What Meets the Eye by EveryBit12
Summary:

Roddrick Kennedy likes to think that a strong dose of worrying is good for her health, and keeps her in control of her life. When she finds herself taking on everyone and their problems, she sees that maybe she should turn her attention to herself every once in a while. When Milo Vitale comes along to teach her how life can be stress free, she discovers herself in for a whirlwind of change as he helps to flip everything upside down.


Categories: Original Fiction Characters: None
Classification: None
Genre: Drama, Family, Romance
Story Status: Active
Pairings: None
Warnings: Adult Situations, Drugs/Drug Use, Extreme Language, Femslash, Original Characters, Sexual Content , Strong Sexual Content , Work in Progress
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 11 Completed: No Word count: 58790 Read: 30317 Published: July 23 2013 Updated: February 28 2014

1. Chapter 1 by EveryBit12

2. Chapter 2 by EveryBit12

3. Chapter 3 by EveryBit12

4. Chapter 4 by EveryBit12

5. Chapter 5 by EveryBit12

6. Chapter 6 by EveryBit12

7. Chapter 7 by EveryBit12

8. Chapter 8 by EveryBit12

9. Chapter 9 by EveryBit12

10. Chapter 10 by EveryBit12

11. Chapter 11 by EveryBit12

Chapter 1 by EveryBit12
Author's Notes:

The Vitales

Milo Milo Lauren  Lauren 

***Talton  Talton ( Lauren's husband)

Victoria  Victoria

Uncle John Uncle John

The Kennedys

Roddrick  Roddrick

Roderica  Roderica

Rockelle  Rockelle

 

  "Water please."

    Roddrick Kennedy braced her arms against the white counter of the exquisite bar. Around her, the island air drifted, blowing her hair and dress aside as she stood in its way, embracing it. Rolling her neck, she listened to the different sounds of the wedding as it grew lively from the night's festivities. Heat from the day still clung to her dewy skin, giving her a golden glow under the lights of the small yet extravagant outdoor venue.

   The local waiter handed her a small glass with a smile in return. Turning with a small thanks, she languidly sipped the water, grateful for its cooling nature as it glided down her throat.

  There was music filtering through her ears-upbeat and exciting. She could picture her mother moving in time to the beat, laughing with her trademark smile that seemed to stretch her face to capacity. With a slight grin, Roddrick watched the joyous families and friends of the bride and groom, wishing that she could be in their shoes at that moment.

  It had been a long time since she was able to let go and enjoy herself in that manner; God how she ached to. She had been ridden down by her problems for so long, that she had forgotten how to move without the weight of the world on her shoulders. With the condensation from her glass dripping from the tips of her fingers, she pressed the digits to the exposed portion of her skin in a docile way, trying to cool herself from the climate.

   The island had been a beautiful place; the very first time she had been abroad, and here she was having to cut the trip short.  Though she would give anything to spend an entire lifetime here, she knew that she had to return before the end of the trip. She had kept in contact with her little sister, Roderica, becoming a pain in the neck with the constant need for reports on their mother. The woman wasn't dying or in any critical condition by any means, but Roddrick had trouble accepting that, and tended to go overboard with worrying about her if she wasn't close by.

   Her eyes caught sight of a blonde head, bobbing in bliss as its owner danced her heart out. It was Lauren Vitale; a friend of Roddrick's who had invited her to her wedding with much pleading and promising of a good time. Roddrick was sure that anyone else wouldn't have wasted as much time trying to convince someone to come to their wedding as Lauren had, and much to her surprise, she had finally accepted the offer.

   The smile on Lauren's face was so incandescent that there would be no need for the light of the moon to shine down on the gathering as the night drew near. Roddrick began to feel stuffy as she stood amidst the rather happy time in these people's lives. Drawing the thin fabric that was wrapped around her shoulders together, she allowed her feet to carry her off to explore the island. She hadn't gotten a chance to with all of the planned activities, and she knew that if she didn't take this opportunity now as she headed back to the room she was staying in; there would be no way for her to do it before her early flight in the morning.

vvv

       Milo's eyes followed the back of the disappearing woman's figure as she weaved her way through vivacious family members as they drank and danced in celebration. He had sat watching her from his tucked away table as the wedding after party commenced. 

   He had figured that he was the only one there that had a less than stellar energy level despite the importance of the event, so when he had seen yet another person quietly enjoying themselves, he couldn't help but watch her from afar out of curiosity. That curiosity had grown into an undeniable attraction which he couldn't name yet as he too rose from his seat in pursuit of the woman before she left without a trace.

     With hands in his pockets, he maneuvered through the crowd quickly and was able to avoid being stopped by those who wished to pull him aside and congratulate him on his return, or ask prying questions of how he was doing since he came back, their last memory of him being passed out in his apartment bathroom after overdosing on whatever pills he had in his cabinet. He didn't really enjoy having to grit through the intrusive conversations he found himself having much too often lately.

   A hand ran through his hair out of habit as he followed behind the object of his attention.

   His eyes took in her appearance; the faint outline of her back muscles as her arms swung by her side. Her pace wasn't rushed as she seemed to stroll down the paved path. Milo admired her while she admired the scenery as the dark drew near. The further away they moved from the party, the less light followed them. They were left with the small walking path lights at their feet to guide them along.

   It wasn't particularly hard for the woman to catch his attention the way she did. He had seen her over the past few days leading up to his sister's wedding. He had no idea who she was, but it was obvious that she was a rather close friend of Lauren's as he had seen them talking in passing. There was a gravitational pull towards her that he was sure would be frowned upon by his family should they notice it. Warning bells would sound off immediately as he stood through the onslaught of discouraging remarks he was sure to receive from them to deter him away from getting into anymore mess behind a girl.

   Milo was glad that they weren't there to see him now.

vvv

     Everything that she saw was a perfect subject to photograph. Roddrick's hands wished to hold the weight of her camera right then, so that she could save even more memories of her trip to share with her mother and sister back home. With a fleeting thought, she had left it behind for the ceremony not wanting to miss out on the special moment of Lauren's day because of her need to capture everything in sight.

   As she walked, she heard the voices and laughter die down the further away she was. She focused on the sound of the breeze as it passed her by and the footsteps that walked in tune with her very on behind her. She calmed her mind from overreacting, and decided that whoever it was meant no harm, but still her body tensed as a wave of tremors washed over her. She could feel the hairs on the back of her neck stand at attention as she became even more aware of Milo.

   Thinking that she would take just a quick glance over her shoulder, she found herself locking gazes with the man who came to a stop upon her course change.

   The hazel eyes that watched him closely narrowed after finding him stopped. He figured if he wanted to look innocent, he would have continued on past her to seem less suspicious. He couldn't do so as he felt a tug in the pit of his stomach rendering his legs useless.

   This was the closest he had ever been to see her face. Full lips remained motionless as his eyes took in their sight. He wasn't ashamed to take full advantage of this opportunity to admire her face to face. He watched as her expression turned sour; an eyebrow crooked upwards at his perusal.

   "Can I help you?" The husky voice which left her sent a sensation to the base of Milo's spine when it reached his ears. There was a raspy sound laden in her tense words.

  "Well?" She asked now, irritation evident in her stance. Milo stood without a word as he took measured steps towards her, bringing him just inches away from where she stood. The top of her head barely grazed his chin in height as she tilted her head back to watch him carefully. Roddrick's breath caught in her throat just as she was ready give him choice words before she felt firm fingers on her chin, caressing it. The hot trail he left with his fingertips put her on alert as he traced the same path down her neck as her hand had just moments before.

     If she had any sense, she would have slapped him, kicked him, and defended herself from his unwarranted touch. All of the common sense that should have aided her in that was nowhere in mind as she stood with no qualms to his touches.

   She felt him dip into the curve of her collar bone, and lightly brush his way up the front column of her neck, coming to rest at her pout.  She wasn't sure if it was the moment of it all, or the island air, but she couldn't command her body to resist the urge to close her eyes at the feel of him. Roddrick had no idea where this was coming from-this willingness to allow a strange man this close to her.

  He wasn't sure what had come over him as he toured her face with his fingers. There had been no rejection on her part, which he was sure would have stopped him from this. The fact that there wasn't gave him courage to continue, especially when the eyes he stared in to lowered the longer he lingered. He could see now the myriad of green and brown decorating her orbs as they stared back at him. There was a flash of something in them which halted his attentions, and drew his brow together.

    Roddrick felt the rapid rise and fall of her chest as the heat which radiated from the stranger met her own skin. She could no longer say if the incessant warmth she felt came from within her or not now that he was here. She had felt it all day, constantly fanning and hydrating herself to keep sane.

    Her mind couldn't make sense of the matter when his lips softly brushed her own. She didn't know when she had begun to move hers against his in response, or when her arms drifted to his neck while his wrapped around her waist. Her chest ached as she eagerly pushed against him, unaware of the lack of modesty she had as she drew him in closer. 

   She was one move away from climbing his tall figure before his hands on the side of her face pulled her away far enough for him to whisper to her.

    "Come with me."

    She was all aware of what his command meant as she shook her head with her response. Fingers laced in between her own as they whisked her alongside him.

vvv

     Milo had her on his bed before the door even shut once they reached where he was staying.

    The pressure building in his groin grew as he watched her flushed expression. She stood to her feet, walking out of her sandals as she approached him. Her eyes latched on to his the best that she could in the darkness of the room. The only audible sounds were their heavy breathing as they processed where they were, and what they were going to do. There was no denying that Roddrick would be beneath him, on top of him, any way she wanted to tonight.

    Good judgment wasn't there to tell her to high tail it out while she still had the chance.

    She wondered if she should ask his name, ask something that would make him less unknown to her, even though her body called to him with an ache as if it remembered him from memory unbeknownst to her.  Her hands moved to the hem of his shirt, drawing it up to his chest as her nails scraped across the taut skin that lied beneath it.  The way his stomach clenched and quivered from her touch caused for more of her excitement to reach the tops of her inner thighs as she pressed them together under her dress.

   Roddrick was glad to have him finish taking off his shirt as her lips immediately fell to the smooth expanse of his chest, kissing him and the salty taste from the night air left behind on his skin. She drew him near by the waist as she felt a hand entangle in the hair at her nape, pulling her head back as his eyes burrowed into her own. Her mouth lied open as a soft groan left her.

   The raw need in his eyes was a contradiction to the calm demeanor he held. Milo could feel the animalistic desire racing through him as he captured her lips with his own, meeting no resistance as his tongue entered her warm mouth in hopes of claiming it. He could taste the sweetness that was her essence in the kiss as she reacted with just as much fervor.

  His hands came to the thin straps of her dress, nearly ripping them off as he pushed them over her shoulders. Roddrick shimmied out of the material, leaving her in her underwear that seemed too much for her in the moment. Milo's hands explored what his eyes could not see as he ran them along the spine of her back. Tightly, he gripped her firm behind in his hands. Roddrick all but groaned at the feeling. Her bra was unclasped before she realized it as Milo spoke hoarsely," On the bed."

   She wasted no time as she leaned back on her elbows, watching him from below as his hands went to the buckle of his belt. Roddrick could see the dark shadows of tattoos gracing his right arm, and followed them up to his shoulder. By the time her eyes came back down, he had already freed his arousal baring himself to her.

   Roddrick clenched at the sheets held between her fingers as his body blanketed hers. His lips kissed hungrily at her neck, the feel of his flesh on hers as her body undulated against him by the second. She could feel the rough hairs lining his face graze the stark contrast of the sensitive skin of her neck. Arching into his hold, she found that she wanted to offer-to give-herself to him in any way she knew how. His scent engulfed her as she felt a hand catch one of her breasts, kneading it.

   She lost herself in the brief pleasure that he gave her in that moment. The feel of his hands and lips on her body allowed Roddrick to let go of inhibitions she purposely kept around to guard herself. When she found her legs resting on his back crossed at the ankles, and his tongue entering her expertly, she knew that there would be no turning back tonight.

vvv

       Milo gripped the  pillow atop his head closer as the sound of loud knocking woke him up.

    "Milo! I know you're in there. It's time for breakfast." On the other side was his mother's muffled voice calling out to him.

    Stretching an arm out to draw in the warm body that had been with him all night long, he tensed when he felt nothing but air. Finally opening his eyes, he shielded the sunshine away from them as he took in the sight of his empty bed.

   When had she left?

   He didn't have time to wonder and look around for the woman he spent his night with as his mother began to sound more urgent.

   "Milo! Are you in there? Open the door, now." That same frantic sound she yelled with was something he had gotten used to in the past year of being back. Easing her worries, he pulled himself out of the bed, stepping into a pair of boxers so that he could open the door for her.

    Victoria Vitale was mid knock when the rush of wind from her son's hotel door met her. Her heart began to settle back into her chest, the fear of her son lying passed out now disappeared as she took in his disheveled appearance.

   "What were you doing in here? Did you not hear me knocking? We've been calling you all morning."

   "Well, I was asleep, mom. Relax." Leaning down, he placed a sloppy kiss onto her cheek, glad to see her color returning to them. Victoria had been the one to find him during his rough time, and he knew how on edge she was with him around.

    "Asleep? You've never slept in late before."

   "It's nice every once in a while." He smiled at her. He felt her smaller hand reaching up, smoothing down his wild hair.

    "You ran off so early last night...I thought something was wrong with you."  The eyes he shared with her were large and concerned as she searched his for any lie he would tell her to make her feel better.

   "I just needed to get away for a bit." He spoke softly.

   Accepting his answer, she shook her head, wringing out her hands.

   "Breakfast started ten minutes ago, I'm giving you five to get dressed and ready, or I'll be back here-"

   "I know, I know. You have to leave first though, otherwise it will just take me longer."

  "I mean it Milo!" Victoria's smile was dainty as she pointed a stern finger in his direction. He watched her walk away before he thought to shout," Is it just the family this morning?"

   "Yes, just close family. Everyone else has their own set up.Why?" Victoria stopped, ready to turn around

  "Just asking." Closing the door before she could head back, Milo leaned against it, tapping his head against the wood. He had hoped that there would be a chance that the woman who had caught his eye since the beginning of the trip would be there. He didn't know who she was, or what her name was. He had been so good at having one night stands and not needing any unnecessary information for a good fuck.

   It hadn't even been more than a handful of hours and he already wanted to meet her again. Shaking his head, he hurried and showered before his mother would come storming back to drag him down by his ear.

vvv

     Lauren Vitale was sipping on her orange juice, plate untouched, by the time Milo had finally came to breakfast. Putting it down fast, she rushed to her feet, jumping into his arms as he caught her and spun around.

   "It's about time you showed up! I was starving waiting for you." She knocked her brother in the shoulder as he raised an eyebrow.

   "Now, why would you wait on me?"

   "Because it is the polite thing to do. Besides, I feel like I haven't gotten to spend time with you, with everything being so hectic. I leave tonight for our honeymoon, I won't see you for weeks!" Grabbing his hand, Lauren led Milo to a special seat beside her. She kissed her now husband on the top of his head as she sank down into the seat between two of the most important men in her life.

      "Rough night Milo?" Talton Haynes gave Milo a smirk as he looked the younger man over.

     "I'm pretty sure not as rough as yours was." He winced at the slap to his chest as Lauren scolded him before laughing.
   "Last night, tonight, the next two weeks..."She mumbled against Talton's throat as she delivered soft kisses to it.

   "I can't wait until that wears off. Enjoy yourself while it lasts." Milo raised his own glass to Talton from over Lauren's shoulder, the two men dapping each other up.

     Milo looked for a waiter to pull aside so that he could order his own meal, but that wasn't necessary as he saw his mother leading one right his way.

   "I went ahead and ordered for you. It's just what you like. I made sure they didn't scramble your eggs too hard..." Eyeing the plate that was placed in front of him, Milo held up his hands.

   "Um..thanks mom, but you know you didn't have to do that."

   "Of course I did! I saved you the trouble." He knew Victoria meant well, but he found himself just a little tweaked at her once again making decisions for him. It seemed that no matter how big or small they were, she was intent on making sure Milo had everything taken care of.

   Deciding not to argue with her on this-it was just breakfast-he began to eat in silence, every now and then chiming in on a joke with Talton or teasing Lauren.

   "There he is!" The boisterous laughter of another man coming his way caused the hairs on the back of his neck to stand at full attention. It was his uncle John, waddling his way over to his side of the table.

   "Milo, son; look at you! You're looking better than the last time I saw you!" John laughed hoarsely at his ill placed joke. The last time he had seen him was after having his stomach pumped in the hospital, and Victoria had called for him for support. Since his father's death years ago, John had become the family's go to man for many things. Even walking Lauren down the aisle. Milo knew he had a dark sense of humor, so he tried to swallow his small and albeit innocent jab without becoming too uptight.

   "Yeah, I guess that was quite a site." Putting down his fork, he stood to his feet knowing that the big bear of a man was going to drag him out of it anyway for a hug. Milo had grown since the last time he had seen him, even putting on weight in muscle, but nothing compared to the tight hold John put him in, knocking the wind right out of Milo.

   "It's always good to see you. Let me ask you, have you spent your time well here? Find you a future wife yet?" John nodded to some of the female employees of the restaurant they dined in. No doubt in his mind that he had given one too many flirtatious winks to the young women there.

   " I'm afraid not. Have you?"  Milo braced himself for the hard slap to his shoulder as John nearly doubled over with laughter.

    "I'm getting there! At this point, I say to hell with marriage. I can pick me up a few for a good time every now and then." He spoke in his ‘quiet voice' which still managed to grab the attention of Victoria.

   "Honestly, John. We are eating here!"

    "Just don't say anything to your mother. She thinks she's my wife..." Milo was relieved when someone else caught John's attention, and pulled him away as he sat back down into his seat.

    "Don't frown Milo. I don't want that to be the last image I see of you." Lauren turned in her seat, noticing her brother's demeanor. Grabbing his face in between her hands.

   "I want to see that smile of yours." Lauren babied Milo to no end, and there was never any point in stopping her. She was too sweet and had such good intent that he didn't really mind, It had been this way since they were kids.

    Growing up he had to deal with many kids at school laughing at him because his sister was the girl who made flower chain necklaces and wore them around her neck or the waist of her long flowing skirts. She had a smile for everyone, and was hard to dislike. Her friends were many, and they all seemed to fall in love with her instantly. She was a magnet for good things and good people. It was then that he remembered to ask her of one friend in particular.

    "I actually want to ask you about someone. "

Vvv

      " Mama, what are you doing?" Roddrick shut the trunk of the cab down, hitting it to tell the driver he could leave as she walked up the few short steps to her mother's home. Around the edge of the small house, she could see her mother standing to her feet at the sound of the trunk.

    Rockelle Kennedy moved the brim of her large gardening hat at the sound of her daughter's voice.

   "Roddrick, you're back." Putting down the old watering can she held, Rockelle reached for her cane and stood to her full height. Roddrick left her bags on the sidewalk as she rushed into her mother's opened arms, careful to not knock her off balance.

   "You should have called me! I would have come to get you."

   "I did call, but I see you've been out here messing around in this garden."

   "Now, you know I have to keep my tomatoes growing."

   "You can't be on the ground like that, mama. Where's Rodey? I told her to not let you do crazy stuff like that."

  " Roddrick, leave that girl be. She is not my watch dog." Rockelle wiped the fallen wisps of Roddrick's low ponytail from her face. Pointing her cane over to her discarded bags, she told her to pick them up.

   "Come on, let's go inside so you can tell me about everything." Roddrick quickly went and placed the bags on her body, and walked back to her mother, grabbing her hand and leading her into the house and out of the summer heat.

Vvv

     "Lauren looked beautiful. She had on this simple dress, it wasn't anything crazy. Everything was just perfect. I took a few shots to show you. Maybe one day I'll take you there so you can experience it in person."

    "It sounds lovely, honey. I hope you had a good time down there. Go all that way and all you do is call home checking on me. One day you're gonna have to learn how to live life without worrying."

   " I worry for a very good reason." Roddrick's head lied in her mother's lap as she ran her fingers through her strands. Roddrick was busy popping blackberries in her mouth as she talked to her mother that she didn't notice the sound of the front door opening as her younger sister came in.

   "Is she here? Did Roddrick come back yet?" Roderica raced through the house and let out a high pitched squeal at the sight of her sister on the couch. Running, she jumped onto her before Roddrick could sit up all the way.

   "My goodness Rodey, I didn't go away for that long."

    "It was long enough."

  "Just a few days."

    "Stop ruining the sisterly moment." Roderica squeezed Roddrick so tightly she nearly choked on her berries.

   "You're suffocating me." She coughed.

   "Oh, whatever. You're one to talk. You wouldn't leave us alone the whole time you were gone and now you're acting brand new?" Roderica stood to her feet playfully scoffing at her sister as she began searching the bags that still remained in the living room.


  Rockelle looked to her eldest daughter as she watched her younger sister search through her bags for a present.

   "What'd you get me? Huh?" Roderica threw various items of clothing over her shoulders as she looked for anything that would seem to belong to her.

   "You're cleaning that up." Roddrick called. She knew that Roderica had hit the jackpot when she heard yet another breathless scream.

   "It's beautiful!"  Turning around, she held up the aqua necklace against her skin, smiling from ear to ear at Roddrick. Dropping to her knees, she crawled over and began to fasten it against her sister's neck.

   "I have a few more things in there, but I figured you would really love this one." She reached over and pulled out another box, this one meant for her mother.

    "Roddrick, you know you didn't have to get me anything." Rockelle sighed as she scooted over, lifting her mother's wrist as she removed the bracelet she had bought for her. Rockelle accepted it, and kissed Roddrick countless times as she hugged her.

    "I'm going to look so good in this." Roderica had managed to strip down and get into the clingy high low dress that had been bought for her as well. She turned in it as their mother gasped.

   "I can't believe you got her that! She's not leaving the house in it."

    "Mama!" Roderica pouted.

   "It's just a dress, mama. She can show off what her mama gave her every once in a while." Roddrick winked, as her sister padded her feet in delight.

   "And you know I will..." She mumbled, receiving a side eye from Rockelle.

   "You will what?"

       Standing to her feet and stretching, Roddrick smiled to herself as the two bantered back and forth. Everyone and their mama knew that Roderica was the kind of child who chose books over boys. Sometimes her friends had to drag her out of the house on Friday nights just to get her away from studying. She was intent on making sure that her brains got her into the top school of her choice, and even with it being her final year of high school. She refused to let up.

   "I'm going to shower, then we will go eat." Roddrick called over their loud talking as she grabbed her bags, and headed off into her mother's bedroom. When she shut the door behind her, she was given a quiet space to relax in. Heading straight for the shower, she turned the knobs, adjusting the water temperature to the perfect degree. Roddrick stood in front of the bathroom mirror as she began to undress. Pulling her hair onto the top of her head, she caught sight of a dark bruise on her neck.

   "A hickey?" Delicate fingers rose to the mark left behind on her by the man she spent her last night in paradise with. She hadn't had a lovebite since high school, and cringed at the thought of it now. Good thing her mother hadn't seen it so she wouldn't have had to explain it.

    The small bathroom began to fog up as the steam rose from the shower. Stepping in, she hadn't noticed the soreness of her muscles as the water rushed over her in soothing waves.

   She hadn't been able to forget the pleasant ache which remained, even though she had tried. That morning, as she climbed carefully from under the weight of his arms, she had rushed from his room to her own. It had felt too familiar, and too right to lay there with him. To wake up to each other and dig themselves into a deeper hole than they were already in.

   "Damn." Roddrick rested her head against the cool tile of the shower as she thought to herself. She hadn't remembered using protection, and she prayed that of all the times she didn't have birth control, nothing would come up now. Her last contraceptive had been an IUD she rejected, and with all of the things going on in the past few months, and the lack of sex in her life, she never found the time to remember to start back on any birth control.

   A baby was the last thing she needed right now.

   Closing her eyes, Roddrick tilted her head back under the spray of the water.

   "I'm not going to worry. I'm not going to worry. " She chanted to herself. She tried to do what everyone else seemed to tell her-to not worry-but how could she when the thought of surprise pregnancies and STDs ran rapid in her mind.

    "I'm worrying." She moaned, slapping her hand against the wall.

   First thing she was going to do would be to make a stop at the free clinic.

 

   The pleasantness she had once held now washed away and down into the drain of the shower.

Chapter 2 by EveryBit12
Author's Notes:

Short but couldn't sleep without writing this out! Enjoy!

RoddrickMilo

Three Days Later

   "Your results show no signs of any STDs, and while that may be good news for now. You're not completely out of the woods just yet. I suggest that you arrange an appointment in the next couple of months for a check-up so that I can give you a final result."

   Roddrick's hands held on tightly to the paper covered leather she had been directed to when she came into the doctor's office. She found herself letting out a deep breath she hadn't even noticed she was holding. The older woman before her gave a polite smile as she saw the relief and color return to Roddrick's face.

   "Thank God." She said under her breath.

   "You're free to go. Just make sure to stop by the front desk and schedule a checkup appointment." Saying her goodbyes and expressing gratitude, Roddrick watched the slim woman whisk out in her long white coat. When Roddrick hopped down, she found tiny pieces of paper that had torn off into her clammy palms. Gathering her composure, she tried her best to not stomp her feet from joy as she picked up her purse, and walked out of the office calmly.

   She took the small appointment reminder card she held in her hands, reading the date that was three months in the future. The date when she could possibly fully breath from the scare of her little rendezvous.

   The one time she does something dumb, it had to have been having sex with a stranger in the Caribbean.

    Roddrick searched her pockets for the key to her bike lock as she knelt down and began to unhook her prized possession. She was currently in the process of saving up for her first car, and at twenty four she had to admit that it was going to be her biggest purchase of her life thus far. With her birthday just months away, she thought that it would be a nice gift for her. She even ventured as far as to wonder if she could have it delivered to her mother's house with a bow on top.

   Placing her oversized sunglasses on her face, she ignored the head nods and stares of a group of young boys; decked out in graphic tank tops and snapback hats. They looked no older than Roderica, and in that moment she was actually happy that her sister showed no interests in boys just yet.

    When she had been Roderica's age, she had one boyfriend that had lasted from the time she was sixteen, until her twenty third birthday when she found him taking another girl to dinner across town after cancelling what was supposed to be a special date night just for Roddrick.  His name was Brian, and he had been one of the first guys she met upon moving to California that didn't tease her about her then chubbiness, or the way she spoke.

  Her family had travelled cross country from the St. Martin parish of Louisiana. Her grandparents were Creoles deeply rooted in their culture and past and had been big on keeping the language and knowledge within the family, generation after generation. Just as it had been her mother's first language, it had been Roddrick's as well. She still kept a strong hint of the accent that was found there, which had gotten her plenty of stares and quirked eyebrows telling her to repeat what she said.

    Roderica had still been young when their mother left with them. Though, Roddrick remembered that time in their life as more of a frantic flight, and not just simply going on a long trip no matter what her mother tried to tell them for comfort.

   Her father hadn't been the best of men, and though she never said it to her mother who still loved the man, he was the worst by her book. Clinton Kennedy had come from North Carolina seeking work there in the state of Louisiana on an oil rig. Rockelle had travelled one night for a night of fun even though her parents, Alfonso and Marie Dupree, had told her constantly to steer clear of the men down on the oil rig. She had come across the young and handsome man whose dark brown skin and sharp features had made her melt on the spot. Against her family's wishes, she had fallen in love with him, and was glad to become his wife when he proposed on a whim during the time period when their relationship was burning hot. Their love had been crazy, loud, strong, and suffocating. The passion they held had lost the twinge of love that was left after Clinton's mean streaks took precedence over their relationship.  Roddrick's childhood was filled with screaming matches, or locked and bolted doors being kicked in late at night. In the end, it had seemed as absolutely nothing of value to her.

    Rockelle had suffered through it all, thinking that it was best that both parents were present in their children's lives; divorced or divided families being uncommon during her lifetime. Women were taught to stick it out and that a little man was better than no man at all. When Roddrick had been born, Clinton had accused his wife of cheating on him, insisting that their first born was far from being his child. It had taken him years to call her by her actual name and not just, you, yet not once did he ever claim her as his own, or show that he felt any kind of connection with Roddrick. Rockelle made up every excuse in the book as to why daddy didn't like her. Roddrick would imagine that his harsh words were actually one of praises and love when she was by herself to make up for what she lacked with her father as a young girl.When Roderica had been born, Clinton had become a completely different man. He loved the little girl like nothing else in the world, and was glad to boast about the features she seemed to take on from his side of the family. For the first couple of years of Roderica's life, things had been well enough for smiles to exist in the house. If Clinton was happy, then everyone was happy.

    It hadn't taken long for that small sense of normalcy to slip away as it seemed with each passing year, he grew meaner than before, and it came to a point that even Roderica's smiles and kisses couldn't stop their father's rage. He had banned their mother from speaking Creole to Roddrick, or teaching the language to Roderica. He had hated the way that Rockelle's family purposely spoke in the other language whenever they were around. The hate was mutual on both sides, and Clinton especially didn't appreciate not being able to understand what was being said. He liked things in control, his way, at all times, and that's exactly how their life had been.

    The last time Roddrick could remember being around her father was one fateful night when she had been his main target. It had been her first year of high school, and the year that her mother had found out about the children Clinton fathered outside of their marriage. The secret family he had lived in the same neighborhood, and that was enough for Rockelle to finally begin to fight back.

   It had been a week of arguments, and locking Clinton out of the house, but against her better judgement, Rockelle had allowed a nearly tearful Clinton back into the house after days of pleading with her. Rockelle never went to the police for help, whether it was her or Roddrick who had been in danger of her husband's anger. That fact being something she was forever sorry and remorseful for. Everyone had reached their boiling point after days of back and forth. Roddrick had spoken up against her father, calling him out for the wrongs he had done against her mother, and against their family. The moment she mentioned that a teacher from school offered her help with their nearly public issue of domestic violence at home, Clinton had ferociously drug Roddrick into a bedroom, locking and barring it as he beat her unconscious.

   She could still remember the way he had flopped her around, telling her that he was going to give her a good reason to "get help."  Before she had blacked out from his forceful hits. The last thing she had heard was her mother's banging and the sound of Roderica wailing outside of the door.

   When Clinton had tired out enough to leave Roddrick's form on the ground, he had silently and walked out of the house like he was in a trance, telling Rockelle that he would be back later on that night.

   She knew then that she couldn't put her kids through the trauma any longer after that. That she couldn't risk their lives like this as she had carried Roddrick's body to her Cadillac, and drove her daughters to her parents' home. Through tears and screams, they had cleaned Roddrick up enough, both grandparents' having been retired physicians.

      They had only been safe for a couple of days before Clinton stood on the front doorsteps of the house, still in the bloody and dirty clothes he had left in, staring down the barrel of Alfonso's shotgun. Making quick connections and calling all of the family that they could think of, they had found a place of refuge for Rockelle and her daughters in California with Alfonso's sister. And the moment that they could, her parent's had sent them on their way by bus, torn by sending them so far away, but they knew that even they couldn't keep the girls safe in their home from Clinton.

 

       When they had arrived, they were all quick to settling in and adapting to a life sans Clinton and his terror. They spoke their language again amongst their aunt. They ate foods Clinton insisted on being disgusting, they shared laughter and happiness for what felt like the first time in their lives. Roddrick had done well in school, and had hooked on to Brian the moment she felt safe around him and had gotten positive attention from the boy; she had made him her life for the most part. In a way she was glad they were no longer together. She could only imagine what would have been of her had she fell so blindly in love with him the way Rockelle had done with Clinton.

   Though she had swatted away the constant chatter and hints thrown her way about Brian's unfaithfulness seeing it firsthand had smacked her in the face with some sense and left her to make a wise decision before she became too wrapped up in a web of lies and deceit.    

   Since then, she hadn't seen much action, and honestly, she felt relieved to have time to herself.

