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About Clara Lys Wright

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  1. She watched the drama around Sara unfold, clearly a bit confused on why the other girl was so upset. Her idea wasn't given a standing ovation, but they were brainstorming, right? Okay. Hmn. I hope she's okay, but I don't really know what to do with that. She shook her head; others had gone after her and there were still all the matters at hand to deal with. "I can pull out some cash. We don't want a credit card, it's too traceable," Clara said. She bit her lip, thinking. "Devin, you offered to take Lona up Great Falls. Why don't we just roll that all up together? I can take all four of us and we can make a varied shopping trip of it. Less noticeable if someone is watching us now, at least." She nodded to the phone, leaving since we don't know when or where that came from unsaid but implied. She wanted to go the trailer. She wanted to get her hands on all the stuff they left there, but she also had a fuel efficient, fairly large vehicle and between her and Devin, probably the easiest access to enough money to get everything they needed without raising flags with parents or....whatever else those without rich families did to get their hands on cash quickly. Besides, she trusted Jase - both to be careful getting everything from the trailer and to keep the rest of the group wrangled, most especially if the Jauntsons were split between the groups. Marissa seemed to listen to Jase, at least. "Sound like a plan?" she asked the group.
  2. Clara raised her hand as well. She pulled out a pocket can of mace and a taser with the other arm, nodding to Lona, "We both have these. Good for cougars, annoying creeps, and hopefully extinct prehistoric cats that disappear."
  3. "What about just getting one of those 'closed roads' sign and some cones, maybe a Danger sign? If the bridge doesn't officially exist, then no one would come take them away, right?" Clara was giving Marissa a side-eye for knowing proper 'don't be investigated for domestic terrorism' etiquette in regards to bridges, but her point was solid. The idea was to keep people away from the area, not draw a big bulls-eye of interest on it.
  4. Clara was tucking in her breakfast, doing her best to ignore the people in the room she didn't feel like talking to yet. Then Charlie stuck his head in the maw that was Devin Jauntson's conversational skills and everyone around the table tensed like cats hunting a cucumber. She shivered when Devin recounted his side of the party night events, her hands shaking enough that she set her utensils down to keep from flat out dropping them. In the moment of silence that followed, she pulled her backpack around and pulled out two orange prescription bottles. She doled out four pills from each - one kind round and white and the other oval and salmon pink. Both had deep scores down the center for breaking them in half. She held them out to Devin. "The white one is for panic attacks and the pink one is for sleep. Try just a half at a time, they're pretty strong. I don't use them all the time, so I some have extras. I know it's not a good idea to take someone else's prescriptions, but I don't know how you could explain why you need them to your doctor without ending up in the psych ward. You have to sleep." She was very pointedly not looking at the rest of the group, figuring she was probably about to be yelled at by at least three different people and not able to hold onto to being nice to Devin and possibly ruining her reputation with everyone else. Being nice to Devin was hard enough as it was, but she knew what it was like to live on caffeine, desperation, and a deep loathing of dreaming. It had been years since she'd had to take them regularly, but she always had some on hand and a prescription ready to be filled for when she had a bad day or week or month. Midterms and finals were the worst. "Hopefully it'll be enough to get you back to sleeping without it. Or to figure out a good cover story for a psychiatrist."
  5. Clara's Ford C-Max looked positively boorish next to the Audi and Ducati, though no less out of place in the midst of the dilapidated decay of Lona’s childhood farm. Lona got out of the car slowly, staring around at the heap of her parents’ dreams. Swallowing hard, she tried to smash down a dozen memories: planting seeds, picking blackberries, weeding, and playing outside. Those memories didn’t match the overgrown and half-rotten image in front of her. “I need a moment,” she told Clara brusquely, pulling a pack of cigarettes out and digging into her jeans for a lighter. “Go on in.” The rough tremble in her voice betrayed her heightened emotional state, even as she lit up and stared back at the road to hide it. Clara squeezed Lona’s shoulder and headed inside, suppressing her own desire to try to get Lona to talk things out instead of smoking. She was learning! She hooked her thumbs into the straps of her backpack, shifting from one foot to the other as she waited for a response. In her running shoes, hair up in a ponytail, and sensible-but-still-expensive jeans and shirt, she looked every inch like she was already back in school. A new necklace with an antiqued gold-and-blue compass pendant sat solidly against her chest. Clara stepped up on the porch, knocking politely on the door. She tugged at the pendant as she waited, still unused to its weight.
