The Long Winter #136

Whatever it was Laquan had told his friends turned their party into a loud argument. Delaney could hear cursing leaping over all the other indistinct words while Andi and Candace jabbed fingers in Delaney’s direction. She did not mind so much. Sandra had returned to her. She wanted to be angry with her girlfriend-for-a-day for abandoning her but the brunette’s smile was so beautiful, her hands so warm and comforting on her shoulders, it was impossible to maintain her earlier ire.

“I thought we were going to have to get the heck out of here,” Sandra said as they watched. “But it looks like they’re the ones who are going to leave.”

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The Long Winter #135

Penny’s stomach heaved and her body spasmed as she retched. Nothing came out and she collapsed onto the tiles, trying vainly to catch her breath. Then it was over and people clapped around her.

“…and that’s what it’s like to be on heroin.”


More people cheered and Theresa knelt down to help Penny get up. She wiped tears from her eyes and was grateful for the help back to her unsteady legs.


“That was amazing, Theresa,” Becca said, smiling at the raven-haired telepath. “She wants to feel cocaine next–”

“No, please.”

Becca laughed and the crowd laughed with her.

“Okay. Acid, then?”

“No!”

“LSD!”

More laughter, and then Becca was quiet for a moment as they helped Penny back to their table. She sat down and put her face in her hands and leaned forward over the table. It was impossible to push the memories from her mind. The sting as the needle pierced her skin. The rush of the drugs entering her system. The euphoria as they worked into her brain. The lethargy as they waned. The nausea and aches as she went into withdrawal. All prompted in her imagination by the evil telepath Becca’s father had brought with him to dinner. 

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The Long Winter #134

It was only going to take a second. Sandra was going to grab herself a water and then she was going to be right back at lovely Delaney’s side. She laughed to herself at how easy it was to think of her new friend as “lovely” and knelt down to open the cooler.

She never grabbed her water. Instead, she looked up to see Annelise talking to one of the partiers not far beyond their little cooler. He was tall and dark-skinned and had a sneering smile that told her that her friend needed rescuing. Sandra picked her way across the rocky expanse to join them.

“…can’t believe you’re actually dating that punk-ass bitch.”

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The Long Winter #133

Becca helped Penny sit down and then she tossed the bags with the wipes and Penny’s dirty dress into the back of the old 3000GT. When she sat down in the driver’s seat she chuckled.


“I can’t fucking believe you sometimes,” she said.

Penny noticed Becca had spoken but her brain felt as though it was composed entirely of alcoholic slush but without the fun fruitiness of a margarita. She lolled her head towards her loving girlfriend and spoke.

“Your dad says to call your mom.”

Becca made a sound of disgust and then the VR4’s twin-turbo engine roared to life. She pressed a few buttons on the screen of the fancy aftermarket radio and a picture of an older version of Becca with slightly darker hair appeared. The speakers sounded with the ringing of a phone. Becca put the car in gear and began their journey away from the Marlins Park garage.

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The Long Winter #132

So long as Delaney stayed near Sandra the others kept their distance. She followed her girlfriend-for-a-day up the cliff and waded behind her through the river and forced herself to brave the jump into the pool beneath the icy falls. Sandra led her into the spray of the waterfall, the brunette shouting with glee as the water cascaded down onto her head. Delaney could not bring herself to get too far under the falls, indeed the current pushed her away while it seemed nothing could keep Sandra from getting what she wanted.

I wish it was me she wanted…

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The Long Winter #131

The curved bill of the Marlins cap kept her eyes pointed towards the game. The Reds (whoever they were) were up 11-2 when the eighth inning started and, as Becca had promised, a martini was waiting for her in front of her seat. She saw no one’s reaction when she followed Becca out of the bathroom. She could hear them snickering as she passed them, but tried her best to imagine they were laughing at something other than her. She watched the pitcher take a few warmup pitches and then a batter for the Reds stepped up to the plate.

“The Marlins are pretty good this year,” Becca said. “But today’s pitcher, Fawad, he’s just awful.”

“He started out okay,” Penny said, recalling the initial strikeout.


“Yeah, he should never have been moved up from reliever. He’s got three good innings in him every game, it’s a miracle he lasted five today.”


Penny nodded.

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The Long Winter #130

There were no neighbors to bother or families to offend so the newcomers turned on raucous music a few yards away from Bart and his friends and started drinking alcohol. Bart sat beside Annelise and watched Sandra pull Delaney to the edge of the cliff. The brunette was gesturing excitedly and miming her leap and the redhead stood still, shaking her head with her hands clasped in front of her. Bart wanted to smile, to shout something up at them, but his mind was on the newcomers.

“We should leave,” Annelise said. She clung to him and her face was on his shoulder.

“We can’t,” he said. “They’d follow.”

“I don’t think he’s seen you yet.”


“He saw us.”

“I don’t know…”

“Why do you think he’s here?”

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The Long Winter #129

Every surface was shiny and clean, smooth to the touch. Expensive. The room was wide with a chef at the little kitchenette on the other side of the stone-topped island and the counters adorned with the day’s gourmet fare. The refrigerator was full of drinks and a bartender mixed cocktails for anyone who wanted one, sharing the space with the chef in an elaborate dance that looked choreographed and relentlessly practiced just for that day. Penny had never been to a stadium the size of Marlins Park, nor had she ever been in a private suite for a game.


“This is amazing,” Penny whispered to Becca.

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The Long Winter #128

Sandra stood at the top of the cliff and looked down at the pool. The surface was dark and lazy, a perfect contrast to the frothing white torrent of the waterfall beside her. She smiled and waved at Delaney, the auburn-haired girl lounging on a rock with Annelise on the other side of the pool. They had become close over the past few weeks, walking to and from work together, sharing lunches, and biking both the rocky trails and the smooth paths that wound through their little college town and along the Lake Superior shoreline.

On this day Bart had suggested they take advantage of a late spring heat wave and they hiked to the waterfall for cliff jumping. Or at least, he and Sandra had. Annelise and Delaney merely dangled their toes in the water and refused to do any more than that. Sandra jumped and plunged into the icy depths and nearly drowned at the initial shock of the frigid river. She flailed to get her limbs working and was sputtering and breathless when she broke the surface and awkwardly doggy-paddled up to her friends.

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The Long Winter #127

The storms had cleared away and Penny left the sliding doors open to enjoy the sound of the waves on the distant beach. Becca came home as the sun disappeared and the world was in the middle of turning black. She had a bag of Chinese food and a bottle of wine and a beautiful smile for Penny.


“Hello, you lovely thing,” Becca set everything down on the counter and kissed Penny. “I do love that dress.”


Penny smiled back. She had changed into the sunshine-y yellow and orange one and spun around in delight.


“I know, it’s my favorite,” she lied, but Becca did not seem to notice or care. The blonde girl seized her and kissed her again.


“I hope you had a good time today.” Becca busied herself with dishing out the food and pouring the wine. They ate at the counter.

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