Friday, 30 October 2015

Chapter 3.02 - Dare To Dream

Warning: language, as usual.
   Lyra stared out of the window, her thoughts far away from the newspaper hanging limply from her fingers. In the distance, the roar of the waterfall thundering into the lake beside their house echoed across the mountains, playing the overly familiar tune Lyra had long learned how to push to the back of her mind. She had never been able to hear the Song her mother often went on about, but sometimes, when the roar of the waterfall intruded into her thoughts, she thought she could faintly hear notes.
   Magic, her mother had called it.
   Bullshit, she called it. It was just her mind playing tricks on her, trying to convince her of how wonderful the town is, filled with wonder and magic and stagnant fucking traditions. She scowled fiercely and vehemently tossed the newspaper across the room, angered by the lack of prospects for a wholesome future.
   She didn’t want to get a job in this godforsaken town. She could already see how her life was going to turn out should she take one of the openings advertised in the newspaper, and it was not good. Get a job, get married, have children? Wake up, change the screaming toddlers’ diapers, take them to school, go to the same boring job 40 hours a week, go to sleep, repeat?
   She’d go mad if that had to be her life.
   The ringtone of her phone suddenly reverberated through the air, jerking Lyra back to reality. She glanced down at the caller ID and felt her stomach make a weird little flip at the name.
   She still didn’t know how she felt about him. She hadn’t contacted him yet after that not-entirely-horrible date, but she had thought about him – a lot. Her thoughts kept returning to him at inopportune moments. It confused the hell out of her.
   She stared idly at her phone, listening to it ring. It was with slight hesitation that she finally picked it up, her stomach giving that same strange little flip it did every time she thought of him.
   “Hi,” she answered nonchalantly. She really hoped he wasn’t calling about that promised second date. She wasn’t sure if she was ready to see him just yet.
   “Hey,” his voice came easily across the phone. She could almost hear the smile in his voice, causing her stomach to give that weird little flip again. “Listen, are you busy today? A couple of my friends invited me to go windsurfing with them, and I’ve been wondering if you wanted to come along? It’s just for fun, nothing serious about it.”
   She tilted her head, thinking about his offer. Windsurfing? That actually sounded like fun. She’d never done it before, but…well, wasn’t it about time she tried new stuff? And sure, she hadn’t exactly wanted to see him so soon, but it wasn’t like it was going to be a date, was it? It was just fun, between friends.
   Besides, she was bored.
   “Sure, why not?” she agreed in the spur of the moment, relaxing into the conversation. “It could be fun. How many people are going?”
   “Just a couple,” he replied. “We’ll probably be…four, or five people, max. Like I said, it’s just for fun.”
   An hour later, Lyra met with Edwin and his friends at the beach. They were all people she knew vaguely from school. Sure, she didn’t know them that well, having chosen to ignore pretty much all of her classmates, but at least she was acquainted with them. She even vaguely remembered socializing with them at that party Edwin had thrown the last day of school. Vaguely. The juice had definitely influenced her memories of that night.
   “Right-o,” Lakisha declared, signalling the start of their planned activities. “Let’s do this. So, Lyla, ya know how this works?” She pointed at the windsurfing board with a manicured finger, an easy smile on her face.
   Lyra blinked, slightly taken aback by the name the other girl had called her.
   “Not really, no,” she answered uncertainly. “And my name’s Lyra, not Lyla.”
   “It’s a nickname. Deal with it,” Lakisha declared with an unconcerned shrug, completely unfazed by the correction. “Luckily for ya, Edwin is quite a deft hand at this, so he’ll be showing ya the ropes. Enjoy.” She bestowed the two of them with a lazy smile before she grabbed the other two guys by the hand and dragged them over to the boat trailer, presumably to help her get the boat and jet skis off the trailer and into the water, leaving Lyra and Edwin to stand awkwardly beside each other.
   “Sorry about that,” Edwin apologized with an awkward chuckle. “Lakish is…well, she’s quite unique. But she’s a great friend, nevertheless.” He picked the windsurfing board up and walked towards the water, looking at Lyra over his shoulder and gesturing at her in clear invitation to join him.
   He spent a couple of minutes to explain to her the basics of windsurfing. He was standing behind her in the water, lightly holding her waist to help her keep her balance while he explained it to her. She was acutely aware of his touch, her skin tingling warmly where his hands met her skin. The sensation caused her to swallow heavily. She’d be lying if she said she didn’t like it.
   Plumbob, he confused her.
    “So, are you ready to try?” he asked her when he finished his explanation, smiling reassuringly at her. She nodded wordlessly, still flustered by the confusing feelings in her chest.
