Bad Together: Chapter 7

It was late at night, and the staff at Raise were scrambling to set everything up. “Hey, Jamie, I just finished placing down all of the chairs and the outside crowd dividers.” Georgio reported as he walked into the upstairs office. “Awesome! Thanks, man.” Jamie grinned. “No problem. Also, is everything okay with you and Farina?” The bouncer looked at him, curiously. “Yeah. Why do you ask?” “You seem a lot happier. I think she’s been great thing for you, man. You seem a lot less tense these days. It’s a good look on you.” “Thanks.” Jamie smirked as Georgio walked back to his post. It felt encouraging to hear that dating Farina has had so many visibly positive effects on him and the way he carried himself. “You’ve definitely been in better spirits these days.” Andy added, looking up from his desk. “I mean, you’ve been supportive of us since the beginning.” Jamie pointed out. Andy approved of Farina since he first met her, citing her to be polite, responsible, ambitious, and hardworking. She was an all-around likable human being. “I do question some of people she surrounds herself with, like that Jessica girl, but she herself, she’s not bad news. She’s a good person with her head on straight. I think she’s exactly what you need right now. Somebody who will make you feel good about yourself.” He continued, encouragingly. “Thanks, man. You know, I wouldn’t have dated her if you said she was a bitch. I trust you that much. And now we can see why. You were right about her.” Jamie smiled. It was a relief to know that Farina was somebody who could elicit the approval of so many people whose opinions he cared deeply about.

“So you guys spent the weekend together?!” Olivia and Patricia gasped. They, along with Jessica, were with Farina, and were supposed to be studying for their upcoming midterm, but instead were sidetracked by the aspiring actress’s holiday activities. “Wait, and you guys stayed at a 5-star hotel?! In a SUITE?!” Jessica especially could not believe what she was hearing. “Yup.” Farina nodded her head timidly. “Wait, how much did you pay?!” The frequent club-goer inquired. “I… don’t know actually. He insisted on paying for everything. Was being a little immature about it too. Such a manchild.” She shrugged. “Wow, such a good boyfriend!” Olivia smiled. “Yeah! That’s so sweet of him to pay for your hotel room.” Patricia added. “Oh, well, he also paid for everything on the trip. It was really awkward, because I tried to pay, but he would not let me.” She sighed. The last thing she wanted to be seen as was a gold digger, especially when she was more than capable of paying for things on her own, or rather, with her own parents’ money. She just felt bad knowing that Jamie was using his own hard-earned wages to fund their trip. “I think that you’re not being appreciative enough. You should really be having him treat you to everything. Or else he’s not a really caring boyfriend.” Jessica stated, much to the visible disagreement of Patricia and Olivia. “I don’t know about Jess, but I think you should go with your gut, Farina.” Olivia started. “Oh, shush, Liv. How many boyfriends have you had? Zero. How many has Patty had? Zero. How many have I had? Ten in the past four years. If anyone knows anything about dating, it’s me. Listen to me, and learn from my mistakes, Farina.” Jessica continued. “Let him treat you to everything. Let him spoil you, and let him treat you like the princess you rightfully are. Don’t even feel bad about it. He’s serenading you and letting you know how much you mean to him.” Despite the partial sense in Jessica’s logic, Farina could not help but feel bad. Patricia and Olivia exchanged skeptical looks, but decided it was better that Farina decided for herself what she wanted to do with her life.

“Hey, come back here, you little bitch!” A large man wearing a gray hoodie brandished a knife at an 18 year-old Farina who was just walking out of the girl’s bathroom. “What the fuck-” Before she could finish her sentence, the man continued to scream while swinging the knife. He was clearly under the influence of something, from the glossed over look in his eyes. Paralyzed for a second, Farina only snapped back into motion upon seeing a dirty-blonde female tackling the man over. “Call 999! Don’t just stand there, you fucking twat! This psycho, he’s trying to murder you!” She barked, holding down his hand with the knife in it as Farina frantically yanked out her phone and punched in the number. The moments that followed were a blur. The man was being escorted out of their dormitory, while the blonde was sitting on the stairs outside, talking to her. “You totally saved me back there. Thank you. What’s your name?” “Jessica. Jessica Untry.” “I’m Farina Liu-” “Look, I never asked for your name or your life story. But you owe me. I just saved your life. Just keep that in mind. Anything I say I want, you’ll help me get it if I ask. Understood?” She glared at the Taiwanese girl. “Okay…” She could not help but still feel indebted to the blonde, despite her aggressive behavior. A part of her wanted to believe that Jessica was a good person inherently, just by the fact that she saved her life voluntarily. A horrible, self-centered person would never try to sacrifice themselves like that. It was enough for Farina to openly welcome Jessica into her circle of friends. Even though Olivia and Patricia do not always approve of Jessica’s preferences or methods, Farina still saw the blonde as a close friend for everything that she has done for her.

Walking back to her apartment, Jessica pulled out a joint and began to huff the smoke. Being high, it was a feeling of liberation for her. She did not have to think about student debts or debts from her hobbies and interests. She had accumulated a lot of debts from those in particular. She should not even have the roll that was in her hand. But she stole it from Raise the last time she went. Taking another puff, she laughed to herself. Farina was being such a whiny little cunt, in her eyes. She should not be complaining. She’s dating a man who owns a nightclub. He could get her in anytime he or she wanted to. What she would do to have somebody like that in her life. All of the free trips she could take to the bar, and all of the connections she could make, talking to the dealers and promising them free admission in exchange for their product. Thinking to herself, she was starting to weigh the possibilities of getting into Jamie’s good graces. But to get herself in with his benefits, she would need to get close to him. And she would need to be his number one beneficiary. Not Farina. Mulling over the things that Farina complained about, the immaturity, the focus on money, the fear of being seen as a gold digger, the fibres student started to weave together a ploy to get hooked for the rest of her life. This could be her in to never have to pay for anything ever again. Who cares about Farina, anyways. She seemed to be liked by a ton of boys, even though the blonde personally thought that she looked like a skinny midget Bratz doll. Seemed to be liked. She reminded herself. Pulling out her phone, she started scrolling through FaceBook, looking at her friends. Her male friends. She was certain that at least one of them liked Farina. This could be it. The first step to becoming Jamie’s number one woman. Free drugs and alcohol and VIP club admissions for the rest of her life? Anyone would expend their friendship for that. Or at least she would.

