen.
Congratulations on your place in the art exposition at your school, though these words are purely professional and in fact hold no tangible emotion, as we have established.
Clarke is rightfully confused and just a bit above the normal level of flustered.
She looks at the folded flier next to her on her bed and narrows her eyes at it, unfolding it with calloused fingers and warm cheeks.
She reads carefully—reminds herself that America is a country of fine print and deceit.
At the very bottom of the paper, her suspicions are confirmed.
ARK UNIVERSITY IS PROUD TO WELCOME JOURNALIST ALEXANDRIA WOODS WHO WILL BE FOLLOWING THIS YEAR’S SHOWCASE. HER PIECE ON THE EVENT WILL BE PUBLISHED IN THE POLIS PAPERS AND ONLINE AT POLARISNETWORK.COM.
Clarke wants to scream.
So she does.
Bellamy barges into her room a moment later, shirtless, in sweatpants, hair sticking up at odd angles, wielding his hardcover copy of The Iliad.
When he sees Clarke looking outraged at her computer screen, he deflates and drags his feet back to his own bedroom, mumbling something over his shoulder about noise canceling headphones.
When Clarke wakes up in the morning after having fallen asleep out of anger, there’s a mug of coffee waiting for her—it’s the mug that Bellamy digs out from the deepest crevice of the cabinet when he’s trying to purposefully piss her off, it has boys do it better written across the surface in small font, it is a mug of lies and Bellamy knows it.
The ring of brown liquid underneath it makes her shout mountains of profanity.
This time there’s no one around to hear it.
SUBJECT: WHITE FLAG
Clarke Griffin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
to Alexandria Woods <email@example.com>
just so we’re clear, i don’t regret our previous exchange, but i don’t want to be on the bad side of some apparently hotshot journalist.
so, coffee. at kane’s at one on friday.
i’ll be the blonde in the SUCK IT t-shirt.
Raven reads the message over Lexa’s shoulder, breathing heavily like she just got socked in the stomach.
“You’re totally going.”
Lexa whips around in her chair, the top of her head barely grazing the other girl’s chin.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Come on, I haven’t seen you this excited to get emails since you cancelled your membership to that weird ass erotica site—”
“You said you’d never bring that up,” it’s the serious tone of Lexa’s voice that makes Raven roll her eyes, because really? one of her closest friends trusts her with the knowledge of their subscription to an underground porno void and expects her to not talk about it?
“My point is that you’re obviously into this girl. I think you should get to know more than just the angry side of her.”
“I’m not into her.”
“You’re into the way she thinks. I’m hot and bothered by at least seven faces on the street on a daily basis, but by someone’s mind? That shit’s hard to find.”
Lexa sighs, scratching at her toe and thinking about the worst case scenario—which only leads her to wonder if Clarke looks anything at all like how she thinks and types, and it’s a tragedy upon itself to create images of people that will only ever disappoint.
She supposes that it’s now or never.
Ever since she was called a pussy by a little boy in the soap aisle at the supermarket because of her choice of baby shampoo for her luscious curls, well, let’s just say that she’s tired of not being able to fight back. Clarke is not a ten year old boy, though her name suggests otherwise.
Alexandria Woods <firstname.lastname@example.org>
to Clarke Griffin <email@example.com>
I didn’t see a single question in that email but I suppose I’ll let it slide.
I’d like to also take a moment to boast of my ability to gather information from an objective standpoint. Just because I don’t agree with how you choose to view life doesn’t mean I would write horrors of your art. I will write horrors of your art if it is horrible art.
I am more than capable of separating feelings from duty.
Coffee sounds good, though what you are looking to get out of it I have no clue, but I guess I’ll find out when I arrive.
Clarke doesn’t know what the fuck she expected, but it sure as Jesus wasn’t this.
While she wondered very briefly about what Alexandria Woods looked like—which was so brief that it came to her in small, angry fragments—she imagined a pantsuit on a fifty year old body, a premature limp, and a hairy mouth that only spoke the words midlife crisis.
She didn’t expect the young woman who unceremoniously plops into the seat in front of her, situating her bag onto her lap, fingers picking at the cup of coffee cradled in both hands.
Then again, what’s more philosophical than a beautiful girl?
Clarke bitterly observes the girl, the intricate tattoos that flow down lean arms and up over shoulders, twirling underneath the thin straps of the yellow and pink sundress that falls just above tanned knees. The girl has on about the gayest watch Clarke has ever seen, and before today she didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a gay accessory, but even despite the gentle curl of the girl’s lip and the way that she more-so hovers than walks, Clarke is hit with the gay so hard that she lets out a snort.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”
She expected an ugly face to spew ugly opinions, but this just isn’t fair. She doesn’t know how to react to the sharp face across from her—all elegant and tight jawed; high cheekbones; pink, plump lips; even her face is condescending, but in a way this time that Clarke can’t find within herself to hate.
Lexa’s eyebrows shoot up slightly at the words. She had spotted Clarke the moment she walked in, hunched over her phone, the words SUCK IT on her shirt in such small print that if Lexa wasn’t already checking the girl out heavily she would’ve missed them. Clarke is beautiful, and oddly enough, at the same time everything and nothing of what she had expected.
“Nice to finally meet you, Clarke.”
Oh, fuck off. Even her voice is heavenly. Clarke bites her lip to hold off her groan.
Lexa leans back in her chair with her arms outstretched. Clarke doesn’t even try to hide the fact that she’s staring.
“You’re right, it’s not. I forgot pleasantries were not necessary with you.”
Lexa has adapted a smirk that leaves the right side of her mouth curled upwards. Clarke bites down harder on her lip before getting to the point of this coming together.
“I can’t just take your word for it that you’re objective. This is my career on the line.”
“I think it’s hard to destroy a career that doesn’t exist yet.”
