Butterfly Wings (Season of Growth)


I stood in the middle of my dream. Something that began out of boredom with a pencil and paper in front of me, became real. Within five weeks of sharing my sketches and ideas with Rae, Georgie’s Suites grew from a vision that kept me awake at night into my home away from home. In my office, I waited to deliver my welcome speech to a group of prospective employees, and high profile Pepper’s Ferry citizens with Rae standing right beside me.

“There’s my lady.” Chase showed off his dimples as he walked into the room, holding a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of wine, with his arms held open for a hug.

“Bubba.” I stood up, hurrying to him and pressing my forehead to his shoulder.

“You’re doing it.” He held me out in front of him. “Everything that you said you were going to do since we met, you’ve done. The therapy, this hotel, repairing your relationships with your family, and…” He sucked in a deep breath, giving me a nod. “Making me fall in love with you.”

“Ah, snap.” I started dancing to the song that was playing. “‘Epiphany’ is one of my favorites, babe. Dance with me.”

He smiled, doing a little side step for me, before I grabbed onto his hands, laughing into his chest. “I have never told anyone that I loved them before. It’s against my code, but so is having somebody stay the night in my bed.” I looked seriously into his gray eyes, those eyes that I swear sparkled just for me. “And you’re there all the damn time.”

“What does that mean?”

I took the flowers from his hands and placed them in an empty vase on my desk. “I’m keeping you, Bubba.”

He reached out for my hand. “Let me lead you down that grand staircase.”

I smiled and waved at Rae and Eli as they walked out of the office across the hall. Rae looked stunning in a dark green evening gown, with her hair pulled back into an updo, and her makeup pressed flawlessly onto her face. Her hand clutched onto her growing baby belly, and her face lit up with joy as I reached out to embrace her.

“This is it,” I whispered.

“No.” She continued wearing the happy smile on her face, but she said, “This is not it. We have to get approved for all of these licenses, get the building inspected, figure out whatever is wrong with the furnace that it doesn’t want to turn off when it’s running. And even though the rest of the hotel is beautiful, that kitchen is a nightmare, and the suites are a disaster.”

“I cannot wait until you can drink, again.” I rolled my eyes at her. “The amount of buzzkill radiating off of you could shutdown a college campus on the last day of school.”

“Yeah?” She scowled at me as I sipped on the glass of wine I had been nursing since stepping into my office an hour earlier. “You’re just rubbing it in right now. Wait until you’re pregnant. I’m going to chug a lemonade in front of you every time we meet.”

“And, I’m going to walk up and just…” I slapped at the air in front of her. “Slap it right out of your hand. So fast you won’t even know what happened.”

She threw her head back and laughed. “I can just picture you nine months pregnant, sprinting through my living room to snatch a drink out of my hand. I’m never going to get it out of my head.”

“Am I fat in that picture in your head?”

Eli and Chase both snickered as they led the pair of us down the hall.

“Am I fat now?” Rae responded.

“No, but you also just found out you’re pregnant, five minutes ago. There is a slippery slope ahead of you.”

“Obviously somebody thinks she is very funny.” She took hold of my arm, as we stopped at the top of the grand staircase. “But, you aren’t now, nor have you ever been a great comedian.”

“Mmm.” I smiled at her. “Are you still pissed at me over the videos of you singing on RedView? It’s been like a month since you found it out. I think a beautiful snow queen once sang about what you need to do.”

She tried to give me a serious look, but I could see a hint of a smile peeking through.

“After you feel that high of a theater full of people cheering you on, you’re going to thank me. You have a precious gift, Rae. If you weren’t going to show it off for the world, what else was I supposed to do?”

“Ohhh-kay. I suppose you won’t mind me making copies of your signed sketches and hanging them up all over town, would you?”

“You should rent out a billboard. That one over Natural Bridge?” I tapped her hand and pointed at her. “Put them all on there. Nobody would miss it.”

She laughed at me. “Our song is playing. You need to stop being such a smart ass on these stairs before I trip you.”

I smiled. “You’re the one who doesn’t know how to walk in high heels. I do it everyday. Be careful putting that karma out into the universe, Rhiannon.”

The look on her face turned serious. “You’re right, so hold onto me.”

“Always and forever, babe.” I kissed her cheek as we started down the stairs, clutching onto each other’s hands, as Eli and Chase walked with their heads held high behind us.

Rae and I made it to the stage, each of us dancing to “Heatwaves” as it blasted over my sound system.