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Bad Together: Chapter 6

“Jamie!~” Farina called playfully as she spotted the Italian American in the midst of a busy crowd. “Are you ready, Farina?” He smiled, quickly walking over to her. “Oh my god, we need to get going! We’re going to miss the train!” She gasped, looking at her watch. It was already 12:28pm, and they had just 2 minutes to make it to their ride. “Ah, shit!” He hissed as they ran off, hand in hand, pushing their way past the continuous waves of pedestrians. “It’s on platform eight!” She recited. “Got it!” He nodded, keeping his eyes peeled for a large number “8” in the blur of images that passed by him. They were going on a getaway to the countryside, specifically to Bath in Somerset, just to celebrate their two month anniversary. “Last call for the afternoon ride to Bath!” A conductor called. “We can do it!” Farina insisted, knowing full well that they were still a good five or six platforms away, and the entire station was crowded. Everyone was leaving the city to celebrate the holiday, so that was to be expected. “This is what sucks about us dating. We’re both so bad with time management!” She whined. “Speak for yourself. I’d say I’m pretty good at that.” Jamie rolled his eyes at her comment. He could not help but feel defensive towards that statement, especially since he had proven he knows when is the best timing to capitalize on an opportunity. That was the very reason behind his entire financial success. However, he had no time to process his feelings. All he could do in this very moment in time was hold onto Farina’s hand, and keep running as if his life depended on it. They spent a good amount of time and money planning this trip, and if they miss the train, then all of that effort would go to nothing. For Jamie, it would be mortifying knowing that they missed out on the chance to explore Bath. For Farina, she would not have minded either way; she was so used to having to follow details and directions to the dot, and having to be a perfect human being when she was not, so a little deviation or adaptability, she was not against doing that. However, she did want to visit Bath, and she wanted to spend some quality time with Jamie, away from the city, so for those reasons, she continued to sprint for the train.

“Augh! I can’t believe we made it in time!” Farina sighed, resting her head on Jamie’s shoulder. They were seated side by side, comfortably placed in red velvet chairs, admiring the view of the trees and landscapes passing by slowly. The city was melting away into the nature as they made their way over to Bath. “I’m so excited to be able to spend more time with you, and away from everything. I feel like before, it’s all been about work and school, but now we get to really enjoy each other’s company in a completely new setting.” She admitted. “I’m excited about that too. I want to learn more about you. We’ve been dating for quite a while now, but I still feel like I’m learning new and interesting things about you every day.” He laughed. Just a day ago, he had learned that Farina was deathly terrified of centipedes because one crawled up her leg when she was eight. A couple days before that, he found out that as an infant, Farina was a really fat baby, so her parents had to buy adult diapers to fit her. To some, those anecdotes would seem mundane, but to Jamie, they were a treasure trove of information that he embraced. Everything he could learn about Farina, he wanted to. The parts of her past that helped her grow into the person she is now, and how her current aspirations are going to mold her into the person that she wants to be. For Farina, she was looking forward to knowing more about Jamie as well. He came from such a different background from her. She was used to working with a silver spoon in her mouth. Jamie never had such a silver spoon until a couple years ago, and even then, he bought that silver spoon for himself. She was hoping that by spending more time with somebody like that, she could learn to gain and match that level of ambition and diligence for her own craft and skills. She was inspired to be dating somebody like him. “Attention passengers! We are arriving at the platform in Bath soon. Please make sure to grab your belongings and make your way out of the carts in an orderly fashion. Thank you and we hope that you enjoy your stay.” The intercom ended.

“This is so cool!” Farina gasped, soaking in the view. Trees draped the horizon, wrapping around rows upon rows of charming, rustic buildings that remained unchanged since the 18th Century. As a student of the fine arts, Farina had to study Shakespearean literature and about the Renaissance in general, so she could not believe what she was seeing with her own two eyes. She was definitely not in London, that was for sure. Being in Bath, it was like stepping into a time machine. Jamie could not help but smile from seeing this side of Farina. He was so used to seeing to aloof and gentle model, so to see her so enthusiastic, albeit uncharacteristically, he appreciated it. It meant that she was able to open up and be comfortable around him. Or at least enough to show a new dimension of her personality. “Don’t forget, if we’re in Bath, we need to see the main attractions.” He reminded her. As nice as it was to see her this enthusiastic, they came here with an agenda in mind. The first stop was their hotel, small but elegant chateau called The Bath Priory. The two had chosen to stay at this hotel during their three day trip because the appearance and layout of the building was so fitting to the indigenous area, being inspired by more archaic times. After checking into their suite and dropping off their things, the pair of lovebirds took off yet again. 

“Wow! Look!” Farina excitedly pointed at the large, marble pillars that surrounded the steaming pool of water. The Roman Baths were a gorgeous sight, although the couple could not help but think that they could have enjoyed the water more in other ways. “I wish we could take a dip.” Jamie whispered into her ear suggestively. “Oh, shush. Just because I model doesn’t mean that I’m some loose tart that you can just fuck off, you know?” She laughed. “Oh, my apologies.” Jamie snorted. Raising an eyebrow at him in disbelief, the actress just shrugged off his behavior. “Let’s keep looking around.” She sighed, as they walked off to check out Shakespeare’s house instead. Walking along the cobblestone sidewalk, Farina could not help but but laugh at how rustic the experience was; her heels were getting repeatedly lodged between the spaces, which resulting in Jamie having to pull her out. “Here we are.” He sighed as the two finally made their way to the house, the club owner practically carrying her at this point. “Yay!” She beamed. This was an iconic estate. She was so excited to finally see the how of somebody she had to learn so much about. “Hm. Not that impressive. I’m pretty sure if that wasn’t his house, they would have torn it down. It would not be worth nearly as much.” Jamie scoffed. Taken aback from his comment, Farina decided that maybe they needed to change gears a bit. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she brought his face close to hers. “Happy two months, Farina.” The Italian American smiled, caressing her face. “It has been the best two months of my life.” She beamed, cradling his cheeks and pulling him closer for a kiss.

Bad Together: Chapter 4

A couple days had passed and it was already the next Friday. Farina stood in line, waiting excitedly. “Ah crap, I’m running late.” Jamie sighed as he got out of his Uber and darted off for the London Eye. Neither of them have ever been and it was the sight of their next date. Jamie was slightly nervous; one of his fears was heights and being out of control of his own fate. Planes, roller coasters, trains, and ferris wheels, they all made him feel uneasy, especially knowing that he has to entrust his life in the hands of some complete stranger. But he wanted to do this. It was about time he conquered a fear, and especially in front of somebody he really liked. But he had to make sure he did not keep her waiting for much longer. “Farina?!” He shouted, finally running into a crowd of people waiting to board the attraction. “Hey, wait in line!” An angry tourist barked at him. “Oh, no. He’s with me, sir.” Farina poked her head out of the crowd, certain she heard her name being shouted by Jamie. “Hey, sorry for the wait.” He felt bad for making her stand there for him. “Oh, don’t worry about it. I’m the kind of girl who likes to come to things 15-30 minutes early anyways.” She shrugged. Farina was used to waiting for others, so this nothing out of the ordinary for her. Patience was something instilled in her from a young age, hence why the theatre student was able to befriend almost everybody, especially people like Jessica. “Well, are you ready for the ride? I’m so excited!” She clapped her hands. It was a new side to Farina for Jamie to see. Normally, she was somebody who exuded low energy, so an enthusiastic Farina was a rare sight to behold. “I just love city views. Seeing the giant buildings and landscapes, it helps remind me why I wanted to be an actress in the first place. I wanted to be a famous actress who can hit the big city and enjoy a civilized lifestyle.” She beamed. “You mean you weren’t always a city girl?” “Oh, of course not!” She laughed.

