[GAU] Daddy's Home (Michaela/Sarah/Lucien) 2/12/2015

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[GAU] Daddy's Home (Michaela/Sarah/Lucien) 2/12/2015

Postby admin » Thu Feb 12, 2015 10:01 pm

Michaela Carter (Eric the Bard)
(2/12/2015 12:36:24 AM) (2025351)

You know, some people -- by which I mean sane, rational ones -- would avoid walking home in the dark after already being assaulted and not-quite-fatally stabbed the last time they did so. But I don't drive, I don't have many friends who can give me rides, and practice runs late. Besides, the three mile run home is part of my daily routine; I don't think I could give it up now if I wanted to. And I don't.

I don't want to give up anything. I mean, I don't really have that much to lose in the first place, and I'm not going to just throw any of it away. I've got something approaching friendship with Lilly, even if it is based on the weirdness that seems to be going on. My mom may not be the greatest mom on the planet, but she is still my mom, and I love her. I've got a house and a name and a reputation, and a talent. I am not going to let any of this get to me. It's easy to have these thoughts, I guess, when you're fairly sure that not much in the world -- if anything at all -- can kill you.

So here I am, on the way home, and I have to pass through a part of town most people avoid this late. No one's ever bothered me though. I know the kind of reputation the place has; it just doesn't worry me. If something is going to happen? It's going to happen. If it isn't, then you've just gone out of your way for nothing.

This is what passes for logic for me.

My pace is steady and strong, and my breathing deep and even. Most people, after the mile mark, would be breathing hard at least, if not exhausted. Particularly at the pace I'm setting. I'm barely even breaking a sweat, my battered sneakers slapping against the asphalt, running shorts and jersey gleaming under the streetlights. Taking this route might be unwise.

But hey. What have I got to be afraid of?

Grant is playing (EvilSqueegee)
(2/12/2015 12:49:32 AM) (2025364)

Those who don’t learn from the past…

Mikey is running past a familiar-looking pawn shop. It’s not the same street she was on when she was stabbed, but it’s close enough. Looks really similar. Enough that even though she turns onto the road, knowing it’s not the one where she and Kelly had that night nobody’s talking about? She immediately thinks she made a wrong turn.

You know what? No. This is definitely not that street. Different name.

As she runs past One Girl’s Trash, a small store with a disinteresting-looking scraggly clerk staring out the window at her, two things happen:

One, there’s a glint of something moving up ahead.

Two, the moment her focus is on that glint? She’s hit by a raggedy old man. Beard, scraggly. He’s raving in some language Mikey can’t speak, and even as athletic as she is? For an old bum, a hobo -- he’s very well built. Just fast enough. Just strong enough. Hap-hazardly moving in just the right drunken way. Booze on his breath is more than evident as he grabs Mikey, pinning her to the ground and shaking her. He’s screaming in some foreign language that she’s never heard before.

And he’s scared. He’s been crying.

And he’s pulling out a gun. One English comes through the torrent of nonsense and jibberish he’s spewing at her at the top of his lungs -- “Sorry. I Must.

(post inc)

Lucien Rivale (EvilSqueegee)
(2/12/2015 1:03:33 AM) (2025388)

The plane ride from Brazil was a quick one. My real business in Brazil having been concluded, I arranged for the rest of it to be handled by an underling. Daddy has business of his own to attend to, after all.

I don’t usually deal with teenagers that don’t belong to me. But I think recent events are going to cause me to make some exceptions. If I’m lucky, maybe they’ll be mute.

Sarah’s driving the car. I’m sitting in the back seat of a black SUV. Of course, the moment my feet hit the ground, there were corporate CEO’s needing my attention and politicians seeking my advice. But tonight, I have more important people to worry about. Tragedy of the commons, maybe, but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. Family first.

Sarah picks the route. I trust her to do this, and she always gets me exactly where I need to go. Let’s say she has a knack for it. Lucky girl, maybe. Or perhaps bound to the Plan. I wouldn’t know, nor do I bother asking. We all have our roles to play, right? Suppose the perspective of an actor is probably different from someone in the creative department.