Clarke thinks up a few tactical ways in which she can punch Lexa in the throat and make a run for it before she responds—the window beside them looks too thick to jump through, anyway.
“No, you look. I’m good at what I do, Clarke. I didn’t get to where I am by letting angry kids with a superiority complex affect my objectivity.”
“Do you even know anything about art?”
“Considering that one of my four degrees is in art history, I’d say yes.”
Clarke looks like she really doesn’t believe that Lexa has that many degrees with a face like that. The girl doesn’t look a day over twenty.
“What’s your favorite piece of art?”
“That’s like asking a mother who her favorite child is.”
Clarke leans back and imitates Lexa’s slack position. Her eyes narrow as she contemplates her next move. She hasn’t thought this strategically since she beat the chess club’s president in high school while baked from Octavia’s special stash.
Before she has a chance to ask a very invasive question, Lexa digs through her bag and speaks up.
“I didn’t think I’d win you over easily, so I brought some things I’ve written over the years on people that I didn’t really like, just so you can get a taste of how I work.”
And as Clarke skims through the articles, the girl across from her clears her throat softly.
“I don’t hate you, Clarke.”
Clarke damns her cheeks for becoming warm, will personally pull a Jimmy Neutron and shrink to travel through her body to attach explosives to every synapse in her brain that led her body to react this way.
“You’re irrational, sure, but there’s not much else to dislike about you,” Lexa speaks while maintaining a crazy amount of eye contact that Clarke is sure would have most running for the hills. Clarke is not most—though at times she knows she does the most.
“You don’t even know me.”
“I don’t have to.”
“Is Intuition one of your three degrees?”
“Four. And no, I just don’t usually bother with people who aren’t worth my time.”
“How humbling. I’m honored.”
The smirk intensifies, and really, when will Clarke be put to rest?
“Are we done here? I do actually have a career I need to get back to.”
Blue eyes roll and roll and roll.
“One more thing. How old are you? Can’t have someone who’s barely started their life judging my life’s work.”
Lexa stands, smoothing out her dress and looking at Clarke like she knows more than her—and Clarke is sure that Lexa believes that she does.
“If you want to know more about me all you have to do is ask.”
Clarke swears she will find every last synapse and burn them to the ground. She stands as well—noting the handful of inches that Lexa has on her—and holds out the articles in her hand.
“Keep them. As a twenty-seven-year-old journalist with many awards under my belt I have more than enough copies of my work lying around.”
Lexa winks and smiles, the first genuine smile that’s not a stretched-out smirk, and flips her hair over one shoulder as she turns toward the door.
“See you soon, Clarke.”
The blonde sits back down and stares daggers at the now unoccupied seat.
Why does she suddenly feel like soon can’t come soon enough?
Bellamy Blake deserves the world.
Right now, Clarke thinks he deserves a foot up the ass.
He’s been stomping around their place for three hours, putting gel in his hair and then sticking his head under the sink to rinse it off, changing his undershirt from a black one to a white one and back again, using a steak knife to cut off the curls on his head that have grown a bit longer than the rest.
Clarke threw on the first clothes she came across on her floor—a floral tank with black jeans ripped at the knees. She’s barefoot right now and highly considering walking out of the house like this, but she thinks about professionalism and her art and really doesn’t want her shit attitude to fuck things up.
Bellamy comes out in a full tuxedo five minutes later and Clarke bites back the urge to tell him to go change.
“Are you done?” she asks instead.
Bellamy looks disgusted by her choice of wardrobe.
“You can’t seriously be going dressed like that.”
“There’s nothing wrong with this,” she says with a hand sweeping over her body.
“You picked the first things off your floor, Clarke.”
“You don’t know me,” she says defensively.
Bellamy crosses his arms over his chest and narrows his eyes. Clarke leans forward and strains her vision.
“Are you wearing eyeliner?”
He totally is.
With a roll of her eyes Clarke goes to her closet and digs through the many haphazardly hung shirts and pants. She shifts through drawers and pulls out a wrinkled black dress. She irons it with the precision of a five year old and throws it on, the material tight around her chest and back, flowing down to her mid thighs.
She throws on a pair of flats with golden glitter over the strap, because if she’s going to be walking around and viewing art while nervously fumbling around her own, then heels are just a disaster waiting to happen.
She saunters out of her room with a scowl, her blonde waves bouncing behind her, walking out the front door without even a glance at Bellamy, who follows and locks the door behind them.
They walk the half a mile to the center of campus where the showcase is being held.
Bellamy is peering at her from the corner of his eye in that brotherly omniscient way he always does.
Clarke scoffs. “No.”
He knows she totally is.
“You clean up well.”
Clarke has been wandering around this shitshow for the past hour wondering how on earth all these other artists still have a place at this school.
Not to brag—though she has been bragging to people she even vaguely recognizes—but her art is the shit. Her colors and her tone and her mediums, they’re all just better than everyone else’s. It’s unnerving, really.
She just got out of a rather stunted conversation about oil paints with a mouthbreather who seemed more interested in deciphering the exact shade of pink of her nipples than figuring out her reasoning for choosing blood as the focal point in most of her work, a question she had hoped she would get at least once tonight.
Clarke looks towards the voice to her left and her jaw physically drops.
Lexa is a sight for sore eyes, and right now Clarke’s eyes are bloodshot and aching. The girl is wearing form-fitting slacks and a blazer over a white t-shirt, looking more professional than the president of every nation combined, and wearing a smirk to indicate that she knows she could rule the world if she tried.
“This wasn’t my first choice,” Clarke admits, and she’s desperately searching for Lexa’s eyes, but her greenery is focused on someone across the room.
“Did your boyfriend convince you?”
Clarke furrows her eyebrows. “I don’t have a boyfriend," she says almost too quickly.
And okay, she's got to give it to the brunette, she's slick—Clarke's always liked her women a little slippery and hard to grasp, anyway.