   She had spent most of her teens and early twenties thinking she was in love with the guy. Ready to marry him, and have his babies the moment he asked.

   Okay. Maybe the baby part would have to wait, but the point was she was so in love with him that as a consequence she had lost herself in the passion that had begun to dwindle between them.

   Her best friend from high school had called it long ago.

   "Roddrick, I'll be the first to tell you that he ain't shit. Don't waste your time."

     She chose to find out for herself if what she had said about him was true. Of course she had enjoyed the ride along the way, she had seen plenty of signs but had thought love conquers all, and that things could and would be worked out. Enough was enough after a while.

   Roddrick felt that if there was one, then there were probably others before the one she just so happened to catch him with.

  She would be a lying fool to say that some days she didn't miss him, and the good times that they had shared. But she'd be an even bigger fool to think that there wasn't anyone out there who could give her that and then some while respecting and loving her the way it should be done.

   As Roddrick fell in line with the light traffic of the late morning, she rubbed at her eyes. Her vision had become slightly blurry, and her first thought was to get home and rest up and enjoy her day off from working as a part time photographer, and conserve enough energy to work her night job as a waitress at a local bar.

   She knew she needed it badly, and she decided that she wouldn't deny her body that kind of pleasure.

Vvv

    Milo wiped the back of his neck with the small gym towel as he unlocked his car. He had gotten back into the groove of working out since his brief trip. Exercise had become such an important part of his recovery, and it was something he didn't want to let go of. It allowed him to relax and blow off much needed stress on his good and bad days.

   He had been one of the lucky people who never worked out a day in their lives, and still managed to maintain a slim figure. He had lived off of that easy lifestyle when he was younger, but now he saw just what he had been missing out on all of those years ago. At twenty two, some days he felt like he had just gone through puberty when he caught a glimpse of his now cut and defined muscles.

   His body was something he could take pride in. Not because of the looks or people it could attract his way, but it was something that he could feel living and breathing and growing. It let him see a side of life that he had been blind to just a few years ago. That his own life was a great and miraculous thing, and that there was no point in wasting it while he had the time.

    Milo was a privileged little fuck when he was younger.

  All of the girls, all of the money, all of the drugs were at his disposal. His parents had spoiled both their children rotten, but had still tried to instill some kind of morals in them. Sadly, it had all stopped filtering through with his sister Lauren before it could reach him. He partied day in and day out, and fucked as many girls as he could.

   He had liked to play on what his name could get him from just about anyone. The popularity and respect had been something he lived for the most. After all, it had brought him Jade...

    There was a time when just the thought of that name could have meant the death of him. And it almost did.

   Jade Moncla had been his ride or die girlfriend throughout high school and his short stint in college. She was there to take lines with him, drink, and the occasional hook up with girls of her choosing when she was feeling extra loving. He couldn't have asked for more at the time, thinking that if he had to die young, he was going to die happy.

   Jade had come from the same background as he did; rich and not a worry in life about anything. Together, they had become a figurehead among the young adult community of what seemed like the perfect relationship. They had been captured in hundreds of pictures in compromising poses, becoming the poster children for what it meant to be wild and free. Both of them had no problem with their roles either.

     Now that he could think about it with a clean and sober mind , all of their time had been spent getting high, having sex, and hitting up any party that they could together. It didn't matter the day or the week, they found time to indulge themselves.

   They had met at fourteen years old while both attended a party being held by upperclassmen. They were the kind of people Lauren always warned Milo about, but he paid her no mind. At that point in his life, the furthest he had gone in his endeavors had been beer and weed. He could still remember the bowl filled with colorful pills that had been dished out like candy the first night he met Jade.

   He had heard about her from middle school. She had always been known as being the trendsetter and leader of most of the girls who flocked to her. He had nurtured a slight crush on her for years, and now that they were in high school, he finally had the chance to show her what he was made of. With more confidence than a normal teenage boy, he had made his moves on her and was glad that she liked what she saw.

   He could still remember the small square she had placed on his tongue after an intense kissing scene that had been egged on by the older kids, and how she had led him into a closet and given him his first sexual experience.

   After that night, they had become a pair.

   They had fallen so fast, and so hard that nothing could push them apart.

   Not when Lauren noticed how she saw her brother less and less at school.

   Not when his parents questioned him about the numerous emails and letters that were sent home from his teachers threatening suspension and being held back if he didn't make a change.

   Nothing had been enough.

   By the time he was nineteen and struggling through his first year of college, he found that he couldn't imagine life without Jade and all that she had brought with her. He became dependent on her-sickling so - to the point that he felt anxious when she wasn't around, or if he couldn't get in touch with her. Jade too felt his attachment, and had felt suffocated and wanted to put distance between them. As much as possible.

   She had made the decision to take a six month break, something that was meant to heal the two, but did the complete opposite.

   At least for Milo.

    He suffered through withdrawal symptoms even though he was never without drugs. Jade had become the root of his addiction, and without her, he didn't function the same way.

   Suddenly, he began to experience jealousy and sadness whenever he saw her at parties with other guys, carrying on the way they once had without a second thought or word of concern to him. He had tried to find quick fucks and hook ups, but they never lasted long enough for him to be satisfied.

   One month into their break, he found that he couldn't help but call her. Text her. Do whatever it is that he could to communicate with her.

   By the third month, he had noticed that Jade had found a special interest in a certain guy. From his own findings and the words of the friends they still shared, they were together all of the time.

   By the fifth month, it was already rumored that they were starting a relationship.

   He had broken then. Unable to handle it anymore when Jade had told him there wasn't any hope left for their relationship.

   That she had moved on.

   "You were fun Milo, don't get me wrong. I just think that we have ran our course."

   Milo stayed in his apartment for a week, digesting the reality of it all as he went days without food, and barely remembering to breathe. Phone calls and knocks on his door had went unanswered.

   By the tenth day of his shock, he had found himself opening every bottle of liquor, and prescription pills that weren't in his name and downing them all at once.

   He should have died. He had tried to make sure that his mix was lethal enough.

   But of course his mother had come to his rescue, saving him from the doom that she had seen long before it come true.

   Milo took a deep breath as he drove.

   He was better now.

  His life was good. He had a reason to be happy. A reason to be alive.

   He tried to remind himself that every chance that he could.

  As he moved along the streets, Milo sucked his teeth noticing the back of a biker up ahead of him in his lane. As he approached, he began to slow down and look for an opportunity to pass the person by.

   "Great." He sighed as he looked out his side view mirror, and also kept an eye on the person in front of him. Each time he prepared to pass, a car behind him beat him to it. One even beeping as they flew by.

   "Fuck you too. It's not my fault." He shouted to no one.

     The biker began to slow even more before they took a right turn, leaving Milo to drive the way he wanted to without the fear of sending them flying into the air.

   As he passed by the street they had turned, Milo recognized that it was a woman. He face was hidden by oversized sunglasses, and her low ponytail pulled over one shoulder.

    Before he could see anymore, she disappeared from sight, and he focused on making his way home.

Vvv

        Milo made his way through the spacious house that had been specially designed by his mother after his parents' marriage. It had her very taste and touch embedded into it, and had been the one place he could find himself at when he first returned, but now, a year later, he realized that it wouldn't hurt to finally move on to the next level in his new life and get a place of his own. The sound of laughter from the kitchen drove that point home even more.

   He had since discarded his t-shirt and now stood bare chested in front of his mother's longtime friend, Angela. The woman had been around since before he was even born, and yet he couldn't mistake the lust filled gaze she bestowed upon him.

   "Hi, Angela." He teased her.

   "Milo, you look absolutely fantastic-I mean, how are you doing?" The woman was tongue tied as she failed to meet his eyes when she spoke. Victoria cleared her throat at her flustered friend. She had been a stay at home mom, while her husband was a big time lawyer, and Victoria was all too familiar with her many fantasies of snagging herself a younger man. She was all into the cougar scene, even if she was a married woman.

   "Milo, why don't you get dressed properly. I was just about to make some tea, if you would like to join us." Victoria offered him a seat at the table, but he politely declined the chance to listen to the two women gossip while being ogled by the woman who had babysat him and saw him butt naked as a kid.

   "I'm going to head over to Blake's place later. "

   He made to leave before Victoria's heels clacked along the tiled floor.

   "Excuse me? Blake? Who is Blake, sweetie?" She thought she wasn't being overbearing, but she was. She wanted to monitor Milo's every move, and every friend he managed to make.

   "A friend mom." He said as he took the first few stairs towards his old room."I'm not a kid mom. I think I'm allowed to hang out with people that aren't members of your book club, don't you think?"

   "I just want to make sure... you're safe. Of course I know you don't want to spend your time with a bunch of old women." Victoria tried to laugh as if her plan to keep him closely tied to her hadn't been foiled. "I just wanted to let you know that your company is always welcomed with us."

 

   "I'll never forget." He called behind him as he jogged up the stairs.

Chapter 3 by EveryBit12
Author's Notes:

hellohello new faces

Blake  Blake

Alex  Alex

Danny  Danny

      Milo jingled his car keys as he stepped onto the crowded sidewalk. Looking up to the sky, he saw that it was a clear day, and he found a piece of serenity from it all. He appreciated nice weather lately; it was a piece of relaxation for him.

     Making it to the wide glass doors of Blake's office, he rushed to it, holding it open for a young woman carrying out a box in her arms.

   "Thanks." Her eyes glittered with interest as he gave her his trademark smile.

  Without a word, he stepped into the building, looking over his shoulder to see her eyes scaling down the length of his body.

   "Nope. I've called dibs on her man."  Milo turned to the voice of his friend as they dapped each other up.

   "You can have her." He knew the woman was just his type. Blonde, tall, and beautiful. Milo on any other day would have went for her too-it was just that currently it was a bit hard for what he saw with his eyes in the beautiful women of the city to stir up much desire in the rest of his body.

   "I'm going to break all of the rules and mix business with pleasure." Blake nodded his head, giving Milo a suggestive smirk. "Check this shit out." Throwing a folded shirt his way, Blake sat back with his arms crossed as Milo looked over one of Blake's latest designs. He was on the up and coming list of young entrepreneurs, having started up his own clothing line straight out of college. It was beginning to catch on quickly; young kids wearing his merchandise in the streets, giving his label greatly appreciated exposure.

     "This shit is fire right now. I've already got orders coming in for them by the boxes." Milo gave words of praise as he handed the shirt back to Blake, and followed him into the back of his building.

    He had finally been able to hire a larger staff who all seemed to work well together while still keeping a peaceful atmosphere while on the job. Those who had gotten to know Milo greeted him as he entered the room, heading straight for the lounge couches that were set up along a far wall.

   "Is he on payroll yet? As much as he's here, he needs to start putting in some work." A light manicured hand came to Milo's shoulder as the feminine voice teased him from behind. Tilting his head back, his eyes met those of a woman who he had flirted with on more than one occasion.

   "Hello to you too, Alex." He held her hand as she rounded the couch, heading for her own working space.

   "How was your trip? Your sister's wedding, right?" She inquired as she sat, gazing at him.

   "Nice break. Nice place. Nice wedding."

    "I've never heard a more enthusiastic description of the biggest moment of someone's beloved sister's life."

   "The way I see it, the only difference between their marriage and them dating is that it is now legally recognized, and there's no way out except for death.But then, of course, there's that whole afterlife thing." Pulling out his cell phone, Milo began to browse through it while sharing light banter with Alex as she worked.

    "Milo! I got a question to ask you my good friend." Blake shook his head as he hung up his desk phone. With a raised eyebrow, Milo could already hear the request before it was said.

   "No thanks."

    "It's just one more shoot. That's all I need. My other model says he has some bug, or some shit."

   "Blake, you don't pay me enough for my service."

   Milo laughed as he heard Blake sigh and twist in his chair.

   "Just. One. More.Time." He sang trying to convince Milo to fill in for his upcoming photoshoot.

   "Last time I said yes, it turned into like a hundred fill ins."

   "This is just one. What's the problem anyway?"

   Milo didn't really have a problem other than the fact he felt uncomfortable and vulnerable in front of a camera. He had only agreed before because of Blake's obvious desperation, and he had gritted through the awkward posing directions as the shoot went on.

   "It's important, Milo. I can't find anyone else before tomorrow."

  "Can't shouldn't be in your vocabulary. Have you even tried yet?"

   Blake glared at Milo whose look stood unwavering until the last second.

   "Damn. Last time Blake."

  Tapping his desk, Blake was elated to see Milo give in.

    "Do we have a complete understanding?" Milo asked as Blake stood, and began walking away.

    "Yeah, yeah. Whatever. You're my boy, you know that right?" Blake shot him a wide smile as he rounded the corner and left the room.

   "If it makes it any better, I'll be there to dress...and undress you." Alex flipped her black hair as she tried to get rid of the grimace on Milo's face.

    "Jesus, Alex. If you want to cop a feel..." Milo leaned over the arm of the seat as he got closer to her desk. Taking a pen in her hand, she tapped his nose as she scrunched hers up.

   "Now I'm glad I volunteered for this shoot. I get you."

   There was an underlying tension that had been between the two for months now. It didn't go unseen. It was as if it were a part of a protocol for the two to flirt endlessly each time they addressed each other.    They had given in to temptation a few times now, and still managed to hold up the appearance that they were just friendly and innocent even though everyone was able to figure out what the deal was between them long ago. Milo had said that he wouldn't get involved with anyone so soon after recovering, and Alex had been the only one up until then.

 

   Now of course, someone else had entered into the picture.

   Roddrick Kennedy.

   The last time he had been with his sister at the post wedding breakfast, he had gotten information out of her about the woman he had spent the night with.  Lauren had met Roddrick her sophomore year in college when she and another friend were searching for an apartment roommate after one of their prospects had bailed on them last minute. She told him that Roddrick was a decent girl; never to party crazy, but not always stuck in the house. The way Lauren had talked about her, he knew that she was enamored by the woman as well. If he hadn't known any better, he would have thought they had known each other for a lifetime.

   Lauren didn't question Milo's sudden interest in her, and it made it easier for him to find a way to explore his attraction to her without badgering from family.

  He had been searching every social media website he could possibly think of, hoping to come upon a profile of hers somewhere, but she had no trail.

   Looking down at his phone, he waited for his search results to load as he typed in her name once again. Scrolling through different links, he came across website under her name. Opening it, he found a small smile form on his lips as he saw her face appear on the page. Her smile was subtle and just as alluring as the one he had seen on the island.

   She was a photographer.

   His eyes scanned her brief "About Me" section, and he wondered how her much her speaking voice differed from her sex filled screams.

   The meek expression on her face caused another churning knot in the pit of his stomach as he stared into her eyes through the screen.

   Before he knew it, he was going through every link, tab, and photo on her website. Completely immersing himself in the little parts of her he could find.

Vvv

       Roddrick sat crissed crossed on her mother's couch. Glasses on her face and computer beneath her fingers as she uploaded photos to her photo blog. She had a hefty number of subscribers who enjoyed her posts, and living through her photos and experiences. She was typing away when Roderica had entered the house noisily singing.

     "Hey old woman." Roderica flopped down on to the couch beside her, picking up the TV remote and flipped through channels before landing on a rerun of her favorite reality show.

    "What are you doing?" Leaning against Roddrick, Roderica looked over her shoulder at the laptop as her sister worked.

   "Giving the people what they want." Taking off her glasses, Roddrick buried her thumb and forefinger into her sockets, rubbing at them. She could feel Roderica swatting at her hand, but continued on.

   "You keep doing that and you're just going to irritate them." Lately, Roddrick had felt as if her body was betraying her as she came closer and closer to her twenty fifth birthday. As soon as she hit twenty, she had begun to feel like something inevitable was lurking around her, waiting to rear its ugly head.

   "They must be dry. I'm going to go see if mama has some eye drops." Excusing herself, she stretched as she stood from the couch, leaving Roderica to take over her spot on the couch.

   Roddrick entered the small bathroom, bracing her hands against the sink as she widened her eyes. When she looked at her reflection, she searched for any sign of the unspoken fear she had been holding on to.

   It was the reason why her mother had to stop driving a few years ago, why she had lost partial control of her body, and had to walk with the help of a cane.

    Pushing back her hair, she examined her face.  She wished that she could know from just looking if she carried the same fate as her mother. She knew that one day everything was fine; you felt young, healthy, and full of life before things started to run south.

   She blinked away the blurry spots in her eyes as she turned on the faucet. She splashed water onto her face, happy for the cooling liquid as she reached for a towel.

   "You in here just letting the water run?" Rockelle stood at the doorway, watching her daughter silently.

   "Sorry." She turned it off, as she looked to her mother. Rockelle held her large sunhat by her side as she leaned against the specially carved cane Roddrick and Roderica had gotten for her last birthday.

   "What's on your mind?" Her eyes peered into Roddrick's, seeing the truth that lay behind them, yet she waited for a response.

   "Huh?" Roddrick's eyes widened as if she had been caught doing something to be guilty of.

   "You don't think I know you by now? I can see that look in your eyes, and I'm telling you right now to stop it. Stop and forget whatever it is you're thinking."

 

   "I'm not thinking nothing." Roddrick nervously laughed as her mother walked to her, turning her shoulders so that they both faced the mirror.             "You'll be fine. Do not worry yourself about something that won't happen."

 

   There was a heavy silence which fell over them as Roddrick leaned her head against her mother's shoulder. Her eyes became glossy as she watched her from their reflections.

   "You don't know that." She nearly whispered.

   "Baby, nothing is wrong with you. You're young. You're healthy. Everything is fine."

   "So were you." This time she looked over her shoulder as Rockelle sighed.

   "You're not me."

    "I could be."

    "But you're not."

   "It's not something I have any control over though, mama."

   "Which is why you don't need to let it control you by worrying yourself to death over it. The chances honey, they're low. We've already talked about this, haven't we?" Rockelle had thought she had cleared up Roddrick's worries of developing the same disease she now lived with. Six years ago, she had been experiencing difficulties in certain parts of her body. Numbness, exhaustion-things that were all too foreign to an active woman like herself. When she had received the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, it had immediately seemed like a death sentence to Roddrick.

   Though her mother reassured her that she wouldn't die any sooner than she would have without the disease, Roddrick seemed to constantly dwell on the small percentage of unlucky people who suffered from the disease. It had been three years full of Roddrick constantly sending her mother emails and making phone calls to tell her of some article she had found about the dangers of MS.

   It was Roddrick who had insisted that she move back in with her mother and sister as soon as her vision started to cause her problems too. She wanted to keep close to Rockelle as much as she could, and when she realized that there was no tearing Roddrick away, she realized that she would have to bear with her daughter's almost suffocating attention.

   At first, Rockelle couldn't shit without Roddrick asking if she could help her.

   Now, she had set down boundaries and rules with the young woman, reminding her that she was still her mother and not some nursing home patient she was assigned to , and therefore completely capable of taking care of herself. When she needed help, she wasn't too proud to ask for it, but when she didn't, she reminded Roddrick that she could do whatever it was on her own.

   Roddrick had tried her best to convince her to spend less and less time out in the garden, which had been a sanctuary for Rockelle. She had quickly shot down her pleas and slight scolding for the hobby though, telling Roddrick that she drew the line there.

    "Come on, get out of this mirror. I swear you have too much time on your hands some times." Shutting off the light, Rockelle began leading Roddrick from the room.

   Roderica waited on the other side of the door, having caught the sound of their conversation and the slight watery look to her sister's eyes.

   "Is she doing it again?" Rockelle kept quiet as she ushered everyone out. Roderica knew of Roddrick and her fears, and she too like their mother tried to steer her mind away from things like that.

   "Roddy!" She groaned as she linked arms with her sister."The only thing you're going to get is wrinkles worrying about that crap. Come on. Stop it."

    "Get off of me you leech." Roddrick muttered as Roderica began making kissing noises against her cheek. With little effort, Roddrick pushed Roderica off, and was met with a beaming smile.

   "Guess what?" Just like that the mood was switched as her sister bounced on her tip toes.

   "What?" She tried making her way to the couch, but Roderica stopped her, dragging her into the kitchen with the eyes of their mother on their backs suspiciously.

   "I can tell you in there. She'll hear." As an older sister, Roddrick began to catch on. Raising a brow, she went to pull the folding door to the kitchen.

   "Y'all keeping secrets in my house?" Rockelle yelled form the living room seeing Roddrick's face disappear behind the door.

   "No. Just talking." Turning to Roderica, Roddrick waved her hands. "Well hurry up before she gets up and comes in here. What is it?"

   "Look what Chris sent me." Roddrick took the cell phone that was offered to her. Roderica had begun getting close with a boy from their neighborhood that summer. He was familiar with their small family, and Rockelle had seen him as a good young man with values which matched her own. She had liked him, yet she had always warned Roderica about keeping their relationship buddy buddy. She wasn't a fool nor oblivious to the friendliness that seemed to slip away from the adolescent stage to a more mature version between him and her daughter.

   "Oh my God. He's trying to get some." Roddrick teased as she read the brief messages exchanged between the two. Roderica controlled a squeal as she took the phone back, scrolling to the important message she had wanted to show her sister.

   I think we should spend more time together this summer. Are you doing anything tonight?

   "You better not be doing a damn thing tonight."Roddrick playfully glared.

   "No, it's nothing like that. I think this is it. He wants to hang out."

   "What's the difference? You guys always hang out together."

   "No, Roddy. It's never together together. There's always somebody else with us. It's either his boys, or we're at a party where there's not a lot of together happening."

    "Parties? How did you manage that?" Roddrick was shocked yet amused to find out her goodie sister had seemed to find her rebellious side before it was too late to be controlled." Past mama?"

    "Shh. You can't tell! It's my secret, but that's beside the point. I think this is like...a date or something."

   Roderica's cheeks colored just at the possibility as she sat atop the kitchen counter, grabbing an apple from a nearby hanging basket and twisting its stem. Roddrick bent at the waist, placing her chin in her hand as she studied her sister's face.

   "This is your first." She stated.

   "No! I mean-yeah."  Peering at her sister's grin through her lashes, Roderica sucked her teeth.

   "This isn't funny."

   "I'm not laughing. "

   "Yes you are, you're smiling all stupid and stuff."

   "Stupid and stuff..." Roddrick straightened up and braced her back against the counter as she toned down her excitement seeing that it made her sister uncomfortable. "Will you let me help you get ready? What time is he coming? What are you going to wear? Where is he taking you? Is he paying?"

    Relieved from the support she had in Roddrick, Roderica took a bite from her apple as she fought the giddiness rising.

   "I don't know, I don't know, I don't know. I still have to text him back. Oh my God, is this really happening?" She held her face between her hands as she kicked her feet against the cabinets beneath her.

    "You got one second to get your butt off my counter, girl." Rockelle stood at the entrance to the kitchen, watching her daughters as they both scattered from the kitchen. Roderica slipped past their mother fast, and Roddrick was just behind her before she stopped in her tracks remembering that she was an adult now and didn't have to run like she stole something.

   "What were y'all in here conspiring together?"

   "Conspiring? Mama, we were just talking. She was telling me about some...colleges she had her eye on. You know it's never too early to get ready for application season in a few months." Opening the refrigerator, she tried to make herself busy as a distraction.

 

   "Don't you be playing with me."
       "I'm not playing with you." Giving her an innocent smile, Roddrick closed the door.

 

   "Then why are my instincts telling me otherwise?"

   "Uh, well-"The sound of her cell phone ringing from the next room saved Roddrick as she sent up a mental thank you.

   "I gotta get that. It's probably important." Leaving a pondering Rockelle alone, Roddrick raced to the living room, digging beneath the couch pillows for her phone before the caller gave up.

   "Hello?"

    "Roddrick! Thank God. I have a job for you." Roddrick's ears perked at the prospect as the other woman on the line spoke.

   "Sure Danny, what's up?"

   "I've got a photographer that apparently went and caught the flu or something ridiculous and cancelled for tomorrow. You know I have that shoot and I really need-"

   "You want me to do it?"

    "Please beautiful? I promise I'll pay you well. I'll feed you. I would give you gas money if you owned a car..."

   "Okay, you don't have to beg." Roddrick laughed as Danny went on.

    "You're sure this isn't putting you out of your way?" Roddrick knew she had some spare time to give, and it would be better than doing nothing.

   "Of course not. I've got you."

   "This is why you're my main chick, you know that, right? I love you oh so much."

   "Yeah, you better."

   "It's at eight tomorrow morning. I know I don't have to say it, but don't be late." Danny ended their conversation quickly, giving Roddrick directions that she was to follow. Tossing her phone aside, she realized that there was no point in trying for a quick nap before work, and instead she began to get ready for her shift.

Vvv

    Next Day

      Roddrick stirred the decaf coffee she held in her hand as music played behind her. She watched as others moved around, doing their jobs as she picked over the fruit spread that had been left out. Placing a grape in her mouth, she looked up to meet the eyes of a man heading towards her with a large smile.

    "Roddrick, right? Hi, I'm Blake. I can't thank you enough for doing this last minute. I heard Danny had someone bail on her too." Quickly swallowing, Roddrick reached out to take the offered hand. It was large and strong as his grip held hers tightly in his enthusiastic mood.

   "Yeah, some bug going around. Her photographer had to drop last minute."

   "Funny, that's the exact thing my model told me..." Blake's brain began to click as he thought back to the last time the photographer he was more familiar with had worked with his model, and how well they seemed to mesh.

   "Must be some bug. Then." Roddrick smiled as he shook his head.

  "Anyways, I'm glad to be working with you. I really appreciate it."

   "Seriously, it's not a problem." Roddrick assured him.

   "Any minute now, and my other guy should be here." Checking his watch Blake narrowed his eyes." Or I'm going to drag his ass here myself." She watched as he walked away, off to something else. She had all of her things set up and ready to go, and watched the small crew Danny sent for her mingle around the set.

    Roddrick began rubbing at her eyes, as she looked around. Quickly, she went for her bag, digging around for her eye drops, quickly putting them in each eye. They gave her some form of relief and comfort. Today, she had chosen to wear her contacts, opting out for her usual glasses. She still wasn't used to them, but had decided that maybe wearing them more often could solve the issues she felt like she was having lately.

    Wiping away the small tear which fell free as she reoriented herself, Roddrick's eyes began to focus on a figure that stood before her. She watched as the person began to walk towards her, and when she finally cleared up her eyes, her heart stopped.

    "What the hell?" She took a step back as Milo approached her, just as frazzled as she was. Except, his surprise was much more welcomed.

   "It's nice to see you again too." He responded after a delayed moment from staring at her. He wasn't sure if he had seen right; it had been dark that night, but he knew he wasn't mistaken.

    "Why are you here?" Roddrick spoke quietly, as she questioned him. She looked around, feeling that someone could hear her speak to the mystery man.

   "I'm guessing the same reason you are."

   "What are you talking-"

 

    "Hey, asshole. Get back there and get ready." Blake interrupted the reunion as he spotted Milo from afar. Roddrick watched as he gave a firm shove to the other man's shoulder which he seemed to take no offense to.
       "I don't think you want to upset the model, Blake." Milo spoke to him, yet kept his eyes on Roddrick. He watched the flushed expression on her lips, now in better lighting, and immediately stored it away as one of his favorites.

 

    "You're the model?"

   "Not for long if he doesn't get ready." Blake answered for him.

   "Milo." Reaching out a hand, he waited for Roddrick to gather her bearings and return the gesture. Her eyes narrowed, and he could almost sense hesitation within them before she quickly held and released his hand. The rejection felt like a burn, and even more when she gave him a tight lipped grimace that was to pass as a smile before she walked away.

   He watched her walk off quickly, and was taken aback at her actions.

   "Come on; let's get this started, please.  Alex is waiting for you." Milo followed Blake's arm as he motioned to the woman who leaned against a door, watching him. She lifted her hand, waving her fingers at him to come to her.

   Scratching the back of his neck, he went to her with confusion and slight embarrassment.

Vvv

    "Tilt your chin down. Great."

    "Turn your head to the left. No just-a little more-right there. Hold on." Roddrick put down her camera, stepping over to where Milo was. It had been the fourth time she had to go to him to position him; his stiffness telling her this wasn't something he usually did. He was making what should have been a simple shoot even harder for her, and she found herself becoming irritated.

   Her fingertips reached for his chin as she slowly moved his head. She was instantly reminded of the way she had attacked that same face with her mouth, begging him not to stop as he stroked her straight into the mattress...

    She found that her hands had rested against his dark beard, a finger itching towards the corner of his mouth, slightly curling towards his lips. When she came out of the fog of her mind, she found his eyes locked onto her own.

    "Good." Walking back, she began to click away. Flash after flash she saw his face, saw the way he stared through the lens and straight at her. Whenever it came time to change shirts, she cursed herself for looking away as they made the change right on set, opting to look down at her feet or busy herself with rolling and massaging her neck. She knew that there wasn't a moment where he wasn't watching her, and it had become unnerving.

   Sighing, Roddrick nearly skipped for joy when the last picture was taken.

   "Okay, we're done." She called out. There was a small round of applause and whoops as she sat down the camera, immediately walking over to the refreshments as she opened herself a bottle of water and began to down it.

   "Great work guys." She heard Blake's voice approach her from behind as a hand met her shoulder blade. "Thanks again Roddrick, We'll just take a look from the shots and then we'll be done."

    Shaking her head, she smiled politely as he walked off. Out the corner of her eye, she watched as Milo began walking towards her. She stood straight as a rod, anticipating his arrival.

   She had closed her eyes just barely as he came close to her, his unique scent and warmth washing over her body. Before she knew it, it disappeared as fast as it had come, and she looked to see him walking past her towards the dressing room from earlier.

   A sigh of relief left her as she felt her nerves come back down to earth. Looking around the room, she quickly went to where a group of people were gathered as they examined the photos she had taken. Blake waved her over to come see before she could object. She didn't want to sit through looking at Milo's face once again; she just wanted to pack up her things and be out of there fast before she ran into him again. Standing quietly in the background, she listened to Blake and others as they perused the images.

Vvv

    "You're not going to stay for lunch?" Roddrick looked over to a member of her crew as he pointed to the plate full of food he held in his hands. She finished zipping up her personal bag before slinging it across her body.

   "I don't think so. I've got some things to do before it gets late." That was bullshit. He knew it. She knew it. It was just after noon, and she still had much time left in her day. But she still hoped that she could make it out without too much noticing.

   "Okay then. You want us to take your stuff back to Danny's?" Roddrick had worked with them enough and had built a good amount of trust to leave them in charge of transporting her things back to Danny's where it would be locked up safely until she could get to them.

    "If you don't mind." She had ridden her bike there as usual, and she couldn't wait until she could pedal away.

   The man walked away then, finally allowing her a way out before someone in particular would notice.

    Pushing open the heavy doors, she emerged into the sunlight of midday. Just as she went to place her sunglasses on, she caught movement out the side of her eye.

 

   "Can we talk for a minute?" She darted towards her bike as Milo pushed himself off of the wall he had been waiting for her on. He watched her nearly frantic movements to unlock her bike, and slowly walked to her not wanting to scare her off any more than it seemed he already had.
       "Look, I know this is strange, but I think we should talk about this. Don't you?"

 

   "No. No I don't think there's anything to talk about." Roddrick avoided eye contact as she moved her bike back from the rack. Milo moved in front of her thinking that he could block her way, but of course she moved ready to mount and leave.

   "Hey-hey. Wait a minute." He laughed slightly trying to diffuse the situation as he took ahold of her handle bars.

   "Can you move please."

   "I don't think we got to properly introduce ourselves yet. "

   "Do you really think that's necessary?" Roddrick scoffed under her breath as she sat back on her seat, placing her toes on the ground.

   "Our situation is kind of unique...but yes." Milo smiled easily seeing her not ready to take off just yet.

   "My name is-"

   "You already told me." Roddrick cut him off.

    Milo halted for a moment as she seemed ready to bolt away again. He wanted her to introduce herself to him, even though he already knew her name.