   He gave a step back to provide her with some space to attempt the activity, his fingers trailing off her waist.
   Her skin lamented the loss of his touch.
   She swiftly supressed the feeling, trying to turn her focus wholeheartedly to the board she was standing on. Cautiously, she turned the sail like he had showed her, allowing it to capture the wind and drive her forward.
   The sail did its job admirably, effortlessly catching the wind. Her heart leapt into her throat at the unfamiliar movement and she momentarily lost her balance, causing the board to wobble slightly, but she automatically corrected her stance and it righted itself again. The wind parted around her as she propelled forwards, drenching her with water droplets and causing her hair to stream behind her.
   It was the most amazing thing she had ever experienced.
   She couldn’t prevent the delighted laugh from escaping her lips. All of her worries disappeared like mist before the sun, leaving her focused only on the now and here. It was incredibly liberating. For the first time in her life, she felt truly alive.
   She was vaguely aware of Edwin pulling beside her with a jet ski, effortlessly keeping up with her. There were no words exchanged between them, but none were needed. The only things that mattered were the wind, the water and the joy they both shared in that moment.
   The rest of the day passed in a blur of excitement. As it turned out, the planned activities for the day included more than just windsurfing. They also shared turns on the jet skis, challenging each other with races…
…and when the wind became a little too still for windsurfing, they finally started the motorboat and went waterskiing.
   It was twilight by the time they finally got out of the water, the first stars already appearing in the vast expanse of the night sky. Lyra was drenched from head to toes and the slight evening breeze bit into her skin, but there was a large smile on her face and she was content in a way she couldn’t ever remember being.
   Lakisha and Robby fiddled around with the firepit, trying to get the fire started. Lyra was too far away from them to hear anything they said, but she could see the easy banter they engaged in. Shawn helped carry the firewood to the pit, interjecting every now and then with a comment of his own. They were completely relaxed around each other.
   Lyra suddenly felt like a stranger looking in onto a scene she didn’t belong in. This was an already established group of friends. She had no business inserting herself in that group. She didn’t belong with them.
   Warm arms then slid around her, breaking her out of her melancholic thoughts. She could smell Edwin’s familiar scent around her, and her skin once again tingled where his skin met hers. Her hands automatically went up to his arm, holding onto him.
    Plumbob, you’re beautiful,” Edwin murmured into her ear. It should’ve bothered her that he was so close, especially after she’d told him to give her space and time, but it didn’t. Instead, it sent delighted shivers down her spine.
   She suddenly felt extremely hot.
   She gave him a tight smile and shrugged off his arms, setting off towards the firepit.
   She heard him groan and from the corner of her eye, she noticed him throw his head backwards, his eyes beseeching the heavens for help. But he followed behind her, and when they reached the firepit he sat beside her, close enough that she was acutely aware of his presence, but not so close that he was intruding in her space.
   She had to give him points for tenacity. She was loath to admit it, but he was slowly getting the upper hand in this dance they were performing around each other.
    “So, Lyla, ya enjoy the day?” Lakisha drawled, effortlessly drawing Lyra into the conversation. Lyra pulled her thoughts away from the man confusing her so much, focusing instead on the conversation and the other people surrounding her.
   They socialized until late in the night, long after the moon had risen, accompanied only by the sound of the waves breaking on the shore and the crackling of the fire shooting sparks into the sky. Any unease Lyra might’ve had over fitting in with the group disappeared easily. They were easy-going people, and Lyra couldn’t help but relax with them.
   At one stage during the night, once the wood had burned out and the fire had almost been reduced to smouldering embers, the group had started to segregate into smaller groups. Edwin and Shawn were discussing a recent football game, completely absorbed in their conversation. Lakisha and Robby had slipped into a private conversation, stealing little touches and kisses every now and then, making it more than clear to Lyra that they were, in fact, dating.
   She slipped away from the group, feeling a bit neglected and slightly self-conscious by the display. Things were starting to reach the point where she would need to make a decision about Edwin.
   She could no longer deny it. She had completely and utterly lost the game. She wanted more of his touches. She wanted more of his kisses. She wanted him to embrace her and send more of that delightful shivers down her spine. She wanted to touch him without feeling guilty about it.
   Footsteps crunched on the sand behind her, and a familiar scent drifted to her nose. She looked over her shoulder at him, unsurprised by his presence.
    “Edwin,” she acknowledged him and turned her eyes away, unwilling to make eye contact with him. She knew her eyes were like an open book at the moment, displaying her thoughts for all to see. She’d never been very good at hiding her emotions.