Lexa bumps their shoulders together, nodding towards a looming figure on the other side of the hall.
“Should I be worried about potential stalkers then?”
Clarke turns and spots Bellamy’s crossed arms and glare, staring down Lexa like she broke his favorite pen—which Clarke has done before; she was ignored for an entire week.
“That’s just Bellamy. He’s my roommate and he’s harmless. I’m pretty sure he blows his biceps up every morning before he leaves the house.”
Lexa only hums something low in her throat, looking over one of Clarke’s pieces in front of them with a small grin. She leans towards Clarke after a moment, her warm breath skirting over the top of Clarke’s ear. It makes a chill run down the length of the blonde’s spine.
“At the risk of not sounding impartial, I just have to say,” she sighs deeply and presses their bodies even closer, “you’re the best artist here, Clarke.”
“You sound disappointed,” Clarke responds with a smirk, her ego inflating so extremely that she feels the air being sucked out of the room by it’s demanding presence. She’s sure it’s written all over her face at this point.
“I will admit, a small part of me had hoped for at least a smidge of mediocrity.”
Clarke scoffs. “Please, there’s not one mediocre bone in my body.”
She doesn’t miss the way that Lexa’s eyes focus on the freckle above her lips.
“I believe you.”
Lexa stands back, looking over Clarke’s shoulder at her work, her front pressed to the shorter girl’s back. Clarke does a good job of remaining poised and stutter-free, though her heart is racing and rattling against her chest, marching along her sternum to the Glee version of Girl’s Just Wanna Have Fun, which was like a category five hurricane, in her opinion.
“I’m guessing the black blood is symbolic of your pain, since it’s in every painting, but why black?”
Clarke breathes a sigh of relief. Finally, her time to shine.
Not to say that she isn’t lit like the sun because of the fact that her art is here, but everyone seems more excited at the prospect of looking at art than actually looking at it, like it’s all so much better in theory. Art isn’t supposed to be a fun and loud time, it’s all about the soak. When Clarke paints she drowns in what she’s feeling, she opens the jar and dives in; when she observes art she doesn’t speak for hours at a time, simply trying to fit the artist’s shoe around her own jagged foot. It’s always so much more interesting to her to find shoes that fit too tight or too big than those that fit just right—finds there’s something more touching about people with the same pain expressing their anguish with different strokes of a brush.
Clarke subconsciously relaxes into Lexa’s warm body while she explains the reasoning behind her artistic choices. If Lexa notices, she says nothing.
“My pain doesn’t deserve a color. It’s like it would be more real if it was red like blood or white like wine.”
“Isn’t white a reflection of all colors?”
“Technically, yes. That’s why I paint voids in black, my pain is always an absence of, not an abundance.”
Clarke takes a very generous gulp from her glass of champagne. Lexa traces over the rim and furrows her eyebrows.
“Are you old enough to drink?”
Clarke snorts. “How old do you think I am, exactly?”
Lexa does not hide the way that she checks Clarke out, like she expects the curves of the girl’s body to give her all the answers—she’s sure under the right circumstances, they would.
Lexa thinks that Clarke’s body scream twenty-five and experience, but her attitude screams nineteen and aimless.
“You’re an undergrad.”
Clarke narrows her eyes. “A regular Sherlock.”
They both look away and roll their eyes. Clarke decides to spare the other girl just this once.
“I’m almost twenty four. Switched majors late.”
“Is that any of your business?”
“I’m asking as a writer, Clarke, not an enemy.”
Clarke taps her foot to the tune of the gentle piano flowing overhead.
“I was pre-med, almost into med school and the end of my life. I’m my own hero,” she says dryly.
“Didn’t want to cut other people open anymore so you volunteered yourself?”
Lexa’s coy question makes her eyes so green that Clarke feels like she’s drowning in the dew on the grass outside her home every morning, drinking over-poured coffee and plunging a dagger into her doubts as the sun is summoned from darkness.
“Something like that,” she responds with a quirk to her lip.
“How about you tell me more about your art over dinner? I can make it worthwhile for your career.”
Clarke’s eyebrow arches as she looks over the woman who is now refusing to meet her eye.
“Are you trying to seduce me with your credentials?”
“Don’t act like you’re not impressed, Clarke.”
“I’m not. I’m impressed by who people are not what they do.”
Lexa nods once, a very curt gesture.
“Then maybe dinner should be less about work and more about us.”
Clarke’s hypnotized by the way Lexa leans in closer, but her attention is suddenly brought to the shattering of a glass across the room. A flustered Octavia is trying to pick up the shards with her bare hands, two of her fingers tinged with her own blood, a dazed smile on her face as Bellamy holds his hair away from his eyes with a flustered press of his palm against his forehead.
“Oh my fucking god,” Clarke mutters under her breath.
Lexa is looking over the spectacle with a small grimace on her face, her eyes holding all the irritation over the interruption.
Clarke downs the rest of her alcohol and bends to place her glass by her feet, leaving it there simply because she doesn’t have the energy to walk ten feet to the refreshment table. Lexa looks over her action with an expression that suggests she’s holding in a surprised bout of laughter.
“I’ll be right back,” Clarke throws over her shoulder as she begins to approach the shitshow that is the Blake family.
She grabs them both by the collars of their shirts and proceeds to drag them outside, away from prying eyes and annoyed huffs.
Octavia reeks of weed, which is not a surprise, but Clarke had allowed herself to expect tonight, and of course it would lead to the same disappointment she knows so well. Bellamy looks like he’s aged ten years since he set his eyes on his sister, looking over her every move and glaring at anybody who regards her with an air of condescension. Clarke swears that she sees the beginning of a beard that she witnessed him shave off only four hours prior—Octavia has always had a way of making him stress-grow his stubble.
“You couldn’t have been good for just one night?”