I’m poking my phone. Trying to make it open one of these apps. A game, maybe. Fruit Ninja seems to be all the rage. Of course, I have no idea what I’m doing. Suddenly, though, my head snaps up. I can feel them.

“Take a right,” I demand, and she makes a hard turn. “And stop the car.”

I throw the door open and step out onto the sidewalk.

My my. Look what we have here. A Hobo, and a Sacrifical Lamb.

I kick him. Angrily. Not usually one to do the dirty work myself, but at the moment I’m improvising and I really need the chance to get this out of my system before I do something everyone regrets.

“Scram!” I bark the command. “Get out of here!”

The thing inside the homeless man, riding him like a merry-go-round, looks up at me. I watch the recognition in his eye turn to soul-pissing terror, and I smile while I return the stare. Cold, cool, collected. I tug my suit coat and straighten my tie without blinking.

“Leave the girl alone,” I order again. “Next time it’ll be more than a love tap.”

He drops the gun and scrambles back into the alleyway. When I’m sure he’s gone, I look to the girl.

“You alright?”

Michaela Carter (Eric the Bard)
(2/12/2015 1:15:07 AM) (2025401)

That's a neat name for a store. One Girl's Trash. I kinda like it...even if that clerk is giving me the creepeye. Okay, move right along and impact.

The thing that is so startling about these experiences I keep having -- getting stabbed, getting burned, and now being tackled by the hobo defensive back -- is how fast it all happens. He hits me like a ton of bricks, and while I might be strong and tough from running, that in no way translates to any kind of fighting ability. That isn't what I do. So I crumple like I was made of paper, hitting the asphalt hard; my head goes back and I hear a sharp crack and a sheet of white light crosses my vision. Pain rockets up the back of my head, and my vision clears just in time to see the hobo babbling and holding a gun. I can't really move yet; stunned and possibly concussed. But the tone of his voice -- the terror there -- is impossible to miss, even if I can't understand what he's saying. The thought passes through my mind -- he is so afraid -- and I meet his terrified, weeping eyes, and the one phrase I understand comes out of his mouth.

All I can do is nod.

What might have happened next, I don't know. Maybe he would have shot me and that would have been the end of it. Can I heal brain damage? Can I survive a shot to the skull? Well. We don't find out today, because the hobo is kicked off me by a man in a suit that probably cost more than my entire house. I just lay there, sprawled and stunned and not quite sure what's going on, as the expensive-looking man threatens the hobo in a tastefully understated way. The hobo runs off, and then he's looking at me. I blink, taking a few seconds to gather my scattered wits.

My head hurts.

"Um." I say, and try to sit up. Ohhhhh, not yet. Nope. I heal extraordinarily rapidly -- but that does nothing for the hormone-adrenaline cocktail currently coursing through my veins, making me weak and dizzy and scatterbrained.

"I will be.....I think." I manage, wincing, and putting a hand to the back of my head. Not so much as a bruise. Hopefully there's no blood in my hair.

Lucien Rivale (EvilSqueegee)
(2/12/2015 1:26:34 AM) (2025408)

I look her up and down for a moment and put my hands in my pockets.

“You should be alright. Kids your age are tough.”

Especially you, little girl. Why would they want to off you before your time? That doesn’t seem very in-character. Do you know something? Or are you going to do something they don’t like?

Either way, she’s in my territory. And that makes me a lucky man, because having something powerful people -- or powerful things -- want? Makes me a powerful man. It’s the nature of the Beast, you understand. This is how the world works.

I offer her a hand. If she takes it, I smile.

“My name is Lucien Rivale. You’re Michaela, right? Carter? You run track for the the high school? My kids are students there, I make it a point to pay attention to the people I’ve burdened with their education. Apologies if I seem too forward.”

I snap my fingers. “Sarah.”