   He strolled up next to her in silence, his thumbs tucked into the waistband of his trousers as he stared up at the stars twinkling above them. For some time the only noise between them was the sound of the waves breaking right in front of them, the water occasionally lapping at Lyra’s toes. Again, she was hyper-aware of his presence.
    “You were kinda quiet back there,” Edwin stated, his voice breaking the silence between them. “Something bothering you?” He voice held a hint of concern.
   Something in her resolve broke.
   She couldn’t do this. She couldn’t stand there and act like nothing had changed between them. She was falling head over heels for him and she couldn’t understand why. She couldn’t understand his motivations at all.
   “What is it you want from me, Edwin?” she asked vulnerably. “What is it that you wish to accomplish by…asking me out on dates, or…” She shook her head, unable to complete the sentence. She finally looked at him, her heart in her eyes. “What do you want from me?”
   He didn’t reply. He kept staring at the stars, deep in thought. When he did finally reply, several minutes later, the response wasn’t something Lyra had expected to hear.
   “Why is it so hard for you to understand that I like you, Lyra?” he asked her. “I like the person you are. I enjoy spending time with you. And you’re so incredibly beautiful that I can’t help but want to touch you.”
   “You still didn’t answer my question,” she pointed out in return. “What is it that you want from me?”
   He groaned with frustration, letting his head drop to his chest before he finally turned to her.
   “Fine,” he caved with a surrendering sigh. “I want to touch you. I want to kiss you. I want to take you into my arms and feel your skin against mine. I want you to look at me with that fire burning in your eyes. I want to be able to show you to the world and tell everyone that you’re mine. Simply put, I want you to be my girl.”
   She couldn’t help it. She threw her head backwards and her laughter rang through the skies. How freakin’ ironic, that he was able to echo her thoughts so much. All those things he wanted to do…she wanted him to do it. How freakin, utterly ironic.
   Her fingers itched. She wanted to touch him; feel that tingle in her fingertips. She wanted him to look at her with those mesmerizing, fun-loving green eyes of his. She wanted him to look at her and know that she was the reason for the expression in his eyes.
   She gave in to the impulse. Her hands went to his face in a soft caress, her fingers gently touching his cheeks. His breath hitched at her touch, and he reflexively slipped his hands around her waist, sending her nerves tingling again.
   “You win, Edwin,” she breathed softly, staring into his eyes with a carefree smile. “You win. I’ll be your girlfriend, if that’s what you want from me.”
   His eyes lit up with joy and a broad smile appeared on his face. “Are you sure?” he breathed just as softly, his eyes hopeful.
   Lyra nodded, a wry smile on her face. It was way too late to turn back now. Her hands slipped from his face, one going to his chest and the other to his nestle in his hair. She closed her eyes, and they met each other halfway.
   When she opened her eyes again, the stars seemed so much brighter, and her future suddenly didn’t seem quite so bleak any more.
   She both hated and loved Sunset Valley.
   It was a stagnant hell to live in, filled with stereotypes and ‘traditions’ and expectations that she could honestly not see herself fulfilling. She hated the way everyone in the town seemed to live the same kind of life, the way nothing new ever happened, and the way the entire community had been happy to settle into such a boring, everyday life. From the day a person was born, everybody already knew how that person would turn out, and what kind of life he or she would lead.
   That wasn’t the kind of life Lyra wanted to have.
   She idly played with the camera in her hands, absently making changes to the shutter speed and the aperture, her mind automatically searching for the optimal settings to capture the image in front of her. The camera had been a gift from her dad, back when she had first started with high school and expressed an interest in photography. It had been a short-lived hobby and for a long time she had ignored the camera, leaving it to gather dust in her closet. After her dad had died, she had come across it again, and suddenly it became one of her most precious belongings.
   Because it had been a gift from her dad.
   And that was the reason a part of her still loved Sunset Valley. For all of its faults, it was still the town she had grown up in. It was still the town she had created memories in; memories of happier times when her dad was still alive and her siblings still on speaking terms.
   She hated Sunset Valley, and she wanted nothing more than to leave, but for some reason she always felt like she would be betraying those memories if she did leave.
   She pressed the trigger and the shutter snapped close, immortalising the scene in front of her exactly as she had envisioned it.
   “Oh! Is that a Hikon QX40di Gladiator?” a voice asked from beside her. She looked up startledly, making eye contact with the woman looking eagerly at her. She had been so absorbed in her thoughts she hadn’t even noticed being approached.
   She scowled slightly, somewhat irritated by getting her thoughts interrupted by this stranger.