   "And so, I was hoping that you could tell me yours?"

    Roddrick remained silent as she stared him down.

   "You seem like a nice guy, but I just...I feel that..."

    "I just want to know your name; I'm not asking you to marry me." His voice was low and teasing as her hands gripped her handlebars. She hadn't insinuated that. She didn't want him to see the blush that was sure to make its way to her face.

  "No, I know I just mean-"

  "Do you have a horrible name, and that's the reason you don't want me to know it?"

   "No-"

   "Are you living a double life while keeping your identity a secret, and that's the reason you don't want me to know it?"

   "Look I know that -"

    "Are you embarrassed about the fact we fucked each other senseless for hours in the Caribbean and now we've run into each at home, and that's the reason you don't want me to know it?" With his last question Roddrick couldn't deny the defensiveness that entered his voice as his voice lost some of its playfulness.

    "I'm not embarrassed." She said with little assurance.

   "Are you sure about that?" Standing to his full height, Milo crossed his arms. Roddrick took that moment to take a closer look at the tattoos that decorated his skin.

   "Roddrick." She finally said, sparing a quick glance to him as a small smile returned to his face.

   "It's really nice meeting you again, Roddrick." Milo's hands came back to hers, this time lightly bumping against her fingers. She flinched away, playing it off by tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear. She was grateful for the dark sunglasses as she watched him silently.

   "I have to go." She excused herself, and found Milo not trying to hold her back this time. She slowly began to pedal in the opposite direction, leaving him standing in place.

   "Hey." He called to her as she stopped to look to him.

    "I'll see you around." It wasn't a question that spoke of hope, but a statement that spoke of certainty.

   The shiver down her spine left her unable to deny him as she rode away.

Vvv

       Pulling her bike around the side of the house, Roddrick quietly climbed the stairs as she entered. She came home to find Roderica simultaneously reading a book and sending a message on her phone when she walked in.

    Dropping what she was doing, Roderica sat up at the sight of her sister.

   "You're home." Patting the seat beside her, she moved over making room as Roddrick plopped down.

    "Thank God."

    "Amen to that. I need to tell you about last night." Roddrick sat back and listened to her sister's enthusiastic retelling of her first date. She remembered the way she had been so nervous last night as she had done her make up for her.

   "Are you sure this is okay?"

   "I'm sure."

   "But I don't usually wear makeup. What if he doesn't like it?"

   "We're not doing it for him. We're doing it for you. Come on now, you asked me to do this."

  "You're right, you're right. Not too much please."

    She had been there for Roderica as she picked her outfit of choice, and as she instructed Roddrick on how to do her hair and makeup. Roddrick recognized the same insecurities that she had her first time going out with Brian. Like her sister, it was in secret and she was left to figure out makeup and hair on her own without her mother noticing too much difference as she went out.

     "I think I'm falling in love with him."

   "Whoa." Roddrick was quickly brought back to the conversation at her declaration.

    "I love him." Roderica's brows were drawn together as she came to the realization. She stared at Roddrick with large brown eyes that showed a bit of fear and excitement within them.

   "Rodey..."

   "I've known him since we came here, it's only natural this happens, right? I mean, it's not like I just met him last week or anything."

   "You're still young."

   "What's that got to do with anything? Love is love whenever and wherever, right? You told me that before. Come on, you were crazy about Brian!" Roderica brought her knees to her chest as she watched her feet. "It's no different this time."

    Sighing, she could tell that her sister wasn't speaking as a foolish young girl. Roderica was mature, and she had always known that aside from her exuberant and friendly nature, she was always serious about how she felt.

   "You're right. It's not." Looking at Roddrick with hope, Roderica scooted closer.

   "This isn't the first time I've felt like this. I swear it's all I've been thinking about for the past couple of years now. It's just...never felt like the right time."

      "Sometimes it comes when we least expect it. It does its own thing and just waits for us to realize it."

      "I've had my A-ha moment." Roderica smiled faintly as she looked to Roddrick. " I just don't know how to tell mama. She doesn't want me to have a boyfriend at all. What happens when I tell her I'm in love with Chris? How did you tell her about Brian?"

     See, Roddrick didn't have the best experience with revealing to her mother that she had been spending time with her boyfriend outside of studying for school. She was kind of...forced... into telling Rockelle about their relationship when she had returned home unannounced one weekend to quickly retrieve something, only to find Roddrick in bed with Brian.

   The memory always made her cringe, and to this day she would sometimes get a kick out of the situation.

   "I think if you just sit her down and talk to her, you may get through to her." Roddrick decided to not explain her experience with their mother just yet.

  "But you know how she gets sometimes."

   "Mama trusts you. She knows that you're a mature young lady. You're no fool."

   "I'm scared to tell her, but I don't want to hide this if it turns out to be ...something." Roddrick pulled her sister to her as she seemed to fret over the prospect of somehow disrespecting the rules and expectations their mother had set, while also fulfilling her own needs and feelings that made her happy.

   "I'll talk to her. Soften her up a bit, okay?"

   "You'll do that for me?"

   "Of course. You know she's just a big softie. It takes time to break through that thick skin of hers."

   "Thick wouldn't even begin to describe it." Roderica mumbled, drawing a chuckle from Roddrick.

   "Shh. You know she has ears everywhere."  As if right on cue, Rockelle entered the room, seeing her daughters curled up on each other.

   Roddrick noticed as her mother seemed to hide the few envelopes she held in her hand, but thought nothing of it as she tucked one in particular away.

   "What are you two in here talking about?"

   "You." Roderica quickly answered, shielding her head away from her mother's hand as it came down to her hair.

  "Me, huh? Move over." Taking a seat in between the two, Rockelle relaxed as they each curled up into her side in their own way. Roderica rucked her feet beneath her body as she buried herself into Rockelle's chest, and Roddrick crossed her legs, leaning her chin against her shoulder.

   Like they had done so many times before, they sat like that. Speaking when needed, and being silent as well. In a few hours, Roddrick would have to get ready for work, but until then, she would put it off for the time she had with them.

Vvv

     Roddrick smiled as she removed the menus from a table of customers, leaving them with a smile as she went to place their order. It was dinner time, and their usual rush was at its height as the night went on. She made sure to wait the tables effortlessly, ensuring that she got tips good enough to help her sleep easy that night.

     She eased past other workers as they made their rounds also, completely missing the blue eyes that watched her maneuver like a pro with a drink tray held above her head.

   Milo admired the way her fitted white button down shirt hugged to her body like a glove, accentuating parts of her body that he was sure weren't meant to be the main focus. She wore tight black pants that showed off the curve of her back as she walked away from him, arm stretched high. He was now more than glad that he agreed to come out with Blake that night after he got off of work.

   When he said he would see Roddrick soon, he didn't mean this soon. But he wasn't complaining any...

       Roddrick made her way to the new table that had arrived after delivering the drinks, and checking up on her other customers. Making her way towards the two seated men, she first noticed the familiar face of the man named Blake, whom she had just met today. His companion turned around just as her gaze fell to the back of his head, and if she hadn't any control over herself, she would have screamed in surprise.

   "Hi, my name is Roddrick and I'll be your server tonight." She kept her voice at a more leveled tone than she had expected as she approached their table. Blake instantly lit up as he recognized who she was.

    "Wow, I was definitely not expecting to find you here." He looked to Milo as if they shared some silent exchange as he cleared his throat, hiding a laugh. "What a small town." He raised his eyebrows as he smiled at Roddrick, and she immediately began to feel self-conscious. Cutting her eyes to see Milo's stare darkening slightly on her, she jumped to the conclusion that Milo had told about how they had first met. A wave of anger overtook her, and she couldn't make herself follow proper etiquette.

   "What do you want to drink?" She spoke curtly and low as she looked to them both. Blake noticed her change of attitude, and composed himself as he made his choice.

    "And you?" Roddrick turned to Milo who had sat silently the entire time. It was hard to not put her hand on her hip as he sat up in his seat.

   "What would you recommend?"

   "Water. Soda. Beer. Take your pick." She felt her fist shake by her side as she waited for his order.

   "Is there anything in particular that I should try?"

   "You're trying my nerves."

   "Excuse me?"

      "Would you like me to bring you water, sir?" Roddrick caught herself from telling Milo to fuck off right there on the spot.

     "Is that your recommendation?" His smile let on that he knew what he was doing.

   "I'll bring your drinks right out. " Slipping away quickly, Roddrick took ten deep breaths as she prepared herself for battle.

 

    Something told her that tonight she was going to have a run for her money. 

Chapter 4 by EveryBit12
Author's Notes:

Roddrick

Vvv

      "I heard you've been hanging out around Legacy lately. What's the deal?" Blake speared the steak on his plate straight into his mouth, talking out of the side of it as he pointed his knife in Milo's direction.

    "No deal. Just do a few open mic nights there." Milo shrugged off the obvious questioning in the sound of his friend's voice. Legacy was a club known for its sketchy yet rich clientele. No one went there to party without being doped up out of their minds, and Blake knew that it would be nearly impossible to stand in the same place where drugs were used so frequently and carelessly. Knowing Milo's past, he felt like a protective older brother looking out for him.

   "You don't want to fuck around with that shit. It's not good for you." His eyes were still narrowed, skeptical of Milo's intentions.

   "Come on, man. I get out of the house so that I don't have to hear my mother lecturing me on my every move."

   "Mothers do know best." Blake had never met the woman before, but by the constant phone calls and silent complaints Milo made about not having any privacy, he completely understood where she was coming from. He had five years on Milo's twenty two, and he saw their relationship as a big brother little brother type, him giving him things to do and keeping him out of trouble. Their circle turned out not to run too large, and once Milo had come back into town, talking and whispering stirred about his hiatus. He had heard Jade Moncla getting thrown into the mix, and he himself had a few run ins with the woman, and could see her untamed attitude from a mile away, and kept her at arm's length.

   "Yeah, well when you become one I'll start taking your advice more seriously. As for right now, just know that I've got me. Okay?" Milo began feeling slightly strained as he spoke. He knew he was young, and he knew that tended to make people want to immediately step into the position of his caretaker like he was still the broken kid he was years ago. He put an end to that side of the conversation quickly as Blake picked up the hint, casually transitioning into talking about something else.

   His eyes lifted once his ears picked up the sound of Roddrick just a few tables over. He watched as she smiled down at group of other men as they flirted with her without shame; one even ventured as far as to place a hand on her waist as she began to leave the table, drawing her back into conversation with a visible discomfort upon her features.

  Reaching a hand out to the silverware he had yet to use, Milo lifted them high enough above the table to make a clatter that was sure to draw attention. When Roddrick's head shot around, thinking that she would have to clean up a broken glass, she caught sight of Milo's slightly raised hand and the small shrug he gave her.

   It was a perfect out from the touchy feely men who had slowly began to rev up with their game of conquest that seemed to be played among them. She wasn't deaf or blind, so she had caught the sly glances and lewd comments as she worked. She could tell that the idiots had money, and she crossed her fingers that if she played along by her own rules, she could end up with a nice wad of cash on the table. A nice 20% from all five would do her just fine.

    "I'll be back to check on you later. Enjoy your meal." She tried her best to keep up the perky attitude as she walked away quickly. Before she could take a detour, she found herself drawn into Milo and Blake's table, and her smile immediately dropped when she saw the pleased expression on his face as she came near.

   "Is everything going well for you tonight?" She let her words sound detached as she gave them  the complementary questions to help enhance their dining experience.

   "Fantastic." Blake spoke as Roddrick gave him a genuine smile.

    "I'd have to agree. This chicken dish you suggested? Out of this world."

   "It's chicken parmesan." Lips pursed, Roddrick gripped her hands in front of her apron.

   "Well, this isn't like any chicken parmesan I've ever had before. I'm telling you, would you like to taste to see?" Milo lifted the fork in his hand, offering it to Roddrick.

   "I don't know where your mouth has been. No thanks."

   "Now that's a li-"

   "Is there anything I can get for you? A refill? More napkins?" Directing her attention to Blake, Roddrick was barely able to control the flare up of heat that rushed to her face as Milo's voice reached a lower and huskier octave. Looking at Blake was like having a bucket of cold water thrown on her, bringing her back to her senses instantly.

   "Well," Blake looked to the two glasses she had already brought out before he got through his first drink, "I think I have a long way to go before that next refill." He watched as Roddrick looked down and understood what he meant. Stumbling over her words, she stuck with a simple smile to show her forgetfulness.

   "You're right. I'll leave you to that then." Cutting her eyes back at Milo, she half expected his eyes to be hovering over her ass, and was ready to catch him in the act, but she was proven wrong as he looked directly into her eyes with a slight frown.

   "I think there's a little bias at the table." Looking to his glass of water that was now empty, he raised an open palm. " I haven't been offered one refill tonight." His words weren't malicious nor upset, but amused.

    "You're thirst is real..." She said under her breath as she cocked out her hip, placing her hand upon it.

   "Pardon?..." Milo leaned forward, feigning deafness as she twirled away.

     "What the hell are you doing?"  Blake leaned across the table whispering fiercely. Earlier that day, he had prodded Milo on his obvious infatuation with the photographer that left her flustered throughout the entire shoot. He picked up on the vibes instantly, and when he asked, Milo had given him a nonchalant shrug.

    "We've got a little bit of history."

      He had thought that Roddrick was one of the girls Milo had boned in the past, and was trying to get reacquainted with which was obviously not happening anytime soon with the way she seemed to repel his every move.

    "I'm just asking for my refill. You have no room to talk; she's been catering to you all night."

   "She's going to end up spitting in your shit..."

    The clank of a glass meeting the table caused them both to jump as Roddrick returned.

   "Hopefully this will do it for you. Seriously." Her last word was spoken softly, meant only for him. It was her last warning to Milo for the night. All she wanted was for him to say the magic words and ask for his check so that she could get him out of her sight.

   "Thank you so much. Really, I appreciate that." Silently, Roddrick began to step back from the table as she left. Her chest released a heavy sigh as she looked towards the wall where servers rushed in out of swinging doors. She read the clock-just a couple more hours and she would be free.

    She willed herself to hang in until then.

Vvv

       Roddrick unbuttoned the sleeves of her shirt, rolling them up above her elbows as she walked to her bike. Her tips in cash tucked away safely in the bag that clung to her body.

   "See you Rodd."  Behind her she heard the sound of trash being thrown into a dumpster as one of the kitchen hands called out to her. She waved her goodbyes as she unlocked her ride home. Reaching to the front, she clicked a button as light flooded the street before her. It was an addition to her bike that Roderica had insisted she buy for her own safety, knowing that Roddrick took the thing nearly everywhere she went.

     She had never thought about purchasing one before, but was grateful now that it helped ease her ride home. As she rode, her mind drifted to the torn cardboard that once displayed the restaurants happy hour drink. Written in black ink was a faint number left behind at the table where Milo sat, wrapped up in his generous tip. Before she had left for home, she had already managed to ball it up and trash the paper twice, before she dove into the trashcan just as it was being taken out, retrieving the number one last time. She stuffed it into her pants pocket paying it no mind to the best of her abilities, but now she was beginning to wonder why she was holding on to it.

   She never foresaw that she would have to deal with a man who so blatantly wanted to explore their relationship past the quickie that transpired between them.

   It had been the perfect storm: both were vacationing abroad, one night, no awkward morning after, and not even a name or information exchange between them. He should have been satisfied with that, especially since it seemed that both of them had a clean sheet when it came to STDs any other surprises that could come back to bite them in the ass.

  Why was he making it so difficult to forget him?

   When Roddrick came through the front doors of her mother's home, she was met with the distant sound of the living room TV. Slowly, and mindful of the sleeping form on the couch, she closed the door. Cracking and rubbing her neck and shoulders, Roddrick followed the dimmed light which shone from the dining room.

    There her mother sat, unmoving and unaware to her presence. Roddrick held off on announcing it as she watched her mother's eyes run across a paper she held in between her hands. There was a torn envelope lying haphazardly close to the edge of the table. It was then that she noticed Rockelle raising a hand to her face to remove her glasses. Under the yellow light, Roddrick could see the traces of tears falling down her cheeks.

   "What's wrong, Mama?" Her voice startled the other woman, and as she turned in her chair, her arm cleared off the envelope as it floated beneath the table. Roddrick had forgotten about the pain in her neck that was Milo that night, and quickly began to wonder what it was that had Rockelle in such a state.

    "I didn't hear you come in, baby." Rockelle folded the papers she held, tucking them away into the crook of her house robe as she faced her daughter. Roddrick went to her side as she reached for her cane, and pulled herself up to stand.

   "I saw Roderica sleeping out front; I didn't want to wake her." Her brooding face watched Rockelle's carefully, trying her best to read it. "Why were you crying?" She lowered her eyes to the place where she had tucked what she was reading away.

   "Oh, I wasn't doing anything like that. How did tonight go? Did you work hard? I can heat you up a plate to eat if you're still hungry. I know it's late but I left one wrapped up just in case." Rockelle was in the midst of opening the fridge as she prepared the food for Roddrick. Taking her seat, Roddrick looked down as she sneaked a look at the tossed away envelope. The front was facing away from her, so she couldn't read who it had come from. Slipping it closer with the toe of her shoe, she kept a close eye on her mother as she spoke without pause. Folding it, she slipped it under her thigh as Rockelle placed a plate in front of her.

    The hunger inducing scent of the red beans and rice made her stomach grumble out loud, telling her she had neglected it more than she had thought. Roddrick took a deep breath, allowing the smells to waft into her nose as she picked up her spoon and began mixing the dish just the way she liked it.

   "My tomatoes are just gorgeous. They're coming out so well, I could pick a few today. Here, taste." Roddrick reached into the small bowl she was given, popping a cherry tomato in her mouth before giving her mother a thumbs up.

   "These are good, Mama."

    "Mhm. You've always loved you some tomatoes. Pepèr would take you out and pick them all of the time, you'd come back just as round as one, you'd eat so many."

   "Have you spoken to Pepèr and Memèr?" Roddrick watched as her mother nodded her head.

   "They're doing well. You know they still run that summer festival, they're getting ready for all of that pretty soon here." Roddrick's memories of said festivals came rushing back to her. She remembered the music, the dancing, and the food that was always there in abundance. She loved playing games and listening to stories told by older members of their community who were lucky enough to live and help pass on their culture to the younger generation by oral traditions.

   The last time they had went there it had all been a disaster. She could still remember the way her father had driven his car past the fence and decorated set up of the festival, parking within the boundaries as he stalked calmly through the crowded space and scanned everyone. He was determined to find his wife and kids and bring them back home after he had told Rockelle to not take the day trip many times before. Roddrick had been running around with cousins of hers, showing off Roderica, and how she could make her spin until she tumbled over. She had been snatched up by the nape of her neck, and she could still feel the fear from Clint's burning glare as he took notice of her face paint and other proof of Rockelle's disobedience. Roddrick had cried the entire way home, telling her father that she had been the one to make their mother take them. That she had been the one to cry and plead like a baby, and how she was sorry for doing it. She had watched his tight grip on Rockelle's wrist leave red imprints behind, and had even reached forward to pry them away before being shoved into the back of the seat, hitting her head against the hard upholstery.

   That night, she remembered sitting back on her haunches as she listened to her father scream and shout with her mother in their locked bedroom. She had been cringing from the sting of her bottom, and the back of her thighs where a leather belt had met her skin viciously; hands curled over Roderica's ears as the harsh thudding against the thin walls seemed to rock their world.

    "I haven't been to one of those since I was what? Nine?" Her voice croaked without her permission as she spoke. Reaching for her glass of water, she tried to relieve the scratchy feeling that was left behind.

     "I hate that I didn't get to take you girls to more of those, especially Roderica. She had only been to a few." Rockelle held her chin in one hand, and reached out to Roddrick's with the other; caressing her thumb across the back of her hand.

    Roddrick finished her meal in silence, with only the sound of the wall clock and the occasional clinking of her spoon against the dish she ate from. As she prepared to stand up, she remembered the envelope she had tucked away beneath her, and before she could figure out a plan to keep it on her as she got up, Rockelle had already taken the bowl from her.

   "Can you get Roderica up and move her to her bed for me?"

   With a breath of relief, Roddrick shook her head, and as soon as her mother's back was turned, she quickly stuffed her back pocket with the envelope, careful to not let too much of it show.

   As she peered over Roderica, she grinned from the sight her opened mouth and soft snores as she shook her shoulder.

    "You're in my bed, Rodey." She nudged an incoherent Roderica from the couch, steadying her when she stumbled around. Without opening her eyes, she made her way back to her bedroom, mumbling what was probably a good night to the other women as she closed herself off into the room.

   Immediately, she began to unbutton her clothes as she felt too tired to take a shower that night. It would have to wait until that morning.

   "Make sure you lock up and turn off the lights before you knock out honey." Rockelle moved past Roddrick, rubbing her back in the process as she moved to her own room. Roddrick called out a good night to her, waiting for the sound of her door meeting it's frame before throwing herself down onto the couch. She heard the crinkling of paper, and slowly withdrew the number Milo had slipped to her. Without a second thought, she tossed it into a pile of papers near her laptop, allowing it to get lost within the mess that accumulated there.

    Turning over to her stomach, she began unfolding the envelope that seemed to something of secrecy with her mother. When she heard the creak of floorboards, she halted her movements and waited for the sound to go away along with the flush of a toilet.

   When she could breathe again, her eyes slowly lowered to the cursive handwriting in the top left corner. The mail had been torn slightly, and as she fit the pieces back together, she could feel the life drawn from her as she slowly came to recognize the name.

   Her breathing became heavy, erratic even as she read the name Clint Kennedy over and over again. The blood in her head all seemed to rush to her ears, filling them with a slushing noise as her hand curled into a fist around the paper. Throwing it to the side, she sat up abruptly with anger lighting her veins.

   What the hell was he doing contacting them? How the hell did he get their address in the first place?

   For one thing, she knew no one in her family would have given it up. Not her grandparents, no way Roderica could or would have as she seemed to completely block out that time period in her life where Clint was involved. Roddrick would have to be strung up by her toes and beaten to death before she ever thought to contact that man.

   Jaw going slack, Roddrick blinked rapidly with the sudden realization. The pain in her eyes could have beamed straight through the wooden door of her mother's bedroom as she cast a glance over her shoulder. All at once, Roddrick began feeling angry and confused. She wanted to bust into the bedroom and confront her mother on what she had found, to get an answer and explanation as to why she was talking to him again.

   Bile rose in her throat, burning a disgusting path along its way as Roddrick constrained herself to the couch. When the tears at her eyes began to fall, she drew her legs up towards her, realizing that out of everything she could and should have been feeling, she had fallen victim to hurt as her mind raced with a reason for Clint Kennedy's name existing in their home.

Vvv

Three Months Later

     Roddrick took a deep breath as she sat alone in the sterile room of the local clinic. She surveyed the old and outdated magazines which were shelved on the wall as the doctor knocked softly before entering. Roddrick froze as she waited for the woman to take a seat before her.

    "How are you doing today? I know you're anxious to hear your update, right?" Roddrick shook her head before realizing that she hadn't spoken yet.

   "It would be a lot of weight off my shoulders to know."

   "Well, let me tell you Ms. Kennedy that you can relax. Our results show just what we had seen before. All of the tests turned up negative for any STDs." The cool and calming voice from the doctor helped to finally ease the feeling of trepidation that had followed her into the clinic, and for the first time, Roddrick smiled.

   "Thank you...thank you so much. I don't know what I would have done if-" Too stunned by her luck, Roddrick finished her sentence with a happy laugh.

   "Well, the good thing is that we'll never have to find out, right? Now, you take care of yourself. Wear protection. Be careful of your partners, Ms. Kennedy. Not everyone gets such good news, be thankful that you weren't one of them."

   "Of course, of course."Holding out her hand, the doctor was amused by Roddrick's vigorous shake in return.

   "Now go on home, and enjoy yourself. I hope this is the first and last time I have to see you ." She spoke as she headed towards the door.

   "Don't hope. I'm more than sure this is the last time you'll ever see my face." Roddrick received a silent chuckle and goodbye as she was left alone, but not for long as she followed right behind her bearer of good news just seconds later.

      Roddrick drew her light jacket closer to her body as she stepped out into the mid October air. Over the past couple of months, she had managed to put on a few extra pounds from stress, and it showed as her beloved fall wardrobe seemed to fit snugger than usual.

   She had started to incorporate more exercise into her life other than her bike; opting to walk more places and do home videos for an added bonus. She knew that her efforts were pointless as it seemed she easily turned to her mother's home cooking whenever her emotions began to take a toll on her. To Roddrick, she just figured that she had begun to relapse to her teenage years where she would purge and binge on food nonstop to cope with any problems or issues she had. Just like then, jeans stretched a little tighter, and she had to up her bra size to accommodate the weight that seemed to head straight for her chest.

   Roddrick knew that if she didn't get things under control, then she would balloon up before the blink of an eye. Glancing at her cell phone, she saw that she had more than enough time to get across town and to Danny's studio before a shoot on her schedule. It was fall, and the time of the year when parents scheduled sessions to have their babies dressed up in pumpkin outfits and to have a few colored leaves thrown around so that they could send out greeting cards to family members.

    She actually found herself looking forward to working with a few drooling screaming babies that day, thinking that it could actually be a way for her to relieve a bit of pent up tension and stress that she had been carrying around.

     A month after discovering the envelope that had been sent by her father, and was addressed to her mother, Roddrick had broken her vow of silence as she came across more as the weeks went by. She had confronted Rockelle one night over dinner, asking her what was so important that she had to keep it hidden from everyone else.

   She had flown into a fit of defensiveness against her daughter as she told her to mind her own business, and that she had mistaken everything for something that it wasn't. They had quickly escalated into a screaming match at the dinner table, leaving a confused and trembling Roderica screaming for them to stop. She had watched her sister run off into her room, locking herself away and not answering neither her or their mother as they tried to make amends with her. Roderica had refused to talk to either one of them while they were mad, and there had been a silent treatment plaguing the house for nearly two weeks as they walked around on eggshells around one another.

   Now, another two months later, Roddrick couldn't deny the tension that still existed between them. They're conversations had become short and terse, losing the warmth and affection they once held. It hurt her to the core that they had fallen into such an awkward act, but not nearly as much as being left out in the cold when it came to knowing the nature of the rekindling that seemed to be going on between her mother and father. She felt betrayed and lied to, and didn't know how to make it any more clearer to Rockelle how much she disapproved of what she could only imagine what was happening between the two exes.

   When she arrived at the studio, Roddrick was greeted by the smell of fresh muffins and meat. Before she had even gotten through the door, she had already made a beeline for the source of the smell permeating her thoughts.

   "Damn girl, you ran past me to get to that food." Roddrick stopped mid bite at the sound of Danny from the doorway. Her eyes went to her small plate guiltily as she saw that she had managed to pile it with the bacon, miniature muffins, and fruits that had been put out for that morning. Careful not to choke on the mouthful she already had, she placed the plate down behind her back and turned with a burning sensation behind her eyes. She felt like crying for being caught eating in secret like that, and even though she knew Danny was only joking with her, she still felt highly embarrassed by the way she acted like she hadn't eaten in a week.

    "I had a busy morning...doctor's appointment. So I didn't get to eat." Tucking her hair behind her ears, Roddrick watched the slimmer woman walk her way as she waved her hand before her.

   "Come on Roddrick. I didn't mean anything by it."She said sincerely as she saw the slight flush of her cheeks. Danny and Roddrick had gotten hooked up in high school, one day when she had overheard the snickering and rude comments coming from a group of girls in the lunch line as they provided a very public mocking of the things Roddrick had placed on her tray. Before she had dropped everything and ran from sight, Danny walked right up beside her, skipping the girls in line, and asked her where she had gotten a couple of the items she had chosen. Roddrick had thought that she was one of the girls coming to make an even bigger fool out of her as she quietly pointed in different directions.

   When she had paid and left to eat lunch in a vacant hallway, she had been surprised and weary of Danny as she followed her out. That first day, they had sat across from each other quietly as they ate, and slowly as time went by, Danny made her way to right beside her, then they progressed to their own table in the lunch room. Before they knew it, Roddrick and Danny began to share laughs and a friendship which had spanned nearly a decade now.

     Taking a piece of bacon off of her plate, Danny narrowed her eyes as she watched Roddrick.

    "You look...chipper today." She saw that her friend held a very different aura about herself today. She had seemed to be living in a self-contained gloom for months now-worse than usual. Whenever she had asked what was wrong or what she could do to help, she had been assured that everything was everything.

   "I ain't got the clap." Roddrick forced down the giggle of excitement before it could burst forth. Danny's eyes widened in surprise as she drew Roddrick near.

   "The clap? You gotta be getting dick from somewhere to get that. Who are you sexing? Wait don't tell me, was it that damn Brian? He give you some dormant shit? Now you know all those cheap raunchy hoes he messed with were just like him: not worth shit! I told you Roddrick..." It was then that she remembered that she had never filled Danny in on her escapades during her trip.

   "It wasn't Brian." She spoke as Danny continued ranting.

   "What do you mean it wasn't him? He's the only guy you've been with. Look, after work I'm going to go hunt his black ass down and fuck him up for you. Bringing some shit he caught back home to you. Nah, I'm not going to let him fuck around with you after all of this time now. Uh uh. Nope."

   "It wasn't Brian, Danny. It was someone else. A few months back." Roddrick waited for her words to process as she stuffed her mouth with the last bite of her muffin. She watched as Danny's eyes brightened and quickly settled down into a glower.

   "You mean to tell me. That you, my best friend in the whole wide world, are seeing someone and didn't think to tell me? For real? Tell me I'm imagining things." Folding her arms, she shook her head in disbelief.

   "I know, I know. It's just that---I'm not seeing anyone, and never was. We just kind of hooked up..."

    "When!" Danny squealed.

   "Remember that wedding I had to go to?"

   "The one in the islands?"

    "Yeah..."

   "Oh my God. Oh my freaking God. Is your name Stella now?" Danny's level of excitement began to get out of control as she threw question after question at Roddrick all the while punching her in the arm for holding back secrets.

     "Hey Danny..." A head peeped in on the two, calling attention to the fact they were no longer by themselves.

    "You will tell me about this later."

   "There's nothing to tell."

    "You're telling me! I will drag it out of you if I have to, I swear Roddrick." Danny wagged her finger as she walked to the man who held papers for her to look at, walking away and back into her business world.

    Roddrick sat in a nearby chair as her thoughts began to wonder to the man who had taken up residency in her mind. The last time she had seen Milo was the night she had waited on his table,

  When she found that his face, his voice-his everything invaded her mind while she was asleep, showering, or even working, she had rushed to find the discarded number that she had so carelessly forgotten about, only to come up with nothing. She didn't know what she would have done had she found it, and she was almost glad that she didn't because she would have been a stammering mess speaking to him. What would she have looked like? The woman who had been less than easy on him, almost turning their one night together into something that was all his fault, knowing good and well it took two to tango, calling him up out of the blue.

   He had given her the number for a reason, right?

    So, it wouldn't have been too odd if she did call him. Obviously he wanted to get to know her...

    Or maybe he just wanted to see if he could get her in bed again.

   Pushing her doubts back, Roddrick stood to her feet. She could hear the motherly voices of their clients coming in, cooing at their children.  Putting on her safety zone grin, she stepped out of the room. Her face was soon filled with an authentic smile as she looked at the round faces of babies with curly wefts of hair sticking up in each and every direction.

   Her heart began to beat harder against her chest as her mouth fell open in awe.

   "This is your photographer for today, Roddrick." She heard Danny introduce her to the small group of friends and their children. She saw Danny patting the diapered rear of one baby as he reached for strands of her hair. Roddrick was so enraptured that she didn't feel the tugging of her jacket at first as a little girl stretched out of her mother's arms towards her.