Sarah steps forward. SHe’s a nice girl, and a little flustered. But she climbs out of the driver’s seat of the S.U.V. This is important, because a man my age talking to a girl her age is suddenly less vile to today’s media when there’s a woman on-hand. It’s beautiful how sexist everyone feels the need to be.

Not that I think we’re on camera. No, they wouldn’t be so stupid as to set up shop in line-of-sight to a camera. The scraggly woman in the store is long gone by now anyways.

Sarah walks up.

”Is it alright if I take a look? It’s okay, I’m a doctor,” she explains shyly with a soft smile.

I like Sarah. Sarah likes people. She’s earnest.

Being earnest is important.

Michaela Carter (Eric the Bard)
(2/12/2015 1:42:11 AM) (2025419)

His comment about kids being tough pulls a short laugh out of me, a tiny spurt of hysteria which I shove down before it can grow. I take his hand, though, and struggle to my feet; my balance is a little staggery at first, but the world slowly stops swimming and comes back into focus. His name...

"You're Lilly's dad?" I blurt out, looking at him, dark amber eyes startled. Coincidences piling up; if I believed in fate, or didn't believe that it was a cruel little boy with a magnifying glass, I might wonder at the sheer improbability of it. But there it is. "She takes good pictures," I say without thinking, and pull my hand from his -- not a nervous gesture or one of fear. I'm just done with the handshake and see no point in sticking around. Besides. Men always make me a little wary. Boys I can deal with, even if I often want to wash my hands. Grown men are....bigger.

"Yeah -- uhh, yes, sir," I tell him, flushing a bit. It gives me something to stand on -- my reputation. It helps force the world back into a somewhat coherent state. Or me into one. "Michaela. Everyone calls me Mikey." I don't really like it, but what can you do? Coach, at least, calls me Kayla. I kinda like that better.

My eyes track to Sarah as she gets out, and widen a bit at her, but when she offers to take a look, and says she's a doctor?

Ever seen what a deer looks like when it's just about to bolt?

"Uhh, no," I say, more sharply and more shrilly than I really want to. "I'm...fine. Really." But I don't want to turn my back, because I still don't know if there might be something on my head that I couldn't feel with my fingers. "Thanks, but, um...I gotta...." My eyes flick around, looking for an escape. That trapped feeling -- some part of me, the part that can still think like a rational human being, is telling me it's ridiculous. There's no reason to think these folks mean me any harm. I mean, they RESCUED me from that crazed hobo with a gun.

He was so afraid...

I force calm, bringing to mind the calm, still pond, the flat, windless waters, and draw deep breaths. I'm a hysterical little girl, is what I am, and that rational part of me is a very quiet voice in the cacophany of terrors ringing in my head, speaking of doctors and knives and questionable motives. Still. I will not bolt like a rabbit in front of Lilly's dad.

"I'm just....rattled," I manage, focusing on my breathing. First steps. In, out, steady rhythm.

Lucien Rivale (EvilSqueegee)
(2/12/2015 1:58:17 AM) (2025437)

The Sacrifice panics. Well, that’s interesting. I’d figured someone destined to die would be a little more… well, ballsy.

Oh well. She wants her secret kept? She can keep it.

“She’s right. Sarah, the girl was just assaulted by a hobo with a gun. Give her some space.”

”Yes sir,” Sarah nods, eyes going wide. She’s worried, but that’s fine. Sarah gets to worry. That’s her right. And it’s one that Michaela has decided to preserve. I will honor that.

“Yeah, I’m Lilly’s dad.” I smile, proudly. “You think her pictures are nice? Wait until you see her halloween costumes.” There’s no act to that part. Genuine. My girl is beautiful, and everything she does is just as much a blessing.

“Marco’s my girl, too. But you probably figured that out already,” I chuckle.

“Look, I’d offer you a ride but I’m an old man with a chauffeur and an expensive car. Still, though.” I look around.

“This kind of neighborhood is hardly the kind of place for a girl to be running alone at night. It’s worrying.” I fish my phone out of my pocket and start to fiddle with it again.