Farina was born in Guangzhou, China, but moved to Linkou, Taiwan, when her parents relocated for work. Back then, she went by Liu Xiaofei, which was to represent her spontaneity, creativity, and easygoing nature, according to her mother. Once she enrolled in the Taiwanese European School, she changed her name to Farina Liu, since they were required to have Americanized names. Since she was specifically in the British school, she was taught English and was given an immersive experience in British culture. However, she was raised in the Yangmei District of Taiwan, where the lifestyle was more low-country and suburban. Ever since she was young, Farina was already scouted by agencies for commercials and advertisements; she started modeling on and off from the tender age of five, and since then, she had never stopped, even when she tried to. While she did commute for school and modeling work every day, she hardly ever considered actually living in a city environment until she had to get ready for university applications and visited universities and schools throughout Europe, China, and Taiwan. Traveling through the city after city, it was an eyeopening experience for her. She had always known she wanted to do something either modeling or acting related, but it was not until she saw the plays on Broadway that she set her sights on London. While she was more interested in becoming a film actress in China, seeing these performers and how impassioned they were on and offstage, she wanted to bring that level of artistry and dedication back to screens all over Asia. It was when she got into Central Saint Martins that she felt a sense of self confidence in what she was doing. Farina felt like she was heading in the right direction with her life.

“Wow! Look at it! It’s breathtaking!” Farina was too busy admiring the view of the entire city to realize that Jamie was trembling. All the former stockbroker was thinking about was the cart and hoping that the screws stay intact and that they all don’t plummet to their deaths. “It’s beautiful.” Jamie murmured, still trying his best not to let Farina realize that he was internally terrified beyond belief. “Hey, what’s wrong?” She finally turned over, realizing that Jamie had been acting strange the entire time. “Oh, nothing.” He tried to lie through his teeth, but was clearly failing to do so convincingly. “You’re lying.” She raised an eyebrow at him, frowning. “Okay, well I should have told you this beforehand, but I’m…. deathly terrified of heights and being in vehicles like roller coasters and planes. There’s just this feeling of helplessness, like not being in control of my life, that I don’t like.” He confessed. “Oh… well, I feel bad now. I just made you do this. I’m sorry.” Farina could not help but feel horrible for subjecting Jamie to this uneasiness. “No, I wanted to do it, though. It was about time I confronted my fears. I’m 26, I own my own business, and I’m still afraid of heights? I can’t let that be the case anymore.” He insisted, much to her surprise. “Wow. I appreciate that mentality.” She beamed at him, holding onto his arm. “And don’t worry. If we do fall, at least we have each other. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true, right?” She giggled. “You’re right. On both counts. That was way too cheesy, and I’m Italian!” He chuckled back at her, adding to the incredibly bad jokes. But it was that sense of comfortability that helped Jamie through the rest of the ride. He forgot about possibly falling to his demise. All he was thinking about was being with Farina, and how it made him feel invincible. Nothing scared him anymore, with her by his side.

“I had a great time tonight.” Farina smiled at Jamie as he walked her back to her apartment. They had just finished dinner and were ending yet another date. This was number five now. “I know it’s a bit forward for me to ask this, but Farina, I really like you.” Jamie started. She could already tell where this was going, and the aspiring actress could not withhold her excitement. “Farina, would you-” “Yes! I will!” She smiled. Jamie frowned. “You didn’t let me finish there.” He shook his head. “I think I know what I’m agreeing to.” She insisted. “Alright, perfect. So I’ll come by tomorrow to harvest your kidneys and sell them on the black market.” He teased while she smirked at him coyly. “Boy, you can harvest my kidneys any time, okay?” She offered jokingly. “This is why I like you so much. And that is why, beyond obviously wanting to harvest and sell your kidneys, I was wondering if we can finally put a label on this? I’d like us to be exclusive. Somebody as incredible as you, I want you to be my girlfriend.” He confessed. “Jamie, all I can say is no. To harvesting my organs or whatever. That part is really weird. But yes, I would love that.” She beamed at him as they kissed. It was not the first time they had done that, but it was the first kiss they shared as an actual couple. It felt like it lasted for a second, but it lasted much, much longer than that. Then again, that was with anything enjoyable in life. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow, boyfriend.” She smiled as they finally parted ways. “Sure thing, girlfriend.” Jamie beamed back at her as he watched her walk into her building. They were both the happiest they had been for a long, long time. In Farina’s case, she wanted to move past Joseph. In Jamie’s case, this was his first relationship ever. They both had felt like they were meant to be together. This relationship was supposed to happen. Without a doubt.

Bad Together: Chapter 3

“So how was it?” Olivia looked at Farina eagerly. The two were with another one of their friends, a tall tanned girl named Patricia, working together on a project for their graphic design elective. “I can’t believe you guys actually got into Raise. And that you spent one on one time with the owner! That’s crazy.” Patricia laughed in disbelief. It was not an everyday thing to see Jamie Cortina, the young-gun owner of Raise, let alone spend the night with him. “Well, he is not as tall as the photos make him out to look.” Farina laughed. “Says the pot to the kettle.” Olivia snorted. “What’s that supposed to mean?” The Taiwanese girl rolled her eyes at the remark. Olivia was referring to Farina’s modeling career; despite being only 5’1”, Farina was already a model, and every time she goes to an event, the first thing people tell her is that they thought she would be taller in person. “It sounds like he’s perfect for you. You guys can be deceptively short together!” Patricia teased. “Oh, shush. But it was a magical night, for sure. The height only bothered me for a second. And he was just a really… kind and considerate person.” She sighed, contently. Every single thought she has had since she went to Raise yesterday was of him. Whether it was just imagining what his childhood was like, or thinking about how kind and selfless he was, letting her in despite the drama Jessica caused, giving her a private tour of the club, and even giving her his jacket when he was worried she was cold. Most guys just wanted to sleep with her. But he seemed different. He seemed to be genuinely interested in learning more about her. They had been texting each other constantly since then, talking about the little things in their everyday lives, and even now, she was eagerly waiting for him to text her back in regards to what he was up to that day. Talking with him, it was fun. He lived such a different life from her, and being able to have a peek into the life of a successful club owner, it was really interesting. She was enjoying herself, and it seemed that the attraction was mutual. Or at least that’s how she chose to view it. He did not seem completely repulsed by her, nor was he just giving her short, one word responses that would insinuate a lack of interest. But all she could do was assume and hope that whatever feelings she had for him, they were reciprocated.

In his office, Jamie was looking at the numbers from the previous night, while also looking at his phone, waiting for a text notification. Their texts started with small talk, such as talking about what they were doing that day, but he just wanted to get into the deeper topics, about things like life aspirations. Having dealt with a lot of fake backstabbers in Wall Street, Jamie was a bit nervous to be pursuing a relationship with somebody as outwardly beautiful as Farina. At the same time, he felt that her personality, it was kind and gentle. She did not look like the type of person who would just use him for a free tour of Raise. “You seemed to have a fun night, yesterday.” Andy smirked, walking into the room. His arms were visibly bruised from having to separate a few fights the prior day, but he was used to being the brute force and last resort when the bouncers and security guards could not handle riots caused by the club-goers’. “You’re looking really peachy. I haven’t seen you this happy ever.” He continued, much to Jamie’s embarrassment. “Well, she’s banging. But she’s got a great personality too, and she’s smart and really talented, so she’s the total package.” He sighed, enamored by Farina. During their night together, he got a chance to see her acting and modeling portfolios, and she was definitely going to be a successful actress down the line. She was gorgeous, great at playing a variety of characters, ranging from a successful businesswoman to a high schooler to even a young nun. He had never quite met somebody like her. She was unique, and a breath of fresh air for him. Most women only ever wanted to sleep with him for the perks. But with her, she did not try to do any of that. Granted, he never really gave her the opportunity to try any of those moves on him; Jamie was too quick to offer up free admission and a one on one tour. But she seemed to be genuinely interested in knowing more about him. Suddenly, his phone buzzed. The club owner could feel his heart skip a beat as he scooped up his phone and read the text, wanting to respond as quickly as possible. “Hey, did you want to go out on Saturday?” He needed her to know that he really wanted this conversation to keep continuing. He never wanted it to end. “What time?” She sent back.