   "Oh my, looks like she likes you." Before Roddrick could react, the mother had already lifted her daughter into her arms that took the child out of instinct. Large brown eyes glistened up at Roddrick, making her breath catch in her throat.

   "No, Illiana. We don''t spit." Roddrick simply laughed as she brought one hand up to wipe away the raspberry the girl blew against her chin.

   "I'm sorry, she's learned something new."

   "Oh it's no problem at all. Let's go take some pictures of this pretty girl." Illiana clutched Roddrick's thumb as she began leading them to where they would be photographed. Roddrick had never been around too many children, and she always that she would be the worst person to trust with holding something so precious, but as she walked with Illiana on her hip she found a natural rhythm with the child.

   When she had to hand the girl back to her mother to get dressed, she felt a small pang of jealousy at the way she clung to her mother.

   "Aren't these little things so cute? God, I hope they don't cry today; they look like a good bunch." Danny came up behind Roddrick to find her eyeing all of the children with a sparkle in her eyes.

   "Hey, you're not thinking of stealing one of them are you?" She spoke low so as not to cause any chaos as she teased Roddrick.

   "Wh-What are you talking about?" She was finally broken from the spell at Danny's words.

   "Mhm. Anyways, let's get started. I can't believe I'm actually excited to work with a group of people who still shit themselves." Danny muttered as she walked past Roddrick.

   With her hands in her back pockets, Roddrick blew out a stream of air as she got ready for the shoot. She wasn't sure what was up with the sudden pull to the babies, it must have been their inherent cuteness that suckered most people in.

  Yeah, that was it.

Vvv

     Roddrick waved down her sister as she climbed off of a city bus, and came prancing towards the outdoor table she had grabbed for them both. Behind her was a tall and lean young man, being led by the hand as she made her way to her sister.

    "Wow, Chris. Look at you looking all grown and what not." Standing from her seat, she hugged the boy who now towered over her smaller frame. She could feel the firm muscles he had from years of football and nearly laughed out loud from the thought of the string bean he had once been.

   "Hey Roddrick. You're looking beautiful today."  He kissed her temple, out of friendliness as Roderica smiled beside them.

   "I hope you don't mind him coming. It was the one weekend I could catch him when he wasn't working out." She gleamed upwards to her boyfriend, standing to her tip toes as he leaned in for a chaste kiss.

   "You know I don't care." Roddrick began to take her seat before pausing in midair," I'm not paying for him though." She made sure to make it clear with a sideways smirk.

   "Dang, I thought we were family." He half groaned as he pulled out a seat for Roderica. Roddrick watched as the two young lovers sat so close together, she had to double check and make sure their seats didn't morph into one.

   " This family ain't paying for a big boy like you to just eat up half of the menu." Roddrick got the attention of a nearby waiter for the two arrivals to place their order. As they settled in, she listened like a good older sister as Roderica went on and on about her school life.

    " So, I stayed after class to ask him what his deal was. A ninety two on an essay when I was the only one who didn't copy and paste? Whatever, I bet you I got my A though..."

   "You are such an asshole."

   "I have to be for my grades. There's nothing wrong with fighting for what you deserve when you know you put in work." Roderica chewed on her straw as she shouldered a laughing Chris.

   "That's okay. I like my women smart; that lets me know that you're going to be making big money to take care of us later on."

   "Women? Take care of us? Oh no, I think you and I are going to have to discuss our future a little more." Clapping her hands together, she turned to Roddrick." Here's the deal. Chris is going to go to his number one school, play his ass off whilst getting a degree in business. Then while he is being drafted as the number one NFL pick after he graduates, I'll be off in med school doing my thing so that in four years tops, I'll be out and settling into my residency at UCLA."

    "That sounds great. So Chris, I'm guessing you plan to join a team here?" Roddrick could tell how adamant and sure Roderica was of her plan, and didn't want to throw a wrench in it just yet. The possibility of everything working the way she said it would was slim, but not impossible. She knew her sister, and if anything went on a deviant course, it would throw her off kilter.

    "Okay, so there are still some details we are waiting to workout..."Roderica admitted upon hearing the tone of Roddrick's voice." Don't kill my vibe." She smacked her teeth.

   "What happens happens. The way I look at it, I'm going to have me a med school girl on my arm to show off." Chris looped his arm behind her neck, drawing her in for a show of PDA.

    "I am eating here." Roddrick protested around her mouthful of salad. Roderica waved her off with a giggle she had never heard before.

   Her sister was in love-bad.

    It was a shame that she had to hide it from their mother.

    Roddrick had promised Roderica that she would keep her relationship under wraps the best way she could. She made her promise that she would keep her grades up where they should be so that Rockelle never had a reason to question what was going on. It seemed that secrets divided the house in half lately, and Roddrick knew that it was only asking for a big blow up anytime now.

   She felt that keeping her sister's relationship a secret to ensure her happiness was a small price to pay for their mother not knowing; as soon as she found out, she would nip it in the bud before their romance could get off the ground. In her eyes, she felt as if she was owed a lot more with the unspoken words of Clint lurking over her head. She had searched her mother's things high and low hoping to find evidence of their communication. Rockelle was insistent on checking the mail herself, waiting up for the mailman so that she could be the first to receive what awaited her.  It pained her to see the expectant and even excited way Rockelle would act with her letters from Clint.

   If she would stay closed lipped about what was really going on with the man who caused them to be uprooted halfway across the country, then Roddrick could stick to the big sister code for Roderica.

    When all three had reached the end of their meals, Roddrick held the desert menu in her hand, contemplating whether or not she wanted to go the extra step and indulge herself.

   "We should order Mama something to go." Roderica spoke up when the waiter had taken Roddrick's order.  Shifting her eyes to her little sister, Roddrick saw that if she didn't do as she suggested, then there would be hell to pay. It amazed her sometimes how Roderica could force her to do things even when she wanted to be childish and selfish.

   With a sigh, she asked for another order of what she had to go before the waiter made his exit.

   "You know you were wrong for that."

   "You got what you wanted Rodey." Raising her brows, she reached for her water.

   "Got what I wanted? It's only what most daughters would do for their moms. It's called being considerate."

   "Look Rodey, I'm not really interested in getting on this topic."

   "What topic? The fact that you two have been assholes to each other? What's the deal anyways, it's like this just came out of nowhere." Roderica pushed away from the table, sitting slumped in her chair."I don't like it Roddrick. Not one bit."

    Had she not seen the fallen expression on Roderica's face, she would have told her to stop whining, but looking at the hurt she was apparently feeling, Roddrick began to feel guilty.

   She looked down to her hands abashedly, and when her desert came, she ate it quietly.

   Chris twisted the cloth napkin in his hands awkwardly as the two sisters' moods changed instantly. Under the table, he reached for Roderica's hands which brought her out of her thoughts, and her attention to him with a weak smile.

    When their bill came, he took it before Roddrick could, and placed enough bills in it to cover everyone's food.

   "Chris, you don't need to-"

   "No worries. You were nice enough to let me come eat with you guys."

   Roderica stood to her feet, fixing her ponytail as Chris followed suit.

   "We were going to walk around afterwards. Do you think you can take this home to mama? If you can't, then we'll just stop by there first and-"

    "I'll take it. You two go on." Grabbing the paper handles of the bag, Roddrick folded it down into her lap.

   "Are you sure? Look, we can-"

   "Go, I'll take it I said." Roddrick shooed them away, with a reluctant Roderica watching her from the sidewalk. Before she was out of sight, she hurriedly waved to Roddrick, who gladly returned it.

    Her hands went to her face, rubbing at her temples as she began to stand up.  She knew that the time would come when she would have to be faced alone with her mother, so it might as well be now.

Vvv

      "...really beautiful now. You should see them. Some days I don't even believe it myself."

    Roddrick's feet slowed as she heard her mother's voice radiating throughout the house. It was a small enough place for it to carry fast, and as soon as the front door had closed, Rockelle had quickly shushed her voice.

   "I'll have to go now, maybe we will talk some other time. Okay." Rockelle's face was neutral the moment she turned around, but when Roddrick gave her a small smile, it softened.

  "I brought you lunch. It's just a salad but there's enough on it to fill you up." Moving to the kitchen counter, her eyes skated over to where the wireless house phone lied on the dining table.

   "Who were you talking to?" She tried to make her tone as light as possible, not wanting to sound accusatory so soon. Opening the container, she retrieved a fork for her mother, moving to sit across from her as she slid the food to her.

   "On the phone?"

   "Well, yes." Folding her arms beneath her breasts, she leaned against the edge of the table.

   "It was one of the ladies from the church." Roddrick's eyebrow rose as she listened to her mother. She knew that Rockelle had acquaintances, but for the life of her she couldn't remember her being close enough to someone to call them for idle chatter.

    "Really. Who was it?"

   "Mrs. Thompson. She was asking about my tomato plants." Right then, Roddrick knew that the conversation was meant to end as her mother began to eat.

   A few pregnant moments of silence passed as the two sat stiffly.

   "Mama, all you have to do is tell me. You know? I just...I don't know or understand what's going on here." Her voice was low as she toyed with the ends of her sleeves. She spoke carefully as Rockelle's eyes lifted dangerous.

   "What are you going on about Roddrick?"

   "If he's contacting you, I can see what I can do about that. Maybe there's a way to restrict phone calls. He even has our address-"

   "I've told you once, and I'm going to tell you again. Nothing is going on, Roddrick. I don't know what it is you're thinking, but you need to stop. That's the last time I'm going to tell you."

   "I'm sorry, but when the man who would beat both of our asses senseless starts talking to you after all of these years, I have reason to worry."

   "Enough Roddrick."

   "What? Are you trying to revive something with him? What is there even left? We had to run away from that devil for God's sake!"

   "I said enough!" Rockelle's voice was rough and biting as Roddrick withdrew from her. "I don't need you, my daughter, checking my every damn mood. You don't know half the story about anything, and I would appreciate it if you would stay in a child's place."

   "I'm not a child, mama."

   "As long as I breathe, you are. I don't want to hear about this anymore."

   "Is he threatening you? What is he saying? I swear to you, I'll make him stop; don't keep leading him on! "

   Rockelle stood quickly from her seat, so fast that Roddrick followed her afraid that she may have over thought her abilities as she wobbly reached for her walking cane.

   "Where are you going?"

   Rockelle made it across the house as quickly as she could, grabbing her sunhat from the stand near the front door before storming out, slamming it behind her. The sound made Roddrick jump as she stood with her hands on her waist.

  "Fuck." Throwing a punch into the back of a reclining chair Roddrick began to gather her camera bag, throwing it across her body before she raced down the front steps and to her bike. Only for a quick glance did she look back at her mother. Rockelle had her back turned as Roddrick rode away from the house. When she was sure she was gone, her chin dropped to her chest as she covered her mouth with one gloved hand as she held back a sob.

   Her body shook as she was ridden with the guilt and shame from her lies she told, and secrets she kept.

   She never wanted her daughters to know that she and Clint had recently reconnected. She didn't know how to explain that the same man she had foolishly stood beside and even loved for some sick reason was let back into her life. Rockelle wasn't sure how he got her address, or who would have given it to him.

   The first letter she had gotten from him had scared her, wondering if they would have to move if he was somehow watching them all of this time.

 

   When she read that he was dying from terminal cancer, she had regressed into the woman who loved him, his wife, and couldn't bring herself to ignore his begging for forgiveness splayed across each page.

Chapter 5 by EveryBit12
Author's Notes:

 

I snuck away from life for a bit and was able to get this tid bit out.

Cross your fingers there will be more within the next couple of days....

 

Brian  Brian Ross

Carol   Carol Ross

Ooo

     The sound of her camera capturing the swaying trees in the park soothed Roddrick. Bringing her hands to her lap, she let out a staggered sigh as she watched life go on around her. There were children running amuck, joggers pounding their feet against the pavement as they weaved in and out of those out for afternoon strolls.  She had yet to rid her mind of the confrontation between her and Rockelle. Couldn't think of anything other than how foolish and brainwashed her mother had to have been to be so willingly accepting of their former abuser.

   Shit, there were some days when Roddrick would flinch if she heard a voice that sounded like his. She guessed that no matter how many times she said he no longer played a part in her life, she was wrong.

   "Roddrick!" Looking around the park, Roddrick searched the faces that passed her by, trying to find the one who had called her. When she was met with nothing but the chatter of others she shook her head wondering if she had imagined it.

    "I knew that was you..." Roddrick fumbled with her camera as someone rushed up from behind her, wrapping their arms around her midsection as she teetered atop the back of the bench she was perched on. Thankfully they had a tight grip on her; otherwise she would have gone flying to the ground.

    Glancing at the reddened hands before her, Roddrick saw a nice sized diamond ring on the left hand.

    "Lauren? What are you doing here?" Surprise laced her voice as the other woman circled around, grabbing Roddrick's hands in hers as she delivered a swift kiss to her cheek.

    "I had to come and work off all of the food I've been eating. Talton doesn't seem to understand what, no thanks I'm full, means." Lauren patted her flat stomach as she grinned up at the other woman. Coming down from the bench, they both took a seat beside each other.

  " I'm guessing that's all a part of the honeymoon." She joked, patting her knee." I never got the chance to talk to you after the wedding. To see how everything was going, but I know for sure you would have been too busy anyway."

   "Oh, God yes! I knew that tying yourself to one person takes a lot of give and take...but it's just so much work. Not good for my skin some days." Dramatically crossing her legs, Lauren rolled her eyes before smirking." I love every minute of it."

    "I know I've said this a thousand times, but I'm so happy for you." Roddrick smiled softly as the other woman nodded in appreciation.

   "Now, enough about me. Let's get to you and my baby brother. What the hell is going on between you two?" Turning in her place, Lauren pointed a still finger in Roddrick's direction as she stared back in confusion from her words.

    "What brother?"

     "Don't play dumb with me." Lauren narrowed her eyes." Nearly every word that comes out of his mouth has to do with you."

    Laughing out of jest, Roddrick shook her head." I have absolutely no idea what you're even talking about. I didn't even know you had a brother...how did that fail to come up in conversation?" She shot back another accusatory question.

    Lauren shifted with a look of consternation, trying to figure out why herself. When she and Roddrick had become friends, Milo had basically fallen off the face of the earth, only showing up when he needed help. It hit her that she had been too embarrassed of her brother's downfall to ever mention him to those closest to her.

   "That's beside the point. I'm telling you now at least." She mumbled

    "Uh, yeah. After the fact."

   "I must have been busy..." A punch in her arm drew a yelp from Lauren as Roddrick's face sneered up.

   "Milo must have a great imagination then. He talks about you like he knows you when obviously you have no clue he exists. Man, should I be concerned? He might kidnap you and put you in the basement one day.."

   "What's your brother's name?" Roddrick tuned out to Lauren's rambling after hearing the name she spoke.

    "Milo. I swear . I can't believe he's still a creep. He was even asking about you after the wedding." Lauren nonchalantly spoke as Roddrick's mind flung itself around in a meltdown.

   "What did he say about me?" She stiffly turned, face pale as she waited for the worst.

   "Just asking about you all of the time. Asking if I've talked to you, have your number-just weird things." Lauren looked back at Roddrick now, still not sure why her brother seemed so obsessed with her. " And you're certain that you don't know him? At all?"

    Roddrick swallowed the lump in her throat as she noticed the alert look on Lauren's face. Her body language became much tenser as she sat straight. "No, I don't. Why are you looking like that?"

   Lauren's mind began to race. She started to recount all of the things Milo had said and done. The things she had dismissed and ignored.  Tightening her fist, she worried that she would have to say something to their mother.

   His infatuation with Roddrick began to seem all too similar to the way he was lost within the last woman who had torn him apart. Before they all knew it, he'd be strung out again roaming the city.

    Lauren berated herself for jumping to conclusions. For trying to think of ways to control Milo again as if he hadn't dealt enough with meddling on his family's behalf. Albeit, some of it necessary.

 "I think I better finish this jog before my husband sends out an amber alert for me." Quickly standing, Lauren brought Roddrick to her feet as well.

   "Be around where I can get in contact with you. I get lonely some days, you know?" Before Roddrick could get out a proper goodbye, Lauren was already gone, her back moving further away the longer she stood there staring after her.

    Roughly packing her things, Roddrick began to roll her bike down the path, the park losing its appeal all of a sudden. She would travel the rest of the day looking for someplace where issues that came to interrupt her life faded away if she had to.

   But instead she found herself trudging back home, holing up in Roderica's room with Tupperware of leftovers by her side, falling asleep only to be awoken by her alarm for work hours later.

   Standing now, awaiting the elderly couple to decide on which dish wouldn't upset the husband's acid reflux, Roddrick held in her unusual agitation as she gripped her writing pad close to her body.

   "Would you like some more time to decide, ma'am?" She finally interrupted their heated debate.

    "I want the sirloin, Bridget."

    "Howard, you know how you get when you eat red meat! I am not staying up all night with you again."

    "I refuse to eat fish. I came out to have a steak and damn it that's what I'll have."

     "Well then you can go to someone else who can be your nurse when you get sick."

     Holding back a sigh, Roddrick turned around, feeling a prickly sensation rise on the back of her neck.

    Half of her hoped that she would see the dimpled face of Milo staring from across the room, waiting for her to notice him. When Roddrick caught sight of a familiar older woman, her heart came to a standstill. She watched as she was ushered along by a younger man towards a table, even pulling out a seat for her.

   Holding her breath, Roddrick watched with trepidation as the man finally took his own seat across from the woman. When his face lifted with a brilliant smile, Roddrick felt as if she would drop to her knees right there and crawl out of the restaurant.

    Of all of the places and times to be in the same vicinity as the man who had broken her heart, it had to be now.

   "Excuse me, were you not listening?" Looking back to her table with the dreadful feeling of panic, Roddrick nodded to the woman with glasses on the bridge of her nose. She sloppily jotted down the few words she heard, checking over her shoulder every few seconds to see if she had been spotted by Brian. She caught him in mid laugh, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he was in her place of work.

   Realizing that he and his mother were seated in her section, Roddrick cursed under her breath.

    " And make sure to specify that I do not want any salt on that, it does awful things to me, and I just couldn't imagine eating it..."

    "I'll be back with your order." Fumbling with the menus on the table, Roddrick sped towards another server, asking a question that she already knew the answer to.

    "Hey." She whispered, catching the other waiter before he disappeared." That's me over there?"

    Looking between her and the table she indicated with a jerk of the neck, he scoffed.

    "Well who else's would it be?" Pushing past the swinging doors into the kitchen, he left her ready to melt into a puddle of nothing.

    Dropping off her ticket, Roddrick began to count backwards from ten as she slowly began to approach Brian's table.

  9

   What the fuck.

8

    How in the fuck.

Her heart began to beat faster as the numbers dwindled down.

   3

   Roddrick found herself staring right into Brian's deep brown eyes. His nearly a mirror of what shock she had in her own.

   His mouth opened agape. Eyes bulged out of their sockets as he watched her come to a stop just inches away from their table. He leaned back into his seat, eyes darting everywhere but Roddrick's face. If she stared hard enough, she could see his pores opening and the barrage of sweat on its way.

    Roddrick's mind was blank as her lips struggled to form words.

    "Well, what a pleasant surprise." Blinking rapidly, Roddrick's eyes followed the sound of Carol Ross's voice to the pettily round face staring up at her in astonishment.

   "Good evening, Mrs. Ross. Can I get you a drink to start you off?" Roddrick felt her hand tremble as she tried her damndest to not acknowledge the elephant in the room.

   "My, do you not recognize me? It's been so long since I've seen you. You're still so beautiful."

    Before she knew it, Roddrick was captured between Carol's strong bubble like arms before she could protest. She jumped at the contact, knowing that she surprised them both as Carol pulled away, straightening her blouse as she smiled despite the awkward meeting.

   "Mom..." Brian's voice was soft and broken as he called to his mother.

    "Oh, I'm sorry."Taking her seat, Carol folded her hands on the table." It's just that...I am happy to see you. This is just such a wonderful surprise."

   "Likewise." Roddrick nodded curtly. Taking a chance, she cut her eyes at Brian watching his profile as his chin fell towards his chest. His index finger and thumb rubbed at the bridge of his nose as he took a deep breath that rattled his chest.

    Carol watched as the two squirmed in the tension filled moment. "Brian?" She called his name low enough to where Roddrick had to strain to hear it. When her son finally looked back up, a grimace could be seen hiding within his features as his eyes bypassed his mother's and went straight to Roddrick's.

   "Hey, Rodd. I-I didn't know you still worked here." His voice was raspy as he attempted to strike up friendly conversation. As if the last time they had spoken Roddrick hadn't been threatening to cut off his dick whilst dragging one of the many women he had slept with down the front steps of their apartment naked.

   "What would you like to drink?" Each word came out sharp, the inside of her cheek caught in between her teeth as she resisted the temptation of anger. In her head, she began counting down again. The look of shame in Brian's eyes made it difficult to justify shoving her pen in his face. After all of this time, she had imagined that her first encounter with Brian post-breakup would involve his cocky grin and presumptuous thinking that he could somehow charm her right back to where they had started.

    Now, she could see that she had been way off the mark. He looked at her with guilt, and even a silent plead. Before, that same look was able to coerce Roddrick into believing none of the rumors that had always floated around their relationship. That same look had left her a gullible fool before, and she refused to let it wreak the same havoc now.

    Hardening her stance, Roddrick drained any emotion from her face, not wanting him to know that he was knocking at the barriers she had built to keep any part of him out.

   "Should I leave you to decide then?"

     Carol had been fidgeting in her seat as if she were going to explode if she didn't speak. Nearly bursting at the seams, she grabbed for Roddrick's elbow.

   "I know this isn't the time or place, but Roddrick...sweetie...."

   "Water. For both of us, please." Brian's voice rose as he cut off his mother from spilling whatever nonsense she had in mind. Both women turned to him, his face caved in with a stern stare as his eyes remained on Carol.

    It was as if the roles had been reversed; Carol seemed like the child who had spoken out of turn as she shrank away from the table as if she was receiving a scolding. Roddrick's natural curiosity behind their actions had to be slapped back down before she got too invested in whatever drama they had brought with them.

       Without a word, Roddrick nodded as she backed away from the table. Once she was a good distance away, she was able to finally let out the breath she had been holding; dizziness hitting her as oxygen flowed throughout her head once again.

oOo

     She had done her best to avoid them all night.

     Purposely coming back as few times as possible, not even mindful of the horrible service she was giving them. At that point, she could care less about a tip if it meant getting them out of the restaurant faster.

    Looking at her watch, Roddrick figured she should go in for one last time before they left. Throughout her shift, she had tried avoiding eye contact with the table to avail as it seemed wherever she look, her gaze always met Brian or Carol's. She had watched Carol speak in hushed and hurried tones to an uptight Brian.

    "Is there anything else I can get for you all tonight?" Standing with her hands clasped before her, Roddrick gave her best smile as she waited for a response.

   "I don't suppose you would want any desert?" Carol asked, looking towards her son. With a nod, he declined. "Come on sweetheart, not even on your birthday?" Carol wasn't sly in her attempt to get some kind of remorse from Roddrick as she slipped in the reasoning behind their outing that night.

    Going through her mental calendar, Roddrick raised an eyebrow. It in fact was his birthday. Twenty-seventh to be exact. Shaking her head, Roddrick told herself not to care about what day it was and what it meant for Brian.

    That wasn't of any of her concern any more.

    "We're done here. Could you bring us the check?" Brian's fingers tapped lightly on the table, Roddrick's eyes drifting down to them grunting in agreement as she pursed her lips. Reaching across, she picked up the dishes, clearing the table completely.

   Bringing back the black checkbook, she disappeared around the corner, able to see them just barely as they placed bills inside of the cover. Timing her return, she  quickly moved, giving them their receipt without a word of goodbye as she ignored Carol's goodbye.

   Looking at the clock, she knew it was time for her to go as well.

   She was grateful for her shift being over as she headed into the back, clocking out and grabbing her belongings. Roddrick nearly ran out, barely saying anything to the employees that were left as she headed towards her bike.

   Throwing her leg over the seat, she had barely pushed off from the side of the building before she came to a halt, avoiding a collision with Carol as she stood in front of her.

    "Mrs. Ross ..."

   Roddrick sat wearily as the older woman seemed at a loss for words.

    "Is it okay if I speak to you?" Carol grasped her hands together, giving Roddrick no way to decline as she came closer, already speaking again." Brian, he hasn't always made the best decisions, I know that. He's my son and I've seen the foolish mistakes he has made."

   "I'm sorry, Mrs.Ross, I don't understand what you're trying to say right now." Shaking her head, Roddrick's brows drew together.

     "He's been going through it lately, Roddrick. You two, you were such good friends for so many years. You loved each other-"

   "Mrs. Ross-"

   " I just think it would be a good idea for you to reconnect. Tell me that all of those years aren't lost and forgotten. Roddrick, I think it would do you both some good."

    "Anything that once existed between Brian and I is where we left it. None of that is a part of my life now."

   "You can't just erase things like that." Carol stepped forward, a hand clasped around Roddrick's forearm before she jerked it away.

    "Not to be rude, Mrs. Ross. I respect you, and always have. But I don't appreciate you stirring up the mess your son left behind." Her voice was stern as she stared Carol down, hoping that she got the point.

  " I think it's best that we leave this conversation at that."

  "Roddrick-"

    "Good night and good bye Mrs. Ross." Cutting her off, Roddrick began to ride past her. The sound of her kitten heels following her down the sidewalk drew a sigh of irritation from Roddrick as she came to a stop against her better judgment.

   "Mrs. Ross. Please!"

    "He's been through a lot since you two were together. It's really gotten to him, and I've never seen my boy this way before. You were always the one to get through to him."

   Roddrick's hands gripped her handlebars tight as the sincerity in Carol's voice pulled at her.

   "You were his friend. A true friend." Carol spoke softer," He could really use that right now."

   Sitting in silence for what felt like ages, Roddrick sucked at her teeth. She wondered what that low-life Brian was putting his mother up to by coming to talk to her.

  Be his friend?

   Help him out in a time of need?

  She had to have been out of her mind.

   "That is not of any of my concern." She replied finally as headlights approached from the parking lot towards her.

   "Not my problem. Anymore."

   With a grunt of disbelief, Roddrick rode away, but not before eyeing Brian in the passenger seat as she passed him by.

   New car, clean clothes, nice haircut. It seemed that Brian was doing well, and not one sign of this troubled man his mother was trying to paint him as.

   She didn't have the time or the mental capacity to worry about them right now.

 

   No time at all to let her past meet her present and affect her future.

Chapter 6 by EveryBit12
Author's Notes:

Hello again

Giving credit where it's due to Citizen Cope: Holding on

love love love that song and man....

    Milo walked through the dark hallway, tugging at the collar of his shirt as he stepped in time with the bass of the house music playing inside the club. Passing by a few familiar faces, he gave an honest nod in acknowledgement, and thanked those who gave him praise. He walked past a few rooms whose doors were left open.

    He saw powder being lined up on a table in one, a group of women laughing with drinks in their hands. He went by unnoticed as the all too familiar sound of a long drawn out sniff filled the hall along with laughter.

   Shaking his head, his pace hastened towards the backdoor where his car was parked incognito.

   Milo realized he didn't relax until the moment he put his keys in the ignition. It was then that he finally was able to smile and celebrate yet another night of his performances gone right. Laying his head back against the seat, he ran his hands down his face in exasperation.

   Looking back towards the dimly lit building, he celebrated once again, this time for a different reason.

   He was able to walk through and refuse every drink and drug offered to him that night. He didn't even drink from the same water bottle whenever he got thirsty from nerves, knowing that most of those who frequented the club thought that sharing was caring applied to slipping the unknown into random drinks.

   From the crowd, he was able to spot listeners who were at least rolling off of a buzz from possibly a joint or few beers. Then of course there were those who seemed to be enjoying themselves in a whole other worldly dimension as he played.

   Whatever.

   They still gave him a standing ovation.

   Milo was okay with starting out from the bottom of the barrel. Eventually, he would move up in the ranks of venues. The right people would spot him, hear him perform, and see his potential.

   It was going to happen. It just had to.

    A faint buzz against his thigh had him digging around in his pockets for the touch screen phone demanding his attention.

   "Yes, mother."

   "Oh, good. I've been trying to get in touch with you all night." Victoria's raspy voice told him that she had stayed up until 2 in the morning worrying herself for no reason.

   "Mom, we've been over this."

    "I know, honey. I just want to make sure you are okay."

   "You can't keep tabs on me every minute." Though she managed to somehow. Milo had been keeping to himself lately; brief conversations that always avoided the nosy questions Victoria threw his way. Slowly, but surely he had begun to live his life like any adult male should be able to. Going out without answering her every text or call, and coming in when he wanted to.

    The distance he placed between them was obviously frustrating the hell out of his mother, but it allowed him enough room to finally maneuver and carry out his own private agenda.

   Milo was moving out.

   He had gotten hooked up with a friend of Blake's who had offered him a good sized apartment at a cost that fit his lifestyle. He had been working and saving up money from the gigs and photo shoots he had done for Blake. Other clothing brands had caught wind of Milo, and had offered him spots as well, bringing in even more money. He could even say that he was becoming somewhat of a semiprofessional model even though he still had no idea about what the hell he was doing.

   Shit, whatever it was it was working.

    Pulling from his thoughts, Victoria began speaking again. She had a slight laugh in her voice, wanting to ease the hostility and appear as least pervasive as possible.

    "Well, now I know that you're safe and in one piece." Milo could only imagine her clutching the phone close." Are you on your way home?"

    Rubbing his beard with a sigh, Milo looked to his backseat at the random bags and boxes he had managed to move unseen. He had planned on stopping by the apartment and dropping them off. They were nearly the last of his things that still remained in his mother's house.

   The place was sparse and nearly empty.

   But it had working electricity, water, and heat. Everything essential was there waiting for him,

   Though he would have to be an asshole and borrow a mattress from one of his mother's many guest rooms. He was sure it wouldn't be missed, but he figured he'd pay her back or at least explain why it was missing should a question ever come up about it.

   "I should be there in no more than an hour, mom. Don't stay up waiting for me, okay? I promise you'll wake up and find me there in the morning."

   "An hour isn't all that bad, I think I can wait it out a little while longer."

   "Mom! Go to bed." He hadn't meant to raise his voice, but he didn't know how to tell Victoria to back off without sending her on some downward spiral into depression. He had caused her enough sadness, and couldn't help but to bear through her overprotectiveness now.

    "Honestly Emilio, yelling at your mother like that. I just want to make sure you're okay." Victoria's bristling tone let him know that he had hurt her feelings.

   "I know-I'm sorry mom. Look, I love you. I'll be there before you know it. Just...just go to bed, please."

   There was a silence that arced between the two ends.

    "I'll see you when you get here."

    "Sleep, mom. Alright?" With his final words, Milo quickly hung up and began to pull out of the parking lot, headed in the direction of the new home he would soon be able to officially call his own.

oOo

    Stepping into the entryway, Milo took in the smell of an old and unused apartment as he turned on his lights, illuminating the subpar place.

   Maybe a little bit of cleaning could make it a bit more welcoming. And some decorating.

   Both things he wasn't very fond of.

   Closing the door with his foot, he looked around with a self-satisfied grin at the dingy place which belonged to him. Dropping the things he carried, he went and sat down on the lawn chair he had found out on the balcony, propping his feet up on the makeshift cardboard table before him.

    It was in him to pass out right there. Screw going back to his mother's when he would just be leaving in a few hours anyway.

    But to ease her mind...he would.

   After a few moments of silence, he began roaming around the one bedroom apartment until he ended up in his bedroom. There, scattered on the floor were papers filled with his handwriting and slashes, showing his creative process as he worked out the melodies in his head. Picking up on of the wrinkled pieces, he unfolded it, smiling at its contents immediately.

   It was yet another failed song about her.

   It had been three months since the last time he heard from her, and yet she was still his muse.