“Two three three one,” sarah explains quietly behind me.

“Ah. THank you.” I unlock the phone and offer it to Michaela. “Here. Rather than having to deal with the awkwardness of a friend’s dad in the car, is there anyone you can call? I can’t in good conscience leave you to just be attacked by another drunken thug on your way home.”

Good conscience is important.

Michaela Carter (Eric the Bard)
(2/12/2015 2:11:51 AM) (2025443)

One long, deep breath. One longer, slower exhale, as I finally wrestle my nerves under control. When my eyes open and meet his again, I'm calm.


"I'm okay now, I think," I tell him. "Thank you. I don't....I'm sorry if I seem ungrateful. It's been kind of a rough week." Month. Whatever. I slide my gaze to Sara, and shake my head. My hand goes back to the back of my head again, this time, gently rubbing, feeling carefully. I don't feel anything wrong. And I take a deep, deep breath. Again. "Maybe....Maybe you should take a look," I concede, even if my tone is unhappy. "I can't take chances. Concussions are bad enough for normal people; Coach says it's worse for athletes." I don't know why and Coach never explains anything. Not in any way I ever understand, anyway.

His pride in his daughter brings a smile to my face as well, an expression my face rarely sees. "That was how we met. Well. I mean, we go to school and all, but we actually talked about pictures. She was really nice." One eyebrow pops up, and my smile widens. "Well. Ask her if she needs a photographer for those amazing costumes she makes. We can work something out. I've been working on learning about film, too, though ....I didn't expect how different they'd end up being."

I take a look at his car, and then at him, and then at Sarah. Then I turn my eyes back to him. "I'd take your offer," I tell him bluntly. "I hit my head. I'm in no shape to run. The only person I could call would be a cab, which I can't afford, and would still be me, in a car, with some creepy dude I don't know. You're Lilly's dad. So here's what you do. You call her, maybe, and let me talk to her while you drive me home." It isn't far; we're less than a mile. And no, I don't feel like I know Lilly well enough to ask her for a ride, but he just offered.

In a sort of roundabout way.

"I can handle a little awkward," I add with a shrug. "A lot more than I can handle the run home right now, anyway."

Lucien Rivale (EvilSqueegee)
(2/12/2015 2:31:51 AM) (2025453)

“Alright.” I nod, and put the phone back in my pocket.

“Actually, this is good. If you two are making friends, then maybe you should be the one to tell her I’m home from work. I got back early. She’ll be happy to hear it, the kids hate it when I leave for more than a day or two.”

I walk over to the door and open it for Michaela to get in.

“Which way do you live? Sarah is an excellent driver. Just give her an address and she’ll get us where you need to go.”

Once we’re inside, I pull down the slider on the back of the driver’s seat, exposing a phone. I lift it up off the hook and hand the receiver to Michaela, then start dialing Lilly’s number.

The inside of this car is as nice as the suit I’m wearing. Of course, the corporate life is more… wealthy than my home life. That’s intentional. Appearances mean everything to a businessman, and I am one of the most important businessmen I know.

Still, I don’t make a show of it. I’m off the clock, now. The cool-cut, cold shark of a man that strikes deals and gets people off the hook for things I can’t admit they did? That man has checked out. I’m back home. Right now I’m just a dad who happens to be stuck in a suit that’s worth a lot of money.

Well, that and I’m a man who has just stumbled across something very, very precious and valuable and dangerous.

Michaela might not know it, but she’s lucky. If I hadn’t come along, she might have been in real danger. For now, though? My people will be watching. Invisible, ghosts as they always are. But ready to interfere, maybe in the form of a stranger on a bike or someone who just happened to be driving along the road at the wrong time.

Whatever it is they want from this girl, they aren’t going to get it. Nobody is.

Besides. I can’t just let a friend of my baby girl die to homicidal maniacs with no sense of humanity, now can I?