Octavia giggles and drags a bloody finger over Clarke’s lips. The blonde is a second away from chewing off the girl’s entire arm.
“I’m more than good, Clarke-o Supreme. I’m superfluous.”
Clarke closes her eyes and takes in a breath that’s supposed to be calming, but all it does is keep her alive and seething.
“Not the word you’re looking for, O.”
Bellamy speaks up then—his voice like cement being put through a blender—and Clarke has never enjoyed the sound more.
“I’ll take her back home. Loved your work, Clarke, are you just really good or is everyone just really shitty?”
He walks away with a tight hand on Octavia’s bicep. Clarke believes that he asked the question just to ask, and not because he was looking for an answer—and really, Bellamy already knows the truth.
Clarke watches the backs of her friends until they disappear down the street, deciding after they’re gone that maybe she should head home too, because despite the showcase being about her work, she feels like she’s overstayed her welcome.
Every step away from the hall resonates in her mind, an echo that makes her think she forgot something, but the distance between where she was and where she is now becoming too far for her to care enough to turn back.
Two days later, as Clarke nests in her warm blankets, groaning every so often just to remind herself that she’s still alive, she gets a phone call.
Octavia’s obnoxiously bright smile lights up her screen, and Clarke almost let’s it ring through, but she decides last minute that perhaps some human interaction wouldn’t be all that bad.
“I just read the bombest article about your art thing.”
Clarke will never cease to be astounded by Octavia’s lack of cellular etiquette.
“Because I felt bad for showing up blasted—"
“As you should.”
“—I went online to brush up on all facts about the showcase, and I came across this art forum the school put up—”
“We have forums at this school?”
“—and this user, GoghFish—like Van Gogh, you know? these kids are so fucking clever. Anyway, this guy links me up to this top notch article that’s supposed to be a huge deal and, Clarke, you have to read it.”
“What have I told you about telling me to do things? You know I’m not the type of person who does things.”
“Take this as an apology from me. Please.”
“Will I also be getting I’m Sorry I Was High cookies?”
“With some I Bled All Over Your Face And Not In The Fun Way brownies. Seriously, read the article.”
Octavia hangs up abruptly, as she always does, but Clarke had hoped for a second that she could correct her friend before she left—to clarify that there is no fun way to bleed on people. Ever.
Clarke receives a text from her a second later with a link to polarisnetwork.com.
ARK UNIVERSITY: AN ARTIST'S BREEDING GROUND
by Alexandria Woods
As of Monday, the third of November, Ark University has opened an art showcase to expose student artists, and I must say that I was at times underwhelmed and equally overwhelmed by the thought processes of the new generation. Other times I found myself grimacing with each bite of food from the refreshments table—as I have learned the hard way and do not want others to suffer, I leave you with this tip: bring your own food to school-sponsored events.
This very dim tunnel, however, did have a light waiting for me at the end.
This light came in the form of Clarke Griffin, a very colorful undergrad who mesmerized me with her words and her art. I was blown away by the complexity of her work, the thought behind every simple sketch, the ease by which she commanded every conversation she was a part of—it blew me away and left me wondering if the woman herself was a painting come to life.
I recommend everyone of ArkU to visit the exhibit once. It’s free, which I know is what college students like to hear.
The most outstanding piece of the night was titled “The Graveyard”, and the meaning behind it—at least, what I could interpret from it—is that this universe is our birth, and it is our death, both of which are not fair. It depicts a space station, and a lone body floating bare and dead, appearing to be in motion among the stars, a serene smile on the face at finally having the chance to shine just as bright as them.
It made me realize that this universe is our graveyard, and that we are all haunted by it. We make prose and poetry, personifying the vastness of it, making it beautiful and philosophical, but what do we know? How can we make beauty from what we don’t understand?
I’d also like to give an honorable mention to Nathan Miller’s piece titled “Me, Myself, and That Guy” for capturing the nature of nostalgia and the self so profoundly. He depicts with chalk the many different people that we cycle through in our lives, and how it does affect us when we lose our past versions. He comments that, “we all live with trauma without realizing it. Some of us think it’s the world, but nah, the world is here to help us grow. The only thing that hinders that process is the idea of loss.”
Go to this art showcase and get cultured. Even if you do not like art, find it fruitless and frill, pretend to enjoy it anyway, walk around with your arms crossed and a constipated look on your face that suggests irritable bowels and wisdom.
Go find some answers.
Clarke has a smile so wide on her face that it aches at her cheeks—a smile she didn’t even realize had grown with every word she read.
She texts Octavia the eggplant emoji to let her know that she got the message and didn’t just pass out, and she rereads the article a few times before she finds herself opening up her email.
Clarke Griffin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
to Alexandria Woods <email@example.com>
Clarke attaches her contact information to the end of the email and presses send before she can stop herself.
She expects a text in the morning, perhaps a day from now when Lexa’s—she assumes—cluttered inbox is cleared out.
She doesn’t expect her phone to chime twenty minutes later.
Unknown [10:03 pm]: I didn’t see a question in that email either.
Clarke [10:04 pm]: i’m sorry i left you at the showcase like that
Lexa [10:04 pm]: I thought you were above pleasantries?
Clarke [10:05 pm]: i’m above a lot of things
Clarke [10:05 pm]: i like being on top
Clarke [10:05 pm]: maybe over dinner you can get to know more about me
Lexa [10:07 pm]: What makes you think I haven’t changed my mind about dinner?
Clarke [10:09 pm]: i read your article
Lexa [10:14 pm]: Ah.
Clarke [10:15 pm]: apparently i’m mesmerizing
Clarke [10:15 pm]: i didn’t know that about myself
Lexa [10:16 pm]: Don’t let your ego hear you.
Clarke [10:19 pm]: dinner. friday at seven. grounder pounder has a great burger menu.
Lexa [10:20 pm]: I’m a vegan.