  "Fucking creep." He laughed to himself, tossing the paper back down.

   It was safe to say that Roddrick still took up space in his mind in places where he should have flushed her out by now. The hookups he had with Alex and other random women didn't work as a remedy against her. He would think he satisfied himself until an irritating feeling would wash over him.

   He figured the only way to work this all out was to meet her again.

   That same thought had been around all of this time, and it apparently wasn't going to magically poof her up out of the blue.

    A slight knocking on the wall opposite him began to increase with speed, as well as the moans of a woman beyond...

   Yeah.

    Milo was definitely doing well for himself.

oOo

      Glancing over the glass of water she held in her hands, Victoria flipped through the pages of the novel she had busied herself with all morning. When Milo had come in, he had said but three words to her. And the silence seemed to have lasted through the majority of the day. She wasn't as conspicuous as she thought with her chair strategically placed just inside the doorframe of the den, watching the blur that was her son as he went up and down the stairs periodically.

   It was grating her curiosity as to why he moved so quickly, and had so many things with him.

   The thump of a large object hitting the wooden stairs caught her attention, finally putting down the book she had barely even read. The glasses on the end of her nose were pushed up as she got a better look as Milo back pedaled his way down the stairs with a mattress in tow.

    "Milo? What in the world are you doing?"

   Concentrating on not falling backwards, Milo slowly made his way to the bottom step, wiping his brow of the light perspiration that had gathered there.

    "This? Didn't I tell you?" He pointed at the mattress with a look of confusion." I'm moving out."

    He should have known better than to shock his mother like that. Her theatrics went into full force as she clutched the fabric by her stomach, stumbling back as her mouth fell open in surprise.

    "Since when was this decided? You've told me nothing about moving out."

   "This is kinda the reason why. What good would it have done me only to just have you rant and rave about it?"

   "I'm your mother! You can tell me anything." Victoria shook her head vigorously as she clutched the mattress from his grip.

   "No I can't, mom." Pulling it back towards him, Milo sighed as his mother's eyes filled with tears.

   "You are not leaving, Milo. I need you here. I need to-"

    "Control my every damn move." Proceeding through the front room, Milo watched as his mother walked after him.

   "What do you expect from me? I almost lost you once Milo. You need to be where I can take care of you."

   "I am not the same person now as I was then." This time the mattress went crashing into a side table as Milo halted his movements. "I am fully capable of living on my own now. "

   "Next time you're passed out from drugging yourself up, who will be there to save you? You'll end up killing yourself, Milo! You want me to sit idle and watch it happen this time?" The moment she screamed, she instantly regretted it. Milo's back straightened, hands curled tightly at his sides.  

   "Milo...I didn't mean to say that." Victoria waited in silence as her son went into the impenetrable place that had taken years for her to break through.

      "Yes. Yes you did. I don't know what you want me to do for you, but I sure as hell know what I want to do for me now, mom. Shouldn't that be my first concern? Not if I've checked in with my fucking parole officer every damn hour."

     "I'm trying to help you adjust back to life..."

    "What kind of life do you think you're preparing me for? If you consider this to be help, then that's a pretty sorry excuse. It took me almost dying for you to start acting like a mother that cared about anyone other than herself."

    His face did not hide the disgust behind his words, digging into the childhood that remained sparse in his mind. All of the familial bonding he never felt, the lack of love or interest for one another that ran rampant in their family.

   "Honestly, I can deal without that mother."

   With no struggle, Milo finally made it out to his car, strapping the mattress on the roof as Victoria watched with lead in the pit of her stomach weighing her down in place as she followed his car as it backed out of the drive way, and rode off down the street.

     Leaving this way hadn't been a part of his plan. All he wanted was to slip away with as few questions as possible from his mother, but knew that would be nearly impossible the moment she set up station in front of the door.

    Knowing that she would wallow around in guilt and gloom until he spoke to her again, Milo made a mental note to make sure to at least give her a call later that night, letting her know that he was safe and sound to ease her mind.

   Always putting her worries before himself-he had become used to that. He knew how this game would go. She'd cry and sob about the good intentions she had, he would coddle and tell her that he understood and she would take that as permission to continue on trying to raise him with both hands wound tightly around his neck.

     If he didn't get them off now, he didn't see any kind of positive outcome for himself anytime soon.

oOo

     Roddrick climbed down the stairs of the city bus, lifting her bike from the convenient front rack; quickly moving out of the way as the brakes could be heard being released. She had gone on a usual run for her mother's medicine, biking to the local pharmacy. Halfway back, she had found that putting in effort on the bike left her breathless and ready to sit in the middle of the street calling it quits.

    Even now she walked beside the bike, cursing her suddenly low stamina as she lugged it down the sidewalk. The sun shone down on the town, with a light breeze ruffling her hair about. Through her whipping strands, she caught sight of a man pulled over, pushing a sliding mattress onto the roof of his car.

   Her eyes followed the movement of his back as he jimmy rigged the tie down straps across it. Just as he patted his creation, his eyes met with hers.

     Roddrick's heart began to thump strongly against her chest, feeling it in her throat as she recognized Milo's face. She hadn't even realized her face was stretched into a smile until she noticed the bleak look lining his features.

   Instinctually, she began to walk towards him.

    Milo froze in his spot, wondering if seeing Roddrick walking towards him was a part of some fantasy now blurring the lines of reality. Shoving his hands in his pockets, his eyebrows drew together even more as if it was possible, staring her down until the moment she came to a stop right before him.

    Roddrick's mouth became dry as she stood toe to toe with Milo.

    Was she going to speak first? She had initiated this meeting. She was the one to come to him. Not the other way around. She had every opportunity to walk away as if she had not seen him at all.

   But she didn't.

    "They've got moving trucks for things like this." Peering into the back windshield, Roddrick went with the first thought that came to mind as she saw the boxes stacked beyond capacity in the small car.

    She tucked her hair behind her ear, twirling the ends of it like she was 16.

    Milo smiled.

    "Why waste money when I can do it for free?" Crossing his arms in front of him, Milo took a step closer to Roddrick." I'm sorry but, it's been awhile, so could you remind me of your name?"

   The eagerness she had been feeling to finally see him again vanished as she snarled.

     "Hey, hey. I'm joking. It's a joke. Roddrick...." She found his hand wrapped gently around her bar handle, right over her own hand. It was enough for her to stop.

    "That's not how I planned this."  Running a hand through his hair, Milo stood awkwardly as Roddrick simply stared at him.

    "What had you expected?" The curiosity in her voice was quiet as she side eyed him.

   "Expected? I didn't have any expectations. Like? No...nothing like that." His hands went up to his chest in an innocent gesture.

   "You can calm down now, "It was her turn to smile," I wasn't insinuating that."

    "I just didn't want you to think---"

    "Yeah, it's okay."

     "I mean because the first time we met it had been-"

    "Yeah, I remember." Holding up her hand, she stopped him from blubbering any farther. "No need to refresh my memory."

    It did that every other hour on its own anyways...

    The flushed red look on his face slowly began to fade away as he let out a breath of relief.

    "You know, I don't think this is going to hold." Nodding to the mattress. Pulling at a cord, she gasped as it snapped off, nearly slapping her as she jumped backwards into her bike.

   Standing with his mouth slightly open, Milo went to grab her hand and help Roddrick out of the tangled mess she had fallen in. A car beeped nearby as it dodged the fallen mattress that now blocked half of a lane.

     "Get that piece of shit out of the road."

     "Are you okay?" He ignored the yelling driver as they continued beeping their horn.

      "Yeah, I'm fine." Roddrick stood so fast that she hadn't had time for the pain in her hip and hands to register until she began to cringe. Trying her best not to let it show on her face, she pointed to the obstruction she had caused and the line of angry cars.

    Running past a still concerned Milo, Roddrick began to pull the mattress across the street.  Not wanting to rip it on the pavement, she tried her best to pick it up before Milo easily took it out of her hands, leaning it back against the side of his car. He waved at those who still rode past with obscenities rolling off of their tongues.

    "Shit, there's a hole in it now. I'm so sorry Milo, I don't know how the hell that even happened." As Roddrick reached for the mattress, Milo caught her hand in passing, turning it over to inspect the bloodied palm that was decorated with debris from the ground.

   Roddrick pulled back her hand to rub it on her jeans before Milo let out a sound, like a parent would to a child, to stop her from doing so. She watched as he opened his trunk, digging around in old gym bags sniffing the shirts to find a semi clean one.

   When one met his approval, he turned back to Roddrick who still held her hand in midair as if it was still off limits to move. Slowly, Milo pulled it close to his face, dusting off the rocks and dirt not plastered in blood.

   "No, no, no. You shouldn't touch it." Roddrick's head bent in, coming close enough to feel his breath against her face.

  "Relax."  Sizing up the shirt in his hand, Milo tore along the seam without a second thought as he began to wrap it around her hand.

   "Was that necessary?" Roddrick asked in shock.

    "You have to hold those bars to ride, right?" His brow quirked as if she was the one seeming insane.

     "I could have managed." When he finished, Roddrick brought her hand to her body again, holding it before her stomach with the other.

   "Well, now you don't have to.Let me check the other one." Milo insisted.

    "It is perfectly fine." She stopped him. Shrugging, he turned to dig around in his trunk as Roddrick flexed her injured hand. She could clearly hear him whispering about her being messy.

    As she began to make suggestions on how she would make up for the ruined mattress, Milo casually picked up her bike, situating it with the extra ties he managed to find.

  "Wait, what do you think you're doing?"

   "I'm going to give you a ride." Grabbing the purse that had fallen at her feet long ago, Milo handed it to her as he began leading her to the passenger side. Opening the door, he waited for her to get in. Her protests had since stopped, and Roddrick found herself sitting in without a second thought.

oOo

     Roddrick looked at her hands as she played with the bracelet around her wrist.

     "I guess I kind of added to an already stressful moving day." She recalled the first distraught look she had seen on his face when she spotted him in the street.

   "Yeah, you know it doesn't help when a strange woman from off the streets comes and trashes your shit..." He said sarcastically.

   "I made an offer..." She  gently grinned as she shook her head at him. The entire ride to her mother's was quiet, a few stolen glances here and there was the extent of their communication.

    "Do you mind if I make you one?" Leaning against his window, Milo looked down at her through his lashes, the dimple in his cheek once again blurring her judgment as she shook her head yes.

   "Come see me play tonight."

   "Play what?"

    "You'll find out once you're there. It's not too far from here."

   "How am I supposed to agree to going somewhere if you won't tell me why?" Her Louisiana drawl strongly made its debut as she rolled her neck playfully.

    "I mean it's the least you could do for destroying my would be bed. I'll be sleeping on a holey mattress now." Lightly slapping her shoulder, Milo waited as she contemplated her next reply.

   "What if I said I'm busy later on?" With her tongue in her cheek, Roddrick found herself venturing out on a limb. All of the scenarios she had imagined with Milo played at the forefront of her mind.

   Would it be considered sleazy if she had one goal in mind?

   "Then I'm sure that would mean you will be busy with me." Either Milo had meant it, or Roddrick had imagined the emphasis on the last word.

   "With you, huh?"

   "I promise you won't be disappointed. You might even enjoy yourself."

   Her mind took every word he said-words that were probably innocent in nature-and flipped them.

   "Hmm." She tapped her fingers on her knee as she climbed out of the car. Milo watched her through the rear view mirror as he called out to her in a muffled sound.

    "Can I take that as conformation?" He smiled as she lifted her eyes to his between the small space that wasn't blocked by boxes. Closing the trunk, she wheeled over to the side of the car. Leaning over she tapped on the window as he rolled it down.

    "Where did you say you'll be playing again?" Roddrick nodded thoughtfully as he told her the time she should show and name of the small bar she had gone to before.

   "I'll make sure that there's a front row seat for you."

    "I'll think about it." Smirking, Roddrick wasn't going to let him loophole her into going.

    "Well, how will I know when you've thought about it?"

    "I don't know." Standing to her full height she tilted her head." Maybe you'll find out once you're there."

   When Milo caught the joke, he began to chuckle, shifting gears as Roddrick began to walk away. Beeping the horn, She looked over her shoulder to find him nearly leaning out the opposite window.

    "Get a real ride. My guest of honor can't roll up on that piece of shit." He yelled before driving away.

    "Smartass." Roddrick scoffed as she made her way to the house.

    When she entered, she found Roderica quickly moving away from the front window.

     "Nosy ass." She murmured.

    "Who was he?" Her little sister popped off of the couch, following Roddrick through the house as she dropped off the bag of medicine for her mother, which was the only reason she had ventured outside that day.

    "Nonya damn business."

    "Tell me! You rolling up with a white boy and stuff... I wanna know!"

    "Rodey, really?" She said exasperated, whirling around with her hand on her hip.

    "What! I didn't know it was like that." Roderica slurred her words together with an exaggerated expression before receiving a slap to the stomach. "Hey!"

      "Where did you get all of this mouth from?" Roddrick asked. Roderica returned the slap back, pinching the extra weight at Roddrick's side.

    "The same place you got this." Dodging Roddrick's flailing arms, Roderica ran through the house laughing just as Rockelle emerged from her room.

    Roddrick froze in the tight headlock she held Roderica as their mother approached. Pushing her sister away, Roddrick breathed heavily as she greeted her.

   "Hey, mama. I got your stuff in there on the table."

    "Thank you for that, baby. What are you two in here doing?"  Their tones were light and conversational, just like people who were trying to keep the peace amongst themselves.

    "Roddrick's taking rides from strange men now mama. Obviously the bike isn't working out for her.She's riding other things now." Dramatically rolling her eyes, Roderica smiled until the back of Roddrick's hand met her shoulder. Ready to deliver the blow back, she was stopped by the warning in Roddrick's eyes.

    "I know you better watch your mouth and mind your business." Rockelle's face said that all joking was to come to an end as Roderica scurried out of the way, hiding behind Roddrick who shrugged her off.

   "Sorry." She squeaked.

   Not wanting to be the buffer between the two, Roddrick walked into the kitchen, searching the cabinets and refrigerator for food.

    She had been craving salty things lately, the bag of chips in her hands as proof.

   Standing against the counter, she began munching on them as her mother took notice of the state of her hand.

    "Fell off that bike?" She asked pointedly.

     "Fell off of it...into it...something like that." She dismissed the questioning. "Nothing major."

      Taking the snack she had to the living room, Roddrick sat as she listened to her mother continue on.

    "I told you I would help you get a little car to get around in. You don't need to be on that thing all of the time."

   "Hey, if she won't take the offer I will." She could hear Roderica interjecting.

     Stepping out of the kitchen, Rockelle ignored the youngest as she spoke to Roddrick.

   "Seriously, Roddrick. "

   Not feeling up to making things complicated, Roddrick heard the genuineness behind her mother's words.

    "Thanks, mama. Maybe if I find something, I'll let you know." With a smile, Rockelle left again, preparing to cook an early dinner.

  As time passed, Roddrick realized that she had gotten through more than half of the bag of chips in her lap before she could stop herself. The smells wafting from the kitchen didn't help any as she thought of the tastes mingling on her tongue later.

   Mentally rummaging through her wardrobe, she wondered what would accommodate her growing body and still have some remnants of looking even halfway attractive later on when she went to see Milo.

    I guess I've made up my mind.

   "The food will be done in a few y'all." Her mother called through the house.

    "Damn." She knew she wouldn't be able to pass up the food tonight.

   Maybe it wouldn't be as bad if she had just a few bites...

oOo

   Two plates and a lot of squeezing and sucking later Roddrick arrived at the bar. She had her hands in her coat pocket as she looked around the dimly lit place. She had managed to find a decent dress that didn't seem to cling to her rapidly increasing curves like the others. What did show was hidden by the handy jacket she managed to through on. It was probably cool enough to where she didn't need it, but it provided her with a comfort zone and didn't shoot down her confidence which would have made her back out of this whole thing.

   Her once wild and abundant hair was now pulled back gently into a side ponytail, linger over on shoulder.

   Gazing around the room, she looked for a familiar face that wasn't too far away. When she had seen Milo talking to a small group of people, she admired the crinkles by his eyes as he laughed, the way his face seemed to warm up as he spoke passionately to the strangers.  She also saw the way his arm had drifted over the shoulders of a dark haired woman just as she encircled his waist.

       As the petite hand rubbed lines up and down his back while the conversation went on, Roddrick could see that it was a very familiar touch.

    She should have known better.

    "Roddrick!" A man called towards her, not able to get through the haze she was entering as she pulled out her phone, ready to call back the cab driver early.

    Instantly, Milo's arms dropped from the other woman as he searched the room wide-eyed. When they locked on hers, she hoped that she could muster up enough strength to walk away as quickly as possible.

    Milo was confused as she began to retreat to the exit.

    "That was her, right?" Blake asked, now not sure if he had been correct in seeing her.

    Removing himself from Alex's hold, he went after Roddrick.

    When he found her through the others entering the bar, she had her phone up to her ear, impatiently tapping her foot against the concrete. Waving his hand near her, he silently asked for her attention before she narrowed her eyes and turned away.

     Moving to her other side, he simply took hold of the phone, lifting it from her grasp as he pressed the end button.

    "I see you showed up."

     "Well, now you see me leaving. Give me that." Holding out her hand, Roddrick waited for him to place her phone in it. When he did, he was able to stop her before she called whoever was on the other line back.

    He studied her irritated demeanor as she stared at him as if she was ready to be out of his presence.

   "You only just got here, Roddrick. I think you're supposed to stay until the night is actually over." He tried to incorporate some lightheartedness into the situation, but she seemed unmoved.

   "You know, I decided -"Stopping, she realized that she was ready to lash out in jealousy before reeling it in. "I was just coming out for some air. Too much smoke in there."

   Milo picked up on her lie, as the bar was one of few in a smoke free zone.

   "Well, I think coming out here wasn't the best bet." He indicated the small groups of smokers lining the walls as they took a break in the only designated areas.

     Turning red in the face, Roddrick closed her eyes with a harsh sigh.

     "I don't think me coming here was such a good idea." She admitted. She had come in on false pretenses of her own, thinking that there was something special behind his personal invitation.

    It obviously wasn't the kind of personal she had been hoping for.

    "Coming was a great idea." He answered.

     "I don't think you understand what I mean..."

     "Then what do you mean?"

      Roddrick paused, unable to place her thoughts into coherent words. As she stood there silently, she felt Milo clasp his hand over hers.

    "Can I promise you that there's something worth staying for?" Pulling her closer to his side, he spoke softly. "C'mon."

oOo

     As Roddrick sat clapping for the latest act, she was glad that Milo had been there to stop her from leaving. She had been seated at a table of some of Milo's friends, Blake and a few others that she could barely remember the names of.

   Except for Alex.

     She remembered her name.

    When Milo had walked her to the group she had previously seen him with, he introduced her to them happily. She hadn't really cared about the others as he told her Alex's name. The woman had stunning blue eyes that dominated and brought allure to her face. They were clear, and left nothing to imagine about her relationship with Milo as she continuously grabbed or touched him.

    He seemed to pay it no mind, as if it was a normal occurrence.

    It had moved Roddrick to ask, "Alex, your girlfriend?" as she shook hands with her. Without hesitation, Milo told her that she was just a friend, a flicker of emotion passed through Alex's eyes barely unnoticed.

   Now as she sat opposite of the woman, she was glad to know that the warm smile on her lips as Milo walked onto the stage wasn't shared mutually as he made direct eye contact with Roddrick during his introduction.

    "This week, I've come to play an original song for you guys. It's pretty dear to me; I've been waiting for it all to come to me at the right time...in the right way. Today, it finally did."

    The tables quieted down as they waited for Milo to get adjusted with his guitar before him.

I have been wanting you

For so long.

...

I been down

I been down a different road.

I been out

I have been out of control

    Roddrick was paralyzed as she sat, lulled by his soft melody. His voice had a gruffness to it that made the words more endearing as he sang.

So now I'm feeling alright

‘Cause nothing feels like

When you're holdin' on

    Every nerve ending on her body was engaged in the performance. She could feel an intense tingling sensation washing over her skin: from her arms, to her face, to the small of her back making her slump in the seat. His eyes shimmered in the distance, enticing her as he made them the only ones who existed in the room.

   She was being soothed by his every word, and couldn't find the strength to gather herself.

I wanna treat you

Like you wanna be treated, yeah

I wanna see you

As you wanna be seen, yeah

...

Said I feel alright

‘Cause nothing feels right

When you're holding on


          When his song came to an end, Roddrick failed to clap in time with the others as they whistled and talked enthusiastically. Blinking to wet her dried eyes, she watched him show gratitude before looking at her with the same meaningful gaze.

     Milo made a beeline straight for Roddrick, even though others vied for his attention. Pulling up a chair within knee distance from her, he smiled mischievously.


   "So, was I right, or was I wrong about this being worth your while?" 

End Notes:

more to come =)

Chapter 7 by EveryBit12
Author's Notes:

It's that time of the week again where I'm over here manufacturing you guys some updates...

 

here's the little bit that I couldn't wait to put up

    Roddrick's mind buzzed as she stared at Milo's face, in the far distance she barely registered the feel of his fingertips brushing against her knee. Her eyes skated down to them, watching one draw a line down crease just above her calf. She began to wonder if he was even aware of the light contact because she couldn't force herself to answer in time before his attention was stolen away from her. A smile rose slightly as she began to open her mouth to speak.

    "I can't believe you've been holding out with that song, baby." Alex stood from her seat, her petite figure draping over Milo's as her arms encircled around his neck. Clenching her hands to the skirt of her dress, Roddrick watched on with a pursed look.

    "It was amazing. I don't even understand how something like that could come out of an idiot can like you." Alex joked as she lightly kissed him just below his jaw. Her eyes had floated up to Roddrick's, and it was there that she realized Alex had intended on her being a witness to the outpour of love she had for Milo all night.

   "Wow, I knew having you here would be great for support." Milo grabbed her arms from around him, smiling up at her sarcastically.

   "Of course I would be here to support you...especially if I inspired you." Her last words were meant to be heard by only him, but Roddrick was able to catch every bit of it. She didn't know that Blake watched from across the table as her face failed to hide the obvious range of emotions she was feeling.

     "Wow," Roddrick interrupted clearing her throat," you're one lucky woman then because that was a beautiful song. And to think you two aren't together."  The last word dripped in contempt as Roddrick forced herself not to roll her eyes.

      She had begun to become uncomfortable with the PDA that seemed to happen constantly when Alex was near Milo. She had only known the woman for less than an hour, but she was already able to knick away at the small amount of confidence Roddrick had come there with. Down casting her eyes at her nails, she tried not to become the bitter one at the table and begin worrying about something that she had only imagined.

   "You think I should give him a shot? I like it when he's pining after me..." Alex laughed, knocking shoulders with him. Twisting her mouth, Roddrick looked to him, curious as to how he would respond. She knew that if he did what she half expected, then she would get rid of any hopes and thoughts she previously held.

   Sighing deeply he slouched back in his seat and crossed one leg over his knee.

   Roddrick started to fumble with her jacket, ready to make an excuse as to why she would have to leave so early when she heard Milo chuckle," Hate to break it to you Alex, you weren't exactly the target I had in mind."

   He spoke with a straight expression as his eyes commanded Roddrick's to look at him. She froze in her movements as the others turned in unison towards her.

    "Surprise." He said with a boyish grin and half raised arms.

    She fidgeted under their gazes as one looked on in amusement and the other in honest confusion.

    "You still haven't told me what you thought about the song." Milo broke the silence as he put the spotlight on her again.

   "I mean. It was a really nice song. Not nice-not that that's bad but-I thought it sounded great."

    "Just great?" He taunted.

   Blinking, she felt her hand rise to snag at the loose ends of her ponytail as she calmed herself down.

    Milo reached out, pulling her hand free from her curls as his voice lowered to a serious tone.

    "I was really counting on you to like it."

    "I'm sure anyone would have liked it, Milo."

    "I didn't want just anyone to like it. Not just anyone drove me to write it." He said matter of fact.

    "Is there something I'm missing here?" Alex spoke up, tired of straining her neck to listen to the conversation.  When Milo had brought Roddrick to the group earlier that night, she hadn't thought anything of her. For one, she was black and for Milo to be with her would have to have been out of pure desperation or just before passing out from alcohol poisoning. Sure, she was cute, but that didn't mean much to Alex as her race had immediately casted Roddrick off as a non-factor. Had it been any other woman being invited to his show, she may have taken offense.

    Roddrick had just begun to understand the meaning behind what Milo was implying before she was torn away by Alex's voice.

     Her brow was furrowed now, showing eyebrows that had been hidden by the blunt bangs she wore.

    "Can you tell me what's going on here?" Her hand laid possessively on Milo's arm, eyes glued to the way his fingers still lingered upon Roddrick's. Her mouth was open just slightly, enough to allow a scoff of disbelief to escape.

   "Are you fucking her too? Have you been fucking her this entire time?" Alex's voice raised to an uncomfortable pitch, the cool and blasé attitude swallowed up by jealousy.

   "You need to chill out. Now." Milo turned with all seriousness painted across his face as he tried to quiet her down.

    "I am not going to fucking chill when you've got the bitch you've been fucking behind my back sitting across from me!" Blake's eyes widened as he quickly downed the rest of his beer, waving over the waitress for another as the background noises took a seat to the commotion at their table.

    Roddrick sat amused and unaffected by her sudden outburst. Earlier she had seemed so sure about herself, and now here she was falling apart at the seams all because she wasn't Milo's muse.  Having Alex acting in such a manner caused for Roddrick to respond in the complete opposite as anyone else would have. No use in getting herself worked up by what she was saying when Alex obviously had enough dramatics for 100 people.

    "I'm not so sure if fucking is the right tense to use here. That kind of insinuates that it has been an ongoing thing. We fucked, in the past tense. Once."  Tired of the other woman's antics, Roddrick had let out something she had only meant to think as Alex's face turned red.

    "You fucking bitch." Before Roddrick could laugh at the little pet name, she found herself covered in beer with no warning.

   She heard the scraping of chairs against the wooden floor as Milo stood instantly, grabbing the flailing arm heading Roddrick's way before dragging Alex away from the table.

    "You're out of your fucking mind." He grit out as he pulled her close.

     "How could you do this to me? Three months of us actually making something and you fuck it up."

     Milo began to scold himself now. He knew that he should have stopped the romps that happened all too often between them.

   The past few months, Alex had been a recurrent face in his everyday life. Without any word from Roddrick, he had found himself bored and without much to focus on but her.

    So he thought it would have been okay to pass the time.

     Sex between them hadn't been like when Milo had first returned from rehab. It didn't happen at random, and they never quite returned to things being normal afterwards. Now, he was reaping what he had sowed. Seeing how he may have gotten into something he hadn't wanted even if he didn't intend to.

    "We need to talk, but not here. This isn't the right place." He tried to speak calmly, not really changing the snarl on Alex's face.

    "You want to talk to me then do it now!"

    "This isn't a good place Alex." He tried to keep her tear stained face hidden from the curious faces of the bar as they stood near the entrance.

     "I can't believe you would do this to me. I was just pussy to you, wasn't I?" Now Alex had reached a stage of despair as she bit her cheek, body shaking before the sobs could escape.

    "No, you weren't. I swear you weren't Alex."

     "You tried to do me the way you did her. I'm not some slut, Milo. We don't just fuck." Alex's voice grew scratchy as she began to create a divide between her and Roddrick.

    "Alex, no one's saying anything like that. Look-I can explain better somewhere else."

     "Tell me. Who is she to you."

    "Alex..." Milo became exasperated." From behind, a still wet Roddrick began to approach the two, an attentive Blake by her side.

     "Tell me Milo," eyes capturing Roddrick's, Alex spoke with a leveled voice,"was she just a quick fuck, or not?"

    Still unaware of the presence of the two behind them, Milo quickly answered, hoping to resolve the issue if not for just a moment. Long enough to get Alex out of there so that he could check on Roddrick and make sure she was okay. He figured giving her an answer-any kind of answer-was better than having her rage any longer there in the bar.

   "Yes. It was a onetime thing." He said with a sigh.

     "Just sex?"

    "Just sex, Alex. Okay? "

    Dropping her head, Alex wiped her eyes of tears just as Roddrick's filled with ones of hurt and anger.

    "What you had with her isn't what you and me have, right?" She spoke softly as she leaned into his chest, arms wrapping around his waist.  Knowing that she would want an embrace in response, Milo gave it to her.

    "No. Nothing like us." He rubbed her shoulders  as it seemed like he avoided an even greater catastrophe, Alex quickly seeming to no longer be as irate has she had been just minutes before." Let's get you out of here. I'll call you a-"

    His sentence was never finished as a rough shove to his shoulder sent a stinging sensation throughout the muscle there.

     His stomach dropped at the blank look in Roddrick's eyes as she smiled humorlessly.

       "I guess this saves us another morning after, huh? Just sex? Are you sure?" Roddrick's arms appeared relaxed, folded across her stomach, but her fingers dug into the material and pinched at her flesh as she stood there.

   Maybe she didn't deserve to be upset about finding out what Milo had obviously seen her as.

    The song had to have been a ruse, one that would have worked perfectly on Roddrick because she was definitely ready to leap when he said to.

    "Roddrick, you don't understand." Milo's arms dropped from Alex as he started towards her, stopped by one raised palm.

    "Nah, I think I do. I mean, I should have known from the start, but somehow along the way I let my imagination get the best of me and thought for a second that-" She had already said enough. Roddrick knew this when a lump in her throat prevented her from speaking anymore.

   Rocking on her heels, she laughed softly to herself before looking at Milo briefly. Eyes travelled between the small group before her feet led her to the exit, alone.

    "I guess your plans for the night have changed?" Blake walked past Milo, giving him a knowing glance as he took away a protesting Alex, saying that there had been enough fun for the night as he made out to drive her home. Looking back at Milo, he watched as the other man's pale face downturned, standing alone in the corner of the dark bar.

oOo

    Roddrick slammed the front door as she clambered through the house, heading straight for the shower. She could smell nothing but the beer and shame she now felt for herself.

    "God, you must be old now, you're back early-Roddrick?" Ignoring Roderica as she came out of her room at the sound of the commotion, she paid her no mind as she stripped her jacket off right before the bathroom door. Kicking off her heels she began to unzip her dress, letting it fall as well before slamming the bathroom door shut.

     Roderica stood looking at the pile of clothes, noticing the stench of alcohol and how soiled they looked. Blinking, she began to wonder if anything bad had happened to her sister while she was out.

    "What happened? Why does your stuff reek?" She knocked quickly on the door, met by the sound of the shower running and not Roddrick's reply. Picking them up carefully, she inspected them for rips or tears, any sign of a struggle that Roddrick may have encountered.

    Puffing out her cheeks, she turned her back to the door, sliding her body down as she waited for her sister to reappear. Hugging her knees close, she tapped her toes against the carpet, silently praying that what she was imagining hadn't happened. Roderica felt like there was a huge gaping hole in the middle of her as she dreaded an answer.

    Gasping, Roddrick moved from under the spray of the water, as it washed out the suds in her hair. Her hands went to her eyes, rubbing at them roughly before they stilled.

   "What did you expect?" She asked herself.

     "You can't be mad about something like this. You wanted it anyway."

     "Roddrick?" The concerned sound of her little sister brought her out of her pity party as she turned to the voice beyond the door.

    "I'm okay Rodey." She called out, the first bit of relief she had given Roderica all night.

    "No you're not." She didn't even have to see Roderica to know that she had her body plastered against the door, speaking in the same voice apprehensive tone she had as a little girl.

   She moaned at the door like a puppy begging to be with its human as Roddrick finished her shower. She obviously wasn't going to get to sulk in peace as she had hoped.

    Walking out, wrapped in her towel, Roddrick had little time to react to Roderica as she clung to her side, stumbling along all the way to her room.

   "You're pulling down my towel."

    "Are you okay?"