“This is it,” I said, as Eden turned down the volume of the music. “But, as Rae pointed out to me, what you see here tonight isn’t the finished product. There is so much more to come out of this place. Two full bars, one inside and a second one outside on the patio, both being ran by the dangerously handsome Chase Claire. The best kitchen to be found at any business in this industry within the county limits, a kitchen that could compete with the best in the industry in this state, and a kitchen ran by the closest thing to a celebrity chef that I have ever known, Mr. Paul Hart. There are only fifteen guest rooms in this lodge, but friends, those fifteen rooms will have care and maintenance managed by the fabulous Sylvie Treen, who has cared for all of the homes on Pacer Hill for the past twenty-five years. As you can see, this is more than just a business owned and operated by members of Pacer Hill. This is a hotel on Pacer Hill, which means that our guests and employees will be treated like family, because that is who we are.”

“By jumping onboard tonight, whether you plan to apply for one of the open positions we have listed, or you just offer us your support, you will be a part of one of the biggest changes to ever happen on Pacer Hill. Never before has the actual hill been open to members of the general public like this. For years, we have welcomed children onto the hill for egg hunts started by the great Asher Pacer and Mitchell Hart. We also host the Halloween Party for the Pepper’s Ferry community that began as a party for Darren Pacer and Paul Hart to scare everyone, but this is the first time where we are swooping guests right into the magic that can be felt all around the place that we call home. The completely original Hart Family Mansion will be offering a tour and a story time option with the owners every Friday morning. There will be wine tastings offered in the historic Pacer Hill Cemetery, where all Harts and Pacers have been buried since nineteen-oh-two, and haunted rides through the infamous Willy Pacer Hollow. Not to mention, drinks, fine dining, and live music available to anyone, right here on the first floor.”

“What we have created is so much more than a hotel.” I smiled, as my eyes landed on the proud smile of my official boyfriend. “Like life, the opportunity is endless. Maybe, you’ll come here, and your eyes will land on the love of your life who is standing across the room, looking stunning in a button up shirt, with black dress pants, and even suspenders. Don’t touch him though, because he is mine, from his dimples to his toes.”

I smiled at the few chuckles that drifted to me from around the room.

“Maybe, you’ll host a wedding or a birthday party here. Maybe, you’ll come to dance with the reigning residents of Pacer Hill at a fancy dinner party. Maybe, you’ll just come to sit in a cozy room and have a conversation with a lover. Whatever it is that you’re looking to accomplish, from fun to relaxation, from a drink to a great meal, and from comradery to romance, it is all going to be possible here. Georgie Pacer was a woman who understood hospitality. Not only was that her job as the president of the national hotel chain that made the Pacer family what it is today, but it was her joy. Look at her home. Georgie loved to fill this with people and do something to make them smile. That’s who she was, and it is in her honor and out of pure love for who we knew her to be, that Rae and I present Georgie’s Suites to all of you. Take a seat, have a great time, and have a look around. We will be floating around to answer any questions that you have, and we are fully open to your comments and complaints, too.”

I smiled at Rae after holding her in a tight hug. 

“That wasn’t so bad.” She nodded her head. “Standing next to you, I feel powerful.”

“It’s not me. It’s you. You’re beautiful, bold, and incredibly talented. So, if you’re still second guessing going on that stage and letting the world hear that amazing voice, don’t.” I shrugged my shoulders at her, wearing my best innocent smile. “They’ve already heard it thanks to my ninja recording skills.”

“You are so proud of yourself.”

“Mmm.” I took a sip of wine and gave her a shake of my head. “I’m proud of you, babe.”

“The famous Pacer Hill Girls.” A man walked up to us wearing a smile, his hands held behind his back. “Elaina Pacer and Rae Hart. We’ve never met, but I know a lot about you both. So much that I feel like I know you.”

“That’s interesting, because I have no clue who you are.” Rae gave him a pleasant smile. “Who are you?”

“I am running to be the next mayor of Pepper’s Ferry.”

“There we go. Always an agenda.” Rae laughed as she clapped her hands together. “I have to pee.”

“I really don’t have an agenda, except to talk to a pretty woman.”

“Mmm.” I sipped on my wine. “So, did you have any questions about Georgie’s?”

“I was just wondering what my chances are of bumping into you around here.”

I stared at him, wearing this great big smile on his face. I could see a man who wore his charm like a brand new high end suit. I widened my eyes as a cry for help as I looked at Chase, who was in the midst of being harassed by my mother. He hurried over to me, leaving her talking to herself mid-sentence,

“What is your name?” I asked the man. 