Clarke [10:21 pm]: of course you are
Lexa [10:27 pm]: Why the sudden change of heart?
Clarke [10:27 pm]: there’s nothing sudden about this
Clarke [10:27 pm]: i was going to say yes at the showcase
Clarke [10:28 pm]: my friend distracted me
Clarke [10:28 pm]: i’m sorry
Lexa [10:29 pm]: Desperation is not a good look for you.
Clarke [10:30 pm]: fuck off
Lexa [10:31 pm]: All better.
Lexa [10:31 pm]: Seven sounds good.
Clarke [10:31 pm]: good
Clarke [10:35 pm]: it’s a date
On Friday, sitting in the corner of a restaurant with way too many pictures of vegetables on the walls, Clarke almost swallows her tongue when Lexa walks in, all red sundress and brown bag slung over a shoulder, pink lips and wild hair, clumsy steps and sharp eyes.
Clarke is sure her mental boner is hindering her ability to respond, so instead she shoves a piece of dry bread into her mouth and tries not to choke on its rough texture.
Lexa quirks an eyebrow at this, tugging at a lock of her own hair to keep from laughing.
“Have you been here long?”
Clarke shakes her head quickly, eyebrows furrowing to indicate that it’s no big deal.
“Not long,” she finally manages to say with words and coherence.
“I’m sorry about that. My boss kept me for a bit after a meeting.”
“I thought you were above pleasantries?”
“I’m pretty versatile,” Lexa says with a smirk, sipping her water and beckoning their waiter over with a smile and a wave as Clarke stuffs another piece of bread in her mouth—it does nothing to soak up the sudden burst of arousal.
Lexa orders something complicated and vegan, which only makes Clarke roll her eyes with fervor.
Clarke orders the steak with extra steak, which makes Lexa wonder about her slim figure and fifty-year-old male tendencies.
“So, who was your friend?”
Lexa is leaning against her forearms on the table, looking at Clarke like it’d be foolish to look anywhere else.
“Octavia? She’s Bellamy’s little sister and a pain in the ass. We met in high school.”
Lexa hums, her eyes focused intently on Clarke’s lips. “What about your family?”
She asks like she hasn’t already done her research, like she hasn’t already memorized the exact way Jake Griffin was propelled into space, like she doesn’t know how fast he lost air when his suit’s helmet broke in three places.
“What about them?”
Green eyes narrow at the defensive tone. “What are they like?”
Clarke clears her throat and swallows the bile that rises like a surprise Pavlovian reaction, with every mention of her family making her want to vomit out of grief.
Instead of lying—as she so often does—and saying that her family is alive and well, happy and humbling and an incredible throng of people, she stammers and picks at the napkin on her lap.
“I’d rather not talk about them.”
Lexa takes it all with a grain of salt, quickly talking about her own shit childhood to take the weight off of the girl across from her. Pain is dealt with differently, and she had assumed within ten minutes of meeting Clarke that she’s the type of girl who would rather not deal with it at all.
“Well I was adopted when I was young by a man named Gustus, and when I was fifteen my birth mother wanted me back. For three years I was in and out of court, and I would’ve told her I was gay sooner if I had known it would make her stop fighting for me.”
Clarke is thankful for the change of subject, eyes widening at Lexa’s past.
“You’re fucking kidding.”
“Afraid not. Made for a hell of a college essay though, so it wasn’t all bad. People love tragedy, especially when it’s not theirs.”
“You don’t have to tell me.”
Dinner proceeds similarly enough, with Lexa talking all about herself and Clarke absorbing every last word, throwing in comments and jokes and sometimes even talking about her own life, though very briefly and lacking color.
With their stomachs warm and eyes strained from focusing so diligently on each other through the dim lighting of the restaurant, Lexa walks Clarke to her car, hands tightly squeezing the strap of her bag to keep from caressing Clarke’s smooth skin and beautiful wrists.
Clarke notices the white-knuckled grip.
“Is there a journal in that bag?”
“How’d you guess?”
“You writers are all the same,” Clarke says affectionately.
“You never know when inspiration will strike.”
Clarke turns her body when they reach her car, back pressed against the driver’s side door, fingers intertwined behind her back, chin jutted upwards to look at Lexa with a sensual defiance.
“Did it strike tonight?” Her voice is husky and low and not at all what it had been during dinner.
The thing is, Clarke is good at everything that comes after. She’s good at interpreting passages but is horrible at reading them; she’s a jerk-off to people sometimes but so good at apologizing, making them believe that it’s their idea to accept her half-assed apology when she flicks her hair away from her face or smiles just the right amount.
She’s great at sex, at morning afters and slipping away like she was never even there, at kissing like she knew the name of the person her lips were trying to swallow whole. But talking to someone, trying to recreate her past in sentences and emotions twisted on her face, trying to take things slow—it’s never been her area of expertise.
Lexa takes a step forward, their bodies dangerously close to touching, but Clarke resists snaking an arm around a thin waist, resists wiping that smirk off Lexa’s face.
“I can write a thousand stories about you, Clarke,” and Lexa had, late at night when her mind was racing with images of Clarke’s profile amongst fields of paintings, of Clarke’s back walking further into the darkness of the night, she had written fact and fiction and myth. Her favorite story is of Clarke falling from the sky like a meteor with faulty coordinates, crash landing into her life with the sun for hair and glaciers for eyes. What Lexa would do to suffer at her hand, and in her story, oh how she did.
“But nothing trumps actually standing here with you.”
Lexa leans forward then, her temple resting against Clarke’s head, the blonde’s breath grazing her cheek with every exhale. They are not touching with greedy hands or fingers, merely letting their bodies meet at one point, their minds so close together that it’d seem by pure willpower this night was entirely imagined.
“Next time you compliment me,” Clarke says as she leaves a faint kiss on Lexa’s neck. “Keep trump out of it.”