It was a foggy afternoon in London that Saturday. But she didn’t mind it. Farina was not thinking about anything other than meeting up with Jamie. They were going to spend the day over some afternoon tea, something a little more casual and laid back. Farina smirked to herself. Even though she had been going to school in London for three years now, she had never been to afternoon tea; she was always too busy with projects or internships, and she really never had a reason to go. Until now, that is. Her first high tea, and with somebody she genuinely wanted to spend time with. It had been a while since her last relationship, which happened back in Taiwan. It was with a young man, Joseph, who she had been dating since middle school, until halfway through high school. He was a charismatic young man, at least that was what she thought when she first dated him. Everyone like him for being this tall, smart, and handsome jock. But he turned out to be a elitist, rude, and condescending person, and he broke up with her the moment she confessed to him that she wanted to pursue theatre. “Good luck finding a job with a theatre arts degree. I refuse to date somebody who is trying to leech off my success.” He rolled his eyes before walking away. It devastated her at first, but Farina managed to pull herself back together, and focused on her career. She took every opportunity to model and act, and did whatever she needed to do so that her name could get out there. Commercials, internships, modeling gigs, networking events, awards shows, she attended everything, head shots and business cards ready, in hopes that she would get discovered. And while she did get into quite a few small things here and there, she knew that her big break had yet to come. 

“Here it is.” Jamie looked up from his Google Maps app. It was a very neat, clean white building. The Eccleston Square Hotel, a boutique property known for their tea parties. This was where he was meeting Farina. It was an exciting feeling. He could not wait to see her again. Surprisingly, the Italian American was not nervous. He was looking forward to spending more time with her. In a lot of ways, Farina was mysterious, but beautiful. He wanted to uncover the question mark that was this gorgeous, seemingly perfect person, and learn to love her for both her perfections and faults. Growing up, Jamie never had the time to date. He was busy putting himself through school, college, and making as much money as he possibly could. But he never understood the need to be nervous for a date. It was just another interaction between people, where you learn more about each other. It was almost no different from a business meeting for him. Maybe with less formalities, but that was how he talked himself out of being scared or uneasy about meeting up with the model and aspiring actress. Business as usual. He thought to himself. Opening the doors, he was just thinking about her and how much he could not wait to see her again. “Jamie!” She smiled, waiting inside of the lobby. Walking over to him, they met in an embrace. “I’m so glad to see you again!” She started. “You look gorgeous, as always.” He smiled at her, admiring her outfit and appearance. While she was wearing quite a few expensive labels, Farina could have worn a garbage bag and still looked beautiful in Jamie’s eyes. She was the textbook definition of the word ‘gorgeous’.

“So you’re telling me that you’ve never been to afternoon tea before?” He raised an eyebrow in disbelief. “I just never had time or really a reason to try it, you know?” Farina shrugged, taking a sip of her tea. It was a dark Darjeeling, aromatic and bitter. Quickly offsetting that with a white chocolate and cranberry studded scone, the fine arts student was enjoying her time. “But I’m glad I did, and I’m glad I got to have my first high tea with you!” She smiled. “Wait, is this your first time?” Farina asked, wondering if this was something Jamie did on dates with any girl. “Oh, no. This isn’t. I went with Andy when we first moved over here. And then a couple times with business partners and investors. I just like the environment. It’s relaxing.” He chuckled. Farina tried her best not to laugh at the image of Jamie and Andy attending high tea together. It must have been a sight to behold, seeing two fully grown men fumbling with tiny tea cups and even tinier treats. “Hey, what’s so funny?” He looked at her, clearly noticing her failing attempts to refrain from laughing. “Oh, it’s nothing. What’s your favorite thing that we’ve had so far?” She tried to change the subject, but to no avail. “Okay, for an actress, you’re not convincing me that something’s off. Just spill it. I’m a grown man. I can handle the truth.” He insisted. “Well, it was just the thought of you and Andy having tea together. It-” “It must sound hilarious, right? Trust me, we were laughing our asses off the whole time.” He finished. It was obvious this was not the first time he told this anecdote to somebody. There was something about his directness that appealed to Farina. Unlike a lot of the young men in her classes, Jamie was not this flamboyant, over the top, or passive aggressive personality. He was direct and clearly no-frills. She felt like she could be herself around him. It was clear that trying to put on an act just did not work for the club owner. And yet she loved it.

Bad Together: Chapter 2

“Hey, let me go! RAPE! RAPE! Help! This bloody motherfucker is trying to VIOLATE me!” Jessica shrieked kicking away at the bouncer who was trying to usher her away from Raise. Farina stood there, unable to think. All that was going through her mind was the sight of her friend making a spectacle out of herself, all just to get into a nightclub. It was embarrassing to think that Jessica was actually two years older than her. For a 23 year-old, Jessica was acting worse than a spoiled teenager. “Hey! What the hell is the big idea?!” Andy roared, running out to the front. “Oh my god! Thank goodness you’re here. That mean man, he’s trying to molest me.” She cried, running over to him while pointing at the guard. “Georgio, is this true?” The co-owner looked at him skeptically. “Of course not. That girl, she’s ridiculous. She was making a huge scene, so I called you guys to help with the escort.” He explained. “I just want to get into the club.” She looked up at Andy, who was visibly annoyed. “Right now, I have a big issue. Do I ban you for life, or do I send you to an insane asylum?” Andy sighed. “Hey, what happened?” Jamie walked out, taking notice of Andy, Farina, and Georgio standing next to Jessica. “Huh?” He found himself dumbstruck. Standing between Andy and Georgio was easily one of the most beautiful girls he had ever seen. Slim, petite, with gorgeously smooth skin, dark, long hair, and eyes that had a soft, endearing look to them. The nightclub owner found himself speechless. “Hey, what’s the big issue here?” He snapped back in reality, realizing that he needed to address the main issue here: the blonde girl who was making a huge commotion. “This one, she’s been throwing accusations at Georgio. She’s trouble.” Andy gestured towards her. “Lies. They were going to gang rape me, these big blokes.” She protested, desperate to avoid any blame. “Is she with you?” Jamie looked over at Farina. “Yeah…” Farina felt like any chance of going out tonight had long passed. There was no way that she was going to avoid any trouble, especially now that she announced that she was associated with Jessica. “I see.” Jamie pondered.