“Josh Harrison.” His smile seemed to fade as Chase stepped up next to me and wrapped his arm around me.

I reached out to shake his hand. “I wish you the best of luck, and do hope to see you around Georgie’s Suites for dinner or a drink every now and then. My boyfriend is going to be managing the bar. Chase, babe, this is Josh Harrison. He’s running to be mayor.”

He forced a smile at Josh. “It was great to speak with you.”

“Such a productive conversation,” I agreed with a nod. “I’m sure Adele Culp is shaking in her boots with you as her competition.”

I rolled my eyes as he walked away.

“Was that worse than the time I left you alone at the bar for five minutes to use the bathroom?”

I laughed as I pressed my forehead to his chest. “I don’t know what it is about me standing on my own that makes these creeps beeline for me, but I am heading into the bathroom. Mom’s been drinking tonight. Don’t let her try and sneak a kiss or something.”

“No way. I will punch her in the tit before I let that happen.”

I snorted as I walked away, passing by Rae and giving her a wink on my way into the bathroom.

The main door creaked opened as I was putting myself back together in the single stall that we were able to offer in the bathroom off of the bar. 

I cringed as I walked out to see Arthur standing in front of me. He wore this huge smile as he said, “Girl. Do you need a gardener?”

“You need to leave.” I tried to remain calm as I looked at him. “Just walk away.”

He still wore overalls and the only thing more attention grabbing than his unkempt hair and his missing teeth was that soulless look in his almost black eyes.

I turned to walk out and I felt his arm on my wrist. I wanted to scream, but I also didn’t want to cause a commotion at my own business announcement dinner. So, I cringed and let out a squeak as I felt cold metal against my arm.

I struggled to get my arm free of him, feeling the blade slightly break through my skin before I gained control of my arm. Planting my palms against his chest, I shoved him backwards and growled,“I have never told anyone, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t. Like your own daughter, who already hates you. If you want any chance at fixing that, you’re going to have to leave me alone.”

“You didn’t tell anyone because you liked it.”

The rage that coarsed through me at that moment—I could have killed him with my bare hands. For a split second, I pictured breaking the bathroom mirror with his skull, and just the thought satisfied years of pent up hatred. 

“I was six years old!” I boomed. “Liked it? I didn’t even know what it was until years down the road. I am telling you, you’re fucking with the wrong person. Get out, now, or I’ll send you back to prison tonight.”

He gave me a wicked smile. “Call me when you change your mind, girl.”

“Oh my fuck,” I whispered, walking out of the bathroom with my hands shaking.

“Would you like one?” Nicole asked me, offering me a glass of champagne as I spun in circles in the middle of the lounge, trying to make sure that Arthur left the building.

“What are you doing here?” I clutched onto her shoulder like I feared she would float away. “You’re supposed to be at home with the baby. You just had her two weeks ago.”

“Emmet came home from his trip to South Carolina early. He couldn’t stand to be away from her. He told me we had to go with him the next time he leaves town.”

“You should,” I agreed. “You should just go home and be with him and Emma.”

“Come on.” She furrowed her eyebrows at me, though she still smiled. “Why are you being so weird, Laney? This is a big deal for you, and I wanted to celebrate with just one drink.”

“Okay, I’m not trying to be a bitch.” I grabbed her shoulders and she caught sight of my wounded arm.

“What is this?” She grabbed hold of my hand, holding my palm up as she studied the cut. It wasn’t deep, but it was long and gushing blood.

She kicked into nurse mode and pulled me back into the bathroom.

“You can’t be doing this again. We’ve come so far from that low point, Laney.” She wetted a handful of paper towels and pressed them to my arm.

“This is not that,” I snapped, pushing her hand away to hold the paper towel myself. “Arthur was here, Nick.”

Her face turned pale.

“I didn’t want to tell you, but we caught him hanging around Coffee Break. We thought that Eli scared him off and it was over, but he just cornered me in the bathroom.”

“You?” She looked baffled. “Why would he corner you in the bathroom? He’s a waste of breath, but he’s not the guy that would jump you for money.”

I stared at her. What could I say? She watched Arthur murder her mother, right in front of her, because Mo let her stay the night at a birthday party with her friends. He caused her sleepless nights and an extreme fear of people raising their voices around her. He was the reason that she hated walking around her own home in the middle of the night, and why loud noises made Nicole jump out of her skin. The fact that Nicole didn’t know how to save Mo that night is the reason she ended up becoming a nurse. Arthur had inflicted mental damage on her that she would never outrun, so how did I tell her that he was also my abuser?