Lexa snorts, and the sound is bittersweet among the silence they had propelled themselves into—it breaks the dam of rose-colored sensory, and suddenly Clarke can smell the exhaust from a car trudging miserably up the street, can hear the breaking of glass and shuffling of feet down the sidewalk, can see her vision blurring around the edges as a result of too much stale bread and white wine.
None of the outliers make the current moment any less captivating, and she’s momentarily glad that she feels at one present and detached from the world around them—imagines the spinning top wobbling over and ceasing to spin, but still feeling the hazy glow of the dream world.
Clarke unclasps her hands from behind her back and lets her fingers trail up Lexa’s arm, a range of goosebumps erupting on her skin, intoxicated by the feather-light touch.
She presses her palm against the side of Lexa’s neck and pulls her down gently, a single tug as if asking for permission—permission that Lexa grants by nudging her nose against Clarke’s and pressing her soft lips on expecting ones.
It’s a tender affair of skin pulling against skin, tongues too shy to make their debut though they throb with the desire to memorize and taste. Clarke hums something squeaky and slight into Lexa’s mouth, and the brunette pulls away before she pushes Clarke flat against her car and sticks her head under her dress—surely she would taste fantastic, but Lexa likes to savor.
Their goodbyes are painted pink and hazy, a messy exchange that leaves them blushing and straining to control their smiles.
As Clarke starts her car she thinks that maybe taking it slow would help her, like maybe a snail’s pace would hinder the millions of thoughts running through her mind at every moment.
She thinks maybe it’s time to start caring again.
A month later, as Lexa presses warm and sweaty palms against Clarke’s bare back—and Clarke promised herself that she’d take it slow, but with Lexa’s face and Lexa’s body, who was she kidding?—Clarke’s phone starts ringing obnoxiously loud in her back pocket.
Usually, Clarke would be all for a little vibration down there, but right now is not the time.
She picks up the phone without looking, swiping right as Lexa continues to suck on her neck, Clarke’s eyes shut tightly, arm wrapped around slender shoulders, her mouth slightly open as she breathlessly wonders who the fuck could be calling.
Clarke’s eyes shoot open, pushing a hand against Lexa’s shoulder and keeping her at an arm’s length, chest heaving, her body willing itself to calm the fuck down. Lexa looks very disgruntled by this sudden turn of events, and she tries to lean in to continue her ministrations on a neck already filled with blooming marks, but Clarke only presses her palm against her face, pushing her away with more force.
“Mom! How are you?”
Lexa stops trying to push against Clarke’s palm, frozen suddenly by the tub of ice water that was just metaphorically poured over them.
Clarke is looking at her with wild eyes, eyebrows furrowed and a grimace on her face that leads Lexa to believe that Clarke hasn’t heard from her mother in a long time—and Clarke really hasn’t.
“I’m fine, honey. I was actually wondering if you’d like to come over for dinner next week. I’ll make your favorite.”
Clarke looks down at Lexa—who’s taken to gently kneading her thighs to distract from the distress she assumes Clarke to be feeling—and she realizes the rapid beating of her heart, though a result of some impressive physical exertion, is a product of being so close to Lexa, so close to someone who accepts her for all the half-assed stories of her past and general distaste for humanity.
Clarke decides that a lot of things have started to change in her life, so why shouldn’t she try to salvage what’s left of her relationship with her mother? They were very close, once.
And yeah, the death of a father and a husband who was extremely loving and caring and loved and cared for can really turn one upside down—in the case of the Griffin family, Clarke was turned inside-out, and Abby just fucking clocked out. Clarke doesn’t hold anything against her, because she had to go through a very dark period to get to where she is, too—at times she still has days that rival the very first night, when she broke into the station her father worked for and almost launched herself into space to go find him—but it still hurts to have her mother, the one person she thought would always be there for her, not be there for her.
Maybe Clarke had it all wrong two years ago, maybe Abby had thought that she can find solace in her daughter, a support system, an answer—and it’s not fair, but Clarke stopped caring about fair when fair stopped caring about her.
She had listened to Octavia when the girl had told her to give her mother some space, that Abby will find her way back to who she was as a woman and a mother, but Clarke thought that piece of advice to be so twisted. It’s the child that demands space—throws tantrums and slams doors and hooks up with people that are way too old and says things that they don’t mean—not the mother. So at first, Clarke had refused to call; out of anger and spite she ignored every thought of her aching mother in her childhood home forty minutes away, and after a while she skipped from angry to aching herself.
“That sounds great. Is Wednesday okay?”
Abby’s sigh of relief makes tears sting in Clarke’s eyes, and Lexa focuses on the green of the blonde’s bra so as to not bring attention to the sudden display of emotion, kissing the skin right above Clarke’s heart and pressing her ear against it.
“That’s perfect, Clarke. I can’t wait to see you,” and the way that Abby’s voice cracks even the slightest bit at the end makes Clarke scoff wetly, her thumb subconsciously caressing the smooth skin behind Lexa’s ear.
She leans forward into brown hair and let’s her response become muffled in the tangled curls.
“Me either, mom.”
Octavia is lounging sloppily on the couch, her head hanging off the edge of it and her legs propped up against the back, her feet bare and in the air.
Clarke is sitting cross-legged on the coffee table, her fingers anxiously picking at the hole in her tights and her eyes fixed on the screen a few feet from her.
Lexa walks in from the kitchen with two steaming cups of coffee in her hands, but she promptly turns on her heel and walks right back in with lips pressed tight when she hears Clarke’s declaration to her close friend. She sits on the counter instead, getting started on an article that she needs done by the end of the week, waiting patiently until Clarke is done with her conversation.
“So, I’m having dinner with my mom tomorrow.”
Octavia stops humming along to the Target commercial and sits up quickly.
“She called me a week ago and asked me to stop by.”
“You had a week to process this and I’m only hearing about it now?”