Michaela Carter (Eric the Bard)
(2/12/2015 2:46:25 AM) (2025473)

Of course Sarah doesn't find anything when she checks me over. Of course she doesn't.

The one fact that sticks out at me about Lucien is the way he clearly dotes on his daughter, and not in a creepy way, either. It makes me relax around him, oddly. I've never had a dad. I don't even know what having a dad is like, but I think if someone talked about me the way he talks about Lilly? I think that would be nice. And any man who loves his daughter that much can't be a terrible person. That does jar with the oft-repeated mantra of my mother's -- "Money makes good people bad and bad people worse" -- but it isn't like I've never ignored my mother's advice before.

I keep up a stream of meaningless chat with Lilly. Along the way, of course, the thing about the computer gets out, and I hope that doesn't get her in trouble. I actually find myself almost relaxing, between watching him, listening to Lilly, and occasionally glancing at Sara, because the woman keeps catching my eye for some reason.

And then, of course, we're pulling up in front of my house and....oh God.

Do you think you could drop me off back in that alley please?

My mother is standing in the front yard, arms crossed over her chest, in a blue robe that she has at least tied properly this time. Her hair is lank, chestnut-brown, and her face is worn and tired, and very, very angry. Once, she was beautiful, and still has echoes of it, here and there, but she had fallen and fallen hard....and she'd suffered for me. Guilt and shame and anger make a potent mix. Mom is staring at Rivale's SUV like something diseased and oozing.

"I....think I better go," I say quietly, and then wince as my mom's voice, still able to crack like a whip, cuts the air.

"My little girl best not be so much as SCRATCHED, Rivale."

That pops my eyes open wide. I can think of no reason at all why my mother might know who she is. Although, come to think of it, I can't think of any reason she might not either.

Lucien Rivale (EvilSqueegee)
(2/12/2015 3:13:34 AM) (2025489)

Sarah looks back to Michaela in the mirror and smiles. I don’t miss it.

How ironic. After all this hooh-hah about equal marriage rights, The Lamb isn’t a cookie-cutter between the sheets. If only the world knew.

Listening to the girls talk is relaxing. Brazil is, very suddenly, a long way away behind me. Apparently she gave the girl a computer. Sounds like the little ones have been quite busy in my absence. Good! They should have friends. Especially now that the Game has begun.

Not that I consider it a game. In the slightest. Tradition, though. What kind of self-respecting adversary avoids the chess metaphor?

I’m pulled from my thoughts by a voice I recognize from somewhere. I roll down the window and look out into the yard -- if you can call it that -- and suddenly I recognize the face.

An old client I haven’t seen in years. Things start to fall into place right in front of me. This is… this is the girl. Michaela’s mother is years older than I remember her. Years older. Her job was some of my better work, if I do say so myself. One of those deals that earns a man a reputation in certain circles. It was also the first deal I struck as the Lucien Rivale I am today -- I was a changed man back then.

She wanted her daughter to be someone. A star. To be free of the life she’d lived, with the old man and the abuse and being nothing more than eye-candy for someone else’s enjoyment, only to be forgotten and thrown aside when the party was over. She wanted something better for her child. I can relate.

So I pulled the strings, called in the favors. This part, though? This is the part where suddenly the fruits of my Magnum Opus are ripe for the picking. Because I didn’t know until right now who that little baby girl would grow up to be. She hadn’t been born yet.

This is why I do my job. Everything comes together so beautifully. She’s important, alright. Nobody important will ever forget her when this story is done playing out.

“Carter.” I tip an invisible hat. “Been a long time. You’re drinking again? Sorry to see that.”

Michaela Carter (Eric the Bard)
(2/12/2015 3:34:03 AM) (2025492)

I stare between Lucien and my mother. It's more than just her knowing him.

He knows her.

"How do you know my mother?" I ask him, blankly, not yet making any move to get out of the car. The cellphone he'd given me is held in one hand, nearly forgotten -- I don't even remember if I hung up yet. My eyes pass between my mother and this man who helped me, and I do not know what to think.