“Did he try to get you to tell him where to find me? Because, that sounds like something he would do.”

I pulled her into a hug. I was so grateful to her for providing me with a way out of answering her question, that I couldn’t even find words.

“Laney.” Rae charged into the bathroom with Amy and Stella right behind her. “We need you for pictures.”

I smiled, giving her a nod. “Of course. Just five minutes to finish freshening myself up.”

“Well damn, you’ve been in here long enough to take a whole shower,” Amy argued. “You look beautiful. Let’s go.”

“Are you still cold?” Nicole asked me, pulling off her own black sweater. “I feel like I’m about to break into a sweat. Wear this.”

“Come on.” I gave Nicole a grateful smile. “You have to be in the photos with us, too. You are one of the Pacer Hill ladies, now.”

“Are you all good?” Chase asked me after I made him pose for photos with Rae, Eli and myself.

“Mmm.” I gave him a nod. “Just tired. Ready to go home and lay in bed with you all over me.”

“That’s what I’m saying, babe.” He grinned as he pressed his forehead against the side of my head. “I would take that for the rest of our lives.”

“Let’s go.” I pointed to the door. “It’s winding down. People are starting to leave. I’ll say my goodbyes and maybe it will make them hurry out a little faster.”

“I’ll stick right by you.”

I smiled at him, pressing my hands on either side of his freshly shaved face. “You better mean that.”


“What He Doesn’t Know”

-Rae Hart

He spins you around on the kitchen tile,

And I love it how he makes you smile.

You tell a joke and he laughs like a little kid,

He keeps his promises like no other man ever did.

He sees the best in you and has a heart of gold.

You two may be the greatest love story ever told.

But there’s some things he doesn’t know,

Like all of the secret hiding spots you go,

When this world gets a little too cold.

Like how you carry it all on your chest,

Even though it’s not always for the best.

Like how you’ll do anything for anyone,

But you’re so used to the feeling of being abandoned.

And I don’t know if you’ve told him that I’m the one who is always there,

But maybe he should know that I’m not going anywhere.

You hate to hurt somebody’s heart,

I’ve spent my whole life watching you and trying to display what I have learned,

You’ll smile to a clown’s face even though you know they’ll tear you apart the second your back is turned,

From your grace, the smile on your face,

And your love.

He doesn’t know he’s found an angel from above.

He doesn’t know all of the secret hiding spots you go,

He doesn’t know you carry it all on your chest,

He doesn’t know he has found the best friend that I have ever had,

He doesn’t know how many nights I’ve stayed up hoping the best when things have gone bad,

And he doesn’t know how sad I am watching him become your best friend,

But goddamn I hope this doesn’t end…

Because you don’t know,

How many nights I’ve spent terrified you would be alone if I had to go.

But there’s some things he doesn’t know,

Like all of the secret hiding spots you go,

When this world gets a little too cold.

Like how you carry it all on your chest,

Even though it’s not always for the best.

Like how you’ll do anything for anyone,

But you’re so used to the feeling of being abandoned.

And I don’t know if you’ve told him that I’m the one who is always there,

But maybe he should know that I’m not going anywhere.

“She is doing amazing.” Chase kissed my cheek as he pulled me closer to him in the side by side front row seats that we had at the Roy County Theater.

Rae looked like a million bucks as she stood there in a shimmering, bright red dress. She had her dark hair pulled back into an up-do, with her face dolled up like a classic movie star, as she held onto her little baby bump. Eli sat on a stool behind her, playing his guitar, but it was really the look of awe on his face as he watched his girlfriend sing that kept my attention. I couldn’t snap enough pictures as the final song came to an end, and Eli stood up to kiss her.

The crowd roared with applause.

“Thank you, everyone. My little duo with my amazing boyfriend is called Hilltop Swag. If you want to see more of us, you can check us out on the Real Pacer Hill channel, streaming on RedView, or you can book your tickets for the opening night event at Georgie’s Suites on Pacer Hill. The first night is September first, with a weekend of goodies and surprises to follow from there. For now, I want to introduce you all to the woman you came here to see, Cassidy Claire from Chilling with Cass.”

“You should sneak back stage, now,” Chase told me. “She’s going to be ready for you soon.”

