((Mirabella Strong and Megan Emerson continued from Mischief Managed))
((Co-written with Jilly Shears))
"Bella?" Megan called out as she frantically trudged through the heavy sand. She was literally just here - one minute everyone was getting ready to split up back outside the apartments, and the next she just wandered away. What the hell? The plan was crumbling apart; their numbers were dwindling fast as it seemed everyone left and right was defecting for their own reasons. Grace went out to do her own thing, and God knows whatever the hell happened to Sophie and Alex.
The same couldn't happen to Bella. It couldn't. But where did she go? Where's Bella?
Out of nowhere the sand trapped Megan's foot, narrowly avoiding a nasty faceplant as her hands and knees took the fall into the gritty sand. Her left hand brushed by something odd. Kind of smooth, kind of not; something distinctively not sand-like. She clasped her hand around it and pulled it out of the sand as she pushed herself back up to her feet. She slapped away the sand that stuck on her and took a closer look at the thing she grabbed.
It was a hairband. Just like the ones Mirabella wore practically every day.
No, no, no, time was running out. Megan shook her head and dropped the hairband back in the earth. She continued forward and screamed Bella's name. She had to be here, somewhere.
Even though she'd spent awhile on the dusty sands, Bella was still having trouble standing on the beach. Every step she took was one tinged with fear, apprehensiveness jolting through her body whenever she showed even the slightest sign of slipping. She knew it was ridiculous, that she didn't have to be scared of the area anymore, but every time she closed her eyes she could hear the incessant beeps drumming within her head, interspersed with screams and shouts. The sooner she could be away from this place, the better.
But she had to return here, even if it was just for a moment. If everything went to plan and they were able to escape, then she'd have to come back here. And she didn't want to freak out when the time came. If it does at all. But of course it would. It couldn't not. It was all she really had now, or that she could be sure she had.
Bella wrapped her arms around herself, digging her once neatly-trimmed nails into her side. Even entrapped in her oversized sweater, she could still feel the bite of the cold as the wind washed gently over her. Her hair was all a mess, tangled tresses whipping across her face at every slight breeze - even with the added restraint of a barrette she'd found in her purse. Bella'd tried to find her hairband again, but a brief overview of the beach had proved to be in vain. She couldn't see much point in searching too much - a lost hairband was less than nothing compared to everything else that was happening.
And yet Bella couldn't help but focus on its loss. She'd had that headband since she was ten, and though she would've have paid it much mind back home, where there were half a dozen duplicates, here it was another reminder of what she'd lost. Bella wanted to go home so badly, and even though she knew there was no point, she couldn't help lingering on it. She wanted to watch movies with her parents, hang out with her friends, even pull another all-nighter of studying.
And even if this plan worked - which it had to, it had to, she needed it to, she needed her and her Garrett to be happy and safe - things couldn't be like that. She'd lost so many friends already, familiar faces she'd never look upon again. She just wanted to see them one more time, have one last chat, have the chance to say goodbye.
Bella was pulled from her thoughts by a familiar voice, one that reminded Bella of friendship, and broken promises. Megan, standing only faintly visible in the distance. When the groups had all aligned, she'd feel a mixture of relief and fear upon realising that Megan was amongst their number. The two hadn't parted properly, and though Bella had tried her hardest to forgive her friend, she couldn't quite suppress all of the betrayal she'd felt when Megan had fled.
"Megan," she breathed, and rushed as fast as she dared towards her friend, her sneakers only barely retaining their grip on the coarse sands. She shifted her bag across her shoulder, and her mouth contorted as it tried to secure on one of the plethora of emotions flooding through her.
Once the decision was made, Bella chided herself for how long it'd taken to get to that conclusion. Megan had been a friend to Bella so long, and if she were to judge someone on one act, what sort of person would she be? For all she knew, this might be the last time they would ever talk, and if that was the case, then she couldn't let this chance go to waste.
"Megan, I..." She struggled to get the words out - though truthfully, she had no idea what to say. At home she was ever the talker, always ready to chime in with her opinion. But here... nothing. But she knew she had to say something.
She couldn't let this chance go to waste.
The only sound from Megan was heavy breathing as she stared Bella down with an angry demeanor. Suddenly Megan snatched Bella's shoulders and shook them violently. "What are you doing out here, Bella?" her voice bellowed. "What the hell were you thinking, for fuck's sake?"
Bella's breath caught in her throat at Megan's words. She'd never seen her so angry before. She couldn't actually recall ever seeing anyone angry. That'd been nice when she was younger, when anger and violence was really only in books, or in movies. But here, here she hated herself for being so sheltered and naïve. She took a few steps back once Megan's shouting was over, and cupped her face in her hands. She'd flinched when the girl had grabbed at her. All she could think was Francis, and that was a horrible, horrible thing. Her friend was just trying to help, and all she could think of was that.
Suddenly the shaking ceased, and Megan relaxed her grip. Her hands fell past Bella's tense shoulders and down her arms and retracted back to Megan as tense fists. "I... I'm sorry, Bella, I didn't mean to... I shouldn't..." she said as her demeanor cooled down. Her gaze fell down to her feet; her breath remained heavy.