There was a moment of silence outside of the club. It was getting a little cold, and nobody was doing anything. Everyone was waiting for Jamie’s call. “Andy, Georgio, let it slide. Even though she’s a troublemaker, I think we can rely on her friend to make sure that they don’t cause any more issues. She seems like a reliable person.” He looked over at Farina. She could feel herself blushing. Even though he was not the tallest guy around, he still had this charm to him. An enthusiasm that she appreciated. “Thanks.” She smiled, completely forgetting about Jessica and how much drama she had just caused. “You guys are free to come in.” Jamie gestured. “Boo!” “Don’t let the racist in!” The club-goers waiting in line protested, to the avail of nobody. It was too late: Jamie had already let the two into Raise. “You really need to be careful who you let into your life.” Andy frowned at his friend, unhappy with his choice. As somebody who was always treated unfairly for both his race and general appearance, the idea of bending the rules for a pretty face never really bode well with the burlier man. Any privileges and opportunities should be earned, something that both himself and Jamie embodied. Neither of them started out with much, but they made something out of themselves by being ambitious. “So welcome to Raise.” Jamie looked at the two, who were both ecstatic to finally be in the club. “This is sick!” Jessica squealed before running off into the crowd. “Hey, wait for me!” Farina called, but it was too late. The older girl had already ditched her. “Well, if you don’t have a plus one to worry about, how about I show you around? It’s your first time in Raise, right?” Jamie smiled. “Yeah.” She nodded softly at him before the two walked up the stairs to get a better view of the entire scene.

Walking down the hallways, Farina tried her best not to make eye contact with people. It was a typical day at school for her. She was always the source of many of her classmates’ attention and gossip. Being a part-time model, and an aspiring singer and actress, she was definitely somebody people could not take their eyes off of. At first, it was flattering, as she was somebody with relatively low self-esteem; before uni, she was a shy and awkward girl who never tried to use make-up. Attending the Taiwanese European School, Farina was a diligent student who was trying her best to keep her options open by studying everything she could and striving to maintain a 4.0 GPA, which she did. Yet she was somehow re-scouted to be a model during her first year in London, when she was clubbing for one of the first times, with Jessica. It was one of the rare times that she actually tried to dress up, and a scout told her that she had a good look. A couple modeling shots later, and she went viral on social media. 8,000 internet stalkers on Instagram later, and Farina was hoping that she could retain that following as she branched into performing and theatre instead, declaring that concentration at the end of her second year at Central Saint Martins. “Hey, isn’t that Farina Liu?” A girl whispered to her friend. “She’s not as pretty as her pics. She’s totally using photoshop.” Her envious friend shot back. The aspiring actress rolled her eyes at that comment. She didn’t care. The moment she let any of those shallow remarks from complete strangers get the her, she would find herself in a dark place. She never really let what other people said get to her. And that was why she was able to be good at what she did; amongst the theatre students, she was one of the most beloved in the school, almost always taking the leads in student productions, and having a handful of roles in multiple popular television series and movies. “Rina!” Close to twenty girls ran up to her. They were her friends. “Are you ready to hit the town tonight? I’m stoked that we get to go to Raise!” Jessica jumped up and down eagerly. “Oh, you know it, girl.” Farina laughed with her. “I wish I could go. Damn it, I’m so annoyed that my exam is on Monday.” An Ethiopian girl, Olivia, frowned. The biggest thing about Farina that made her so likable to other students, despite the typical first impression she would leave on them, is that she did not take herself too seriously. She was pretty, smart, and fun-loving. Everyone who got to know Farina could not help but fall in love with her personality.

And falling for her was what Jamie did too. The two retreated to his office, getting away from the chaos of the club. “Wait, so you had to wash your feet off in the fountain at Regent Park?!” Jamie laughed. “I had no choice! It’s not my fault that a baby chose to pee on me!” Farina joined in. Even though it was not a fun experience being urinated on, she still found it amusing to re-tell the story of when visiting the park on an art assignment went awry. “The worst was when I had to turn in my materials to the professor. My notebook smelled horrible. And my professor, definitely trying really hard not to judge me.” She chuckled. “You’re honestly hilarious. I can’t believe you took the entire situation so well!” Jamie was amused by her. From just that story alone, he felt like Farina was a really down to earth and relatable person. Even though she was drop dead gorgeous, there was something more to her than just her good looks. “But enough about that. How about you? Any mortifying experiences?” She smirked as she poured herself another glass of wine. “Oh where do I even start? There was that time my brothers and I tried to shoplift. Our mom, she beat our asses with a wooden spoon, like a stereotypical angry Italian mother.” He laughed. “Oh, trust me, I’ve been there. My mom did the same thing to me with a recorder. They don’t care about child abuse in Taiwan.” She rolled her eyes and cross her arms. “Are you cold?” Jamie was just starting to notice that she was wearing a sleeveless dress and that his office had the air conditioner blasting. “I mean, a little. But the wine is keeping me warm.” She reassured him jokingly, taking another sip from her glass, her lips just brushing against the rim as she quietly swallowed some of the dark crimson, almost purple liquid. Damn, she looks so sexy doing that. Jamie thought to himself, before shaking off any urges to sleep with her. There was an obvious level of seductiveness to Farina. He could not deny that. 

Farina was always used to being asked out by the same type of guy: tall jocks who always thought with their pants. Those dates were never fun. They were always only interested in themselves, and they never knew how to be considerate. She was hoping that in uni, going to school in the UK, it would be different. But it never was. Underneath those British accents were men with the same intentions; they just wanted to be dating somebody who they could control. They wanted to ride out a high of knowing that somebody like her was submitting to them. It was pathetic. But Jamie, he was different. Firstly, he was not a tall dude-bro type of guy. He did not look like a stereotypical frat boy. He looked responsible, hard working, and he was smart and humble. Even though he was not the type of person she would be attracted to immediately, his personality definitely won her over. He seemed to be trying really hard to make sure that she was being cared for. Normally, the type of attention Farina would receive, it was just shallow compliments to her appearance. But Jamie, he was actually listening to what she was saying, and he was having a real conversation with her. It was a refreshing thing to know that there are guys out there who care about her thoughts and opinions, and can have a stimulating discussing with her. She was finding herself increasingly more attracted to him. Though it might just be the wine. “Here.” He placed a coat over her shoulders. “It’s not much, but hopefully it’ll keep you warm. I’ll also try to turn the AC up a little bit. We can’t have you freezing in here.” He smiled. She wanted to learn more about him. How did an Italian American end up in London? He was genuinely interesting to her. And she could tell that he was genuinely interested in her as well. This sort of mutual attraction, she wanted to capitalize on it while she could. “Here’s my number, before I forget.” She wrote it down on a piece of paper, and handed it off to him. “You’re making it sound like the night is going to end early for us.” He teased, though this was a ruse to his nervousness; he really did not want her to leave. “I’m only just doing this before I forget.” She laughed before cuddling up with him.