I wasn’t sure how I got roped into being Cassidy’s guest for her live show. Rae suggested it. We were having lunch with Cassidy when she told us that her original guest, a wedding planner with a booming business in Harbor, dropped out on her after she fell into her car window and was sent to the hospital. I opened my mouth to question how that would even happen, and before a sound escaped my lips, Rae volunteered me. I don’t remember agreeing to be the guest. I just opened my door Monday morning, and there was Cassidy, wanting to discuss my outfit as well as the topics that she planned to cover.

“Hey, everyone!” Cassidy sang, as I approached the entrance of the stage. “What did you think of Rae?” 

Cassidy grinned from ear to ear as a spotlight shown on Rae sneaking into her seat with Eli right beside her.

“She is amazing, isn’t she? Did you know I had to convince her to do this, tonight? It took some nudging, because apparently she didn’t even know that she was a streaming star, but I am thrilled to have her. Rae is featured on the Real Pacer Hill Channel.”

I was amazed to see a large number of people stand up and begin to cheer at the name of the channel that I created.

Cassidy let out a little giggle. “I am glad that most of you have heard of it, because I really wanted to pull somebody local as my guest tonight. I know that I posted it would be Natalie, but she had an unfortunate accident that prevented her from being here tonight. I pretty much felt doomed, and then…I remembered who my big brother was dating. If you’ve heard of the Real Pacer Hill Channel, then do you know the Pacer Hill Princess?”

“I knew it was Elaina!” somebody screamed over the rest of the crowd.

I smiled as Cassidy’s producer hooked me up with a headset.

“She is only the second ever heiress of the Pacer Hill family fortune. She sits at the top of the hill, having transitioned from princess to butterfly. We recently learned that she is an amazing artist, and if you’ve watched any of her videos, you know about her bar top backflips. She’s beautiful, she rocks a pair of high heels like no other, and she is here with me tonight! I want you all to give a warm welcome to the one and only Elaina Pacer.”

“Hi.” I pulled her into a tight hug as I joined her on stage. “You forgot to mention that I am Rae’s best friend. That always goes in the bio. Slip it in anywhere, as long as it’s said. I need people to know she is taken.”

“Oh yes. But, I think most of these people know that,” Cassidy said as she handed me a glass of wine. 

“The free alcohol I was promised. Don’t mind if I do.” I smiled as I took a seat on the stool on the left side of the high table set up for us “So, now what happens? I’ve never done this before.”

“We just talk.”

“Mmm.” I nodded at her. “So, you found a bunch of dummies who made you rich for talking?”

Cassidy snorted at me. “I am guessing you don’t listen to podcasts a lot. This is what we do. We get people super into us, and then we hit them with subscription options.”

“That sounds like a con. Like if we handed people a room key at one of our hotels, but they had to pay a second fee to get the bathroom key. Could you imagine how pissed you’d be?”

“Or, how covered in piss you would be.” Cassidy took a sip of her wine as I let out a laugh.

“Walk up to the desk like, ‘I really have to go,’ and the nice front desk attendant says, “And you can, for only an extra fifty dollars per night.’”

“Speaking of hotels, aren’t you opening one with Rae?”

“Mmm. Georgie’s Suites, which I must remind people is completely unrelated to the Pacer Family Lodges that you’ll find all over the country. Those belong to my older brother, Emmet. I got the majority of the money, and people think I got everything else with it. Not the case. My grandmother was no fool.”

“Why? Did you not want the hotels?”

“It’s not a matter of wanting them. I was only nineteen when Georgie died, and not a very great nineteen either. I was on a one way street heading straight towards a disaster that I made all by myself.”

“So, your late teen years weren’t great?”

“If you ask Shayna Shay, she has about thirty videos of me stumbling drunk and falling headfirst into various items. The best one is the fridge. I leaned down to grab cheese out of a drawer, and my head got away from the rest of my body. I screamed bloody murder because of a jar of pickles plummeting in the side of my head, and Rae came out of her room in her night shirt screaming, ‘What?! What is it? Do you need nine-one-one?’ If I remember the night correctly, it was margaritas with our tacos from LJ’s Taco Stand that put me over the edge.”

“So you had a good time partying? We all did that at one point, right?”

“Mmm.” I shook my head as the applause began to die down. “It wasn’t a good time. I had fun because I was drunk, and when I got drunk I made sure that everyone else had a good time with me. But, girl, it gets to a point where you’re waking up alone, your house is trashed and you’re so sick to your stomach you can’t even make it to the bathroom. That’s when you know you broke something. I was the broken thing, and I never realized it until I began trying to fix myself and all of the things that made me reach for a bottle, or sometimes a razor blade. Most of the videos that collected viewers for RPH were just me falling apart in real time.”