   “What of it?” she asked tersely. She had come here for some peace and quiet, not to strike up conversations with strangers.
   Unfortunately, her rude behaviour did nothing to deter the woman.
   “I have the model that was released just before that one,” she announced and took a stance beside Lyra. “I’ve never been terribly great at it, but photography is such an interesting art, isn’t it?” She seemed to remember something and lightly tapped herself on her head. “Oh, how rude of me. My name is Bianca, Bianca Schuler.”
   She looked expectantly at Lyra, clearly waiting for her to introduce herself.
   Lyra begrudgingly obeyed the unspoken request. “Lyra Marquel,” she introduced herself. Before she could enquire what Bianca wanted, the other woman plunged headlong into conversation, chattering about photography and different techniques and flashes and the influence of light on photos and tripods and polarized lenses, and despite herself, Lyra couldn’t help but get pulled into the conversation. It was the first time she had ever met someone who shared her hobby.
   She even showed Bianca some of the photos she had captured. The other woman stared at the photos with awe, apparently amazed by them.
   “Oh wow,” she breathed and gave Lyra a wry grin. “I could never hope to capture anything of this quality. These are amazing.” She paused on a candid shot Lyra had taken of Edwin, her eyes drinking in the details. She seemed to hesitate for a moment, but when she turned her eyes back to Lyra she looked quite determined.
   “I’m getting married next weekend,” she announced, nervously playing with her hands. “I know this is wrong of me to ask, since I’ve only met you and all that, but please, will you be my photographer? I couldn’t find one I liked before and your work is really amazing.”
   Lyra reeled back in surprise, caught completely off-guard by the request. Her, a photographer? Photography was something she did for fun. She definitely wasn’t a professional at it. Heck, she didn’t even have half the equipment professionals did.
   Bianca seemed to read the hesitation in Lyra’s eyes because she suddenly grabbed Lyra’s hands, staring pleadingly into her eyes.
   “Please,” she pleaded earnestly. “Please. You’re really talented. I’ll pay you and everything.”
   “I’m not so sure that’s a good idea,” Lyra tried to protest. “I’m not a professional. It’s just something I do for fun.”
   Again, her protests did nothing to deter Bianca.
   “With your skill and talent you can easily go professional,” Bianca declared enthusiastically. “Please? All it’ll take is an afternoon of your time, and I’ll pay you generously.”
   There was that word again. Pay. Which meant, money. She didn’t exactly need money, as her dad had left her a massive inheritance, but…
   …but she’d be able to register as a photographer and hopefully then her mother will stop hounding her to get a job.
   Maybe this wasn’t such a terrible idea.
   “Fine,” she agreed, “but I won’t be held liable if the photos turn out to be horrible.”
   “Oh, I’m sure they won’t,” Bianca declared with conviction, happy that she’d finally been able to convince Lyra.
   Like Bianca had predicted, the photos turned out to be beautiful. Several of her friends had expressed interest in Lyra’s work as well, and before long Lyra had started to make name for herself as a professional photographer by word of mouth. To be honest, she kind of enjoyed it. She enjoyed the fact that her workhours were random, and far between. It left her with more than enough time to pursue her own life. Best of all though, it finally got her mother off her back about getting a job. Her lack of a job had caused more than one argument between her and her mother.
   She often found herself back at the sea, perfecting the new hobby Edwin had introduced her to.
   There was just something freeing about spending the day amongst the waves and the wind. Edwin occasionally joined her, especially on weekends, but most of the time Lyra was on her own. Edwin had managed to land a job at the Landgraab Science Facility, so the time he had available to spend on his own hobbies had been drastically reduced.
   To be honest, Lyra didn’t mind all that much. She enjoyed spending time with him, but she actually preferred going windsurfing on her own. She normally used the time to clear her mind and sort out her thoughts.
   She still hated Sunset Valley, but she no longer detested it so completely.
   If there was something Edwin had taught her, it was that Sunset Valley had a hidden sense of life she had never noticed before. Yes, the town was stuck in their ways, always following the same old pattern, but at the same time the town was…exciting. It was only now that she had started to socialise with people – made friends – that she realised that the secret to…well, she wouldn’t exactly call it happiness, but tolerance maybe worked just as well, lied in the people living in the town.
   They were the ones who made things exciting. It was something she had never realised before.
   Night had already fallen by the time she finally returned home, the stars twinkling far above her in the warm spring air. The lights were on, but unlike in her childhood, they were no longer that same warm, comforting invitation. If she had to liken it to something, she’d have to choose the stars: distant, and oh so far away.
   When, exactly, had it become such a chore to return home?