"Get out of the car, Mikey,", Mom says in a weary voice. She doesn't sound angry, just tired, but her eyes are murder on Mr. Rivale. "I doubt it," she tells Lucien in response to his remark, her tone dry as dust. "Somehow, I doubt it very much." She runs a hand through her hair, and flicks her green eyes to me. "C'mon, Mikey. You don't want anything to do with him."

My hand is on the door handle -- the door is open and I'm stepping out, until she says that. I stiffen as if slapped. My eyes meet my mother's through the window, across the dirty, dead yard, and her standing in the middle of it, and suddenly, I can't stand it anymore.

"My name," I tell her in a seething, searing kind of voice, "is Michaela. How much does a mother have to drink to forget her daughter's name?" The last is almost a shriek, and I pull myself back into the SUV, toss the phone on the seat beside me, and throw myself into the seat like I intend to become a part of it. My eyes meet Sarah's in the rearview mirror.

"Get me out of here," I say flatly. "I don't care where."

Lucien Rivale (EvilSqueegee)
(2/12/2015 3:51:30 AM) (2025494)

I shake my head and roll up the window after watching that exchange. I feel bad for Michaela. Nobody should have their personal struggles on display so publicly.

“Sarah. ”

Sarah starts to drive.

I look to Michaela, and I do something that I view as entirely normal, but I’ve been told is actually one of the things that makes me so good at my job.

I talk to her like an adult. And I tell her the truth.

“I’m a lawyer. Your mother was in a bad way before you were born, and despite what everyone thinks, sometimes the law can help. I found a way to get her out of her terrible situation and away from a place that we both agreed no child should be raised in.”

That’s not where the story ends, though.

“Unfortunately, she got herself further into trouble that you’re probably more familiar with -- the self inflicted kind. I took my leave once I’d given her the opportunity to lead a better life. I hope you don’t hold that against me. There was only so much the law could do for you at that point, and I don’t think I could take a daughter away from her mother. There are just some things I can’t take part in.”

I take a deep breath.

“The world is an ugly place. I’m sorry.”

This is why honesty is important. Because nobody needs to deal with keeping the truth from people who have the right to hear it.

Michaela Carter (Eric the Bard)
(2/12/2015 4:01:21 AM) (2025496)

I watch him steadily as he talks. Words. And things I could have guessed, or already knew. That Mom was drowning in something other than alcohol was pretty plain; it was what drove her to the stuff. Even I knew that; drunks aren't drunks because they like the taste and the hangover. Drunks are drunks because something is wrong.

I'm trying to be angry. Trying to hold onto that fire that burned behind my eyes for just a moment, trying with all my might to hold onto that heat, but the cold is settling in now. She can't handle things on her own. She needs me. I did this to her. I rub my hands over my face, run them through my hair, sitting with my elbows on my knees and my face in my hands.

"It sounds like you did what you could," I say heavily, as that fury I want so badly drains out of me like sand through spread fingers. "She....no. I don't blame you." I blame me. But I don't say that part. I rub my face a few more times, then my arms fall, to cross over my lap, and my eyes skate up to his, then away, that bourbon-amber color dark in the dim light of the car.

"I'm gonna have to go back eventually," I say, almost regretfully. "I shouldn't have done that. She needs me. She doesn't have anything else."

Neither do I, really -- but I can live with that, I think.

"I don't think....I don't want to go home just yet, though," I say, shifting uncomfortably. "What....What do we do now?"

Lucien Rivale (EvilSqueegee)
(2/12/2015 4:19:12 AM) (2025497)

I look at her as she copes and deals. Of course she blames herself, she’s a teenager. Of all the things Man has invented to torture himself with? Being a teenager is one of the worst. Child labor felt like such an awful thing when it was abolished, though. Concequences can be an absolutely gorgeous thing to behold.

It’s not my place to correct her feelings. Feelings are what make us human. I know what it’s like to blame yourself for things that aren’t your fault. And I most certainly know what it’s like to watch someone you care about suffer.