“How did that get better?”

“I had to ask for help.” I gave her a weak smile. “More than that, I had to learn to actively make choices to improve my life. Do I go out tonight or do I go to bed to wake up early in the morning for a run? Do I stay in and cook in my own kitchen with Chase, or do we go out, drink too much, and fight over something we won’t remember in the morning? I lived in this delusional world where the small choices didn’t matter. Not until recently did I realize that choices that seem like nothing—like not remembering to take your birth control on vacation—lead to big consequences. Unlike my girl, Rae, I don’t want any surprises.”

“Boo!” Eli shouted, as he stood up and gave me two thumbs-down, with Rae giggling from beside him.

“Of course, I am completely joking. It was the big things happening for the people that I love that made me want more for myself. Right as I was drunk as could be, sitting at a bar and coming to this conclusion, I started talking to a really sexy bartender. He had all of the right moves. Something about our interaction stuck with me, and in the early hours of the following morning, I was showing Rae my sketches and changing my own life. Now, that sexy bartender is sleeping in my bed most nights, and I feel better than I have ever been.”

“So what comes next? You’re opening the hotel and that’s going to keep you busy. You have your streaming channel, and all of that amazing art you have been holding out on us. What happens once the hotel is underway?”

“I don’t know.” I smiled at her. “Right now I’m just riding this wave, but when I hit that next one I think it’s going to be great.”

“You’re amazing, babe,” Chase whispered in my ear as I sat at a table in a dressing room, staring at my own reflection as I sucked down the last of my wine.

“Mmm.” I stood up and pulled my hand away from him as he tried to grab hold of me. “The live show was everything I wanted it to be, but while I was sitting out there pouring my heart out for a room full of strangers, your ex was sending picture proof that you were with her recently.”

“Ashton is starting her shit again.” He pressed his hands to the sides of his head. “Whatever it is, it’s a lie.”

“Okay, so she wasn’t at Lucky Lee’s party?” I asked, as I held up my phone to show him a picture of him and my brother sitting at a table together.

“And? I can’t help that she was there. Bubba, you were going to come to that party! The only reason you cancelled on me is to go to the hospital with Nicole.”

“I would like to think that you’re not a dirty fucking dog, right? But she sent me pictures of you two in my bedroom. I’ve been down this road before with Oliver, and I’m not going to be somebody’s fool again. If this is what you’re going to do behind my back, I don’t want you in my face.”

“She followed me to your place to fight over Moose with me. You see me on the phone? That was me actually dialing the non-emergency line to get her out. Ashton is not somebody you have to worry about.”

“I have told you from the beginning that I want to stay out of this shit.”

“Okay, babe, so block her number.”

My hand shook as I started collecting my purse and keys to leave. “I did block her number. She’s been blocked. She keeps getting my number, and this fight over Moose keeps getting drawn out.”

“She’s not getting my dog, so I don’t know what you want.”

“She’s not getting your dog, you’re not going to stop dropping everything to run to your mother and get her drugs, and I’m not going to be the person that gets the backlash of all of this shit, Chase. I own a hotel, now. My page is more booming than ever and people are starting to subscribe to the blog I created. I have big things happening for me. What is going to happen when somebody realizes that my boyfriend is running around buying prescription drugs for his mother to snort? What about when Ashton resorts to spreading rumors about me to get even with you? What about the rumor getting out that I am allowing you to cheat one me? Loving you has every potential to ruin my life, and you’re not taking a single step to protect me. That sounds fucking horrible, right? But, fuck…I’m not working this hard at being successful for somebody else to ruin me. If I want to be ruined I could do it all on my own.”

“So, you don’t think that she was just there to bother me about Moose? You really believe that something happened between us, don’t you?”

“I can see you sending me a text asking how Nicole is doing in the reflection of your glasses.” I showed him the zoomed in image. “So, no, babe. I don’t believe your lies about calling the non-emergency line.”

“I just let her come see him.”

“In my house?” I laughed in disbelief. “In my room?” I wrapped my fingers up in my hair. 

“Hey, Elaina. What do you want me to do?” he asked, as he followed me out into the hallway.

“Go in any other direction except the one I am walking in,” I answered, as I pulled my sweater over my arms.

“Elaina?” A voice carried to me from the doorway of a bathroom. “Is there anyway I could take a picture with you?”