Bad Together: Chapter 1

“Hello, London! Are you guys ready to party?!” A short man wearing shades shouted into a microphone. “YEAH!” The crowd roared. They were in a large room with multicolored strobe lights. The man was on a stage, behind turn tables equipped with two large speakers and an entire surround system that covered the entire ceiling. “Then let’s turn it up!” He added on a record, as large beats started pounding through the club, shaking the entire building. Meanwhile, at the front door, several people were trying to get into the club, but to no avail. “I swear, I’m on the VIP list! Let me go, asshole! I’ll give you a good beating to the head, you piece of shit!” A relatively young man in his early 20s shouted as the bouncer dragged him away. “Oh my god…” An Asian girl with long dark hair and a lean face looked in shock as they both disappeared into the darkness of the streets at night. “Well, that was awkward.” Her friend, a slightly taller blonde with sunken in eyes smirked. “Are you sure that won’t happen to us?” The Asian girl, Farina, looked visibly concerned. The last thing she wanted was to be dragged away in her five inch pumps. “Don’t worry, I know a guy. I’m just ready to finally get into the local.” Her friend, Jessica, insisted. They were in line to hopefully enter Raise, one of the most exclusive nightclubs in the city. “How did you know a guy exactly?” “Well, my cocaine dick, he’s got an in with one of the barbacks, who has an in with the bouncers, who owe them a solid for all of the free drinks they get at night that should otherwise be thrown away.” Jessica explained; as somebody who loved to sleep with multiple men for different drugs, she stopped referring to a lot of them by their name, but instead as the drug they provided her, followed by the word ‘dick’. There were plenty of ‘dick’s in Jessica’s life, from ecstasy dick to cocaine dick to Farina’s amusement, acid dick and weed dick. “Well, if your drug dealer can’t get us in, I guess we can go get high as fuck.” She joked around, knowing full well that Jessica would drugs that anyways. “Hells yeah! Now you’re talking my fucking language, girl. Let’s get chuffed!” She posed with her hand up, expecting a high-five. Farina ignored her. Despite how she was acting towards Jessica, Farina did need a break from school and responsibility. Being a senior in an art university, every day was stressful. She just wanted to get away from all of the projects and deadlines.

“Wow, so how many people tonight?” A somewhat short man with dark, slicked back hair walked over to a burly African American man. “Well, we have 300 on the wait list, but the bouncers have already let in 150.” He read off his tablet. “That’s pretty damn impressive.” He laughed. “We’re just going into our first year next month, and we’ve already made back the 5 million we put into this.” “Actually, 3.5 million pounds. You’re counting in dollars, bruh.” The African man, Andy laughed. “Well, we earned that money in Wall Street, and we’re both American, so of course I’ll think about it in our original currency.” The Italian America, Jamie, laughed. Jamie was originally born in Long Island, New York. Growing up, he lived a relatively simple life. His father was a plumber, his mother was a typically tough Italian American mom who would beat her kids with a wooden spoon to set him, his two older brothers, and little sister straight. Money was a bit of an issue growing up, but they were never homeless. They just all had to work part time jobs together to pay off the bills, such as working in a deli with their mom or waitering or cashiering. Jamie went to school at Fordham University for finance, became an investment banker in Wall Street, and by the time he was 25, had raised enough money to move to London and open his own nightclub, Raise. As a student, he was so focused on making money because he never wanted to have to do the backbreaking labor his father had to do to only partially provide for them. But when he finally made a fortune, he wanted to do fun things. The reason why he wanted to open a nightclub was to make up for the fact that in uni, he never got to party. Raise was Jamie’s way to continue making money, while being able to live out the life in school he never had.

Andy has been Jamie’s righthand man since he started as in Wall Street. Andy was born in Harlem and raised by a single mother along with his little brother, Jacob. He would often have to steal for him and his brother because their mother was out often; she worked as a table dancer. When he was 25, three years prior to the present, he was running into student debts and tried to rob a man to pay off the loans; that man was Jamie. “Hey, put your hands in the air, you piece of shit!” He yelled, holding a knife up to the man’s neck. “Is it money you want?” He rolled his eyes. “Yeah. Give me your wallet!” “Here, I’ll do you one more solid. How much?” “What?” He was not sure what was going on. “You have a huge set of balls, just to try robbing somebody like that. Clearly, you’re in need of money, because you’re threatening me with a steak knife. Men like you are tenacious, but they have a price. I want you to name your price.” He looked at him. “One million dollars!” “Alright.” Jamie grabbed a pen and checkbook out of his pocket and started writing in it. “Here you go. And also, here’s my number. Somebody like you, you can do much better than being a robber. You can make an actual difference helping others.” He smirked as Andy accepted the check and Jamie’s offer. At that moment, Jamie had changed his life. Andy was able to not only pay off his student loans, but also give the rest of the money to his mother and brother. His wages as Jamie’s bodyguard also helped pay the bills, and he was able to turn his life around and start making an honest living. He owed his life to the banker. Which was why when Jamie proposed opening a nightclub in London, Andy agreed without hesitation; he would follow him until his death. Like Jamie said, men like Andy had a price, and it was in this case, a stable job and the removal of his student debt. “Anyways, we need to focus on the present. So with 150 people in, that means that we should have made about 12,000 pounds from the entry fee alone.” “Awesome.” Jamie clapped his hands. Tonight was a great night for business. It was only 8pm, and the club was already packed. With drinks, they would expect to make about another 15,000 pounds from people who are already in there, not even counting the people from the wait list. “Oh wait, what?” The security radio was ringing. “There’s a fight. Come down now!” A relatively panicked voice shouted. It was Georgio, one of the bouncers. “Ah shit, we have a situation in the entrance.” Andy frowned.

“Can I see your tickets please?” The bouncer looked at the two girls. He needed to scan the QR codes on their phones to let them into the club. “Oh, hold on. Let me pull up the email.” Jessica rummaged through her phone. “Ah, here it is. Look.” She handed him the phone with an email thread between her, her ‘cocaine dick’, the barback, and one of the bouncers. “Ma’am, this isn’t a ticket.” He frowned. “What the actual fucking shit?!” She screamed as one of the security guards grabbed her by the arm and started to drag her away. “You’ll fucking pay for this, you piece of shit n-” Luckily, the music from the club was too loud for Farina to properly hear what Jessica said, but judging from the aghast looks from everyone surrounding her, especially the African bouncer and club-goers that were plastered onto their faces, it was pretty evident it was not anything short of a racial slur. “Let me fucking at this bitch!” An offended female club-goer screamed, running after Jessica, who was already preoccupied with getting freed from the bouncer, who had to start trying to break them up. “We have a situation.” Another bouncer standing right next to Farina spoke into his walkie talkie. “There’s a fight! Come down now!” Farina felt numb the moment she heard him say that. “Hey, back off! She’s not worth it.” He barked at the club-goer, who took a second to finally agree with him before backing off. Horrified, Farina did not know what to do. She felt mortified at the thought of associating herself with Jessica, but at the same time, she could not just stand there and let the situation escalate. She was not expecting her night to pan out this way. She just wanted to party, drink, and not think about getting in trouble for once.

New story series announcement: Bad Together

Bad Together is the story of two young people, Jamie and Farina, and their intertwining lives in London, England. Jamie is an Italian American transplant from Long Island, New York, while Farina is a Taiwanese performing arts student who is currently at Central Saint Martins. The story will tackle themes of toxic relationships, abuse, addiction, and overcoming them.

Regulus: Afterword

Regulus was a short story series that I wrote mostly because I was facing a very strained moment in my personal life with my family. A lot of the concept and aesthetic I was going for was actually inspired by the indie horror game, “Dreaming Mary”.

When it came to the main concept of the story, I knew that I wanted it to take place in a secluded, Switzerland-inspired land, so that’s where I drew a lot of the influences for the landscape and setting. For the characters, I had already decided that the main character was going to be a young man who lived a sheltered life and did not know the difference between love and abuse. For the men in the family, I wanted there to be a theme of strong, lion-inspired names, hence why I opted for Leon for the father and Lionel for our main character. For the girls in the family, I went with Abertha for the mother, mostly because Abertha means to sacrifice in Welsh, and Lacey, which generally holds the meaning of being powerful, intelligent, and wonderful, which the sister who bears that name in the story is depicted as.