   The door was locked when she tried to handle. It meant her mother was out working. It meant that she’d be alone in the silent house, with only ghosts to keep her company – both the ghosts of her past, as well as the one remaining literal ghost named Charlotte.
   It was too much. She simply wasn’t up to spending who knew how long in a house that shouldn’t be silent. Her hand dropped to her side, keys dangling limply in her fingers.
   She didn’t want to be alone tonight.
   She stared at the house in front of her, uncertain whether she should ring the bell or not. It wasn’t the first time she’d been to Edwin’s house, the one he moved into when he moved out of his parents’ house, but it was the first time she kind of invited herself. She wasn’t entirely sure whether she’d be welcome or not. Heck, she hadn’t even called to let him know she was coming.
   But her need to not be alone drove her to action. She pressed the button and the shrill scream of the bell rang through the air and more importantly, through the house, loudly announcing her presence.
   “Just come in, the door’s open,” Edwin’s voice responded from inside the house. Lyra only hesitated a second before she opened the door and walked in. The scene that greeted her was a far cry from the one in her own house, but for some reason she found it infinitely better. Probably because this house wasn’t empty.
   Edwin laid on his couch, his eyes fixed on the football game playing on the TV. A bottle of beer was held loosely in his hand. He lifted his hand in greeting, his eyes still fixed on the game.
   “Money’s on the counter, tip included,” he announced, causing Lyra to blink in confusion. “Just leave the pizza there.”
   “Uhm, I’m not the pizza guy,” Lyra replied. The effect her words had on Edwin was instantaneous. He jumped off the couch, moving faster than Lyra had ever seen him move before. It was almost admirable how he didn’t allow even a single drop to spill out of the bottle he was holding.
   “Lyra. I hadn’t expected to see you,” he addressed her nervously, the tips of his ears tinged with red. She couldn’t help the slight smile tugging at the corners of her lips.
   “I’m not bothering, am I?” she asked hesitantly. He immediately waved her question away.
   “No, no, of course not,” he immediately denied. “I just hadn’t expected you, that’s all. You’re always welcome here.”
   He placed his beer on the coffee table and moved towards her, drawing her into a hug. She gladly reciprocated, warmed by his presence. In the background, the guy on the TV announced a goal scored in the game Edwin had been watching before Lyra had interrupted him.
   The scene was such a far cry from the one that had greeted Lyra at her own house, but she could confidently say that she preferred this one. She hated returning to an empty home.
   “Is something wrong?” Edwin asked her concernedly when she didn’t break from the hug for several seconds. She drew away with a slight smile on her face, her mood already drastically improved.
   “Nothing is wrong,” she assured him. “I just…don’t want to be alone tonight. My mom’s out working and…and the house is a bit silent.” There was no way she could explain the emptiness that somehow filled her house, and the weakness that had driven her to seek solace somewhere else. That explanation would have to do.
   “Well, you’re more than welcome to stay,” Edwin assured her. “I know this place doesn’t look at its best, and I’m afraid dinner is only pizza, but please, stay. I don’t mind at all. We can…uhm, watch a movie, or…”
   Lyra smiled and gave him a kiss, comforted by his words.
   “Pizza and a movie sound wonderful,” she agreed, warmed to the bottom of her heart.
A/N: I’ve discovered the wonders of IP’s water sports, so I apologize for the windsurfing spam. It’s just so pretty to look at!
So, several roll reveals: Primary Career is Freelance Photographer and Generation Goal is Idle Career. The Misc. Fun is Runs In The Family, but because there is still some confusion regarding which generation that roll actually applies to, I decided to just let it apply to both generations. Lyra and her siblings all shared the Virtuoso trait with Chantia, and one of Lyra’s traits will be passed on to the next generation. I still haven’t decided which one though.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Chapter 3.01 - Spitfire

Warning: Generation 3 will contain bad language, nudity, violence, gore etc. hence the mature content warning. I won’t mention it again, so don’t be surprised when it appears. ;)


   “Alright everyone, time is up. Put down your pens.”
   Lyra sighed in relief, glad the exam was over. It was over and done with; she was finally done with school. Of course, she just needed to wait for the results of her exams before she could say it for sure, but she knew she was going to ace all of her classes. Then she could wash her hands off school completely. There was no way in hell she was going to attend university. Of course, she had absolutely no idea just what she was going to do, but she knew university wasn’t going to be part of it. She was done with school.
   Around her, the exam papers were collected and the hall burst into excited chatters. For once, Lyra wasn’t irritated by it. She was done with school. She would no longer need to put up with irritating people picking on her or assholes trying to make a move on her.