Bella's breathing steadied once out of Megan's grip, though she reflexively clenched her toes together. The sand here was fine, there was no chance of falling, and though she tried to tell herself that, it proved pointless. Her plan was proving less and less likely to succeed with each passing second; though it wasn't as if she really believed it would. She kept trying to be optimistic, because if she wasn't then she'd have to give in to despair, but the last time she'd voiced her optimism everything had fallen to pieces, and there wasn't a middle ground, was there? There was realism, of course, but Bella had never been a realist. No middle ground, not since before she could remember. It was either perfect or a failure.
Focus. Focus. Stop thinking of stupid things, keep your head level. Stop thinking for once and actually do something.
Panicked stutters poured from her trembling lips, as much as she tried to form something vaguely coherent. As as much as she tried to stop them and be strong, tears began to pool in her eyes.
"I don't know... I just wanted to... I..."
Megan shook her head. She rested her hand calmly on Bella's shoulder for a moment and said, "It's okay, Mirabella. Just tell me what's going on."
Bella bit her lip and bowed her head, blinking away her tears. Another breath. Try again. She opened her mouth once more, and though she had no idea what to say, or what anybody could say, the words came anyway.
"I was so scared last time I was here, and I didn't want to be afraid. I don't want to be afraid anymore, Megan, and I thought if I could just stand here for awhile, then I wouldn't be. It's stupid, I know. But I... I want to live, but there's no point living in fear, is there? When I... when I saw you again, I was so scared. I don't even know why. I... I understand why you left, I really do. You were scared, or-or something. But I promised I'd stay with you, no matter what. I promised. Did you think I'd lied to you?"
She sniffed, let her eyes dip down, and clamped her arms across her chest. Now that she'd spoken, she couldn't help but feel as though it might've been better to just leave there and then. Did she really still think that this whole thing was fixable? That they could repair what'd been shattered?
Maybe they couldn't. But she couldn't waste this chance.
Megan didn't say anything. She didn't scream at Bella, didn't slap her; she didn't even nod her head. All she did was close her eyes and took a deep breath before opening them again. Her head started to nod and she said a simple, "Okay."
Silence fell between the two of them before Megan chuckled and spoke again, "Heh... I'm such an idiot... I'm sorry, Bella; sorry about everything. I'm sorry about leaving you like that and for breaking our promise; I didn't know what I was thinking. I just... panicked, I guess. My mind got clouded, and I couldn't think straight. I mean... who could? It wasn't like I expected Francis to fall; It just... I dunno. That's not the point anymore."
Megan rapidly blinked her eyes as tears began to form again. "...Everything's been my fault, Bella. If I wasn't being such a sneaky person, Aria wouldn't have robbed from you back at the airport hangar. Then, up in the tower... I put us both in danger of getting killed all because I wanted to get in the control room so badly. Those girls in there could have shot us for all I know. I threw you in the middle of it and it wasn't even your fault.
"And then there's what happened between me and Francis... In the split second I saw Francis lying at the bottom of the stairs, I had an epiphany: I've been the reason that everything bad kept happening, and I got scared, for the both of us. I just... thought you would be safer with Juhan and Takeshi over me. They weren't walking cases of Murphy's Law, and that's why I ran."
Bella remained silent as Megan spoke, with much more clarity than she could've ever hoped for. She'd explained everything so well, but now Bella knew she had to interject. She couldn't suppress the nagging that'd settled at the back of her mind, the feelings that she'd bottled up and told no one.
"I feel like it is my fault though," Bella said, clasping her hand over her heart. "If I hadn't spoken up, then Francis wouldn't have tried to inject some reality in me, and you wouldn't have talked back and he..." After trailing off, she ran her hands through her hair and breathed in once more, grimacing as she mulled over what to say next. She honestly couldn't tell, but she felt as though every word she said would make things worse. But she had to get them all out, for better or for worse.
"Please don't blame yourself, Megan. You did what you thought was best, and if all of those decisions were up to me, then we wouldn't have made it past the first hour, let alone this far."
Megan strained her eyebrows down at Bella's words. "No... I don't believe you. C'mon, don't sell yourself short like that! Like...for example, you do so much better than me in school. I always wished I had half the determination you did for everything... You're a beautiful girl, Bella; fashionable, friendly, smart, cool to be around with when you aren't being neurotic. I wish I could be more like you... maybe not the whole neurosis thing, since I'm messed up enough as it is."
Bella sniffed once more, tears falling more freely than ever, in spite of the faint joy that arose within her at Megan's words. "Oh, Megan. You make me sound so much better than I really am. I always felt the same about you, really. I doubt I could ever cheer someone up like you have just now. You're amazing and I'm... I'm so lucky, to have had someone like you in my life."
"...I... yeah... me, too." Megan wiped away the tears that streamed down her flushed face with her hand, taking care not to get any sand residue in her eyes. "God... I don't know about you, but I'm getting sick of crying."