Lionel was going to be on a small adventure throughout the large property he lived on, trying to uncover these clues that Lacey so thoughtfully scattered throughout the mansion. That much, I knew was going to be the driving force of the story, was to find out what happened to her. I meant originally for the story to have a much more open ending, with there being no direct implications on whether or not Lacey lives or not, but I wound up writing in the mentioning that she survives, just to give the ending a less morbid note, and to leave the potential for a continuation (granted, I’m probably not going to write one, because I’m happy ending the story where it is right now).

Anywhoo, I hope you enjoyed reading Regulus, because it was a fun story to write and it was a radical departure from some of the much longer stories that I have been writing. Thank you for reading it and I hope you look forward to more stories in the near future!

Regulus: Chapter 5

It was quiet. Not a single sound or light, with the sole exception being the small cracks of it slithering out from around the door. “Alright, here goes.” He sighed to himself, walking into the abyss. As he went further away from the light, he found his vision adjusting to the darkness, and he was able to make out the area he was in. It was a cavernous hallway, the ceiling and walls were occasionally embedded with pieces of uncut alexandrite. As he continued to wander into the darkness, he finally found a part of the hallway that was lined with several urns. Placing it down, the boy began to make his way back to the door. Only to find out, after the trek back, that the door had been locked. Banging on it, he was hoping his father would let him out. But he never did. It felt like ages of knocking the door, begging for it to be opened, but no response. Resigning to his fate, Lionel decided to go back to where the urns were. There was more past that area. If he was here, he might as well go as deep as he can inside of these catacombs. He normally was not allowed down here, so it was a rare opportunity to explore a new part of the estate. Wandering deeper and deeper into the the unknown, he readjusted his eyes to the darkness, allowing himself to better witness the depths of the basement. There was luckily just one linear path. And all he had to do was keeping delving deeper along it. He had no idea what was awaiting him on the other side. However, it would be better than the beatings and abuse that awaited him should he return to the house. At this point, it was all beginning to make sense to him, Lacey’s warnings. Anything would be better than living in these conditions. Even death, as his mother showed him.

Speak of the devil. There was a skeleton, sprawled on the floor before him. Somebody had actually died in these mines. At first, it was terrifying, but then Lionel remembered that he had just cremated his mother’s corpse and had to act as though nothing was wrong just a day ago. Or was it weeks ago? He had no concept of time in the darkness. He did not even remember how long he had been wandering in the catacombs for. However, he noticed something in the skeleton’s hand. It was a paper airplane. “No. This can’t be her.” He shuddered, pulling the airplane out of the corpse’s hand. It was hard to read, due to the cavern being only barely illuminated from the glow of the gemstones, but the boy could still make out what was written on that sheet of paper. “Lionel, in the darkest of places may just be your last hope. You might think that hope is lost, but you need to keep wandering on. They tried to lock me here, but they did not realize that they just set me free. I am free now. Free from this prison and free from them. Join me, Lionel. I will be waiting for you on the other side. Be brave, my little brother. -Lacey”. Taken aback, the boy tried his best to fight back the tears. That skeleton, it really must be her. She must have died here, locked up from their parents. But then he remembered what was written on that note. He could not stop here. He had to keep moving on. If he stayed here, his father would eventually find him and punish him in another twisted way. Either that or continue to leave him here to rot and die. Either way, he was not ready to succumb to such a fate. He needed to keep moving deeper into the darkness, and towards whatever hopes he still had for his freedom. If he gave up now, then he would have nothing left to live for. He had to keep living, for Lacey, and for his own freedom.

Wandering deeper into the depths of the catacombs, Lionel finally came to a dead end. It appeared to be a cave-in. Stones upon stones smothered any sight of the other side. “Oh no….” He sighed, leaning in to better inspect the rocks. He had not lost hope just yet. Even if he had to dig his way out, he would do it. Noticing that a roughly potato-sized rock, towards the top of the pile, was shifting to his touch, Lionel pulled it away, and darted back in caution. No avalanche. Much to his relief and slight disappointment. He was hoping that the rocks would give way to the exit. However, what come out of that hole was something else that he had sought after. Light. Not the glow of alexandrite. Natural sunlight. “Yes!” He gasped in relief, as the boy continued rummaging around for another loose rock to pull. He found it. Yanking another, then another, then another, Lionel smiled as more sunlight poured through as the hole grew larger. Wherever this cavern led to, he was determined to get away from Fangnis. “Finally!” He beamed. The hole was large enough for him to crawl through. Pulling himself out, he sighed in relief. It was a grassy green hill, much like the backyard of their estate. However, unlike his favorite viewpoint, this one was connected to a long slope of grass, leading downwards to a lot of smaller buildings. Buildings…. the town. He slowly realized, smiling. Lacey! She might have escaped after all. The boy realized. Turning around, he shuddered as he was faced with that cavernous mouth of darkness, tinged with a faint glow of alexandrite. Grabbing some rocks and dirt nearby, Lionel started to stuff that hole, trying his best to bury the darkness, the pain, the trauma behind him. He could not let him father believe for even a second that he escaped.

Satisfied with his handiwork, Lionel got up, and brushed the dirt off his hands. He managed to cover the entire hole with a combination of mud, rock, and sticks. There was no way that any light could slip through those cracks. Turning back around, he took a deep breath. This lifestyle that he was about to embark on, he had no idea what to expect. How long would his freedom and happiness last?  Shaking off all of his doubts, he started running down the hill. The village was drawing nearer. He could feel his heart beating out of his chest with anticipation. The hill, with Fangnis sitting on top of it, was vanishing into the distance. Putting a stop to his sprint, the boy finally made it to the base of the hill. “Oh, it’s rare that we have visitors to the village.” An elderly farmer looked at the panting boy. “What is your name, young man?” Pausing, Lionel took a second to catch his breath. “My name?” He didn’t want to state the name he was given. In the event his father ever catch wind of him being alive, he needed to be ready for that. He had to erase any trace of his old life. “Regulus.” He lied through his teeth. “I am a young traveler from a neighboring country in Regensberg, just passing by.” “Well, welcome to our fair village, young man. If you need a place to stay for the night, my wife and her sister own a hostel.” He offered. “Thank you, sir.” He smiled. “It’s not very often we get visitors. I think that the last time was years ago. A young lady, around the same age as you.” He noted, much to Regulus’s shock. “Do you remember what happened to her?” The boy asked, trying to mask his excitement. “She settled in the village for a few years, but left maybe a month of two ago. She said she wanted to explore the world.” He explained. This was Regulus’s only chance to reunite with Lacey. She was still alive. He had just overcome one of the hardest journeys of his life, escaping that hell, but another adventure was about to begin. He was going to reunite with his sister.