“Sure.” I tried to force away my tears for the fans photo.

“You were amazing tonight. I am so glad Cassidy got you here.” She gave me a hug and hurried away, as Chase continued staring at me from down the hall.

I just walked. I walked past Rae and Elaina as they were taking pictures. I passed by Shayna Shay and Justin without saying a word. A local news reporter called out my name, and Amy tried to grab hold of my wrist to stop me, but I just kept my eyes straight ahead, on the exit, until I made it out.

“Oh my fuck.” I whispered into the palm of my hands once I was in my car with the doors locked. 


“Look at those butterflies, girl!” Thaden shouted, commenting on the watercolor butterfly tattoos that he laid out on the top of my forearms as my eighteenth birthday gift. “I have to say that is my best tattoo.”

“That should concern you,” I said, with a playful smile on my face. “Considering that I drew these.”

He laughed, a broken expression on his face as he hissed, “Application, girl. I meant application.”

“What do you have for Chinese takeout night?” I asked him, as I started taking the lids off of my containers and pulled out my chopsticks.

“I got some shrimp lo mein, General Tso’s chicken, and beef and mushrooms in brown sauce.”

“Egg rolls.” I held one up and took a bite, before saying, “I had to get pork because Rae ordered fifty of the shrimp ones for family dinner the other night. Let’s just say I was drinking a couple of beers and I outdid myself with the egg rolls. Every time I looked away from myself I was grabbing another one.”

He smirked at me. “I miss you.”

“Look at that beard.” I stared into his hazel eyes through my phone. “I miss you too.”

After a long pause, he knocked his hat off of his head with his hand and asked me, “What else did you get?”

“Sweet and sour chicken and an order of crab rangoons.”

“All appetizers?” he asked, watching as I filled a stemless purple wine glass with cotton candy wine. “Not having a good day?”

“No.” I ripped a crab Rangoon into pieces as I did everything in my power not to look at the phone screen. “It started at the live show last night. I ended up getting into it with Chase because his ex sent me a picture of them in my room.”

“The same ex who called you to warn you about him with some total bullshit excuses?” He widened his right eye at me. “What did he have to say about it?”

“Mmm.” I cleared my throat as I looked at the ceiling fan above my head. “He was letting her see Moose.”

“And do you believe him?”

“I want to.” I gave Thaden an exaggerated shrug. “But, what I can’t understand is why they would be in my room. Like, why? There’s eleven other areas in this house, all of which happen to not be my personal space. It feels so intrusive, and after that fucking gardener cornered me in the bathroom on the night of my business announcement party, I’m over people invading my space, Thaden.”

“Girl…” He gave me a serious look. “You know damn well that if I were around you’d have me in your room without even considering that it might bother him. The dude dropped the ball, but until he gives you a reason to not trust him, don’t go taking some spiteful woman’s word for keeps. You’ve been with him this long, and everything that you have told me points to him being good for you. Don’t throw it away for nothing.”

“You’re not my ex,” I pointed out to him. “Nothing, and I mean an odd amount of nothing, has ever happened between us. He was with her for three years.”

“Your voice is doing that squeaky thing.”

“Squeaking thing? Thaden, what are you talking about?”

“When you’re lying and you’re trying to convince yourself it’s true, you squeak. You don’t want to be done with him, Laney. You might be pissed, but you’re not done.”

“Thay.” I rested my cheek on my hand.

“Laney.” He mocked me with a smile on his face. “Dude, my life is going hella sweet right now, and it’s because you pushed me into being something when I was scared to go for it. You’re my best girl, and I’m gonna return the favor. You got something with this guy. I know, because if it wasn’t big you wouldn’t have mentioned it to me. So, you’re gonna give him a chance, alright? Let this dude prove to you that he ain’t a piece of shit, and you’re gonna love it. You two will have a beautiful life together.”

“While you do what?”

“Hang out with a few hot girls, lay down some ink, and wait for my best girl to call me and tell me how happy she is.”

I sat back and smiled at him. He smiled back on the other end of the camera, with his brown hair sticking up all over his head.

“When are you coming to meet Emma?”

“I suppose when she can talk. At least she’ll be interesting. I don’t know why everyone wants me to hop on a plane to meet a tired, lumpy, and fragile potato with limbs. She can’t do shit.”

I snorted at him, resting my forehead on my coffee table as I laughed.