  6. Etienne held up his hands, sensing the distrust of the two girls. "As you wish. I was just offering to help. Clara," he leaned down and kissed her cheek, "I will drive home with you, okay? Make sure nothing weird happens on the road." Clara nodded, digging her keys out of her pocket. "Who's coming with me? Cass, Cora, Laurie, I gave you rides here. I'll give you ones back, if you want." She nodded to Luis, who'd been quite pretty much the whole time and doing his best to neither be in the way nor really get involved. "Luis, do you want to give Lona a ride back to the fair and we can take her home from there?"
  7. "He could have been a deserter," Clara pointed out. "Reservation land would be a good place to hide out, and if he was familiar with drone technology, that could explain all the metal plating." She hooked at thumb back at the trailer, having finished her picture-taking montage and joined the group back outside. She arched a brow and added, "Or there could be a base in the area that you don't have clearance to know about." "Whatever's going on, it's late enough to be early now. We should pack up whoever's left at the party and head home ourselves. Lilly is correct. We'll all think better after some sleep," Etienne said, glancing around the group. "Does anyone need a ride back? I came by myself, so I have room." He frowned at the gun in Lilly's hand, a thought occurring to him. "Perhaps you should not be the one with the military-issue gun, no? Your father is the base commander. If he finds it, he will know what it is and have questions. I live alone. I think I am the only one who does?" He shrugged, the offer clear.
  8. “So your dad wanted to tell me that Mom’s useless and that I’m going to therapy,” Lona said as she entered the poolhouse. She set her guitar in its corner and turned to find that Clara already had a tub of ice cream and the Skittles out. Gratitude that they were talking again flooded her as they fell back effortlessly into old patterns of comfort. Clara finished off the traditional girl talk food spread with the requisite chocolate and strawberry sauces for the ice cream, bowls, and spoons and sank down into the sofa in the main room. “Good,” she said firmly and shrugged at Lona’s deadpan expression. “What? Therapy’s good for you and your mom clearly needs an entire thesis’ worth of issues.” She popped open the ice cream and served them both up two large scoops, then slathered hers with chocolate syrup. “Therapy’s fine. A little boring most of the time, but think of it as someone you can dump all your problems on they can’t go tattle to the parents about it.” “I really don’t want to talk to some stranger about my feelings.” Lona drizzled lines of strawberry and chocolate on her ice cream before joining Clara on the couch. “I hate the idea of having to confide in someone just because Gerault said to do it.” Clara shrugged. “Then you’re going to be bored. I mean, I get it. But it does help. It’s just like going to a doctor because you have a cold or a broken leg or really bad cramps. You may not want to talk about it, but they’re there and they’re trained to make it better.” Clara grabbed a handful of Skittles and sprinkled them over both bowls - it wasn’t a girl talk night without Skittles on ice cream. Lona sighed and started to smash the ice cream, syrup, and Skittles into a big mess. “It just seems stupid. Like something only crazy people do, and I’m not crazy.” Clara gave her a long level stare. She’d been in therapy pretty much since the Wilsons had moved in; her parents had seen it as a preventative measure for all the changes she was going through and then later as a means of dealing with Clive’s ups and downs and eventual death. All of the Wrights regularly saw a therapist. Lona winced. “Sorry. I don’t think you’re crazy.” “Then make it up to me by giving it an honest shot.” Clara pounced on the opportunity in typical Clara fashion. Lona rolled her eyes. “Fine, fucking whatever. It doesn’t matter. Gerault is making me go, so I don’t really have a choice.” “Ask for ice cream and hot chocolate,” Clara said with a grin. “She doesn’t offer it if you’re over like twelve, but she’s got it on hand and it’s the good stuff. Also takes her a couple of minutes to make, so you get a breather if you don’t know what to say or just want to stop for a few minutes.” Lona nodded but didn’t seem to perk up at the suggestion; if anything, she seemed resigned to her fate rather than accepting.. “So… you and Etienne? When did that start?” Clara flushed bright red and busied herself with a spoonful of sugar and cream before finally murmuring, “This summer. A couple of months ago.” “Ah. Soooo… Dish!” Lona