Clarke turns to glare at Octavia over her shoulder.
“You’re right. You’re a vital member of the Griffin family, how could I have done you so wrong?”
Octavia tilts her head and gives her a look that screams up yours.
“This is huge. You guys haven’t spoken for a year. In mother-daughter terms that’s practically a decade.”
Clarke shrugs like it isn’t a big deal—and it’s not, at least, it’s not any more, because she’s had a week to process this and she’s spent most of it looking at old family photos she grabbed from under her bed and telling Lexa some more detailed stories of her past; like the sentimental little shit that she’d never admit to being.
“I miss her,” Clarke admits softly, the shouting of the television drowning out the worried undertone. She knew the day would eventually come, but it still feels a bit too good to be true.
“Clarke,” Octavia says warmly. “She misses you, too.”
All she gets as a response is a clearing of the blonde’s throat and another light shrug of the shoulders. Five minutes later, Lexa walks into the room with two lukewarm mugs of coffee.
“What took you so long?” Clarke asks as she accepts her drink with a kiss, Octavia grinning as she witnesses the tenderness behind their affection, as if they needed no time to jump into comfort because it was surrounding them all along.
“I was finishing an article in your kitchen,” Lexa says as she takes a seat on the floor between the couch and the coffee table, swatting away Octavia’s toe as she tries to caress her face with it. Being introduced to the Blake siblings had been a hell of a night that included Greek trivia—Bellamy’s questions came rapidly, and with every correct answer to fall from Lexa’s smug mouth, Clarke looked on the verge of coming, too—ten hours of Keeping Up with The Kardashians reruns—Kourtney is Clarke’s favorite, Kris is Octavia’s—and an impromptu round of Dance Dance Revolution—which Bellamy was so good at that it was embarrassing.
“The one about that house that was broken into or the black-hole one?”
“The black-hole one, definitely. I was making way too many jokes about burglary and my boss told me it was getting out of hand.”
Octavia smiles widely, excited for her sudden moment to shine, though Clarke and Lexa—and they’re pretty sure they can also hear Bellamy from his room—groan.
“Okay, okay. Why did the burglar take a shower?”
Clarke looks over her shoulder to meet Lexa’s eyes with a roll of her own. Lexa smiles so softly that Clarke almost believes that she mouths the words you’re beautiful or I miss you every second that you’re gone or I love you, but then she blinks and Octavia is chocking on her laughter and Lexa is shaking her head like she’s scolding a three-year-old, and Clarke realizes that it was all in her head.
“Do you get it, Clarke? A clean getaway? C’mon, that was gold.”
Sitting across from her mother in the childhood home that Clarke can’t remember being in after a particularly emotional hug jam-packed with ragged inhales and loving squeezes, well, it’s different.
She’s hugged Lexa a million times—finds that she never really wants to let go—and she’s hugged Octavia a shit-ton, even hugged Bellamy twice—once for comfort and the second time as an experiment to see if she could give a proper bear hug; she couldn’t. But hugging her mother doesn’t compare.
“How’s school coming along?” Abby asks as she pours some macaroni in boiling water—Clarke’s favorite is mac n cheese n hot dogs, or as Octavia so lovingly calls it: yellow shit.
“It’s great. My art is being shown at the school’s gallery, so that’s pretty cool,” Clarke stammers as Abby’s smile widens and her eyes begin to water. It’s one thing to hear her mom crying over the phone but it’s another thing to see it happening right in front of her.
So Clarke stutters and scoffs through a few unconstructed and not-at-all thought out sentences.
“And, um, there’s this popular local journalist that wrote a piece about the showcase and she said she loved my art and that it was the highlight of the event. I’ll send you the link if you want to read it, uh—“
“Which journalist?” Abby asks shakily, a motherly hand on her hip and a few wrinkles still smiling on her face.
“Alexandria Woods,” and it feels so weird for Clarke to say Lexa’s full name so professionally, like just last week she didn’t have her nipple in the girl’s mouth.
“Is the gallery still open?”
“Yeah, until the end of the month.”
Abby plates Clarke’s food and grabs a stool to sit across the kitchen counter from her, looking over her shoulder to make sure she turned off the stove before she settles down.
“Do you mind taking me there? To see your art?”
Clarke stares stupidly for a moment, ears ringing, before her bad habit of stuffing her face kicks in and she shoves a spoonful of macaroni in her mouth. She nods quickly.
“Of course,” she says around a mouth full of food that makes her mother grimace and swoon at the same time. “I’d love that.”
“I’m proud of you, Clarke,” and it’s said so sincerely that Clarke almost shrivels up on the spot like a potted plant receiving sunlight after years without it—too overwhelming, too apologetic, too much for Clarke’s near quarter of a life to handle.
“My art could be shit, for all you know,” Clarke says instead of I’m proud of you, too.
Abby laughs softly, and has everything about her mother become so soft, suddenly? Is this what death does? Turn a previously steel-tongued woman into the center of an éclair?
“As long as you’re happy, I don’t care.”
Clarke smiles and chuckles, but she becomes serious after a few moments of silence. Her mother is just looking at her as if she forgot what she looked like, and Clarke decides that there’s really no easy way to go back to normal, go back to the healthy and loving relationship that they used to have, so she speaks quickly, the only thought in her mind whether or not she’ll be getting the closure she seeks.
“Mom,” her voice cracks slightly, and it catches Abby’s attention, her hand reaching out to comfort but pausing in the air—she doesn’t know if she’s allowed, so she let’s her hand rest right near Clarke’s, close enough to feel body heat but not close enough to touch.
“Did you mean what you said that night?” It’s a night that Clarke hasn’t been able to let go of. She had walked in on her mother wrapped in an over-sized button-up that belonged to her father, drinking wine straight from the bottle and crying tears so silent that Clarke almost believed her mother to have been laughing and not sobbing.