“Really, though! Everyone acts like I am going to show up and she’s gonna do backflips for me or something. This sweet baby girl doesn’t give a flying fuck about meeting me. I saw her picture. She’s cute. I like the way she yawns, but like, I can video chat Nick and have those sentiments. I don’t need to come all the way back to Pepper’s Ferry to tell my sister how cute her infant is. That’s just a lot of work on my end.”

“So, what? You’ll be around for her thirteenth birthday?”

“Nah.” He wiped his face with a napkin. “Her graduation party, when her and all of her buddies are sneaking off to smoke one and have a beer. That’s what we did, huh? And that’s when shit got interesting. Shayna Shay and Justin had that huge fight over some chick named Jana. Rae and Jaycee went at it over some shit that went down at a party with Eli. Oliver got into it in front of the whole party with his dad. And what did we get to do? Just sit back and smile like the untouchables we were.”

“Whatever happened to Noah?”

“My guy played too much and got himself caught up in a sentence for drug trafficking narcotics.” His face lit up with a smile. “What about that girl who used to follow you and Rae around everywhere? She never got invited but she was always there. Remember? It was almost scary, the way she’d give you that big, goofy smile when somebody finally noticed her in the corner of the room.”

“Hillary.” I laughed. “Poor girl didn’t make it past twenty. Got into a bad wreck with her boyfriend right by the train tracks on Waverly Street.”

“The ones by your sister’s place?”

I nodded my head. “It was before she lived there. Back when that was Berkley Park. A bunch of kids called nine-one-one because they saw her fly out of the front window and it scared them that she wasn’t moving.”

“Nah.” He gave me a somber look. “Now I feel terrible about giving her all that shit all the time.”

I laughed at him. “She obviously enjoyed the shit talking. Poor girl. I’m sure she was just thrilled somebody was talking to her. That’s why I never got mad that she was around. If she felt like she fit in with us, I couldn’t be mad.”

“The good old days.” He smiled. “Now it’s time to get to the good new days.”

“Sure.” I gave him a weak smile. “I’m trying but…”

He laid his chin down on the table and watched me stuff a bowl full of my herbs.

“I am still learning how to be happy and not fear whatever is coming next.”

“Girl. Me too.”


“No.” Rae whined as I climbed into bed with her. “Elaina Pacer, no. I’m not doing this tonight. I’m not.”

“Just shh.” I pressed my finger to her lip before I cuddled up next to her. “Where is Eli?”

“He’s dead.” She gave me a serious look that was only visible by the light of her speaker playing the podcast she used to fall asleep. “I killed him for waking me up too much in the middle of the night. Do you want to be next?”


“Oh, well, you should’ve said you wanted the serious answer. He stayed out late riding with Lee and Chase. I think they all went and crashed on your mom’s living room floor.”

“Losers,” I whispered.

“You know, you need to just work things out with him so that you will stop crawling into my bed in the middle of the night. We spent three glorious weeks without you interrupting my REM cycle, and now you’re right back at it. Elaina Georgie, we have to meet Lindsey at seven, and her wedding planner friend is coming to talk to us about a partnership, too. Do you want me to look like I just crawled out of my grave?”

“Mmm.” I closed my eyes as I pulled her blanket up to my face. “Would you shut up and go to sleep?”

“Ou!” she growled, rolling over to face away from me. “Telling me to go to sleep in my own room.”

“Everything that the light touches is mine,” I teased.

“Do you have any idea how impossible it is to put up with you?”

I cackled into a pillow. “Then move out.”

Her elbow flew up against my chest, and despite the pain radiating through my left boob, I still laughed. 

“Everytime you open your mouth I resist the urge to choke you.”

“Lay off the murder shit,” I snapped. “You’re becoming a violent hag.”

“Stop calling me a hag.” She yanked at my hair. “Bitch.“

“Rhiannon, don’t call me a bitch. You know that gets me acting out, real quick.”

“Okay.” She grabbed the majority of her blanket and cocooned herself in it before whispering “bitch” with all of her mite.

“Hag, hag, hag, hag,” I repeated.

“You’re calling fucking Chase in the morning!” She screeched as she shot straight up in her bed. “I swear, if you don’t, I’m telling Shayna Shay he’s up for grabs.”

“I will destroy you,” I barked.

“Test me,” she growled.

“Mmm.” I nodded my head at her, before throwing myself face down into her pillows.

After a long pause I felt her hand close on mine.

“I knew you loved me,” I whispered.

“You will always be my girl.”

Written by Ava McClure

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There is always a new post on Mondays, but I was feeling motivated by the success of my page so I did something extra today!

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