demanded. “About what?” Clara mumbled into her ice cream. “About? About how you’re dating a graduate who is three years older than you?” Lona asked. The Wright daughter looked out the window towards the pool, sinking into the couch a little farther and keeping up a nice cherry blush. “I would go out running. After,” her expression drooped and she glanced a little nervously at Lona, “y’know. After our fight. And he was running, too.” “And you ran into each others’ hearts?” Lona sighed melodramatically and faux swooned. “So romantic...” Clara pinged a green Skittle off of Lona’s cheek. “It wasn’t like that! He just asked if I wanted to get something to eat after our run one night!” She took another bite, one made mostly of chocolate syrup sauce, and added, “And it just sort of became a thing. Running, eating, talking...” “Smooching,” Lona teased, then shrieked as a handful of Skittles sailed at her head. “Ouch! That was my eye!” “It’s what you deserve,” Clara said with a righteous smirk. Still rubbing her eye, Lona asked, “So is it nice?” Clara laid her head against the back of the couch, a dopey smile on her face, and nodded. “It’s...scary. But good.” “I’m glad for you,” Lona said, and a hitch in her voice made Clara lift her head to see a sad look on her face. Before she could question her about it, Lona asked, “So what was the hand-thing with Bannon?” “Uh, what hand thing?” Clara asked, clearly confused on the change in subject. She started to push Lona on it, but managed to hold herself back. Pushing too hard and too fast with her had led to their estrangement the first time. She might not be emotionally savvy, but Clara did learn. “Holding hands with Bannon?” Lona asked, tilting her head. “What was that about?” It took her a few moments to call up a time she was holding hands with Jason Bannon. “Oh! He was just showing me over to where you were set up, after you texted me.” Lona frowned. “Etienne seemed to think that there was more to it than just showin’ you around. He didn’t ask it directly but he was wondering if you two were together. How long were you guys holding hands?” “Um, I don’t know? We walked over to the stage and then you started playing?” Clara frowned. Etienne was at the fair? The two of them hadn’t actually had much of a chance to talk before everything went sideways at the party. Clara hadn’t really been at the party, she realized. Between stepping away to talk to her boyfriend and then all the crazy afterward, she hadn’t danced once. “I don’t really remember. I wasn’t paying attention to that.” “Okay,” Lona said, “I hope that he wasn’t paying attention either. Bannon’s a little extreme, Clara.” The overachiever frowned. “What do you mean?” “He thinks sideways at a problem, instead of straight on,” Lona said after a moment, “and while that’s great, he cuts corners that shouldn’t be cut. Not like short-changing people, but like reaching the end result whatever the cost.” She huffed impatiently. “Fuck, I don’t even know if I’m making sense, between the craziness of tonight and the whiskey.” “Whiskey? At the party?” Clara sounded somewhere between jealous and wistful. She stared down at her melting ice cream and mused, “That sounds pretty nice about now. I wonder if you can make boozy ice cream?” “Your dad gave me whiskey,” Lona said, stirring her rainbow-vomit mass of sugar in the bowl. “You couldn’t make booze into ice cream, but you could make a whiskey float, I guess. Sounds terrible.” Clara stuck out her tongue in disappointment at no boozy ice cream, then made a sour face. “Yeah, I think I’ll stick to Coke floats. That does sound gross. And if Papa was handing out whiskey, he was mad at someone. And not you.” She gave Lona a speculative look. “Think something happened with the Bermuda Triangle of Weird and Messed Up over there?” “No clue, though he did agree with me that Mom’s useless. So maybe a breakup is pending?” She took a bite of ice cream and added with a tremor to her words, “If your parents kick Mom out, do you think I could ask to stay here?” “I don’t think they’d kick her out. I think they’d make me move back to the main house and put her out here. I mean, your Mom’s never had a job, right? How would she go anywhere else?” She frowned, not liking the idea at all. “Or maybe they can just make her move into our old room. I like it out here.” Lona relaxed as Clara spoke. She knew the Wrights but she didn’t know the adults as well as Clara did. “Cool. I like it out here, too. Now that we’re talking again.” She paused then said, “I’m sorry it took me so long to reach back out.” Clara looked down and away. “I’m sorry I tried to make you deal with things my way. That wasn’t fair. Or