   “Freedom at last!” a familiar voice yelled out from right behind her. “Party tonight, at my house! Everyone’s invited!
   Lyra groaned. There went any hope she might’ve had for a calm evening. The person who had announced the party was her science lab partner, Edwin Fenrir. She just knew he was going to hound her until she agreed to attend the party. Sure enough, he leaned on her table, looking at Lyra with excited eyes.
   “You’ll come, won’t you, Spitfire?”
   “Don’t call me that,” Lyra immediately rebuked, scowling. Nobody had the right to use that name. It was the nickname her dad had used to call her by – just like Arienne had been ‘Little Princess’, she had been ‘Spitfire’. It just sounded wrong coming from Edwin.
   “Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Edwin replied, waving the rebuke away. “So tonight, at six, my house. Don’t you dare say you’re not coming.”
   Lyra rolled her eyes in exasperation, but didn’t refuse. It was easier to just agree now than delay the inevitable. Besides, Edwin wasn’t that bad. She could manage to spend one evening with him and his friends. It was better than spending the night alone at home, seeing as her mother was going to be at work in anyway.
   Several hours later, Lyra had to concede that it really wasn’t that bad. The music was good, the food was good, and the drinks were flowing free. She wasn’t going to ask where Edwin had managed to get a juice keg of all things, but she wasn’t exactly complaining. And if his hands started roaming slightly…well, it was about time she started acting her age a bit, wasn’t it?
   It felt good being in the centre of positive attention for a change. Edwin still wasn’t really her friend, and she still knew he only wanted to get in her pants, but tonight she didn’t care. She was so goddamn tired of trying to fix the mess that was her life. It was her turn to be the irresponsible one for a change.
   And since Edwin happened to be quite good at kissing…she wasn’t going to complain.
   Her head was killing her.
   Lyra moaned and buried her head in the pillow, trying to reduce the pain stabbing into her head and eyeballs. It didn’t help much. She scowled and peeked out from the pillow, glaring at the sunlight streaming through the windows. Who gave the sun permission to rise?
   Beside her, another person stirred, wakened by the sunlight. Judging from the way he too was groaning, he wasn’t feeling much better than she was.
   It took several minutes for the clues to connect in Lyra’s mind, causing the memories of last night’s events to stream back into her mind. Her eyes flew open, causing hot pain to stab into her brain and causing to her groan again.
   Stupid sun. Stupid juice. And stupid Edwin, for forcing her to attend the stupid party. She was never going to go near juice again. Her entire body was sore.
   …Then again, that probably wasn’t the juice, was it? If it had been she wouldn’t be lying on a bed. Naked. With Edwin. Who was also naked. And she definitely wouldn’t have the memories of why they were both naked.
   Stupid, stupid, stupid. She had to get out of there before Edwin woke up completely. She was not ready to face him.
   “Ugh, my head is killing me.”
   …And of course she couldn’t be that lucky.
   Edwin blinked blearily at her before a goofy grin split his face, causing the scowl on Lyra’s face to deepen. He clearly also remembered the events of last night. Or maybe he was just grinning like a loon because she was still very much naked. She scowled and covered her breasts with her arm, looking for her clothes. The quicker she got dressed and out of there, the better.
   “Morning, Spitfire,” Edwin interrupted her musings, still grinning like the idiot he was. The familiar nickname falling from his lips caused Lyra to see red. She was not going to allow him to defile that name.
   She grabbed the thing closest to her and threw it at him with all her might. ‘It’ happened to be her phone, and it hit him with force, bouncing off of his forehead before clattering to the floor, leaving an angry red welt on his forehead.
   “Don’t call me that,” she growled venomously, her eyes glaring daggers at him. He had started swearing up a storm when the phone hit him, but she ignored him completely, getting dressed instead. He was still swearing by the time she left the room without a backwards glance. She didn’t even bother to retrieve her phone. It wasn’t like she used the damn thing much in anyway.
   To her relief, her mother wasn’t home when she arrived at their house. She had no desire to listen to her mom’s lectures right now. She went straight to the shower, feeling dirty and defiled. Sure, she had been more than willing last night, but now she just felt disgusted with herself. She scrubbed herself as hard as she could, but she didn’t feel much cleaner.
   …And gods, did they even use protection? She couldn’t remember. She remembered kissing and groping and…and yeah, no protection. They had both been too juiced to even think about it.
   She groaned and rested her forehead against the shower wall. She hated her life.
   She really, really hoped she wasn’t pregnant. She wasn’t ready for a child, much less one that was the result of a juiced one-night stand.