We all deal in different ways.

“You should give your mother a little credit. She’ll be okay. She’s just in a bad way right now, and she blames me for a lot of it. I don’t mind; I’m a lawyer. Dealing with people’s mistakes and flaws is literally my job description, finger-pointing comes with the territory. But your mother? She’s a strong woman. Resourceful. I know it doesn’t look like it right now, but she’s scrappy. She’ll pull through eventually.”

The SUV pulls up into the driveway of the Rivale house. It’s not exactly a mansion, but we are right next door to a gym. It’s a private place. Not a public place. It has a track for running, and equipment that Marco has no real concept of gratitude for. Though I suppose he probably likes the personal trainers.

Not their intended use. But hey -- who am I to judge?

“Until then? You have an open invitation to the Rivale household. Nobody can bother you here. You’re always welcome. The place has been empty for a long while, anyways. About time it got put to some use.”

It’s been empty ever since she died. She’d have liked it being a safe place for troubled kids.

“Marco should be around here somewhere, feel free to bother him if you like. I think Lilly was going to spend the night over at Mr. Benette’s house with his daughter. If you’d rather be alone than deal with my son, nobody will blame you in the slightest.” I smile. “Supper is at seven o’clock, you can join us if you want or not. Sarah will be happy to show you around, introduce you to the staff who look after the place. If you need anything, just ask.”

Sarah smiles again in the mirror.

“And whenever you’re ready? Just let Sarah know you’d like to go home. You don’t need to leave a moment sooner or later than that. Okay?”

Michaela Carter (Eric the Bard)
(2/12/2015 4:30:55 AM) (2025500)

His assertion as to my mother's strengths is a little comforting, but the doubt is clear on my face. Rocks are strong....till they shatter. It's hard not to think of my mom as a broken thing. "I'm not sure she has 'eventually'," I mutter, but it's low, under my breath. If he hears it, I hope he understand well enough that I don't want a response. That would be...awkward.

My first glimpse of the Rivale household fills my eyes. It's not a palace, or a mansion -- just a good-sized home, clean, well-tended, and solidly built. And then, that open invitation, and my eyes whip to him, head turning on my neck, eyes incredulous. A thousand emotions swarm from my gut up my throat, conflicting and contrasting each other -- anger at the pity I see, gratitude at the offer, confusion as to why I see pity (is it really there?) and more I can't untangle or decipher. Finally, I just nod, dumbly. My gaze finds the gym, and finally, things unknot inside me as I see the broad brown ring of the track.

Well. He said to ask Sarah if I needed anything. I turn my gaze to the woman behind the wheel and offer a shy smile. "You know how to handle a stopwatch?"

I'm disappointed to hear that Lilly's not here. I don't know what Marco is like. But I suck it up. I need this. Time away from my mom, time to just relax. Overstressed muscles and tendons tear; I am too tense and too tired to face my mother just now. I need time. I don't think I have ever realized that as clearly as I do now.

Then I turn back to Lucien. "Thank you, Mr. Rivale," I say, quietly. "I don't...." I raise one hand, palm turned up. "Thanks is all I've got to give. But it's yours, anyway."

Lucien Rivale (EvilSqueegee)
(2/12/2015 4:45:12 AM) (2025502)

“I wheel and deal with people every day for a living, Michaela.” I smile. No, I don’t pity her. In a way? I envy her. The star of the show… I’m just the scriptwriter.

“But I’m off the clock. You owe me nothing. I’m just glad I can give you some space when you need it. I appreciate the gratitude. My son could learn a lesson or two from you,” grin.

Sarah nods and holds up her phone.

”Stopwatch? Check.”

“You girls play nicely,” I say, and climb out of the SUV, shutting the door behind myself. I turn around and look at Michaela through the window. “As for me? I have some family issues of my own to address. Hope to see you at dinner.”

I pat the roof of the car and turn, heading into the house.

Now. If I was a devious, line-crossing little horn-dog… where would I be?

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