helpful.” “No, it wasn’t, but I guess I can see where you were just trying to help.” Lona managed a small smile for her. “So seriously, what the fuck was up with tonight?” Clara set her bowl aside, sitting up as a remembered flood of adrenaline perked her up. “I know, right? Do you think it was some kind of bad water or psychedelic mushrooms spooring or something?” She bit her lip in thought, “That doesn’t explain the trailer and all the notes and stuff, though. What do you think?” “I don’t know what to think that’s why I asked you!” Lona threw her hands into the air. “All I know is that the big party and all my plans for it were sucked into this weirdness, and that’s several hours of my life that I’m not getting back. I was hoping you’d have some better ideas.” Clara gave her a big-eyed shrug. “I’ve got nothing. It was just so weird. The woods were all it up like Avatar, there’s impossible creatures running around, and this movie-level of conspiracy nut trailer. If I had to guess, we’re like one episode into some new reality tv prank show.” “Wait, lit up?” Lona stuck in a spoonful of sugar but when Clara didn’t adjust her statement by the time she’d cleared her mouth, Lona added, “Lary, those woods were as black as a Jauntsen soul.” Clara snorted and flicked a red Skittle at Lona. “Good one, point to you. And no, it was. I mean not like lightbulb lit up, but there were all these glowing bits. Some flowers and little critters. Patches on the trees. Moss, maybe? It was super pretty, just weird. Like Avatar. Maybe not the way you guys came?” “Not the way anyone came, ‘cept for maybe Charlie.” Lona retrieved the Skittle from a wrinkle in her shirt and tossed it into her mouth. She grew thoughtful. “I wonder who else had weird stuff happen that they didn’t mention in the Big Circle Creepy Cabin Sharetime.” “Who knows? I mean, there were so many people there and most everyone was drunk, high, or both. Even if weird things happened to them, how many would remember? Or think it was anything other than being drunk or high? I’m still not completely sure we didn’t get slipped something or breathed in something and ended up with a mass hallucination.” She tried to fight it, but the yawn managed to crawl out of her mouth. She stretched, then laid back on the couch. “Wanna get a blanket and make fun of horror movies until we pass out?” “Um,” Lona nibbled on her lip ring a second and then said, “I have to tell you one more thing. I… saw something weird at the fair.” As Clara sat up a bit, Lona said, “When we were hugging and I was crying, I had a… vision, I guess. I saw some weird stuff, and the reason I ran off was because one of those was Luis getting attacked by Chet and his thugs.” Clara frowned. Her mind ticked through what had happened at the fair and her frown deepened. “What else did you see?” “I saw Dad sick again, but my tears made a mirror on the floor, and I saw our moms hugging. I saw Courtney Adams and Stacy Collier having sex. Luis. A Native American crawling out of a crater with glowing blue eyes.” Lona thought for a moment. “That’s it, I think.” Clara’s mouth pinched together. “Maybe it wasn’t at the party. Maybe we got dosed with something long-acting at the fair. Maybe there’ll be something on the news tomorrow. Also, Stacy and Courtney? You think she’d be a bit less of a Marissa if she were getting laid.” Lona snorted. “I think Marissa would be a bit less of a Marissa if she were getting laid. Honestly, I don’t know what to think. And I’ve felt weird since arriving at the party. Maybe tomorrow your dad will ask us to piss in a cup.” “Did he say something?” Clara looked concerned now. “About the party? I didn’t think he knew.” “No, he didn’t, but if something comes down the news about a mass en-druggening at the county fair, everyone’s getting tested.” Lona pushed her bowl away. “Yeah, but in a ‘concerned for your health’ kind of way.” Clara switched how she was laying, plopping her head down on Lona’s lap where the bowl had just vacated. “Not a ‘never see the light of day again’ kind of way. That would explain...some of it. Not the trailer, but that could just be a crazy person.” “Yeah.” Lona looked down at her. “You know what?” “What?” “I’m ready for those horror movies, but let’s do romcoms instead. I’ve had enough weird or possibly supernatural shit for tonight.” Clara snorted and fumbled around on the coffee table until she found the remote. “Bland romcom coming up.” She didn’t even make it through the credits before she was snoring on Lona’s lap. Sleep was slower in coming for Lona, and she picked up her phone and considered sending a text. Finally, she put it down without doing anything and was soon sleep, too.