     "Rodey, I'm getting you soaked."

     "Are you okay?" When they reached the room, Roddrick tried to twist out of her grasp, but it was tight enough to render her efforts useless.

    "You gonna stand here with me while I'm naked?"

    "Are. You. Okay?" Staring up with wide brown eyes, Roderica wasn't going to budge. She was stubborn like that, and luckily that trait was always a sure fire way to break down Roddrick's farce.

    "Yes. I'm okay."

    "Are you sure?" Roderica asked, holding tighter. A hand came to her forehead, pushing at the loose strands of her French braids as Roddrick showered kisses on her cheek.

   "I'm okay. Some stupid boy, did stupid boy things tonight, and I fell right in the trap." Finally letting go, Roddrick began to dress, slipping into a nightie that was a favorite of hers as Roderica stood close by.

    "What kind of stupid boy things? Like really dumb? Like...we should call the police dumb? Maybe you shouldn't have taken a shower. That's how they can run tests-"

   "Rodey? What are you thinking?" When she realized where her sister was headed to in her thoughts, she had to stop her.

    "I'm saying if that guy did something stupid, we should tell someone. I regret even saying you should have even gone out with him now. Asshole." Moving her wet hair behind her, Roddrick walked with open arms as she engulfed Roderica within them.

    "That's not what I mean. Nothing like that happened to me, baby. I just got played."

    "And that's all?"

     "That's all. I fell for the okie doke."

     "Okie dok-do you know what year it is? You need to refresh your vocab." Roderica laughed with a twisted face.

     "I need to refresh a whole bunch it seems." Roddrick agreed, walking to the bed." I'm sleeping here tonight. Deal with it." Roderica rushed by, flopping onto the bed before Roddrick could get a chance to climb in.

    "No, you're a horrible sleeper."

    "Quit playing, girl. My back hurts and I can't be sleeping out there on that couch." Jerking at the comforter, Roddrick entered a tug of war with her sister.

    "You gotta tell me what happened tonight if I let you sleep here." Roderica bargained.

   "Let me? You don't have to let me because I'm gonna."

    "Rules!" She shouted."These are my rules."

     "I'd rather not..."

    "It will make you feel better."

     "You just want to be nosy." Dropping the blanket and placing her hands on her hips, Roddrick stopped struggling as she stared down her sister.

    "Nosy? Hardly. I'm just a concerned sister who want to be someone you can come to with your problems and any issues. That's what sisters are for. We have a special duty to one another and-"

     "Okay! Okay, just stopping talking and I'll tell you." Finally giving in, Roddrick waited for Roderica to unwrap herself from the cocoon she had made.

    "You may now enter the chamber of secrets." Holding up the blanket, Roderica gave Roddrick enough space to climb under them, pulling a pillow under her head as she waited for Roddrick to start her story.

    "...And you can't repeat none of this, you hear?"  A stiff finger pointed in Roderica's nodding face and goofy smile.

 

    Making the motion of zipping her lips, she sat back, soaking in all of the information she could get about Roddrick and her mishap with Milo.

Chapter 8 by EveryBit12
Author's Notes:

AlexMiloRoddrick

        Milo's body felt heavy, as if he had been filled with cement as he lied there on his mattress. A thin sheet was thrown haphazardly across his naked form, pulled tight by the other body that laid close to him.

    Alex.

    She had come by after he had finally made his way home, beating himself up along the way, and now here he was lying next to her after a night of comforting sex like an idiot.

   It seemed he was good at digging himself deeper and deeper into shit.

   Carefully removing her hold, he rolled off of the mattress standing to his feet as an ache reached through his entire body.  He watched her stir slightly, and was glad to see she hadn't been awoken by his movements. Moving sluggishly, he relieved himself in the bathroom. He could smell Alex on his skin, and the thought of Roddrick instantly filled him with guilt, prompting Milo to turn on the shower to a temperature just shy of scolding.

    He braced his hands against the discolored tiles, hissing from the pleasant pain of the water.

    When he watched Roddrick walk out of the bar, he had been torn between racing back to her house, having memorized the route off of one go, and ordering as many drinks as his wallet would let him.

    He hadn't done either, opting to drag his sorry ass back to his new apartment, the first night losing its uniqueness as he struggled with the overwhelming feeling of loneliness.

   When Alex came by, it had been without warning but not too surprising. He had been puzzled at first as to who could be knocking at his door that  he knew, Blake being the only person he could think of. When he looked through the peephole and saw the man pressed against the doorjamb, rolling his eyes as Alex pounded on the door.

    "She insisted." Blake answered the questioning look in Milo's eyes, dumping Alex off on his doorstep.

     "Not my problem." He made it clear that he wasn't going to be responsible for whatever Milo may have gotten himself into with Alex. Holding up his hands, he walked away leaving a clinging Alex and glaring Milo behind.

     Her eyes still held the puffy red appearance as earlier, her kisses cut off his attempts to sit and have any kind of thoughtful talk. His resistance only drew more tears and accusations that sent Alex into a blubbering mess.

    Feeling at fault for how both women felt, he gave into Alex.

    Now she lied on his bedroom floor once under a blanket of false pretenses.

    The bathroom curtains were pulled back, allowing billows of steam to escape into the room as Alex stepped in to the heat of the shower.

    "Woah!" Milo jumped from the contact of her hands on his back, nearly slipping to the ground." What the fuck Alex?"

    The small smile she had disappeared as she leaned around Milo, taking the bar of soap he held in his hands. "Good morning to you too." She said with a pout as she began lathering his back.

    "Alex. I'm not really in the mood, alright?"

    She went on, her hands cupping the sides of his ass. The water was shut off instantly.

   "You haven't even rinsed out your shampoo-"

    "Out."  Pulling back the shower curtain, Milo's voice was hoarse as he guided them both from the shower.

    "What the hell is wrong with you? You've been acting like this since last night after that thing with Rasheeka." Angrily grabbing the only towel in the bathroom, Alex wrapped herself in it before storming out, slamming the door against the wall behind it. Following her, Milo wiped at the shampoo and soap falling towards his eyes.

   "You and I have got to talk about this. Last night was a mistake, Alex."

    "I know it was. You bringing your side fuck around was a huge mistake last night."

    Holding up his hands, he stopped her slander." I'm talking about you and me being the mistake. We shouldn't have done what we did after what went down. It was stupid-I was stupid for not stopping it."

   "A mistake? " Alex's voice trembled as she began tapping her foot, her face turning red as she took deep breaths. "What about us is a mistake?"

    Milo turned away from her, digging through boxes looking for another towel. He couldn't stand there in the nude while trying to have this conversation with Alex. He was sure if he said the wrong thing she would definitely come for his vulnerable points.

    "I fucked up. I've been fucking up for the past three months now." Soaking up the water and soap residue, he wrapped it around his lower half before facing Alex again. Her eyes blinked rapidly as her jaw twisted with agitation.

   "Three months ago, you and I got together, Milo." Her arms were crossed at her breasts, eyes wet with the flood of emotions running through her.

    There was a silence in the air, one that Alex couldn't stand or take as she began pacing the room.

   "You're calling us a mistake-me a mistake? Milo, we didn't just fall in bed together one night, we have history!"

    "This isn't how it's supposed to be Alex...we're not together because we have some profound love for each other. We're together because when we get bored, we just fu-"

    "Don't you dare say that's all we've  been! You can't just drop this now because of some past pussy!"

    "Look, how about we leave Roddrick out of this and focus on what's between you and me."

    "Fucking Roddrick..." Shrugging her shoulders, Alex pointed at Milo. "Fucking Roddrick is what's coming between us. All in one fucking night, a few goddamned hours and now you've done a complete 360 on me!"

    "When we first met, everything was cool, you know?  We knew just what we were but whatever that was isn't this. There's nothing that makes an us outside of-"

     "What do you mean? Of course there is! We've been something since the first time we met!"

    "The first thing we did was fuck! And it was the second, third, fourth, and fifth thing. That's all that we have been, and now this relationship we've been trying to do was nothing but me lying to myself and you. Thinking that was better than nothing or that maybe I could find something in it and it wouldn't hurt to try, but look what's happening now." His hands were opened, voice raised as he hoped to reach through to Alex.

    "That's not true." Alex shook her head stubbornly, not wanting to hear what was being said. The more Milo spoke, the more she heard him equating her to nothing more than what Roddrick had been to him. She refused to be compared to something so low, not wanting her good name defiled in such a way.

    "I am nothing like that black whore, Milo. I am more than that. She's nothing! All that she has is a dirty cunt that's probably filled with someone named Jamal as we speak. I am so much more than that, and you know it."

    "Where the fuck is all of this coming from?" Milo became enraged, his breathing turned ragged as he not only heard, but noticed Alex's racist slew of words. It dawned on him then, all of the comments she had made in passing before, words he had never paid much attention to until now. He began to wonder how long she had let her prejudices be known, and why it had taken him this long to become aware of them.

    "You've got to be fucking realistic, you can't just jump between two different worlds and try to bring someone like her back home. I'll take a suicidal junkie over someone who can't get his face out of some black bitch's pussy. That's where I draw the line." Before she could react, Milo towered over her smaller frame. The big voice she had earlier shrunk back into her body as she anticipated his next move.

    "You know it's the truth." She spoke shakily.

     "Get out of my house."

     "I am not leaving until we get this shit straightened out." Back pedaling quickly as Milo began to move even closer, her back met with a wall. Milo leaned in, his temple ticking as he began to calm himself down, moving away from Alex.

    "This shit is already handled. We're done Alex."

    "No we are not-"

     "Done!" His voice billowed through the small space that he was sure his neighbors could hear them by now.

     "All of this...for her...Roddrick?"

      Remaining silent was his answer.

      "All of this for a-a nigger!" Alex's voice ripped through the room as her neck bulged with a thick vein. She didn't understand anything that was going on. She couldn't understand how someone like her would have to deal with some black woman getting involved with her relationships.

    Milo stood in shock, puzzled by her use of the slur. In his life, he had never paid it any mind before. He figured since it was one he never planned on incorporating into his vocabulary, and so there was no need to worry about it. Something in his guy twisted as he weighed the enormity of it.

     "You want to walk out of here on both feet then you think twice about ever saying that again..." He yelled, completely fed up with her.

      "That's what she is. It's not a fucking lie, it's not a fucking secret .What makes you think you can do more than fuck her?"

       "What, are you supposed to be the one to tell me what to do with her?" The incredulous sigh that left his throat did little to belie the disgust that now replaced the earlier feelings of owing her any kind of sympathy.

       "It's just something you don't do. Something you shouldn't. "

         His eyes narrowed as Alex came closer. When he burst into a quick bout of laughter, he only made the deep frown on Alex's face worse."You know, I felt like the biggest asshole five minutes ago. I was going to accept all the anger that you would have thrown my way; it would have been my little punishment.  But now...I don't feel as obligated. You've managed to become the bigger fool in the room.  If you look hard enough, I'm sure you can find you a nice little Aryan prince around here somewhere..."

     He watched as Alex seemed to move in slow motion around the room. He saw her pick up paper after paper of songs he had written and arranged, many of them dedicated to Roddrick. The first night he had seen her, he had felt an invisible pull towards her. It was a strong tug that was very similar to what he felt now.

   Then, he knew that he wanted to become a part of her. Wanted to feel her physically, that his body called to her for that contact.

    Now, it wasn't a bond born from sexual desire. It was an emotional tie that stirred up rage from Alex's insults so burning hot that it paralyzed him. It was a rage that demanded that he protect and defend Roddrick from anyone and anything at all costs even if she never even knew of the harm done to her.

     "...and these were all about her? All of this time? Fuck her. Fuck you." Alex ripped the pages out of the composition book, throwing them into the air one by one.

     Suddenly, Alex found it hard to breathe. In the middle of her ranting, she found her feet being lifted from the ground.

    "Don't touch me you nigger loving asshole! Get your hands off of me. I'm going to the doctor today, and I swear if I have anything I will fucking end you! I'll kill you and her!" She gasped. Alex fell roughly to the ground just outside of the front door, the towel that still remained on her fell loosely to the side. She grabbed at it quickly to cover herself before standing and rushing the door for entrance back into the apartment.

   "What are you doing? Get out of the way." Alex clawed at his chest and arms as she tried to force her way through. Milo's muscles ached under the restraint of not hurting Alex as his hand gripped her face tightly, shoving her against the door.

    "Don't ever speak to me again. Don't ever acknowledge me again. "Tightening his hold even more, Milo's nose nearly touched hers as he spoke menacingly. "Don't. Ever. Talk about Roddrick like that again. You're one deceitful bitch, and I wholeheartedly mean that. How long have you been in with the brotherhood? I can't even believe I've been in bed with trash like you. You think she's the one that's worthless? You need to look in a fucking mirror."

    Pushing her further away from his door, he slammed it shut with enough force to shake the frame. As soon as it was closed, Alex began banging against it.

    Her words were inaudible and ignored as Milo began to walk back to his bedroom. She had no ride, and all of her belongings still lay in a heap in the corner of his room. Moving with determination, he scooped up her things, eyes skating across the scattered pieces of the songs she had destroyed while Milo shook his head in disgust.

    Storming back out, he headed for the sliding door which led to a small balcony. He could hear the sound of feet running towards the rail directly beside his apartment, and watched as Alex's head peaked over.

    "No, no, no!" She waved her arms wildly as Milo threw her clothes over the balcony without a care. She watched as her purse turned upside down, and listened to its contents hit the pavement four stories down.

       She could hear the laughs of passersby watching the scene above them. Her face burned with embarrassment as they all looked up to them, and knew that she would have to walk past them to gather her things.

 

    "I'm not going to forget this. Ever." She spat at Milo who leaned over his balcony, steadily watching her. His eyes were tense and dark as she growled hitting the iron rail between her hands.

     "You've fucked with the wrong person, I swear to God." Alex parted with those words, stomping down the stairs and cussing along the way. He could hear some doors open as they saw to the commotion going on.

    He didn't take his eyes off of the sidewalk until he saw her crouching down below, picking up her clothes and shattered things. When she stood and looked towards his building one last time, he stood to his full height, and went back inside.

oOo

       "Stop...Rodey ..."

     A gurgling noise from within her throat made Roddrick cringe as she knew that only one thing could follow it. She pushed at her little sister whose legs dangled over her body as she snored in the dark. Hopping from the bed, she ran into the door stubbing her tow while struggling with twisting the nob as her stomach began to clench.

     She fell before the white toilet bowl, her hands gripping it tightly as her body began to dry heave above it. Her eyes watered as the bitter and slimy bile fell into the water.

     Shivers ran all through Roddrick as she groaned. She had no idea what would have driven her to this position as she went through another round of gagging.

    "What is this?" She whispered to herself, panting as she reached to flush the toilet. Putting the seat down, she climbed what felt like a mountain just to sit atop it. Her head bent close to her chest, feeling too weak to hold it up. Bright light flooded the bathroom, forcing her eyes closed as a figure stood at the door.

     "Did you eat something bad?" Once Roddrick was able to blink away the spots within her vision, she was able to recognize her mother's voice through her disheveled state.

   "Probably. It kinda just hit me out of nowhere." She mumbled as her hands cupped around her face. Light fingers lifted her head by the chin as Rockelle observed her daughter's face. Roddrick watched as her eyebrow quirked and a thoughtful look entered her eyes.

   "I look awful, don't I?" She smirked." My mouth tastes horrible right now." Shielding her mouth with a hand, she moved to the sink, rinsing her mouth with handfuls of water as she squeezed toothpaste onto her toothbrush and began to get rid of the vomit residue.

   "Well, you do look like you're going through it.I heard you come in early this morning. " Rockelle said as she stood with her hands clasped before her. She took a look at Roddrick as the young woman began dousing her face with water.

    "I'm 24 not 18, mama."

     "I wasn't insinuating that you were. I was just asking."

    Looking at her mother, Roddrick sighed. "I don't know what time I got back, but it wasn't that late." A silence followed before Rockelle decided to switch subjects.

    "Do you have any idea of what's making you sick?" Her eyes followed a trail down to Roddrick's midsection. Call it intuition, or a mother just knowing that something major was going with her daughter, but Rockelle had a pretty good suspicion as to what ailed her.

   "Might have been something I ate like you said." Not thinking anything of where Rockelle was headed with her question, Roddrick slipped past her, exiting the bathroom.

    She moved to the kitchen, making herself a glass of water as she took a seat at the table, accompanied by her mother. They sat without saying a word for a few minutes, Roddrick anticipating the moment her mother would return to her room so that they wouldn't have to sit there in an uncomfortable silence.

    "Did last night go well?" Rockelle asked, stirring up conversation as Roddrick fidgeted in her seat.

    "I'm sure it could have gone better. Not that big of a loss for me, honestly." She admitted.

     "You say that, but your face is telling me something different." Rockelle's hand reached out and softly grazed Roddrick's as it began twirling pieces of her hair. With a gentle smile, she grabbed onto the younger woman's hand with both of hers, age being the difference between the two.

    "I basically got what I had coming." She laughed to ease the hurt. "I must have been too wrapped up in my imagination than what was real."

   Rockelle looked on pointedly before she cleared her throat.

     "I've never heard talk about this young man. Were you two together for long?"

     "No." She shook her head, not feeling obligated to share with her mother how well they had gotten to know each other in a short period of time.

      "Then like you said, no loss for you. Sometimes the hurt can go away quicker when there's less attachment to one another."Her mother saidwith a shrug, her eyes revealed that what she said sounded like bullshit even to her own ears. Roddrick accepted her few words of comfort with a nod.

    "Yeah."

    The look in Rockelle's eyes softened as she seemed to be taken back to a happier time in her memories. Raising an eyebrow, Roddrick was just about to ask what was going on in her mind before her mother cracked a subtle smile across her lips.

     "You're daddy and I didn't know each other long. One look and he had me and-"

     "If this is what you want to talk about, then I don't want to hear it, mama." Roddrick's voice was leveled and low as she sat stiffly against the back of the chair. Rockelle eyed her, taking a breath before pushing back from the table.

   "I know how you get..." She added as she slipped away. She couldn't see the twitch of Roddrick's eye or the way her fist clenched as she was ready to let her mother know just why she gets any kind of way whenever Clint was mentioned.

    "I'm going to make a pot of coffee. You're welcomed to have a cup if you would like...."

    "Is she done throwing up?" A sleep laden voice cut the tension in the room as Roderica slowly walked towards the dining room table, squinting from the lights that shined from the kitchen.

   "I think I got everything out-oh-oh no I think there's more..." Roddrick began making gagging sounds that were realistic enough to make her sister jolt from the position she had taken on her lap and flinch away.

   "You are so freaking nasty!" She whined.

    "I'm so sorry. I must have caught a stomach bug. Hopefully you won't get it...with me sleeping with you last night and all." Roddrick's eyes were droopy as she spoke in a grave tone, igniting fear within Roderica at the possibility of catching any kind of sickness.

      "No! I have a test Monday, you better pray you didn't because I swear to God I will-"

       "First of all, you will not use the Lord's name in vain. You hear?" Rockelle cut her off as the sound of the coffeemaker played behind her.

    Roderica ducked her head as she whispered a "Yes ma'am." To their mother. Roddrick was ready to taunt her just as the smell of the coffee grinds drifted to her nose, incapacitating her as she began to feel queasy all over again.

     "That smells like a skunk..." She spoke weakly as she stood from her seat, taking slow steps towards the bathroom before breaking out into a run.

    Roderica watched her body move as a blur as she closed the bathroom door loudly, and sounds of her retching reached outside.

    "It's not even that bad!" She called out, cringing from the sounds of her body acting against her. "I don't know what she's tripping about; I like the smell of coffee." Rockelle stood with one hand on her hip as the other leaned against the counter.

    "Go get my cane, baby." She waited for Roderica to return before mumbling out loud.

      "There's going to be a lot more things for that girl to trip out about come soon..."

      "Like what?" Roderica asked as she pulled out breakfast items from the refrigerator.

      When she heard the bathroom door open with the sounds of the toilet flushing, and a grunting Roddrick falling onto the couch, she shook her head.

    "Just what I said."

oOo

     "You look like shit." Danny whispered into Roddrick's ear as she adjusted the equipment bag she carried on her shoulder as their team walked across an open field, off to take more shots of another fall appointment.  Roddrick had come in sluggish, looking like she could barely pedal the thin bike she rode in on.

    "I look it. Feel it." She replied as Danny hooked an elbow into her own.

   "What did you get yourself into, hmm? The baby sick?" Making kissing faces at her, Roddrick pushed away her friend as she shriveled up her nose.

     "You want what I got?"

      "Ew, you think you're contagious?" Danny shouted loud enough to draw attention from those around them, causing the couple whose engagement photos they were shooting to look on worried.

   "Damn, you got a big mouth." Roddrick side eyed Danny as she still look revolted with a hand held to her chest in a dainty way. "And no, I am not contagious. I'm not even really sick. I just got something..."

    "Well, whatever you do, please make sure that you keep that something. I haven't been sick since I was a kid." Danny made a cross as she looked to the sky. "And I'm not too eager to get sick now."

    "Here I thought you were my bestie, and down for whatever." She said as she rolled her neck.

     Danny turned around to her, a smile on her face as she scoffed." Mhm. Yeah, whatever."

     "How about we get this shoot done and over with, and keep these people happy. They keep looking back here at you like you're Typhoid Mary." Danny smiled tightly, as she waved to the fiancée who kept looking over her shoulder before turning back to whisper to her future wife.

    "You know, that's not a bad thing to be thought of as when you look at it from a different side. I mean, she did go down in history as a well-known woman..."

   "Usted y su sentido." Danny waved her away as she began to walk faster, leaving a smirking Roddrick behind.

oOo

     "These should be ready for pick up about the middle of next week." Danny smiled at the two women before her as they grinned in appreciation.

     "Thank you so much, and once again, these were all just so beautiful." The more talkative of the two turned to Roddrick across the room. She put down the ginger ale she now gulped, properly thanking them for their compliments.

   "It's not that hard when you're natural models. Congratulations on your engagement." She said after she walked to join the small group.

    "Thank you, I hope you feel better as well, it is flu season. You can never be too careful." The quiet one finally spoke, giving acknowledgement to Roddrick's less than stellar state during the day.

     They watched as the couple left the building, all starting to turn back to their own business. Roddrick had already started to walk away from the front desk when the sound of Danny greeting someone met her ears. It was white noise and irrelevant until she heard the stranger answer back.

    "I was um-actually here to see Roddrick." Milo said softly, spotting her curly head from a distance come to a stop and whip around. When his eyes met hers, he saw the raw surprise she must have felt from him showing up morph into one of the coldest stares he had ever been on the other side of.

    "Rodd-Oh." Danny called, turning to grab her attention before she caught sight of her stance. "Um, this gentleman is here to see you." She announced.

      Roddrick stood in silence, never breaking her stare.

     "Give me just one second, please, and I'll be right with you." She held one finger up with a smile as she began to quickly walk to Roddrick.

    "Hey, that guy said he's here to see you. You're not going to-"

    "No." She sneered as she turned on her heel.

    Danny's eyes bugged as her mind began to race.

     "Is he by chance the one night stand?" She whispered, hungry for an answer.

      Coming to a stop, Roddrick turned around, speaking loud enough that her voice carried across the studio.

    "He," She emphasized with a twist of her hand," is nothing." She had every intention of him hearing her. The way his shoulders lowered even more let her know that he did.

    Nodding her head in understanding, Danny returned to the front, her face less friendly as she took her friend's cue.

    "I'm sorry, she's not seeing anyone at the moment."

    Milo gripped the edge of the counter tightly." Do you think you can talk to her again? It's really important and-"

    "Look, I don't really know who you are, but if she says she doesn't want to see you, then that's final. Got it?" The way she leaned across the counter told that Danny wasn't bullshitting with him. Milo didn't dare challenge her either as he began backing away.

    As he looked back to where he had last seen Roddrick standing, he found her eyes peaking from behind a cracked door. The sight was only brief as she closed it quickly, cutting him off once again.

     Roddrick didn't take a breath until she heard the faint ding of the welcoming bell signaling that Milo had left. Falling back against the door she rubbed her temples as she calmed down.

    She felt a slight shove as the door was opened from the other side. Knowing who it was, she moved aside for Danny to enter. Her eyes were serious, no longer the teasing gleam they naturally possessed.

    "Who was that asshole? I thought you were going to kill him the way you stared him down." She dragged Roddrick to the small couch in the room, crossing her arms as she waited for her friend to fill her in.

   "You remember the guy I told you about from my summer trip?"

    Danny's eyes narrowed as she recalled their talk not too long ago." That was him? That boy was fine, good job mama-" She began to congratulate her but quickly withdrew her smirk as Roddrick's eyes cut to hers." But not that fine." She corrected fast. Roddrick fell back against the couch cushions, closing her eyes as she began to draw out a picture of her connection to Milo for Danny.

    "His name is Milo. His sister is Lauren, which is the friend whose wedding I went to, he's her little brother and I slept with him and he caught feelings then I turned him away and then I caught feelings and he invited me out last night and I said yes and he had his girlfriend there and I got played."

     "He was trying to make you a side chick? How stupid is he. He probably thought he could take you both home..."

    "Trust me that never would have happened."

      "Girl he got you fucked up thinking you'll give it up whenever and wherever just because you were out being a hoe in a foreign country."

   "Danny!"

    "I bet you we can catch him before he gets far. Run up on him at a flashlight on your bike and I'll bust his taillights from the back. You know I have a bat in my trunk, we can make it happen."

    "I'm not talking to you anymore." Roddrick stood to her feet, exiting the room with Danny behind her.

    "You know I'm just playing, Roddrick. He was wrong for doing that to you though, seriously."

    "I don't even care anymore. We both were hooking up for the same reason so-"

     "Oh, so you were just trying to cut to?" Danny raised an eyebrow with the new information." Then why are you mad? Cause he threw a wrench in your plan?" She asked amused.

   Roddrick ignored her snickering as she began collecting her belongings, shaking her head at Danny's comments, even though some of them did bring a smile to her face.

    "You're leaving so soon?" Danny feigned surprise as she sat at her desk.

    "Make sure you pay me my money. Or I'll be back up here to get it." She warned as she opened the door.

    "Yes, daddy!" Danny called as Roddrick stepped outside into the cooler air. In the parking lot, she didn't see the car that waited just for her as she went to her bike, unlocking it and packing her things in the front basket.

     "Ah, shit." She moaned once she stood, prepared to mount it as Milo climbed from his car, his figure a hard one to miss as he began walking slowly towards her. Roddrick could have easily pedaled away, but she found herself stuck in her starting position as she watched him approach.

     "I know I'm the last person you want to see-"

      "So why are you here?" Roddrick cocked out her hip as Milo came close, holding up her hand to tell him to stop at a certain distance." I think that's close enough."

   He shuffled around on his feet as he thought of words to say." I wanted to apologize for last night, for Alex-"

  "For Alex? Doesn't she deserve an apology seeing as how you've got her thinking you two are together when you were so quick to come at me?" She stared at him venomously.

     "That was all a misunderstanding. I can explain it-"

      "Don't. I don't need it."

       "But Roddrick-"

     "Is this all you came here for because quite honestly I've got better things to do right now."

    Clearing his throat, Milo ran a hand through his hair as her rejection began to burn.

    "When I saw you again yesterday, I knew that it happened for a reason. Just like the first time we met."  

      "Please." Roddrick snorted, not wanting to hear anything he said.

     "I'm serious. I know it probably doesn't seem like it now, but I'm not just here for...what you think I want."

     "Could have fooled me. Actually you have been for a while." She mumbled as her sarcastic remarks made it more difficult for Milo to speak. He could even feel a light sweat breaking out above his brow as his mouth became dry.

     "I want to get to know you, Roddrick. I have wanted to for all of this time. We can start on a different slate, on your terms and I'll be completely cool with that." His words were soft as he fought the urge to leave the designated zone made by Roddrick, and break the distance between them. " I'd be grateful for it."

    Roddrick saw the sincerity in his eyes, but didn't care too much about it.

     "Well, my terms would require for you to stay the hell out of my way and never show up to my job again. Either one of them." Her voice was smooth as she finally threw her leg over her bike and stood to pedal away.  She slowed down her movements before turning to Milo one more time.

    "And tell Lauren I said hi."

oOo

     Rockelle walked through the aisles of the drugstore, searching for the one item she came for.

     When she came to the family planning aisle, her eyes roamed through many bright boxes, that all promised accurate results.

     Once she found one that satisfied her search, she made sure to pull three off of the shelf before heading to young cashier who looked at her surprised.

    "Will that be all for you today?" He asked holding back laughter.

     Dropping her purse on the counter, Rockelle's stern look was enough to silence him as he rang her up, bagging her purchase with a quiet, "Have a good day."

oOo

     "You went out? I could have taken you, mama." Roddrick waited for her mother to enter the living room from her spot on the couch. She held half of a peanut butter sandwich concoction in her hands as she noticed the plastic bag at her mother's side.

     "I hope your bladder is full." Rockelle took out one of the rectangular boxes; confusion fell upon her daughters face as she stopped mid bite. "Because we've got some things to find out tonight."

     "What in the world are you talking about?"

       "Roddrick," Rockelle took a seat beside her on the couch, a hand at her knee." The way you've been for the last few weeks, I should have realized it sooner."

    "I'm not pregnant mama!" She said, throwing the sandwich that was once appealing onto her plate."I would need a man for that to happen, and let me tell you I don't have one."

     Her eyes were solid with conviction as she tried to stand up. Her mother's hand stopped her instantly.

     "Honestly, mama." She said when Rockelle stared at her unwaveringly.

     " Sometimes things like this happen, baby. It's not impossible. Even if you were never serious with him, accidents can happen."

     Scooting back on the couch, Roddrick's eyes bulged forth. "Who is he?"

    "The young man you were with last night."

      She froze instantly as the fear of something like being pregnant became plausible.

    There was no way.

     "I'm pretty sure it's rare to get pregnant overnight mama. Probably even harder when I barely even shook his hand!" She hoped that what she said would debunk any suspicions she had, but was quickly disappointed as her mother nodded her head in admittance.

    "Your sister told me about you two. You should know better than to tell that girl anything. She can barely keep water."

    As if summoned by the mere mention of her, Roderica entered through the front door, her cellphone up to her ear as she began dumping her book bag on the floor after returning from her usual weekend study session.

    The smile on her face as she spoke to Chris on the phone disappeared first because of  her mother's presence.  When she hung up and came closer to the two, she noticed Roddrick's face and hands shaking with anger as she entered the room.

     "What's going on?" She asked innocently. Dipping her eyes to the pregnancy tests on the table, the color from her face left as she looked back to her sister.

    "Roddrick. I didn't mean to say anything. It just slipped out. I didn't think she'd go off and try to play Maury!" Roderica backed away as Roddrick began to advance on her.

    "Don't. Tell. Anyone. Do you not understand what that means?" She spoke eerily soft.

    "I know! I know! It was an accident. We were talking about you being sick this morning and-it was a joke mama! I was kidding!" Roderica looked around one intimidating woman to the other.

    "You should know better than to listen to what I say." She wanted to make a quick break for her room, but knew that her sister could snatch her up quicker than she could get one foot off of the ground.

     "I think that it's best that we do this now, Roddrick. If you're not pregnant, then you're not pregnant. At least then we would know what we would have to deal with here. My house doesn't have much more space for another head and bed. Otherwise you're gonna have to figure out something else because that's just not happening." Rockelle instantly regretted her phrasing as she saw Roddrick's shoulders tense.

     Roddrick began to feel her anger subside and be replaced by assuredness as she reached for the bag on the table, stuffing the boxes back into it as she headed for the bathroom.

    "I'll put both of your minds at rest, so you can be sure that you won't have to deal with a crying shitting baby in here, okay?"

    When the door slammed shut, Roderica turned to her mom.