Regulus: Chapter 4

Walking into the foyer, Lionel gasped at the sight before him. Written in large, blood-red letters was the word “Ingrates”, across the balcony. And tied from the chandelier was a rope. But that was not was the boy was transfixed on. It was what was attached to it. His mother was dangling from the lamp, the rope tightly holding her by her neck. Visibly, there were several bruises that were blackening under her already purple skin. “Brat, you let dinner get cold.” His father approached him, slapping him in the face, knocking him off his feet. “I ate everything. Clean up this mess and go back to your room.” He grunted, storming back to the entrance of the house. Sighing to himself, Lionel went to grab a ladder. He needed to untie the rope from the chandelier, and also scrub the wall clean. Unsure of how to dispose of his mother’s body, Lionel decided that cremation would be the fastest way. Dragging the corpse to the fireplace, he carefully lifted it into the flames. “Goodnight, mom.” He whispered, walking away from her, one last time. As he continued to wipe the blood from the walls and floor, Lionel could not stop thinking about reading that note. However, he was still digesting the events of what was happening. His mother just killed herself, because she felt neglected by him. But was that really his fault? Shaking off any thoughts, he continued to mindlessly clean off any trace of what happened just now. After this, Lionel was going to read that note. He knew that if he did not prioritize what his father said, he would be in huge trouble. He did not want to even begin to know what terrors would await him should he defy his father.

Passing out on his bed, Lionel tried his best to drift off to sleep. “Sweetie, be sure to eat your vegetables.” He was sitting in the dining room, his mother standing before him, insisting that he finish the food she prepared for him. Looking around the dining room table, he noticed that there were settings for not just the three of them. There was a fourth set of silverware and food. “Mom, who is the extra plate for?” He questioned, knowing full well that this was not real. His mother was dead. He did not care, however. An answer from even a phantom from his dreams would be appreciated at this point. “That’s for Lacey, sweetie. You should call her down.” She suggested. “Lacey?!”He called, uncertain of what to expect. “I’m coming down right now!” A voice called back to them, as footsteps could be heard. “Sweetheart, your dinner is getting cold! Your brother has been waiting for quite a while now! He’s almost done!” Their mother chanted. “Okay, okay, I get it! I’m busy!” She shouted back. “Somebody has to clean up the house, right? I’m in the middle of sweeping up the hallway.” She was in charge of cleaning? The boy had assumed that it was always his mother who did that. “Mom, who does the chores in the house?” His mother gave him a puzzled look, but still gave him an explanation. “Sweetie, I do the cooking, and your sister handles cleaning the house. Your father and I take turns teaching you guys. I handle the geology and history of Regensberg, and he teaches you guys economics, mathematics, and literature.” She started. “You’re still too young, sweetie. I know you want to help Lacey with shores, but maybe when you’re older.” She smiled softly at him, before slowly fading away. “Mom, I’m here!” Turning around, Lionel frowned as he was met with an empty room. He never got to confirm what his sister looked like. Was this a dream, or was it a memory?

Sadly, Lionel’s vision did not last long. “Get up, you ungrateful brat. Now that that bitch Abertha is dead, you’re in charge of cooking me my meals and cleaning the house.” His father glared at him. The boy groggily got up, only for his father to grab him by the arm and forcibly drag him down to the kitchen. Throwing the boy into the room, he slammed the door and stormed off. Getting up, and massaging his pulled arm, Lionel decided to read the note first, before he forgot. “While the mansion may seem like the perfect home, there are many faults and secrets. He does not like how I have been rebelling. I think he wants to keep me silent. I might not be able to see your smile, and hear your laughter for much longer, Lionel. Our family harbors many dark secrets. But I found a way out. Hopefully, you will too. -Lacey”. A way out? Dark secrets? He could not even begin to think about what else his family was keeping from him, or where he could possibly run away to. Lacey escaped. But there was no way. Not with their father guarding the only exit to the building. Unless she escaped the same way their mother did. Shuddering to himself, he put away the note. The last thing he wanted for his father to find it. But at the same time, he could not bring himself to discard or dispose of them just yet. These were the only remnants he still had of his sister. He had to hold onto them, in honor of her memory and her clues to his escape. “Is breakfast ready yet?” His father burped. “Uh, I’m getting it started!” Lionel called back, frantically. “Hurry up! Your mother would have had it ready before I was even awake!” He growled. The boy began to frantically put anything together with the limited cooking experience he had; he could only make toast and milk. He knew that he was going to get beat for this. This was going to be the beginning of his new hell.

Staggering back to his bedroom, trying to ignore the stinging pain from the bruises and cuts that covered his entire body, Lionel had just one goal: safely hiding those notes. He did not think about how his father had just slapped, punched, kicked, and hit him throughout the day, and forced him to clean the house, prepare his meals, and handle all of the chores that his mother used to do. He was forced to shoulder this burden, because she was no longer there to do so. He expected this to happen. Lionel had known since a young age that should his mother pass away, he would be the one who had to take over her duties. Hell, or Fangnis, would have frozen over before his father even volunteered a second of his time to doing a single chore in this house. Hiding the papers inside of the floorboards, the boy quickly placed the board back over the hole as he heard a booming sound echoing in the hallway. His father was coming back up. “Brat, where did you hide your mother’s body?” He glared at him. “I cremated her in the fireplace.” The boy confessed. “Put out that fire. And put the ashes in this.” He threw a large metal urn at Lionel, who caught it before it hit him squarely in the chest. “Once you get the ashes into this, call for me. I’ll tell you where to put it.” He snorted, walking off. “And you better do it within the hour. Or else.” He stared at the boy angrily. “I don’t like having my time wasted. I have crystals to sell.” After putting out the fire, Lionel sighed to himself as he got ready to be blackened by the soot. Collecting freshly extinguished ashes was no easy task, but Lionel had only an hour to collect up all of the contents of the fireplace, whether or not they were once his mother, and put them into the urn. Trying to use the lid to scoop up the charcoal and not burn himself was a smart idea on paper, except that the metal would still get hot from the heat and create first degree burns and blisters on the boy’s hands. It was inevitable that he was going to continue bearing scars and wounds from this experience. He just had to bear with it.

“Alright. Don’t fall, brat.” Going through a door and down a flight of dimly lit wooden stairs later, Lionel and his father finally arrived in the basement of the manor. The walk was unnerving. Lionel was careful not to spill the ashes or drop the urn, especially knowing that if he made another mess, that would be another excuse for his father to beat him. The boy was also unfamiliar with their basement. This was where they mined their alexandrite. However, the only people allowed down here were his parents. “These are the catacombs.” He was referring to a dusty wooden door, bound with a large iron padlock.“You’re going to go inside, and place the urn inside of here. If you try to steal any of the alexandrite in here, I will make sure that you join your mother, you little ingrate.” He growled, undoing the lock and opening the door. “Go inside, brat.” Almost immediately after pushing the boy inside, Leon slammed the door shut and clicked the lock. “I’ll let you out once you put the urn away.” He fibbed, walking back upstairs. He could stand to leave the boy down there. Until he was hungry again, that is. In the mean time, the twerp could just wait in there. He hated that the brat had the same look that she had. He did not need to be reminded of her. She was going to be a distant memory, and hopefully, he would be too soon enough. All of these thieves, benefiting from his fortune. The alexandrite was the only thing he needed. Nothing else mattered. He was not going to have anyone else betray him. If you think that stealing the alexandrite was a smart idea, then you belonged with it. His daughter, his first wife, his second wife, and now his son, they could all rot down there together. They were not worthy of living under his roof anymore.