  9. Once everyone but Sara and Sean were outside the trailer, quiet descended on the group. "So," Clara said, "catch-up time?" She had Etienne on one side of her and Lona on the other and was feeling much bolder now. Also, Marissa was managing to tick her off just by existing, lending her a trickle of adrenaline to go over the crazy that had happened. While the others nodded, she organized her memories. "Etienne and I had stepped away from the party to talk. We heard Jason and Sara moving through the woods with Marissa stumbling after them. Oh, and Lilly When we caught up with them, they said they were following a trail that had been clear before the party but that someone had tried to cover before tonight. This trailer was at the end of it. Once we got here, we heard the gunshot. Lilly took off by herself and Jason tried to lead the rest of us back to the party by a different path, but..." She hesitated, frowning, before pushing on, "We got attacked by a sabertooth tiger. Like what you see in museums, only snarling and terrifying. Jason made a torch and tried to get us back to the trailer before it decided we were an easy meal." She pointed to the paw print. "That's from it. It-It pounced on Jason. We thought-" She broke off, nerves and trauma finally really getting to her. Etienne put a hand on her back and murmured something soft to her. She shook her head, "No, I'm fine. It just disappeared. Kinda like..." "Like in Endgame, sort of." Marissa offered; at the startled looks from the Nerd Herd, she gave them all a scathing roll of her eyes. Clara gave them a blank look and shrugged. "I...guess? Like it was candle smoke and someone blew out the candle." She shivered and semi changed topics. "And the trailer is just bizarre, but you guys can go look at it yourselves." She motioned towards Devin and Cass. "Your turn."
  10. Girl Talk #1, Preface Three car doors slammed shut on the Wright estate. Lisa put an arm around Adele, who was still sniffling from the aftermath of her emotional breakdown at the fair. Gerault pulled Felix gently out of the car, cradling his son’s sleeping form against him. When he passed the two other adults in the front hall, he paused long enough to pin them with a direct look, “We need to talk.” He put Felix to be, then found Lisa and Adele in kitchen. He motioned them towards the study he and Lisa shared, pouring out a glass of whisky for each of them once the women were settled down on the leather couch. The dark wood panels of the room lent any conversation here a weight Gerault found comforting, and the lining of bookshelves and leather furniture around the two executive desks kept the sound from bouncing off the wooden floors. He leaned against his desk, sipping at the whiskey and watching his wife and her paramour. “Lona is going to start therapy. Tomorrow. She will go once a day until Dr. Calon indicates it’s safe to space out her sessions farther.” “What?” Adele asked, blinking up at him. “She doesn’t need therapy, she needs…” Adele trailed off, then lifted her chin and said firmly, “She needs discipline. After what she did to me tonight, she needs to be grounded. And maybe her guitar, too.” “This isn’t about you or your hurt feelings, Adele,” Gerault sighed in irritation. Lisa took her own sharp breath; he husband wasn’t an expressive man, so when his emotions leaked through his words, he was far more upset than he seemed. “You are an adult. She is your child and she is in pain.” Grow up was left unsaid, but Lisa could still hear it hanging in the air. “Screaming at you through music has been the only way to get your attention.” “I’ve been trying to talk to her, and she is the one who sulks away and won’t talk!” Adele started to weep again, cuddling closer to Lisa. “I have tried!” “You’ve been more interested in this,” he motioned to the three of them, his tone kinder but still firm, “than in dealing with her grief - or yours.” He moved, crouching down in front of Adele, “That is not an option anymore. Not for her, not for you. She will have daily therapy. You will go see Calon as well and let her determine your needs. Adele, she sang a song about suicide. You lost her husband but she lost her father, her brother moved away, and you told her of a new relationship. To her, she’s lost her entire family in the space of six months. You are her mother and she is a child still. You have to start putting her pain above your own and do what is necessary for both of you to start healing.” “She sings all the time about all sorts of things.” Adele sighed. “If you insist on this, then fine. She’ll go. I’ll go. But she and I will be having a very stern talk about what she did tonight, too.” Adele nodded firmly, as if that was all it took to make her words come true. The other two adults knew that Adele would likely have trouble following through on that, or to make the talk as “stern” as she was currently imagining. Gerault stood up, finishing off his glass and placing it back on the tray with the decanter of whisky. “I will talk to her.” He stared down Adele, making the point that she couldn’t even argue with him over who would argue with her daughter. “Go get some sleep. They’ll be out late tonight at the fair with their friends.” After a moment, Adele nodded and