    "You know she's going to kill me in my sleep. I broke the sister oath." She groaned as she stared sadly at Rockelle.

    "You can sleep with me then." Her mother offered as she looked back to the bathroom door and waited for Roddrick to reappear.

oOo

      Roddrick's hand fell on the door knob, still shaking from the fear she felt while waiting for the pregnancy sticks to show her results. Turning it slowly, she took a step out.

    She was met by the eyes of Roderica and Rockelle, who sat with abated breath, not able to read Roddrick's expression.

   Immediately they both made their way to see for themselves. Roddrick stood outside the door, waiting for them to see the truth.

     That all three sticks read negative.

    "See! Nothing to worry about now!" Roderica said cheerfully as she shook her sister's shoulders.

    "Exactly, nothing to worry about. And by the way, if I ever do become pregnant, just know that I wouldn't burden you with dealing with another baby, mom. I'll try to have the decency to wait until I'm out of your house. Which now I'm thinking may be sooner than later.

    "Now wait a minute, there's no need to act like this. I didn't mean to say what I did like that. Of course I'd support you no matter what, and you know that."

   "Well thanks. Maybe you could help me while I look for another place to live?"

    "Roddrick, don't say that." Roderica pleaded. She had never been without her sister, and now the thought of her leaving wasn't one she wanted to have.

   "No, Rodey. It's a good idea." Roddrick held up her hand to stop any more words as she began to consider what she had boldly suggested. "I think it would be a damn good idea."

    "You are ridiculous, girl. You know that?" Rockelle finally huffed offended.

    "So you don't agree? I mean that means more space, more quiet time, " She began listing the different things that could be done before coming to one in particular," maybe even Clint could stop by since you two have been catching up so well. Then I wouldn't have to be here for that!" She smiled.

     "Don't you go there." Rockelle said in a cautious tone.

    "I'm just looking out for you here, mama." Roddrick began to place her jacket back on and slip her feet into her shoes." I mean, it's only bound to happen."

    "Roddrick. Please." Roderica called out as she watched both stubborn women smile and laugh at the other. She knew that was one of their defense tactics whenever they fought. They would try their best to seem indifferent and ironic all the while allowing something deep down to boil to the brim.

    "Bring back one of those apartment books, and I'll be more than happy to find you one that suits you well." Rockelle called as she moved to towards the kitchen.

    Roddrick balled the strap of her bag in her hands before storming out of the house, leaving a timid Roderica standing in what seemed to be the start of an issue she thought had finally been laid to rest.

 

 

Chapter 9 by EveryBit12
Author's Notes:

another update

and once again a song from the love of my life

Citizen Cope-Salvation

he owns that

alllllladat

oOo

    Danny walked absentmindedly through her living room, stretching her neck and body while flipping on light switches even though she still moved with her eyes closed to the early morning hour,still reluctant to having dragged herself from bed. Her feet needed no help from her eyes as she was led by the mental map of her apartment.

     In her kitchen, she had gotten her ritual cup of coffee ready and brewing as the smell filled the air. Going to her living room, she peeked at the digital clock on her DVD player, turning to her 5'oclock news, and throwing the remote back on her couch carelessly.

   "What the fuck?"

    Jumping back and tripping over her coffee table, Danny screamed until all of the color was pulled from her face as the unexpected sound of Roddrick grunting surprised her.

    "Why are you throwing shit?" She groaned as she sat up, rubbing the back of her head. She sat on all fours, sniffing the air before the familiar urge hit her like a truck and sent her flying to the bathroom.

     "Why the hell are you in my house? Asking me why I'm throwing my shit-you know you could have killed me? Boom! Your best friend dead of a heart attack because you just show up out of the blue!" Danny took deep breaths as she tried to regain her composure with her cheek pressed to her carpet before going to drag Roddrick out of the bathroom for some answers.

    "You said that your key was for emergencies-"Cringing from the sound of retching, Danny cracked the door open only to be stopped by Roddrick's extended foot. "And this was one."

     Smacking her teeth, Danny slapped her hand against the door." You came all the way over here just to throw up in my bathroom?" She squealed, pinching her nose." You're gonna have to give me back that key because obviously you are abusing the privilege."

     Danny muttered under her breath as Roddrick swung open the door.

    "Hey, where's your mouth wash?" She asked groggily as Danny's head retracted from the smell of vomit. She gagged as she made her way to her personal bathroom, hurrying back to give it to her friend who was in dire need of some oral cleansing.

    "Oh my God. I don't think I've ever smelled your breath before. My image of you is forever tainted." She stuck her tongue out still mimicking her disgust as Roddrick rolled her eyes, throwing her head back and gurgling.

   "This is a special situation. That stank ass coffee you made did this to me." Roddrick's hands were splayed on the counter as she used one to indicate her current state.

    "Coffee is the best smell-"

   "It smells like 10 skunks went off in here!"

    "It smells like your ass should go home then!" Danny swatted out her hand, delivering a sharp slap to Roddrick's backside, making her jump. "Though you insulted my coffee, disrespected my toilet, and interrupted my morning routine, I am still courteous enough to offer you a cup of the retched beverage."   Danny walked back through her home, twirling her arms for dramatic effect as she went back to her kitchen.

    Roddrick soon followed, stretching her body to get rid of the hidden aches from sleeping on Danny's small couch.

    "After that little episode, I think I'll pass on your offer."  With a quick hop, Roddrick placed herself on the kitchen counter, yawning as she watched her friend move around the space.

    "Mind telling me what's the real reason you showed up on my couch? You know this isn't a free shelter. I may have to start charging you." Leaning back and sipping her coffee, she raised a devious eyebrow.

    "You act like I stay here enough to pay rent. This is like, what, the first time I've done this?" Roddrick laughed as she browsed through a small fruit basket, choosing a few mandarins as she began to unpeel them.

    "Look, if I let it go once, you'll get used to it. Got to set the rules early." Stealing the first piece Roddrick managed to free from the bunch, Danny popped it in her mouth as she made a sour face.

    "You and your mom?" She said knowingly.

    Sighing, Roddrick looked to the ceiling as she shook her head.

    "Damn, girl. You act like you're 15 not almost 25. You two have been dueling it out for a while now."

     "I know, I know. It's some stupid shit honestly."

     "Yeah, got you out here running away from home." Danny snickered. "She ground you? Take away your phone?"

    "She made me take a pregnancy test."

     Danny choked on her drink as she looked bewilderedly at Roddrick." Why would she think that? You need to get some dick first before--- oh my God." She stopped midsentence remembering the encounter with Milo at her studio.

     "He got you pregnant?" She nearly slammed down her mug, sloshing coffee all over Roddrick as she came and stood before her.

    "Hey!" Roddrick exclaimed as she wiped at the new stains.

    "What the hell are you going to do? Are you keeping it? Does he know?" Danny reached to lift up Roddrick's shirt, but her hands were pushed away as Roddrick held it closer to her body.

    "I am not pregnant!" Grabbing Danny's face, she brought it close."I. Am. Not. Pregnant."

    "Then why-how do you know for sure? I mean you did say you just met the guy. It only takes a few seconds to get the deed done. Did you even use protection? Jesus, Roddrick..." Danny seemed to be more than disturbed by the thought of Roddrick getting knocked up by some kid off the street as her face contorted with her thoughts.

    "Why aren't you freaking out?" Danny finally took note of Roddrick's calm demeanor as she sat watching, still eating her mandarin.

   "Because I already said my piece. You obviously didn't even hear me."

    "But it's possible..."

     "Look, three out of three pregnancy tests proved that I am indeed not having a baby. No need to worry about anything." She watched as Danny finally took a deep breath before shaking her head.

    "Well, good then because I don't think I'm ready for that kind of responsibility just yet." Danny joked, widening her eyes.

    "Amen to that." Roddrick slid from the cabinet, turning to Danny with a more serious look on her face."But I am ready for a certain responsibility. You're cousin still setting people up with places to stay?"

   "Places to stay? Like what, an apartment?"

    "I need to find something soon. It's-it's something that's long overdue."

    Danny looked at her for a long hard minute, with her hands on her hips." You know Manny doesn't have anything for you. All of his connections are in shit holes."

    "Anything is better than nothing, Danny."

    "You can come stay with me if you'd like." She suggested.

    "The point of this is to be on my own. I'm trying to start setting things in motion." Roddrick's eyes fell to her feet as she scratched her head." I don't think I can live up under others for too much longer. So, please could you call him?"

   "Rodd... I don't think."

    "Fine, I'll just have to call him up myself. He was trying to get at me before, he might be able to find me a nice and cozy little place."

    "That would be the last place he would find you. " Danny said rolling her eyes." Okay, I'll call him, but if he says he can show you a place, then I come with you because he is a sneaky little bastard. You may end up pregnant for real behind his ass." Roddrick reached to ruffle Danny's bed head as she smiled.

    "You're always there for a girl."

    "Yes, I do great things. I know." Accepting the compliment, Danny rubbed her hands together." I'm going to go shower. I've got to go in to the studio for a few. You gonna stay here?"

    "Probably just a little while longer." Roddrick shrugged.

   "Make yourself at home then. But not too at home." Danny called as she made her way back to her bedroom. Heading back to the couch, Roddrick fell back on it as she began to watch the news. She didn't hear anything that was being said as she began to think out her situation.

    She had a good chunk of money saved from years of working. Had always kept it for a rainy day and for that, she was thankful.  There was a lot to think about and get done, especially if she wanted to be settled in sooner rather than later.

oOo

4 Days Later

     Roddrick and Danny walked up the sidewalk towards a less than stellar apartment complex. It wasn't anything too rough, but it was obvious that there were definitely better out there.

    "I mean, it's not all that bad. Look, it even has a decent park." Roddrick said to Danny whose lip was slightly snarled.

    "Yeah, full of bad ass kids. Look, look... over there being future criminals." She pointed out a group of kids circling the parking lot on bikes.

    "You better shut up before they come over here." Roddrick laughed as a couple of little boys stared them down. Speeding up, Danny took Roddrick by the elbow as they moved closer to a distant male figure.

    "Someone's been eating good." Danny teased as she came within earshot of Manny.

     "Danita," He laughed happily, pulling his younger cousin into a tight hug. His hair was neck length, holding little wave as it fluttered in the wind. Roddrick had always known that Danny's entire family was attractive, and to be in his mid-30s, Manny proved that it lasted with age. His stomach was a bit softer than it had been in his prime, his features a bit more soft and relaxed as well. It all gave him a grown man charm that was still stunning. When his deep set eyes turned to Roddrick, she caught a glimpse of the quick witted younger guy who used to make her blush as a teen.

    "Roddrick?" He asked amazed." I knew you were going to be a beautiful woman."

    "Easy tiger. You got a wife now, right?" Danny teased as she slapped the back of her hand to his chest.

     "Doesn't mean I can't appreciate  the beauty of others. And Roddrick here is an old friend."  Roddrick laughed as she gave him a hug.

    "It's great seeing you Manny. It's been a few years."

     "Wife and kids now, they take up all my time. Retired my Casanova days three years ago." Though he pretended as if it were a sacrifice, Roddrick could see the look of pure joy that just the thought of his family brought him. With his new wife came two of her own children from a previous marriage, and they now shared their very own son who was raised just like any other sibling with the others.

    "Want to see my boy Julian?" He said reaching for his phone and showing her pictures of the toddler."Kid is nuts. "

    "He looks so much like you. He's gorgeous." Roddrick awed.

   "Well of course, what else could you expect?"

    "Alright, alright. Nice little reunion here." Danny pestered as Manny smacked his teeth.

   "You know just how to bring down the mood, Danita." Putting his phone back and replacing his playful scowl with a smile, he ushered the ladies towards the stairs.

   "Now, I got to admit that I was shocked when Danny said you wanted me to find you a place. You should be going to some big deal complex with people who wear suits and ties." Removing a pair of keys from his pocket, Manny stopped on the fourth floor, strolling towards a door before inserting the keys .

   "I just wanted to find something small and that was enough for just me. Not trying to break myself while still having somewhere to lay my head." She came to a stop beside Danny as they waited for Manny to open the apartment.

   "A woman like you needs nice things, and this is the best I could get you on such short notice." When the door opened, Danny and Roddrick were both shocked to see that the inside definitely defied the outer appearance of the building.

    "Is that new carpet?" Danny said surprised as she rubbed the tip of her foot along the beige carpet.

     "Asked for a favor from some guys I knew. Put it down a couple of days ago. The person in here before had some stains in here so bad that I don't even want to know what they were." Turning on some lights, Manny began to walk them both through the place.

    It was a one bedroom one bath. The perfect size for Roddrick. She had low expectations before coming, and had accepted them, but was delighted to find that the apartment was in fact doable for her.

    "This place really isn't as bad as you may think, though I'm sure Danita here would disagree."

    Sneering up her nose, Danny gave an honest reply." It's alright."

   "Danny." Roddrick elbowed her.

    "What? I'm serious. I didn't think it would be but it actually is. "She explained. " I mean. I would actual come visit you here." She smirked.

    "Thank you for your approval you bougie bitch." Roddrick murmured against her cheek receiving a smack of the teeth in return.

    "Manny, I think I've seen what I need to see." Roddrick said assuredly.

    They took another sweep through the apartment, reaffirming Roddrick's decision to take it just before leaving to go talk over the tedious portion of apartment hunting.

    When they were back out on the street, Danny locked arms with Roddrick.

   "So, you're gonna do this, huh?" She looked to Roddrick, watching as she shook her head firmly.

   "I guess so." With a small smile, Roddrick felt that this had gone better than expected, leaving less room for her to be apprehensive or doubtful.

     Danny squealed as she shook Roddrick by the arm.

     "I have to admit, I feel like this is some milestone. You're finally getting out your mama's house and joining the rest of us in paying real bills."

     "I'm just jumping for joy." Roddrick felt a prickling sensation at the back of her neck. Turning around, she scanned the area around her. There were kids still playing, smokers taking a break on the steps-nothing out of the ordinary. Though she saw no one or nothing unusual, the feeling of being watched never left her as she climbed into the passenger seat of Danny's car.

    "Now, the next step is getting you a real vehicle. I can't with that raggedy ass bike of yours anymore." Danny started her car, pulling out right behind Manny as they followed him up to the front building of the complex.

    "One step at a time, huh?" Roddrick clipped her seat belt in, leaning her head against the headrest as she watched the balcony that would soon belong to her disappear from sight.

oOo

     Milo breezed past the woman who sat on the steps to his building as she puffed on a cigarette, completely absorbed into her smart phone as he made his way around her. His guitar case bobbed at his side as he made his way to his car. In the distance, he could see two leaving, recognizing the first one as Manny's, the guy who had given him a chance to have a place to stay.

    He rarely ever saw the guy, and figured that there must be potential renters looking for an apartment. He knew for sure that the one across the hall from him was vacant. Hell, he honestly barely saw any of the other neighbors unless it was in the dead of night returning from some bar or gig.

   For the most part, things there were quiet as everyone kept to themselves. A part from the brats he's had to chase away from sitting on the hood and trunk of his car whenever they pleased, it was alright.

   Checking his watch, he saw that he had been pushing it as he rushed to a rehearsal for later on that evening. This would be one of his earlier shows, and one that his sister promised to attend.

     After hearing about the fall out between him and their mother, Lauren had pestered him to no end. She insisted on coming to his performance tonight even though he made it clear that it wasn't necessary. There was really no getting around it. She would do nothing more than report back to his mother about his current status.

   Good thing the venue tonight was a reputable and neighborhood friendly one. At least then Lauren could go back with a decent report.

    When he arrived, he took the memorized path towards the small stage in place for people like him. Here, they hosted various types of artists: spoken word, singers, rappers, just about everything. Compared to the other places he had been, this definitely proved to him that he was making progress and getting seen.

    Even with his talent proving to getting him places in life, he found that he felt stagnant and uninspired.  The reason was very clear to him, and it became one that bothered him more and more.

   If he played by his heart and feelings, he wouldn't be able to serenade the crowd with any uplifting and comforting sounds. If he sung the way he felt, he would only be able to leave a sense of angst and despair behind.

    Milo figured that for the next few hours, he could kill time by losing himself in his music. Ever since it became a part of his therapy to change, it has always helped.

    Except for now, it couldn't make its way into the crevices eaten away by thoughts of Roddrick. He still hadn't been able to fix what he had done wrong, so it seemed that nothing else could take the place of him making things right on his own. Not even music could do that, so he knew that what he was dealing with wouldn't be simple.

   Until he could do what was right, Milo didn't think anything would be as good as it should be.

oOo

     Lauren walked into the building filled with buzzing bodies enjoying the evening out. Many still wore their work clothes having taken a straight shot to the small club to unwind. The sight allowed her to release some of the apprehension she had been feeling the entire drive there. She was expecting to find Milo fucking around in places that he shouldn't be, and was ready to take him out the instance she sensed trouble. She tucked the short pieces of hair behind her ear as she looked around at the many faces for Milo.

    When their eyes met from a distance, she could nearly see the tick of Milo's jaw as he put on a guarded smile, one she knew didn't reach any further than face value.

     "Hey P.O., did you find the place okay?" His hands rested in his front pockets as Lauren's hands reached out to fix the collar of his shirt as she examined him like a caring older sister.

    "Yes, jokes galore Milo." She frowned as she looked at him." I'm here to see you play. I've never been able to, and I know how much this means to you."

    "And..." Tilting his head forward expectantly, he waited for her to tell the other half of the truth.

    "She's just worried, Milo. We all are and you know it." She sighed, rubbing at her forehead as she couldn't keep the other reason for her being there a secret.

     "It's better me than her."

      "Oh, I'm sure." He scoffed ready to turn away before Lauren stopped him.

     "Hey!" she said a little louder than she intended to. Furrowing her brow, she began to speak at a lower leveled tone." I am here to support you. I am here to do that now, Milo. I haven't always and I know I've sucked at being a sister for so long-"

     "Can we please not get into that right now?"

      "I'm not finished talking." She spat. "You can't just throw us away, Milo."

     "You suffocate me." He gritted out, taking a step closer just as Lauren did the same.

    "We love you. We are trying our best here."

     "Well, it's not really all that necessary at this point. I am more than okay now, I'm pass that point." He stared at her blankly, a part of him wanting to debunk her claim. It had taken so many fuck ups, so many years of his mistakes and near death to finally get this kind of attention out of his family, and quite frankly he would pass on it. He knew that the past was in the past, but sometimes it was hard to let it go if they kept living and treating him like the smallest thing could trigger a relapse to his old self.

     He wanted to live whatever time he had left without those things interfering. He finally wanted to be able to look to his family as just that and not some suffocating annoyance.

     The sounds of an announcer alerting the crowd of the next incoming act told Milo that he had ten minutes before he needed to be on. Looking to his sister, he reached down and grabbed her in to a hug that she returned with ten times the intensity.

     "I love you so much, Milo. Mom does too. We just want to make the best of what we have together. Don't keep trying to cut us off." She spoke into his ear before kissing his temple. Releasing him, the soft tears that lined her eyes glistened at him as she held up both of her thumbs.

    "I'm going to steal a seat in the front. Good luck."

     Nodding his head, Milo said, " Thanks." He watched Lauren search for a seat as close to the stage as she could get. When she finally settled down, she waved back over to Milo, pointing towards the back so that he could go get ready.

       Doing so, he walked back, shaking out his arms and neck as he heard the announcer take the stage again. When applause rang out, he took a step out, facing the crowd with his trademark smile.

     "Hello, everyone. How are you doing tonight?" He spoke to the strangers as they answered in unison with head nods and simple replies.

     "First off, I want to say that I am beyond honor to be here tonight. This a very special night for me, and to be at Spin is like a milestone for me. I've been playing for a few years now, started out to ease some of the things I had been going through. To finally be able to take my struggles, hurt, and happiness and share it with others like you is very rewarding, and makes me grateful for this kind of opportunity." Milo wasn't able to bring out the joking side he usually channel during his introduction, never taking his eyes off of Lauren as he spoke.

    She sat with her hands clasped beneath her chin with a small smile.

    "And I'm even more grateful to have a loved one here-my sister-to hear me play for the first time." The crowd awed, and erupted into another small round of applause as they looked around for Lauren.

Say Judas came up to D.C.

He'd been down in Georgia for a while

He drove a 944

He bought with the soul

Of a blonde-headed kid

With a left-handed guitar

Now he's lookin' for me

 

 

Sign the dotted line please

For the fake 50's

Now Judas answer me

"Since I was the age to speak

Haven't you been listening?"

Salvation

...

Salvation

Salvation

I'm calling

Salvation

...

     Lauren watched as her brother's eyes closed, getting lost in the song he sung while his finger strummed full force at his guitar.

Well he came to town

Found the woman that I love

And he fucked her down

She told him where I live

Off of 9th in the alleyway

Where they say

They got the coke and the dope

Until you end up broken

"You should have let the smack get you" he said

"But now you've got to deal with me instead

I'm downstairs on the Motorola

You know I've got 3 golden bullets

And I'm shooting for your soul"

Salvation

Well I came down with my Martin blazin'

My voice

It was cutting him up

Now he's aiming

His first shot grazed my eye

I lost half of my sight

And my firstborn's life

The second shot grazed off my guitar moon

And it made my guitar kinda play out of tune

But I just kept playing

Like I had nothing to lose

He turned the third on himself

'Cause the bastard knew

Salvation I'm calling

Salvation

     By the time Milo had finished, the crowd had begun cheering, amazed and hungry for more of his guttural sound as their interest in him was peaked even more. He heard some men whistle and women fawn over him, eyeing him admirably.

     Lauren clapped enthusiastically as her smile revealed a look of awe at his voice. She nodded her head when he looked her way before finishing out the rest of his set after many words of encouragement.

oOo

     Milo stood over a couch in one of the waiting rooms, packing up his belongings when a pat on the back stirred him.

    "You can expect to be on that stage many more times in the future, my friend." The older man stood before him with his arms opened as he shook Milo's hand vigorously. "I can't remember the last time they've gotten that worked up over a performance, and believe me, we've had some great performances lately."

     "Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity." Milo became elated by the promise of a spot  in the club, but kept it under wraps beneath his cool demeanor.

    "I knew I made a good choice with you. Be ready for next week, I'll be calling you about some openings then." He pointed at Milo as he began back pedaling out the room to tend to other business elsewhere. When he left, in came Lauren who had been standing by the doorway and overheard the conversation.

   "I heard the good news. So what, you have a solid spot here?" She asked excitedly, mirroring the exact feeling he felt inside.

    "Seems that way." He finally smiled, letting out the breath he had been holding earlier. Lauren engulfed him in a hug as she told him how proud she was of what he was doing.

    "The last thing I thought you would be doing is singing. You really are great, Milo. I'm sorry I've ever missed this before." Reaching out to ruffle her hair, Milo shook his head.

    "It's nothing to start crying about." He said, hoping that the tears shaking visibly in her eyes stayed there.

   "I'm sorry, I'm just so happy for you. This is what I've been wanting for you."

     "Well, I'm working towards it. You get why I don't need you and ma down my neck about everything? When I say I can handle some things on my own, I kinda mean it." Grabbing his things, he began leading Lauren from the room.

    "I know, I know..." She spoke from behind.

     When they made their way to the parking lot, Milo looked at his watch to see that it was just past 8.

     "How about we go grab something to eat?" He suggested, noting the surprise of inclusion on Lauren's face.

    "I know a restaurant that serves the best burgers." Digging for her keys, she went to her car as Milo did the same.

    "Let me guess, does the owner's name happen to be Talton?" He shut his trunk and walked over to her window, leaning against her car.

    "Oh no, no. Though it would be nice if you stopped by sometime soon and showed your brother in law some love. It's this other place. I use to go there in college when I felt fancy or got some old guy to pay my way." Cringing at her admittance, Milo stood, and went to his own car and followed her to the restaurant.

oOo

     Roddrick stood from behind the door separating the kitchen from the diners as her eyes landed on a familiar face. A sour taste entered her mouth as she watched the man look around anxiously, twirling his thumbs during the wait.

    Unfortunately he was seated in her section, and if she didn't get out there soon, someone would notice her hiding behind the door.

    Her steps were measured and loud as she walked towards his table. At first, she was determined to show him that she could careless that he was there and had no intentions of acknowledging their connection to one another.

    But when Brian's eyes met hers, she felt insecurity enter her again, and quickly went on the defense as she came to his table.

    "Roddrick-"

    "My name is Roddrick and I'll be your waitress tonight." The breathy sound of her name leaving his mouth disturbed her as she went for her writing pad, ready to take his order." Can I start you off with something to drink?"

    His eyes lingered on her turned away face before they looked over the rest of her.

     "I was hoping that I could come here and get a chance to talk to you Roddrick..." Brian spoke softly as her face hardened.

    "I am at work, sir. What would you like to drink?"

    "I know you hate me, I accept that. I owe you a lot of explanations, and I really hope that you would let me-"

    "We all want things we can't have. Now, are you here to order or harass me because I can have you removed immediately."The stern stare she gave him never wavered as an eyebrow rose. He remembered getting that look plenty of times before she fell into a fit of giggles or smiles, easing the seriousness she had always held.

   He knew he was going to be getting one of those now.

    "I'll take a water." He spoke hoarsely.

    "Would you like more time to decide on your meal?"

      "I'll have the pasta special." He answered quickly not even bothering to look at the menu. Pursing her lips, Roddrick put away her notepad, reaching for his menu.

    "I'll have that water out soon." She nodded before walking away.

oOo

     Milo sat unmoving in front of the restaurant Lauren brought him to.

    "Are you sure this is the place you wanted to go?" He asked her as she set the alarm to her car.

     "Of course it is, I brought us here didn't I?" Milo looked for the familiar bike lying against the side of the building, and saw that it was nowhere in sight. The sinking feeling could have been from disappointment or relief, he wasn't sure.

    "Me and Roddrick came here all of the time, I wonder if they'd remember my face now." She spoke absentmindedly, not seeing the stress that the name she called put on Milo as they entered the restaurant.

     There were a few couples ahead of them, and as the host told them that there would be a thirty minute wait, Milo had been subconsciously looking for all of the waiters as they moved around the room. He could hear his sister speaking to him, but wasn't listening.

    "Hey, did you hear me? I swear we haven't gotten a chance to talk much since the wedding and you're zoning out on me already." She nagged as she fixed her coat and jacket. Just when Milo thought he was in the clear, and would be able to relax, Lauren broke out into a gasp as she spotted Roddrick across the room.

    "Oh my God. I had no idea she worked here." She muttered to herself about different things for the next twenty minutes. As they moved up in the line, they were getting closer to the main dining room, and more visible as Roddrick spotted the short blonde after picking up the dishes from an empty table. She smiled brightly at the waving woman, and tried her best to do the same.

    "Fuck." Her face deadpanned once she saw Milo staring her way. When she watched one of the hosts move them closer and closer, she realized that they were headed for the table she had just cleared.

 

   Turning back and heading for the kitchen, she began to laugh. When she passed by a silent Brian who watched her pursuit, it began to carry a twinge of lunacy as she realized what was in store for her that tonight.

Chapter 10 by EveryBit12
Author's Notes:

Second half of the update 

=)

     Roddrick stood from behind the door separating the kitchen from the diners as her eyes landed on a familiar face. A sour taste entered her mouth as she watched the man look around anxiously, twirling his thumbs during the wait.

    Unfortunately he was seated in her section, and if she didn't get out there soon, someone would notice her hiding behind the door.

    Her steps were measured and loud as she walked towards his table. At first, she was determined to show him that she could careless that he was there and had no intentions of acknowledging their connection to one another.

    But when Brian's eyes met hers, she felt insecurity enter her again, and quickly went on the defense as she came to his table.

    "Roddrick-"

    "My name is Roddrick and I'll be your waitress tonight." The breathy sound of her name leaving his mouth disturbed her as she went for her writing pad, ready to take his order." Can I start you off with something to drink?"

    His eyes lingered on her turned away face before they looked over the rest of her.

     "I was hoping that I could come here and get a chance to talk to you Roddrick..." Brian spoke softly as her face hardened.

    "I am at work, sir. What would you like to drink?"

    "I know you hate me, I accept that. I owe you a lot of explanations, and I really hope that you would let me-"

    "We all want things we can't have. Now, are you here to order or harass me because I can have you removed immediately."The stern stare she gave him never wavered as an eyebrow rose. He remembered getting that look plenty of times before she fell into a fit of giggles or smiles, easing the seriousness she had always held.

   He knew he was going to be getting one of those now.

    "I'll take a water." He spoke hoarsely.

    "Would you like more time to decide on your meal?"

      "I'll have the pasta special." He answered quickly not even bothering to look at the menu. Pursing her lips, Roddrick put away her notepad, reaching for his menu.

    "I'll have that water out soon." She nodded before walking away.

oOo

     Milo sat unmoving in front of the restaurant Lauren brought him to.

    "Are you sure this is the place you wanted to go?" He asked her as she set the alarm to her car.

     "Of course it is, I brought us here didn't I?" Milo looked for the familiar bike lying against the side of the building, and saw that it was nowhere in sight. The sinking feeling could have been from disappointment or relief, he wasn't sure.

    "Me and Roddrick came here all of the time, I wonder if they'd remember my face now." She spoke absentmindedly, not seeing the stress that the name she called put on Milo as they entered the restaurant.

     There were a few couples ahead of them, and as the host told them that there would be a thirty minute wait, Milo had been subconsciously looking for all of the waiters as they moved around the room. He could hear his sister speaking to him, but wasn't listening.

    "Hey, did you hear me? I swear we haven't gotten a chance to talk much since the wedding and you're zoning out on me already." She nagged as she fixed her coat and jacket. Just when Milo thought he was in the clear, and would be able to relax, Lauren broke out into a gasp as she spotted Roddrick across the room.

    "Oh my God. I had no idea she worked here." She muttered to herself about different things for the next twenty minutes. As they moved up in the line, they were getting closer to the main dining room, and more visible as Roddrick spotted the short blonde after picking up the dishes from an empty table. She smiled brightly at the waving woman, and tried her best to do the same.

    "Fuck." Her face deadpanned once she saw Milo staring her way. When she watched one of the hosts move them closer and closer, she realized that they were headed for the table she had just cleared.

   Turning back and heading for the kitchen, she began to laugh. When she passed by a silent Brian who watched her pursuit, it began to carry a twinge of lunacy as she realized what was in store for her that tonight.

oOo

     When Roddrick removed the entrée from the portable hot plate used to keep certain dishes hot before Brian, her mind was elsewhere as were her eyes as she cut them to the table where Lauren and Milo sat. Her quick look caused her hand to slip and touch the side of the steaming plate. Not prepared for the sudden shock, she jerked her hand back quickly, holding it against her side as she hissed.

    "Did you burn yourself?" Brian looked like he was ready to jump out of his seat as he reached for her hand. The instant she felt the pads of his fingers against her wrist, she exploded.

    "Don't you fucking touch me!" Her eyes bulged as she pulled away from him. "Don't you ever try that again." She clenched her teeth as she pointed to him, lowering her voice embarrassed from the unprofessional language she had used. She didn't know why there was such a burst of anger remaining in her towards Brian. She had no idea that all of the trouble she had gone through to simply forget him could be erased that easily by his touch, reigniting the true anger that lay dormant inside of her.

     His face paled as he sank back into the seat, all eyes on them now.

     "Is everything alright?" A male waiter came to her side the instant he heard the outburst. He knew that plenty of the waitresses had run into touchy feely customers that didn't understand boundaries, and he was ready to make sure Brian was out of there had he offended her.

    Taking a deep breath through her nose, she turned to him, speaking tightly.

    "I'm good. Just-touched the plate."

    "Did he?-"

    "No, everything's fine. Thanks."

         He looked at her still suspicious and even offered to cover her table if she had burned herself bad.

 

   "Maybe you should go get it checked out."