Bella breathed in sharply as Megan spoke, barely suppressing the palpitations that flooded her chest. She didn't like crying, but she especially didn't like getting emotional at the same time. That meant snot everywhere, and breathing problems and furiously bright red cheeks. Even so, Bella couldn't suppress the smile that quirked at her lips as Megan finished speaking.
"Me too. I don't know where they're all coming from, really. I'm sure I'm not drinking enough to make up for how much I've cried over these past few days. Is that how it works? I'm not too sure. God, Alice would probably slap me if she heard me say that."
"Yeah..." Megan laughed before her expression turned more serious in an instant. She reached with her hand and gently held onto Bella's hand. "We should make a new promise. I mean, it'll be a little hard to keep that other one because... ya know..." Her eyes darted back. "I mean... you're dead set on going with Ian because you want to find Garrett, right? I can't just leave Gavin, so we can't stay together, 'least not in spirit."
Bella nodded. She didn't want to leave, not now. Not when they'd begun to repair what'd been lost. But she knew she had to, and there was no point in fighting it. At least they could leave each other with some sort of closure. And, as per usual, she didn't know what to say.
"I know. I'm gonna miss you so much. I... I love you, Megan."
In one fell swoop Megan planted her foot forward and wrapped her arms tightly around Bella like a silk cocoon. She dipped her head over the shoulder of the shorter girl and closed her eyes, focusing only on the warmth radiating from Bella and the harmonic sounds of the waves crashing on the beach.
"...Me too, girl; me, too."
Bella closed her eyes, and let herself be enveloped in Megan's warm embrace. For once in her life, she thought of only one thing; friendship. The one thing that really mattered here. That's why they had to break apart, as much as neither of them wanted to. For the friends they'd lost, and the friends they needed to save.
After awhile - though it seemed as though their hug had only lasted a second - they broke apart. Bella smiled, rubbing at her face with one hand before gingerly raising the other. She uncurled her pinky finger and pointed it towards her friend, her breathing coming more steadily now.
"So... pinky promise, huh?"
Megan reached her hand out and, with a grin gleaming in jubilance, wrapped her own pinky around Bella's and held on tight.
"Let's just promise something simple, this time... I think... uhm..."
"Something simple... everything seems so hard, now," Bella said, smiling at the sight of their intwined fingers. "How about... how about, we don't give up. No matter what happens, we have to find a reason to keep going. Over the past few days I've been a hair's breadth away from just letting this whole thing shatter me into pieces, and yet there's been something stopping me. And now I know what it is. If it weren't for you, Megan, I'd already be gone. So... I want us to promise that we keep going. That we don't give up. That we won't let this thing ruin us. For each other."
Megan's eyes lit up at the notion as she squeezed her pinky harder with enthusiasm. "Yeah... yeah! That sounds great! I really like that idea; we've come so far now we just can't give in to despair. Not for Garrett, or Gavin, or ...Francis, or for either of us. We both need to keep on going... something like that, right?"
Bella couldn't help but get caught in Megan's enthusiasm, as her grin stretched further across her face and a soft laugh passed through her lips. "You put it better than I ever could, Megan. I do wonder why you weren't on the debate team at school."
"...You really think so? I dunno..." Megan scratched the back of her head. "I guess I'm just really stepping it up. I mean... someone has to, right?"
"I guess so. And I couldn't imagine a better person than you, Megan." Bella took a deep breath, attempting to keep herself from hyperventilating from all of the emotions flowing through her.
"So this... this really is goodbye, huh?"
"...No, I can't be... or at least I think." Megan broke her pinky away and placed her hand back on Bella's shoulder. "We found each other twice, didn't we? Just worry about finding Garrett and looking out for everyone else, and I'll do the same. Just... don't say this is goodbye. We'll see each other again. 'Third time's the charm', right? It'll be okay... we'll be fine."
"Of course. Of course it will be. It's not like there's any other option, is there?"
"Yeah, I guess not."
Bella pulled Megan into another embrace, and kept her smile bright. There was no crying this time, no tears streaming down her clammy cheeks. There wasn't any need for them now.
After some time Megan pulled herself from Bella's embrace. We should... ya know... get back with the others. Knowing Gavin, he's probably losing his head wondering where we went." She nodded her head with a smile and started to walk back before stopping a moment to watch the blanket of dull, grey clouds lazily rolling in the coastal sky. "...It looks like it might rain today. Stay dry, all right?"
Bella nodded and waved as her friend departed, wrapping her arms around herself as the wind washed over her once gain. She didn't let her smile drop.
She didn't want to leave Megan. She wanted nothing more than for the two of them to just stay where they were, with nothing but each other and the tranquility of the beach; the wheeling of the seagulls overhead, and the crash of the waves on the shoreline, without the realities of the island to face. But she knew that if she wanted to find Garrett, wanted to help save everybody, that she had to.
But it'd be okay.
They'd see each other again, just like Megan'd said.
Everybody would be safe.
They had to be.
((Mirabella Strong continued in Sleeper Cell))
((Megan Emerson continued in Resisting Against Fate))
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The Verdana Sisterhood
- Joined: November 18th, 2012, 7:49 pm