left the room. She was aware she should be arguing with Gerault, but it was so much easier to go to bed and let him handle it. Lisa went with her and tucked her into bed before returning to the study with a sandwich. They smiled at each other, aware that though Lisa was very much in love with Adele, they still completely understood each other. There was no need to talk. After a glass of wine, Lisa herself went to bed, while Gerault waited for their children to return home. ~*~*~*~*~*~*~ Two cars pulled up to the Wright estate, causing a brow to raise in the study. Gerault texted both of his daughters, one to tell Clara to go the poolhouse for the night and the other to tell Lona to come to the study. Both ended with I hope you enjoyed the evening and you’re not in trouble. Clara hugged Etienne and kissed him goodnight, then squeezed Lona’s hand. “I’ll wait up for you, okay?” “If you don’t, I’m going to wake you up anyway,” Lona told her with a smile. The two had long had a “if you need to talk, wake me” standing rule. She glanced at her text message again and asked, “What do you think your dad wants?” Clara shrugged. Gerault had never done this before, talking to Lona and specifically not letting her be there. “I have no idea. I mean, if this was about the party or something, he wouldn’t just want to talk to you.” “Must be mad about me pissing off Mom,” Lona sighed. She nibbled on her lip ring for a moment, then headed for the front door. “I’ll see you after my interrogation.” Inside the house, she made her way toward the study. As late as it was, she was still awake and bright-eyed. The door was pulled to, so Lona tapped on the heavy wood. At Gerault’s soft invitation, she stepped inside and pushed the door shut. “Yeah?” she asked with teenage bravado. Gerault had been sitting behind his desk, mulling the evening over and passing the time late into the night with a puzzle game on his phone. He set the phone down and stood up, motioning Lona over the couch and pouring them both small glasses of his whiskey. He held the drink out to her, leaning against his desk. “Here. I think perhaps you could use this, yes?” Lona stared at him, wondering if it were a trap or what he already knew. He’d never objected to the kids having occasional wines or beers at the dinner table, though the latter had mostly been Dad and Arthur. Something about male bonding that Dad had wanted to do -- one of the things that had been forced to happen earlier than planned. Gerault didn’t rescind his offer and finally she took the glass, mostly to see if it were a trap. “Why do you think that?” she asked after a sniff of the harsh alcohol. “Your music, Avalon. You were quite clear in your messages, and I am worried.” He kept his eyes on her, his voice soft and concerned. “Sometimes a little bit of relaxing and even a touch of numb can help a person talk.” He took a drink of his own glass, holding it up as if to prove to her that he was being sincere. For a long moment, Lona stared at him, unsure what to say. “They weren’t for you,” she finally stated, her voice soft. He nodded, “I know.” He moved to sit on the couch, setting his drink aside. He slipped an arm around her, pulling her close to him. “I am glad you found a way to tell her how you feel. I am worried about you, my dear. You are hurting.” He turned, kissing her forehead, and murmured, “I miss him, too.” Lona tried to say something but she was suddenly crying. Gerault took the drink from her, then hugged her as she bawled into his shoulder. She tried to speak several times, but all that came out was, “Why do you, when she doesn’t? Felix does, Clara does, I do, but his own wife has already forgotten about him!” “She..” Gerault sighed. “She’s trying to not hurt because she knows how much she will once she does. It is not fair to you. And it is not healthy for her.” He pulled back so he could move the longer strands of Lona’s hair out of her face, laying his palm against her cheek. “And it is going to stop. I have called Dr. Calon. You and your mother are both going to start seeing her.” He caught her eyes, making sure he had her full attention. “You will begin tomorrow morning and will go to see her once a day until she says otherwise.” “I don’t need my head shrunk,” Lona protested, which reminded Gerault of a similar conversation he’d had with Clive about putting Lona and Arthur into therapy before his death. “I need a mom who gives a shit.” “Well,” he said with the direct honesty he usually reserved for the eighteen-plus crowd, “I am thinking that she can’t right now. So, she needs someone to show her how and you need help until she can. So, you are both going to Dr. Calon.” His tone, while still sympathetic, made it clear that the issue was a closed one. She was being informed, not asked. He handed her back her drink and offered, “You may be angry with me, if you want - or we can have a drink and then you can go to bed. I think it has been a bit of a night, yes?” In answer, Lona tossed back the shot of whiskey in one go. Making a slight face, she swallowed without choking or coughing. “Yeah, it was something,” she said softly. “Good night, Gerault.” He stood, pulling her up with him, and gave her one last hug and kiss on the forehead. “Sleep well, my dear.”