   Lyra spent the rest of the day alone, agonizing over the events of the previous night. The stress over the possibility of being pregnant made her sick to the stomach. The hangover that still didn’t want to go away didn’t help much either.
   Her mother didn’t come home until early the next morning. Lyra wasn’t planning on being present when her mom returned, unwilling to listen to the lecture she knew was coming, but she couldn’t sleep. She was in the kitchen, making a cup of hot chocolate with the hope that it would help with her insomnia, when her mother returned. She looked tired, and Lyra could see something was bothering her.
   Lyra glanced concernedly at her mother, but didn’t say anything. She was afraid by talking she would set her mom off on the expected lecture. To her surprise, her mother just sighed and sank into a chair.
   “I know you’re expecting me to lecture you, but I won’t,” she announced tiredly. “I don’t have the strength to do it. Not tonight.”
   Well, Lyra thought, I’m sure you’ll have a word or two if you knew I might be pregnant. But she didn’t say it. Her mother clearly had enough things to deal with already. She wasn’t going to load her own issues onto her as well.
   “What happened?” she asked instead, giving her mother the hot chocolate she had just prepared. She looked like she needed it more than Lyra did. Her mother gratefully folded her hands around the cup, soaking up the warmth.
   “Angelica moved on,” she announced sombrely. It made her feel terrible, but Lyra couldn’t help the flash of happiness in her chest at the news. It meant there was one less ghost she had to deal with.
   “She was waiting for her husband to return to her before she could move on,” her mother continued, oblivious to the happiness Lyra felt. “Tonight he did. Turns out he’s been wandering the world, looking for her, and tonight he finally found her. They moved on together.”
   Lyra didn’t know how to respond to that. She had never been close to the ghosts, so it was rather difficult for her to understand her mother’s melancholy.
   Her mother sighed again and buried her head in her arms. It was several moments before she spoke again, and when she did, her words caused Lyra to feel even worse.
   “I miss your dad,” her mother whispered softly. Lyra’s hands stilled from where she was making a second cup of hot chocolate; one to replace the cup she had given her mother. She too missed her dad; more than anything. It had already been two years, but Lyra still missed him every day. Desperate to change the subject, she asked the first question that popped into her mind:
   “When is the soonest a person can take a pregnancy test?”
   …And that wasn’t really what she wanted to say.
The question caused her mother to raise her head again, looking at her with an enquiring stare.
   “…Depends on the sensitivity of the test,” her mother answered after several long and silent seconds. “And why are you asking? Do I need to worry about something?”
   Lyra clamped her mouth shut, unwilling to answer and place herself even deeper into trouble, but her silence did it for her.
   “…You think you’re pregnant,” her mother stated incredulously.
   “No, I’m just saying that…I might…be…you know,” Lyra hedged uncertainly. She really didn’t want to have this discussion with her mother. Her mother rested her head in her hand, a bemused expression on her face.
   “I wasn’t even aware you’re seeing somebody,” she replied bemusedly. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
   “Because I’m not,” Lyra answered, realising the cat was out of the bag, and nothing she said would put it back in. “Seeing someone, that is.”
   Silence fell between them at that confession. Lyra closed her eyes, bracing herself for the lecture she knew was coming, but her mother surprised her once more.
   “Hmm. Really now,” her mom responded mildly and mercifully let the subject drop, choosing instead to answer the original question. “It really does depend on the sensitivity of the test. The more sensitive tests can be used seven days after conception, but it won’t always give you an accurate result. It’s usually better to wait a little longer.”
   “Right,” Lyra replied, her stomach dropping to her shoes. So it was going to be at least a week before she knew for sure. Hopefully it would result in nothing, but she couldn’t help the sick feeling in her stomach.
   She really, really didn’t want a child.
   “What are you doing here?” Lyra scowled at her visitor, definitely not in the mood to talk to him. He was the absolute last person she wanted to see.
   “You forgot your phone,” Edwin announced and offered her the small device in his hand, looking as uncomfortable as Lyra felt. “And we need to talk. About…that.”
   “Yes, that,” Lyra agreed sarcastically, making absolutely no move to take her phone. She knew that if she took it she would throw it at him again. Then Edwin opened his mouth again and Lyra wished she had taken her phone. Only so she could throw it again.
   “Look, it shouldn’t have happened, okay?” Edwin declared frankly. “We were both juiced and not in the right frame of mind. It was a terrible mistake and I’m…really…sorry…” Something in her eyes must’ve warned him to stop talking, because he suddenly trailed off, looking at her with apprehensive eyes.