     Realizing that he wasn't going to let up until he was sure everything was fine, Roddrick stopped being annoyed and appreciated his concern.

   "Nah, it will probably just be sore. No big deal." This time her words were less harsh as she assured him, touching his shoulder as she passed by him. She had put off Lauren's table long enough, and by then she should have had her manager screaming at her to her job because of the extensive wait.

   Bringing herself together, she made her way towards them. They too had looked over at the scene, and it took everything in her to not have a stare off with Milo as he watched her move to their table.

   "Hey lady." She smiled down at Lauren who beamed at her before grimacing.

    "Everything okay? I heard you yell over there." Roddrick turned over her hand and cringed at the red site on her hand. It felt numb as she made a fist, a slight sweat breaking out over her body.

   She really shouldn't have ignored it the way she did, and the longer she stood there she regretted not letting her coworker take over this table for the sake of treating her burn.

   "Oh my God! That looks painful." Lauren leaned in to get a better look at Roddrick's hand. Concern fell on her face as she looked up to her friend.

    "You should have run this under some water, get some ice on it or something. I haven't taken first aid since like middle school, but I'm sure you should do something quick."

    "Now, now. I'm here to take care of you, not the other way around." Roddrick hoped that if she acted nonchalantly enough, then the attention would be taken off of her.

     "Whatever you say, trooper. " Lauren pulled back with a smile as she recalled one of her many names she had for Roddrick.

   "She never lets anybody else worry or help her, she'd rather do it herself." She turned to Milo across the table. It was then that she noticed he had moved from his slumped position in his chair to sitting up straight, staring very intently at Roddrick and her hand.

   "Oh yeah..." Lauren remembered the infatuation Milo had seemed to have with finding out more about Roddrick, and the uneasiness she had with it came back to her in that moment." This is Roddrick, Milo. I talked about her a few times before. We were roommates in college." She chose to leave out the fact that his curiosity about her was finally being sated.

    When she saw is intense gaze land on Roddrick, she became nervous. "Roddrick this is my little brother Milo." She spoke quickly, noticing that she held the same look as well.

   "Yeah I-" Roddrick had to bite her tongue before she finished with the insult she had prepared. She had told Lauren that she had no idea Milo even existed the last time they met. Relaxing her face with a look of false surprise she opened her mouth with an ‘oh'.

    "You're little brother! That's right. It's nice to -um-it's great to finally meet you." She faked friendliness the very best she could.

    "Are you okay?"  Milo didn't care to follow the "stranger" script Roddrick hoped that he would pick up on. He was no longer concerned about what had transpired between them and the tension that was left behind.

    He was much more focused on the consistent sweat on her brow, the way she gripped at her hand and her slurred speech. Her eyes were slightly out of focus.

     "Roddrick? Roddrick, do you hear me?" Her eyes began to flutter as she staggered on her feet. She could see Milo stand and reach for her, but tried her best to dodge him.

   "I don't feel so well. I'm just gonna-gonna..." Her vision blurred as she no longer had the strength to stand on her feet, falling with blackness before her.

oOo

     "Prop her feet up. Come on!"

     "Oh my God. What happened to her?"

    " Call 911, Lauren."

     "Is she okay?"

     "911, Lauren?" Milo placed Roddrick's head gently on the ground. He had easily caught her, preventing her from falling to the hard floor when she fainted. Her face and neck were clammy and cold as he took her pulse. Face flushed from the pain of the burn.

    He couldn't pay attention to his sister as she stuttered over the cell phone, relaying information to the operator as he tended to Roddrick.

    "What the hell happened? Roddrick?" Another hand came to Roddrick's face, gripping her cheek and reaching for a pulse.

    "Can you please back up?" Milo whirled around irritated at the man who took to touching her so freely. "Unless you're a doctor or some shit, I think one person here is enough." He bit out.

     "And so what does that make you?" Brian was just as snarky as he ignored Milo's warning. His hand went to push back the hair that was splayed across her face, sticky from her sweat.

    "I said to get back!" Milo felt his heart skip at the familiar action." Don't touch her like that." His arms were now braced before her in a protective stance, ready to defend against any hands that weren't his or the paramedics.

    "They're on their way Milo." Lauren returned to the ground still flustered. The restaurant looked on, workers coming to check on Roddrick as the manager rushed to the ground. Milo noticed the older graying woman was frazzled as she stammered out her questions about what had happened.

    "She must have burned herself not too long before coming to our table." Milo explained. The manager rolled her eyes before rubbing her temples.

    "Don't worry; the ambulance is coming to make sure she's okay." He picked up on her annoyance instantly, and it heightened his own. If he could tell everyone who didn't genuinely care to back the fuck up and stay there, he would.

   "She's awake. Roddrick?" Brian was the first to see her attempt to open her heavy lids. When she finally managed to keep them open, all she could see were the bright lights above her invading her vision before she shut them closed again.

   She could hear sounds around her, but hadn't been able to stir herself enough to respond. Slowly all of her sense started to come back. The sound of her manager cursing under her breath. The way Lauren began saying thanks for her waking back up.

    The feel of Milo's hand gripping her good one, squeezing it gently when she turned to him.

    "I don't know if you know this, but you kinda fainted." He smiled softly when her eyes focused on his. Reflexively, she found herself holding on to his hand tightly as she began to process what he had said.

   "Why the hell would I do that?" She moaned. When a throbbing sensation in her other hand made her grit her teeth, she began to understand why.

    "First rule of getting burns is treating said burns, you know." Milo teased when she held her hand up to inspect it.

    "Shit." She said to herself before trying to sit up.

    "No, no, no. The ambulance is on their way to check on you." He gently pushed her back down onto the ground seeing that she was intent on getting up and brushing off what had happened. Accepting that she could barely move, Roddrick lied back with the soft feel of Milo's fingers intertwined with the small hairs at the base of her neck. Her head fell towards his knee during is ministrations as she sighed contently.

    "What are you doing?" Lauren whispered confused at the way they looked together. "Milo, stop touching her, you don't even know her. " Reaching over to remove his hand, he gently brushed her off without saying a word.

    Jesus, her brother must have had some sick obsessive fantasy that revolved around Roddrick.

    Brian could feel his jaw tick with a slight twinge of jealousy, even though he knew he had no right to feel it.  He couldn't mistake the way Milo looked at Roddrick, it was the look he should have given to her much more often when they were together for nearly ten years.

    A stranger didn't have that much compassion and concern for someone else.

    These two were much more than that, and he could sense it.

     When the EMS finally arrived, they were the only force to move him away from Roddrick's side. He watched as they checked her vitals. When they took her blood pressure he heard them speak in technical terms that weren't all too hard to decipher.

      "Hi ma'am, can you tell me your name?" One of them asked as the others continued their procedure.

    "Roddrick." She croaked.

     "Okay Roddrick, are you pregnant?"

      "God, no."

     "Do you have a history of fainting?"

      "Not that I know of."

   "Do you know what year it is?"

   "2013. Look, I didn't hit my head, just kind of felt dizzy."

    "You not only felt dizzy miss, you fainted as well. Your blood pressure is extremely low, so we will be moving you to the hospital to make sure we get that back up to where it should be."

     "I don't need a hospital..." She murmured." I'm fine."

    "You're going to the hospital!" Her manager exclaimed, sending a ringing through Roddrick's ears.

    Everyone turned to look at her outburst, before the paramedic continued.

    "We're also going to get that hand of yours wrapped up. You got a pretty nasty burn there."

    "It was his fault." She spoke groggily, looking to Milo."If you hadn't been over here, I wouldn't have had to look at you, and I wouldn't have burnt my hand." She stated matter of fact. Milo's eyes went to his sister's as she took in all that she was witnessing.

     "I'm sorry I'm so distracting." He whispered to her. The small grin she gave him was a treasure as he never expected to get one from her anytime soon.

         "You really are." The words were breathy, and he wondered if she even meant to speak them out loud. The wheeled stretcher that had been towed in with the paramedics was brought over and prepped for Roddrick to be placed on.

 

    "Are you okay to stand miss?" It was a question the EMT didn't have to ask as she immediately tried to stand. With the help of Milo at one side, and the EMT at the other, she was able to come to her full height.

    Bending at the waist, she stopped as she felt her head throb from the change of position. Milo's hand was still tightly wound around her own as they finally moved her to the stretcher.

    "I'm following right behind them." He let her know as they began moving her out. When he walked alongside Roddrick, he was quickly stopped by Lauren.

    "I think you should just let them go ahead and take her. You and I can ride over together to see how she is."

    "I'm not waiting. I'm going to go with her now."

    Milo began to pull free before, Lauren looked at him worriedly. He knew the look, and didn't have the time or the energy to deal with it.

   "You're going far enough with this Milo, and it's honestly freaking me out." The last time he had gotten attached to someone, it was just shy of destroying him and she hadn't seen it coming. If she could stop him from getting himself into trouble now, it would be for the best.

    "Look, you want to come later, then great. I'll be leaving now. Call me if you do." He wasn't going to get into the reason why he had to go with Roddrick, how he knew her, or what made him want to make sure she was okay.

    He wasn't alone either as both Lauren and Brian soon followed out the building as well.

    "Hey! Did you order already?" The manager called after them, seeing money walk out of the restaurant.

    She was ready to run out after the small party to make sure they paid their dues when an elderly couple spoke up, telling the woman to have some sympathy as they agreed to pay for their bills.

oOo

     Roddrick watched as the third nurse walked out of her room, asking the same questions as they had before.

    "This was a waste of time." She said out loud, looking at the things that were plugged into her body.  They had her give urine samples, checked this, and checked that.  They had even said that her blood pressure seemed to be stabilizing, though not as well as they had hoped.

      She was beyond ready to go, and didn't want to waste anymore time there.

     "They said your blood pressure is still a concern. You're gonna have to wait it out a bit longer, Roddrick." The sound of Milo entering the room reminded her that he had sat by her side for the past hour in a half.

    And also that she hadn't had the time to complain or thwart him away.

     This time when he came back, his face seemed to be less than pleased, aside from the fact that they were in a hospital. His hands were on his hips as he walked to her bedside.

    "There's some guy from the restaurant who followed us here. Says he knows you."

     She knew exactly who this person was, and rolled her eyes." You tell him to take his ass on somewhere because I do not welcome his presence. And if he's still here then I'm going to kick his ass. Tell him that." She made her threat and stood by it. She didn't need Brian around when she had to deal with Milo as well. She was vulnerable tonight, and hadn't rejected the guy, but that didn't mean he had risen in the ranks with her.

    "Good to know I'm not the only one on your list then..."

    "Would you like a separate one all your own?" She lashed out. "Don't think that anything here tonight changes anything."

    Holding up his hands, he nodded in agreement. "Understood."

    "Good." Roddrick's head fell back on her pillows as she noticed Lauren gone. The other woman had been in the room with her as well up until thirty minutes ago.

    "Where's your sister?"

    "Talton had car issues. Needed a lift back home. She said that she would call you later to check up on you, and that she loved you." Milo repeated what he had been instructed to say.

    " Did you know?" Roddrick asked. She knew that Lauren had mentioned Milo asking about her, so he knew that she was her friend.

    "During the wedding. I had seen you around with her before we had...met."

    "Met." She scoffed. "Do you usually scope out your sister's friends just to fuck them?" She said dryly.

    "No, it's nothing like that. It's not a hobby of mine or anything like that." He said genuinely offended.

    " A little game to play for when you get bored." She continued on.

   "You aren't a game, Roddrick. That's what I'm trying to tell you."

     "Well I've definitely been hearing something different then, haven't I? How old are you anyway?" It came to her attention that she had no idea about Milo's age. She and Lauren were just barely in their mid-twenties, and even Danny had referred to him as a kid just from one meeting.

    She began observing his features, seeing the youth that those who were barely twenty still held before they became hardened by the brunt of adulthood.

   "22." He said without skipping a beat.

    "22? Are you serious right now?"

    "I have no reason to lie about my age." Milo said undisturbed from her slight shock.

    "God had I known you were a kid, I never would have slept with you. I shouldn't have in the first place anyway." She said, shaking her head in disbelief. He felt a knick at his ego from her words as she seemed regretful.

    "You act like you're ten years older than me."

     "I'm nearly 25, you've barely been legal for long. "

     "And?" He said, still waiting for her point.

      "You're Lauren's baby brother."

     "Younger brother."

     "You...you're at a different place than I am. Even if it's not ten or fifteen years between us, you are." She tried to find a reason that would suffice for her argument.

    "I'm sure that it's not as different as you would like to think it is." Milo shrugged. Before Roddrick could retort back, in walked a doctor, putting an end to their back and forth.

     "Ms. Kennedy?" He said, peeking his head into the room. The glasses on his face sat low on the bridge of his nose as the rest of his large body followed in suit. "I am Dr. Hasinbasic. How are you feeling tonight?" He extended a hand to not only Roddrick, but Milo as well. With the information he held in his hand, he could only assume that he too would want to hear the news he had. Seeing the way he stood above her bed with a protective arm behind her head, the two of them seemed like any other young couple he had met.

    "I'm feeling better than before. Can I leave yet?" She didn't feel like beating around the bush and waiting for him to explain things that would only get herself diagnosing side to rear its ugly and irritating head.

     "Well, I'm glad to say that we have finally found the reasoning behind such a low BP like yours. A fainting episode didn't seem likely to cause such a drop, especially given no history of problems before. In your condition it is quite normal to experience fainting, and dizziness within the first trimester. But I see no reason why you won't be able to leave before the night is over with." The doctor spoke nonstop as he began explaining that Roddrick would be okay to leave the hospital, and that she would have to keep a close look on her blood pressure throughout her pregnancy to ensure that she and the baby remained healthy.

    Roddrick had honestly tuned out all of his talking, having already determined that she was completely okay, and that he was going to just be repeating what she already knew.

     "Hold on a second, did you say trimester? Like a pregnancy trimester?" Milo too had been glad to hear the good news that she wouldn't have to stay overnight. But when his mind registered all of the words that had been said, his body froze.

    "What the hell are you talking about? The doctor never said anything like that; were you even listening?" Roddrick rolled her eyes at Milo as she turned to Dr. Hasinbasic.

    "No, I did say first trimester. Your urine test results came back as positive, and from the looks of it you are relatively still in the early stages of your pregnancy." He said without a doubt.

     Roddrick's heart dropped.

    "No, that's not possible." She sat up straight, petrified from his words." You must have done it wrong, or tested someone else's pee because I am definitely not pregnant."

   "She's pregnant?" Milo whispered softly, completely confused. Now he felt like he would faint, and as he threw himself back into the chair by the bed, he could feel his skin rise with goosebumps.

   "I'm not pregnant!" She yelled. "I am not going through this again. I took three at home tests and every last one of them were negative. I can't be pregnant, and if that's what your test is telling you, it's wrong." Roddrick said panicked.

     Dr. Hasinbasic stood with a completely different understanding, the couple now looked lost and terrified upon him reporting news he thought they already knew.

    "I'm sorry if this may come as a shock to you Ms. Kennedy, but you are indeed with child." His voice became more serious as he tried to get it across to her. As her head shook in denial, he offered to do a blood test as well for confirmation, but she refused.

     Tears came to her eyes as she began to feel sick to her stomach.

     "I would be more than happy to give you information on what your next steps should be. It will help you with deciding what's best for you."

    Roddrick's mind went blank as she stared down at her blankets.

   "I didn't come in here for this." She said to herself, shaking her head as subtle tears fell down her cheeks.  She gripped the material tightly as she quietly sobbed.

     She wasn't sure when the doctor had left, or when the nurse had come back to remove her IV and grant her permission to leave. Everything around her no longer mattered as she turned over the news of her pregnancy a thousand times in her head, trying to turn it into being a lie.

    When she turned to look at Milo, she saw the look of anguish he held, mirroring her own.

 

    Roddrick burst into inconsolable tears. 

End Notes:

I know some of you hate pregnancy getting thrown into the mix, but believe you me...this isn't going to be some magic key for these two to hop into a relationship....oh no...

Chapter 11 by EveryBit12
Author's Notes:

Been a long time

since I left you

without a dope update to read to...

The silence which filled the room was beginning to become unbearable.

     "This is bad." Roddrick's voice was horse as she stared at nothing in particular but the future that lied ahead of her. Her breathing became labored as her hands slowly touched her stomach.

    "I can't...there's no way that any of this can happen right now." She shook her head, tears continuing to fall.

    "You've known." Milo finally spoke up from his corner of the room.

    "How could I have known?"

    "You said you've taken tests at home." He was trying to recount all that he had heard when the doctor told them what their lust had brought them.

      "It was anything serious. Just suspicion! And not even mine-"

      "You still should have said something to me." Milo's face was contorted in visible anger.

    "They were all negative. I know they were negative." She cried to herself. "I can't have a baby right now." Climbing off of the bed, she repeated those same words to herself over and over again as she grabbed for her clothes, putting them on hurriedly.

     Milo felt small sitting in his chair as his head tried to comprehend everything.

     "Where are you going?" He asked her bitingly as Roddrick frantically dialed a number on her phone, leaving the room. His feet chased behind her as she ran into nurses and others during her escape into the hall.

    "Roddrick..." He called after her. She ignored him. She hadn't even managed to take off the gown completely, having put her jacket on over it. She fiddled with the buttons as she listened to the ring tone that seemed to go on forever.

    "Hey, I was just about to be on my way to get you." Danny answered.

    "I'm not at work anymore. Can you please come get me at the hospital?" She couldn't stop the shakiness of her voice from showing through, instilling worry in Danny as she became concerned.

    "The hospital? Why are you at the hospital? What happened, Roddrick?" She quickly began to move faster than before in order to pick up Roddrick. She rushed out of her apartment without even locking the door as she raced to her car.

    "Talk to me!"

     "I burned myself and fainted and-please just come and get me."

     "Tell me why you are crying, Roddrick." Danny's heart rate sped up as she began to worry about her friend. Not knowing or understanding everything that was going on with Roddrick caused her to become even more emotionally charged, demanding answers from her.

     "No." Roddrick looked from side to side, trying to figure out which way would be the fastest out of the building. Going right, she could see Milo close by out the corner of her eye.

    "I'm on my way now. So just-be where I can find you."

    "Please don't hang up on me."

    "I won't. I'll stay right here on the phone with you." Danny promised, hating to hear the tormented sound of Roddrick's voice.

     "Will you please stop running away and talk to me!" Danny's eyes narrowed at the sound of a man's voice.

      "I don't need you following me right now." Turning around sharply, Roddrick's fingers pointed at him, shaking as her scowl caught the attention of others around them. Halting for just a moment, Milo was taken aback by how angry she seemed to be.

    "You know, I'm starting to see you're a pro at ducking and dodging." Milo laughed sarcastically. Rolling her eyes, Roddrick continued on.

         "I really need you to just leave me alone right now." When Roddrick spoke, Danny realized that he was in fact speaking to her.

    "Do you really think I can do that right now? You're not the only one having to deal with this!" Milo had finally caught up with Roddrick as she found an exit; the night air blew against his face as he came near.

    "Is that the Milo guy? Why is he there with you, Roddrick? Is he the reason you're there?" Danny's fist tightened around the steering wheel as her foot pressed even more on the gas.

      "After a day like today, I really don't have the energy to fight with you right now." Roddrick's entire demeanor was downtrodden as her shoulders slumped forward, eyes red from tears and exhaustion.

     Somehow, Milo was able to see through his own haze of bewilderment and shock to see the stress that lied in her eyes.

     "I'm not here to fight with you. But we can't not talk about this. " Reigning in any hostility that would cause this situation to turn sour, Milo's voice lowered into a more reasonable tone. When his hands went to the outline of her jaw, Roddrick's head slunk towards his chest as silent cries escaped her. Her strength was gone, and she could no longer hold back the tears.

    "I don't know what's going on." She moaned into his shirt. Taking the phone from her hand, Milo pressed the ‘End' button, ceasing the screaming on the other end.

   "Neither do I." He guided them to a nearby bench, where another guest smoked a cigarette while watching the two in silence. He stood immediately, putting out the cigarette with a nod to Milo, before heading back into the hospital.

     Out of all of the things Milo had envisioned doing with Roddrick, having a baby hadn't been a part of his plans this early-if at all.

     A painful silence fell over the expecting pair as the fear of a child began to settle in.

     "We can't have a baby. I don't know you. You don't know me. "Pushing off of him, her hands fell into her lap as she shrugged hopelessly.

     "We don't have time to think about that right now, Roddrick. I know this is upsetting-I'm just as surprised and scared shitless as you are, but this isn't something that you can just make go away." Milo paused as his mind raced with all of the possible endings this pregnancy could have." Right?" he asked sounding unsure.

   Roddrick's arms were crossed as she picked up on the hint in his voice. Her movements along with her tears stopped as she was faced with the one option that could put an end to this quickly-abortion.

      "We have to make a decision that makes sense. A responsible one for the both of us even though we are far from that." Her eyes flitted over to Milo as his jaw tightened. The mixture of emotions on her face told her he had something to say, but instead he kept quiet.

   It was her right to choose, it was her body and therefore she could-should have the ultimate decision in this. The right for a woman to choose had always been something she stood by, and undoubtedly believed in. Being in the shoes that many women before her have found themselves in situations like this proved to be a lot easier said than done.

    "There's no way you think I can afford to take care of a baby." She saw the distant look of restraint in Milo's eyes as he sighed heavily, standing to only walk away and crouch close to the sidewalk, locking his fingers behind his head.

    When Roddrick went to sit on the curb, she had to fight through the heavy weight which made her body tremble as she sat before him.

     "If we were smart about this, we would already know how everything should be...handled." When Roddrick's words met her own ears, they sounded like a stranger had been the one to speak. The suggestion of abortion rolling off her tongue seemed bitter and foreign. When she looked to Milo, she saw that he didn't believe in her words any more than she did.

    "Are we on the same page about what that even means?" Milo scooted closer, sitting shoulder to shoulder with Roddrick. She naturally gravitated towards leaning her head into his opened and welcoming chest as a strong hand gripped her arm in the cool dark night.

      She looked to the fingertips that had turned white from the pressure he applied with his grip.

     "What do you think we should do? Honestly." For some reason, Roddrick felt that if Milo's words mirrored her thoughts of owning up and going through with the pregnancy, she would be able to feel less like a fool for deciding she could bear undergoing an abortion.

     His silence drew Roddrick away from his chest as she watched his head shake from side to side.

     Her heart dropped.

     "We can't run from this. We can't make this disappear, or ignore it. I've done that way too many times before," Running one hand over his face, he locked his eyes with Roddrick's," I can't do that ever again."

     "You would want to keep it? The baby?" She spoke with abated breath.

      "Yes." He replied without hesitation.

       "Are you saying this now...or do you really mean it? Because...Milo I can't bring a baby into my life thinking you'll be there to help and then have you go back on your promise. We could co-parent-- do whatever we have to but I'm not going to do this on my own. I'm not going to be that, I've always sworn to myself-"

      "I wouldn't do that to you, Roddrick. You're worrying about something that would never happen." He held her chin between his fingers as he steadied her face. She had begun to speak faster and more frantically as she thought of all of the ways he could back out of it all 6 months down the road, leaving her to fall flat on her face.

     "But you-"

      "But nothing. That's the end of that, okay?" His thumb ran gentle strokes along the outline of her jaw as she nodded in agreement. Tear residue still resided in her eyes, spilling to the brim of her lids only to fall down silently again.

    "Roddrick. Roddrick, you don't have to worry about me leaving you to deal with this all by yourself-"

    "I'm not crying about that." She waved him away as she tried her best to wipe away the wetness against her skin, causing it to redden. "I'm crying because holy fuck, Milo, I've got to do so much now." Her shoulders slouched as she turned to him, incredulous laughter building from the pit of her stomach, moving its way up and raddling her chest along with it."Holy. Fuck."

     Milo wasn't able to share in her laughter of comfort-though it bordered more along the lines of insanity-- as he too realized, there was a lot to figure out. The income he had now was just enough to support him alone and nothing more. He had never held a job before in his life, and just barely got by with his paid gigs now. They were something but not enough to take on two more beings with needs and necessities.

     "It's going to work out, Roddrick." He spoke seriously.  The words were not only for Roddrick, but for himself as well. His initial thought had been to keep the baby no matter what, but now he saw that there was much more to that and he had barely wrapped his head around preparing for what lied ahead.

     Feeling his arm curl around her waist, Roddrick slowly reached out to grasp the hand that lied at her side. The instant their fingers met, they intertwined against the tremble of her stomach as she took a deep breath.    

     "I had no idea something like this would have happened. I was just-I was just trying to---"Months ago, allowing herself to want and indulge in Milo had been her own mini revolt against the bondage she kept herself trapped in. She had snuck away for just one night from herself in order to be free.

     Now it seemed she had bound herself forever-except in a very different way.

    "Who would have known? "

   "We did. We knew better even back then..."

    "Roddrick!" The sound of a car door slamming and feet hitting the pavement echoed through the dead silence of the hospital parking lot. Moving her hair from her face, Roddrick felt a rush of relief enter her at the sight of Danny. She had forgotten how desperate she had been to have her friend there to save her just moments ago.

    When she stood and waited for Danny run towards her with open arms ran, Milo allowed his hand and hold to coast down her side; he wanted to keep her close, afraid that they would lose the little progress they had just made with each other as he was thrown back into the shadow of a stranger as Roddrick began crying into her friend's shoulder.

    "What happened to you?" Lightly touching the bandages around Roddrick's hand, Danny began shaking her head.

     "It was an accident. I touched a hotplate and it burned the shit out of me." Roddrick could taste the salt of her tears seeping between her lips as she let Danny turn her hand over to inspect the handiwork.

    "And you're still crying about it?" Cutting her eyes to Milo as he stood, she waved her hand before him to keep him from coming close.

    "Danny..." Roddrick could see her chest swell and nose flare as she pointed at Milo menacingly.

     "What the hell are you doing here?" Her voice seemed to ricochet off of everything near them and even sent a shiver down Roddrick's back.

     "We didn't get to really introduce ourselves before. I'm Milo and-"

      "I know who you are so just save it. I want to know why you are still harassing her." As Danny stood guard of Roddrick, she could see the best friend who would help her fight her problems at the drop of a hat back in high school.

     Milo pursed his lips, knowing that anything he was to say would be bullshit to Danny's ears.

     "Roddrick can explain...all of this to you."

     "What the hell does she have to tell me?" Danny's neck snapped to the side as she sneered at Milo.

     "I don't think this is the best place to tell you everything, or the best time. She's been through enough tonight and I really think she should rest before she gets even more upset." Milo's eyes never left Roddrick's as he spoke, wanting to see that she hadn't gone back to blocking him out. The small nod helped to reassure him as she began pulling Danny aside.

     "He's right. I don't feel up to talking about everything again."

     "Just tell me what you need to say." Danny urged. She couldn't shake the anticipation she felt waiting to find out

     "Not now, Danny."

     "Not now? I drove all the way over here like I lost my mind and now you're telling me you don't want to tell me whatever it is you need to tell me? Are you kidding me right now, Roddrick?" Danny brought a hand to the side of her face as she took a deep breath.

    "You can't just get me all hyped up and not expect me to want an answer."

     "You know I wouldn't keep anything from you."

     "Then what do you call this?" Her eyes widened as she looked at Roddrick bewildered.

      "Milo was right about this not being the place to talk."

      "Then what would be better for you? See, you're playing too much Roddrick. I don't get why it's so damn difficult to-"

     "She's pregnant." Milo wanted the yelling to end as he saw the flushed look on Roddrick's face as she shrunk back from Danny." And we're handling it." He cut her off before she could respond as he stood between the two women

     Danny simmered down, now able to see the worn look Roddrick had.

     "But...just the other day you said you weren't."

     "As far as the home tests went, that was true." Uncrossing her hands, she rubbed the sides of her legs as she shrugged." They ran other tests here and ... turns out that the ones I had bought had been faulty."

     Danny took a deep breath as her shoulders fell. "What are you going to do?" Though her eyes met Milo's, her question was directed towards Roddrick.

    "We're handling it." She answered.

     "Meaning?"

     "Meaning. Meaning we're keeping the baby." Roddrick said with finality. She watched as Danny rolled her eyes but held her tongue.

    "Girl, I can't tell you what to do or how to live-"

    "No, you can't." Roddrick said as calmly as possible.

     "But are you sure about this?" Danny knew that Roddrick was a grown woman and had made a grown woman decision. Both when she met Milo and now as she said she would keep the baby she now carried. After being friends for ten years, she just wanted to make sure that Roddrick knew that she would support her in any way she could.

     "Danny, honestly I don't know what I'm doing but I know this is what I want to do. I just would hope that you would understand that and-"

     "Of course I understand that. You don't think I'd be right there changing shitty diapers with you? Actually, I wouldn't be changing any as I would be handing you the new ones." The furrowed brow on Danny's face relaxed. With a sigh of relief Roddrick smiled genuinely for the first time, glad that she had her best friend's support.

    "Why are you making all that noise? You act like you're 16 and pregnant and just had to tell your mom you got knocked up by some random guy." Danny nudged her as Rockelle's face entered her thoughts.

    "My mom." She groaned as she held her head between her hands, laughing." She's going to have so much shit to say when she finds out."

    "She's going to trash talk for the rest of the pregnancy. Good thing you're getting out of there, right?" Danny's eyes lost their humor as she looked over Roddrick's shoulder to a quiet Milo.

     "Hey asshole," She called.

      "Danny..." Roddrick scolded.

     "When it comes time to decorate the nursery, I'll stop by and help. It's going to be glorious, right?" Danny was testing Milo as he stood wide eye. She knew the two of them had no plans set up at all, but she got a kick out of the realization of such a big responsibility in Milo's eyes.

    "We actually hadn't gotten around to talking about all of that yet."

    "So you're just going to have her out on the streets? Pregnant? Where she gonna live, huh? You know there are freaks out here that will pay some cash for a pregnant woman to give them a cup of titty milk--"

     "What Danny is trying to say is she wishes us the best of luck as we figure everything out." Roddrick was so used to her outlandish ways, but saw that Milo wasn't as amused.

     "You know, that's very thoughtful of you." Milo responded, placing his hands in his pockets.

     "Oh." Danny raised her brows with a small smile to Roddrick."I don't think he likes me." She whispered as she waved to Milo.

     "Don't worry! You'll be seeing me a lot more. It will give us some time to bond. You get want Roddrick, then you have to take the whole package..."

     "I'm gonna discontinue your ass if you don't chill..." Roddrick playfully threatened. As the two began to settle down, she thought it wouldn't be a bad idea to offer him a ride home.

       "I've had enough for one night-I think it's time for me to go home."

        Walking to her slowly, Milo nodded. "You should get some rest."

         Resisting the urge to twiddle her fingers, Roddrick spoke with a straight face." Do you need a ride? Danny can drop you off."

     "Did you just volunteer my gas?" Ignoring Danny, she waited for his response.

     "As gracious as that sounds, I'll have to decline the offer, thanks Danny." Milo's smile could easily be mistaken for a grimace as he sent it her way." I think I can find my way back."

    "If you say so." Roddrick shrugged as they locked gazes.

    "I would really appreciate it if you'd call and let me know you're home safe." Milo's eyes sparked with care. Just before she nodded in agreement, she realized that she wouldn't be able to after losing his number months ago.

    "Well, in that case..." Pulling her phone from her bag, she handed it to him as he shook with soft laughter.

    "I see you didn't keep my number..."

    "Oh, you know how things get sometimes." Taking the phone back from him, Roddrick gave one final goodbye as she began walking away with Danny. As they drove away from the parking lot, Roddrick could still spot Milo's figure in the side view mirror, never having left his spot. Sitting back in her seat, she closed her eyes as she held on hand to her forehead, and the other just barely hovering over her stomach.

    Danny was the first to break the silence as she noticed her tenderly touching her belly.

 

    "Well, at least he's cute."

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