  11. Clara came back over the Marissa and Jason, giving the drug dealer a pleading look. "I can help out here, but Lona's insisting on coming to the trailer and my closest brush with being outdoorsy before now was getting lost on the fitness run with my recruiter this summer. If I work on this with her," she nodded towards the Mantis, "would you go make sure Lona gets here?" Even as she asked, she was looking for the boxes she'd already leafed through and setting aside the ones that were newer. Her hands were clearly shaking from the adrenaline drop, but her eyes were clear and she wasn't falling apart. Her frank assessments of herself were all classic Clara, though the other teens had only really ever heard them by rumor or if they were part of one of her club teams - and they'd always been of someone else. She took a shaky breath, knowing that if Jase said no, there still wasn't really anything else helpful she could do. "Okay, so this is the 80's. That's when they seem to stop. I haven't found anything earlier than the mid-70's yet. Marissa?" From just outside the trailer, Etienne offered, "I'll go with you, Jason. Horror movie rules, no?" He gave the younger teen a slight grin, but it didn't reach his eyes. He might be trying to lighten the mood, but he was serious about not having someone traipsing around the woods by themselves.
  12. Clara followed Etienne over to the uniform, running a hand along the fabric. "They're a captain and a pilot," she murmured, noting the rank insignia and the wings. She blinked as a thought occurred to her. "This isn't old. I mean, uniforms change style, right? This one looks like what you see from the off-duty soldiers around Shelly." She looked around the metal plating and the maps. The everything. "What were they doing? I mean, I'd say mental breakdown or something, but..." She glanced towards the door, shaking her head. Group hallucinations were a fact, but still. The trailer hadn't disappeared and it was just slightly less weird than being attacked by an extinct cat. Well, maybe a lot less weird, but still really, really weird. She opened one of the file boxes, rifling through the page after page of old handwritten notes. They were a mishmash of geological, anthropological, and paleontological information, and none of it was more current than forty years ago from what she could tell - all interspersed with news clippings and old-style video cassettes marked by whatever supernatural or alien entity they were supposed to be proof of. She snorted when she came across an entire box dedicated to Bigfoot and closed the file boxes back up. "I think we found some conspiracy nut's hideout. Maybe they sprayed it with LSD or some hallucinogenic mushroom spoors and that's why we all thought we saw a sabertooth tiger?" She frowned at the uniform, picking it up. "Maybe we should take this to the base. If they're a deserter or someone that had a breakdown and ran away...well, the commander at the base should be told." She frowned deeper at the missing sidearm. "Especially if they're armed. Oh!" She finally remembered that they'd been trying to get away from this place because of a gunshot; that had gotten lost in the second prehistoric cat inspired adrenaline rush. She turned off her flashlight app and flipped her phone back to where she could use it, hitting Lona's number on the favorite contacts page.
