One of These Things Just Doesn't Belong

Cedar Creek 
@Fletch and @Kenzie

Heather! You are one confident bitch. Never change. Xoxo
You will go so far, loved having Chem with you. Kick ass!
Power Monty ftw! You’re a rockstar. Luv you.

 Heather smoothed nimble fingers over uplifting corner notes, the scrawl squeezed into four blank pages, squabbling for top billing. Reading over her yearbook signatures had become a morning meditation. Student body President. Captain of the Field Hockey team. Not Prom Queen, but that was fine -- Heather had no time for titles that couldn’t be earned. For the entirety of her highschool career she’d been mercilessly self-assured, her life a crossword puzzle she attacked with ink instead of lead.

 But she was rudderless when it came to navigating her father’s affliction. Coasting in the murky torrent as she fumbled with what she wanted to do and who she wanted to be and all the versions of herself that could manifest and die before she ran aground.

 Looking far too much like a pack mule, she lugged her things up to the specified apartment in a single trip, switching a bag into her opposite hand so she could knock on the door. This was another storm, the clouds that blocked her view of the future swirling and stiflingly thick. It didn't dull the smile she spread across her face, stiff like a plaster mask when her father opened the door.

'Here she is!'

Artificial smiles were a family speciality. Crafted and put on display at the first whiff of trouble. What was a watermark on the French polished table, leaky gutters or an ailing marriage, when a smile papered over the flaws? Look at us, that smile said, we are happy! Domestic bliss and capability remarked by a neat row of pearls.

Heather's smile was her mother's. Bright and professionally honed. The type of smile perfected by those used to delivering difficult news. He matched it with his own; warm, winning. The smile of a man who'd spent half his life ingratiating himself with difficult people.

'Want me get those for you?' The bags she had lugged up multiple flights of stairs had less than ten yards to go to their destination. But, he told himself, it was the thought that counted. 'Coffee's in the pot.'

The apartment buzzer may as well been a shock designed to set her heart in a tumultuous rhythm. In the master bathroom, Kenzie scrubbed her damp palms on her pants before staring at herself in the mirror.

Being a bit ridiculous aren't you?

She braced her hands on the edge of the sink and bowed her head. Sucking in a lungful, she exhaled it slowly. "Okay," she breathed as she fastened her new analog watch to her left wrist. The dial was black-tone, through which ran bold stripes of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet, that lined up with nylon straps composed of the same. Financially, now was not the time for her to be buying new accessories, but now more than ever she needed her personal reminders and totems. Beside the watch was a new necklace bought the same day for the same reason; a dark pewter pendant of flying crow on a matching slim chain. She hung it about her neck and appraised herself once more.

There was no outfit she could wear that would bestow her the level of comfort and certainty she wished she had. Her black tank top with a rainbow-puking unicorn on it and her black jeans and rainbow socks was about as close as she could get. Nevermind that there was another strategy at play in her selection of what to wear. She might have agonized longer were it not for the knock on the door and the sound of Fletch greeting Heather.

Kenzie flicked her wrists as if to cast off her anxieties and left her room. Turning the corner of the hall, she was immediately struck by how much Fletch's daughter reminded her of her sister. "Hi!" She chirped brightly and quickly, less she wind up standing there like she was awkwardly waiting to be acknowledged by a store clerk busy chatting with their coworker. "I'm Kenzie. Make yourself at home!" Smiling, she shifted over to the kitchen to take out mugs and sugar and milk, as well as a few spoons.

 "I got it." Heather said, firmly but not unkind. From a young age she’d been trained to utilize a system of checks and balances -- The Montgomery Family Tally. Sometimes asking for help was unavoidable, but it was crucial to keep that kind of taking low. They were not a people to be pitied, beholden to no one, happy to be the hand that fed the common crowd. It was far better to be owed than to be indebted.

 All this felt like too much charity, and instead of being grateful, Heather walked into the room suspicious.

 It made sense that they were staying with someone, but she didn't think that someone would be a queer-looking child with a wardrobe sired by Mr. Roy G. Biv.

 Was this a friend of her father's? The loudest question that came to mind was 'why', but she swallowed it and greeted her instead. "Heather, nice to meet you. You have a lovely place." Blatant, empty, sugary lies. "How do you know my dad?"


One word wedged into the space left by Heather's question. A simple lie with a sand grain of truth. Fletch had listened to Kenzie pace between bed and bathroom for the better part of the morning, and despite her ultimately turning out to do battle clad in such a bold statement of self, it was hard to trust she wouldn't stall or commit social suicide.

'Kenzie's shy a room mate or two, aren't you kid?' With Heather content to play pack horse he strode the ten paces to her new room, opening the door and waving the way in. 'Til I manage to flog the van and find us somewhere else to live, we can help each other out.'

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