Abby furrows her eyebrows. “What night?”
“After dad’s funeral.”
Her mother visibly swallows before opening her mouth to respond, but she finds that she has nothing to say. The days after Jake’s death had been long, but the nights had lasted forever. Every memory tasted the same, like whichever fruity alcohol she had in the kitchen at the time. Abby’s embarrassed to say that she doesn’t remember the night after the funeral, but another part of her is relieved.
Clarke notices her mother’s hesitation, so she continues.
“You told me to never care about anyone because the universe is ruthless and it takes and takes and take—“
“Oh, honey,” Abby interrupts gently when she notices the far-away look in Clarke’s eyes, the few tears that slipped down her flushed cheeks.
Clarke’s gaze cuts to hers so abruptly that she freezes, blue cutting through her skin, carrying the weight of the past few years.
“Did you mean that?”
“I would’ve said anything to make the pain go away.”
And that’s the truth. What kind of mother would she be if she raised a cynic who kept a fortress around her heart? What kind of mother would she be if she didn’t engrave perseverance into the bones of her child?
“Did it work?”
Clarke relishes in the defeated look in her mother’s eyes because at least, despite the pain, Abby is still moving forward. She wonders if Lexa can see the pain in her eyes too.
Abby considers lying, but then what would that make her?
She’d rather be gone and truthful than present and a liar.
“No, it didn’t.”
Clarke nods like she knew the answer, like she just needed to hear her mother say it.
“The universe may be ruthless, but it’s also inevitable, and stubborn.”
Abby doesn’t know where Clarke is going with this, but when she sees her daughter’s bottom lip start to tremble, she curses the past and lays a warm hand on Clarke’s forearm. Clarke immediately relishes in her mother’s touch, seeking out her palm.
“I think I’m in love,” Clarke says breathlessly, a silent sob escaping her parted lips.
Abby steps around the counter and embraces her.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of, Clarke.”
They hold each other under the dim lighting of the kitchen, and despite Abby knowing that it’s the rough edge of the counter digging into her hip, if she closes her eyes just right, she can imagine Jake’s calloused hands after a long day of work, caressing her.
MULTIDIMENSIONALITY AND WHY YOU CAN’T REMEMBER LAST WEEK
By Alexandria Woods
Feel like you’re in the wrong dimension?
You probably are.
Chances are you’re in the right one, but it just keeps switching up on you.
The theory of multiple dimensions and universes is not a new one.
According to the extensive research from fellow colleague Raven Reyes from ZGTECH.COM, “...the Universe was dense and hot when it began, similar to how I felt after watching Sex Tape starring Cameron Diaz. Everything holding us in place collectively combusted, and as a result of its sudden lust to form, the Universe bit off more than it could chew. You see, our Universe got involved with another Universe and nine months later—or in relation to time in space 10 to 0.00000000000000000000000000000000001 seconds later—Daughter Universes were born.”
The Daughter Universe or The Many Worlds Theory, exists to prove that you are not alone in wanting to go left when all your friends want to go right, because if this theory holds true, in another world like this one, you went right and all your friends went left, or your friends jumped on the bandwagon and went left with you.
Many scientists wanted to debunk this theory, including one Hans Moravec, who created the very pretentious Quantum Suicide experiment to, quite literally, obliterate the science behind this reasoning. Though I respect his work from an objective point of view, I also fear for the rapidly approaching robot apocalypse which, I do not doubt, he will lead.
Now for a brief excerpt from my past:
When I was just starting at Northwestern I picked up a job running some food for a shoddy restaurant built into the corner of a strip of mom and pop shops. On slow nights I talked with one of the head chefs, Titus—may he rest in peace. He told me all about Nelson Mandela and his supposed effect on the world, told me about how his death caused a bit of an uproar. I didn’t know what he meant when he started talking about tanks and bears and questionable geography, and unfortunately I didn’t have time to ask because a waiter had just rung up a twelve-top filled with people who wanted chicken shish kabobs with no chicken. I went home that day and did my research. That’s how I stumbled upon The Mandela Effect.
To put it simply, it’s believed Nelson Mandela did not die when we were told he did, but that he died while imprisoned in South Africa. A good friend of mine remembers watching a very detailed documentary about Nelson Mandela during her childhood, complete with the fact that he is dead, and had been dead since before the 2000s. I asked if she could find the documentary for me, and after extensive research and scouring of almost all libraries up the East Coast, we’ve come to believe that the documentary never existed.
Well, maybe it did, in the previous dimension we were living in before the lines started to shift.
It just may be that we’re all fluctuating through dimensions like we’re diving off the tip of cosine. It may explain the abnormal occurrences happening around us today—Donald Trump standing a chance in the Presidential Election, Sarah Palin still not frozen over in her Alaskan home, Kate Beckinsale still looking the same after twenty years.
Could it also be that, as a result of there being many universes, there could be many times as well? Reincarnations, perhaps; multiple versions of one person always seeming to gravitate towards the same ways of life and the same old company.
But I’m just getting ahead of myself.
Another colleague of mine, Monty Green—known for his prize-winning fictional novel INSIDE THE MOUNTAIN—admitted to looking into The Mandela Effect. His lab partner, Jasper Jordan, commented that, “looking into the theory made me feel higher than I’ve ever been, and trust me, I’m pretty sure I’ve been blasted from space before.”
Green refused to add to Jordan’s comment, believing it to have said all one needs to hear.
Because this article was merely to expose a theory, not delve into the depths of it, I feel the need to end things on a light note, and let you take from my words and the words of my fellow experts what you will.
I implore you to brush up on these facts, on yourself, the many versions of yourself out there, and encourage you to take it easy and slow. It might be that in another world, in another time, you tried to rush through life, or perhaps it was taken from you too soon, before your story had the chance to unfold, before you got to tell someone that you loved them.
Now’s your chance.