  13. Clara had heard far more car backfire's than gun shots in her life, and while she started she didn't panic at the sound. Not until Etienne wrapped his arms around her and put himself between her and the trailer in one swift move. His fear and tension felt like it was running through her. A glance up at him showed little to no of that in his expression, just a focused alertness as he looked around. She was still blinking in confusion while Lilly ran off and Marissa co-opted Jason as her personal bodyguard. When her phone rang, she started again, fumbling for it with shaky hands. “L-lona?” “I heard a gunshot. Are you okay?” she asked, her voice alarmed. “Gunshot?” Clara blinked, her brain finally catch up the why of the alarm from her companions. “Lilly!” she let out a worried and exasperated exclamation. You don’t run to a shooter. That just gives them more targets! Etienne’s voice rumbled in the background of the call, “We should head back to the party and leave.” Lona rolled her eyes. “Fucking Lilly. Do--” Her phone beeped and Lona removed it from her ear to look at the screen. “Okay, Sean’s rounding the gaming kids up at the cars. Make your way there and get out.” She tripped over something in the dark and cursed roundly. “Promise me you’ll leave.” “I’ve got to find the others. Then we’ll go. Promise.” She felt Etienne tense more, but she wasn’t going to strand people here when she’d promised to get them home. “Where are you? With Luis?” “Yeah, I didn’t mean to strand people,” Lona said, trying to talk into the phone and use it for a flashlight. “I’m at the party, where are you?” “In the woods. We’ll head back now, right?” Clara looked to Jason, hoping he would be able to lead them back to the party area quickly.
  14. "Good lord, Marissa," Clara huffed, "What is your malfunction? Were you fed acid and venom as an infant?" It wasn't much of a zinger, but she'd already spent her cussing quotient for....the decade?...earlier in the night. Etienne leaned over and said quietly in Clara's ear, "Maybe we should just go back to the party?" His eyes were mostly on Marissa as he spoke, but they slid past her to Jason by the end of his question. "No," Clara shook her head, her curiosity too caught now and her mind supplying an actionable excuse. She squeezed his hand and smiled up at him, "You said there was more to life than safe, right? Well...." She motioned to the path. "Besides, it's plenty bright enough out, we should be fine. We can find our way back once we see where this goes and make sure Marissa doesn't eat anyone for, I don't know, not having the right brand of hiking shoes."
  15. When he’d found her, Etienne had pulled her into the woods towards the north ridge, far enough for the trees to block out the blaring speakers and toasted party-goers. Though the moon was bright overhead, it was dark under the canopy of the trees. Clara picked her way through the shadowed underbrush with surprising ease - it was if the woods were lit by weird shifting lights. “Here,” he said after a moment, leaning against a tree. It was quieter and no one else seemed to be headed in this direction for make outs or drunken exploration. “Clara. . .” he sighed. “All you had to do was say ‘stop’. I would have.” She flushed, rubbing the back of her neck with her hand. “I-I know. I just-It wasn't. . .” Heat snaked through her body along frayed nerves, leaving pinpricks of sweat along her skin. “I know I’m not a part of this plan you have,” he said as he pushed off the tree and stepped up to her, “but maybe, I could be?” He slid a hand over her cheek, a spark of static electricity flaring between their skin. They both smiled at the slightly painful flicker of connection. “Plans can change. Grow.” How did he....? Lona. Right. God, he’s practically glowing. “I don’t- I don’t know how. To change, I mean.” She shivered and he put an arm around her waist, pulling her against him. “It’s...It’s always better when, when I’m in control. When I know how things are going to be. Make a plan. Follow it through. It’s safe. Safer.” He tilted her chin up and kissed her, wrapping his other arm around her once he felt her relax against him. “Safe isn’t better, Clara,” he murmured. “It’s just safe. Life is more than safe.” She laid her head against his chest, her eyes closed. Light seemed to flicker just beyond her eyelids, defying the darkness of the night. The sound of his heartbeat drummed steadily in her ear and the presence of him seemed to fill her awareness. On the very edges she could feel the forest around them breathing and sighing in the evening gloam. She took a breath and nodded, looking up to say something when the sound of Sara and Bannon intruded on their solitude. “...game trail,” Jason’s voice drifted over as the pair approached. Etienne cleared his throat and asked softly. “Are we good?” “Yeah,” Clara nodded and smiled up at him, nervously stepping outside her well-built comfort zone. “We’re good.” She leaned her head against his chest again, but her gaze shifted to the direction Bannon’s voice had come from. She frowned, finally slipping out of his arms, “But, we should find out what’s going on. Jason’s the one throwing this party. He wouldn’t ditch it unless something was wrong.” Taking hands, the two angled their walk towards the sounds of Sara and Bannon.
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