   Lyra had no idea what kind of expression was on her face, but she knew that if she had had a knife in her hand, she would’ve stabbed him. Repeatedly.
   “Who would want to have anything meaningful with an ass like you?” Lyra retorted, irritated beyond belief. She did not want to deal with this shit right now. She was tired, cranky, stressed and frankly, the less she had to do with the ass in front of her the better. She couldn’t be pregnant; not with this idiot’s child. Then again, as her luck had it, she probably was. Only because Life decided fuck you.
   “Believe me, Edwin,” she continued, “I’m well aware that it meant nothing. If I wasn’t out of my mind with juice there would’ve been no way in hell I would’ve slept with you. So do my favour and go away.” She turned on her heel, trying to get away from him, but he suddenly grabbed her arm, preventing her from going any further.
   “That’s not what I meant,” he protested pleadingly. “What I meant was…” He sighed and released her arm, choosing instead to sweep his hand through his hair. Lyra crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow at him, waiting to see how much deeper he was going to dig the hole he was putting himself in.
   She honestly didn’t expect what followed.
   “I really like you, okay?” Edwin stated. “I’ve liked you for a long time now. You’re amazing and stunningly gorgeous, especially when you laugh. I’ve wanted to ask you if you wanted to go on a date with me since forever, but then last night happened and I’m really, really sorry about it. This isn’t exactly what I wanted to happen.”
   Lyra blinked, caught completely off-guard. Edwin liked her? She had no idea how to reply to that. Nobody had ever liked her in a romantic way. There was a reason her classmates referred to her as the Ice Bitch. She simply couldn’t wrap her mind around it.
   The seconds slipped away as Lyra stared at Edwin, struck completely silent. He shifted awkwardly, clearly waiting for her to break the silence and give him some kind of response.
   “You…” she croaked. She cleared her throat and tried again. “You like me?”
   He nodded. “I do. I have ever since we first partnered up for science.”
   “Oh,” was her eloquent response.
   She honestly didn’t know how to feel about it. To be honest, she hadn’t ever really thought about dating before. Well, she had thought of it in passing, but never seriously. Dating was something other people did; not her. She had had enough other shit to deal with. Still…
   “Well,” Edwin said, disrupting her thoughts. “I guess I should I go. I just really wanted to say I’m sorry.” With that he shoved her phone into her hand and turned around, stalking away from her. She could see the tips of his ears burning red.
   He was several paces away from her before she finally spoke her mind.
   “You know, I wouldn’t be too averse,” she stated, drawing his attention back to her. “About…going on that date.” There, she said it. She could feel her face burning with embarrassment. She couldn’t believe she was seriously considering it. But…well, she had to start sometime, didn’t she?
   And Edwin was a very good kisser.
   She couldn’t believe she was actually going to do this.
   What had she been thinking, agreeing to go on a date? What were they going to do? What were they going to talk about? She had no idea what people usually did on a date. She knew from movies there were usually some kind of dinner involved where both parties subtly flirted with each other over the table, but she had no idea if that actually happened or not. And again, what were they going to talk about? She didn’t know him that well.
   At least she didn’t have to worry about the possibility of being pregnant anymore. Nature had rather kindly informed her that she didn’t need to worry about it.
   The doorbell ringing alerted her to the fact that she had ran out of time. It was time to face the music.
   …Why had she agreed to this again?
   “Uh, hi,” Edwin greeted her the moment she opened the door, awkwardly offering her the bouquet of flowers in his hand. She took it, a little embarrassed, but at the same time, a little flattered. She wasn’t really that fond of flowers, but she appreciated the gesture all the same.
   “Uhm, thanks,” she replied. He smiled at her and offered her his arm, clearly inviting her to get the date started.
   The date…wasn’t exactly what she had been expecting. She had expected something like…a movie, followed by dinner. Instead, Edwin took her to a secluded viewpoint looking out over the ocean. The sun was just setting in the distance, throwing its last flickering rays dancing across the water.
   She had to admit, it was a stunning view.
   “I know this isn’t a typical thing to do on a first date,” Edwin announced, rubbing the back of his neck, that same embarrassed red colouring the tips of his ears, “but, well, I wanted to do something different.” He gestured towards the picnic basket, inviting her to take a seat.
   “Different is good,” she agreed absently, still enchanted by the view.
   The date continued until long in the night. The food Edwin had packed was quite good (not quite the quality of her mother’s food, but still good nonetheless) and the nectar he had chosen was surprisingly sweet and light. She rather liked it.
   To her surprise, they managed to keep the conversation flowing. They talked about their favourite things and hobbies, they gossiped about people they both knew from school and they told each other anecdotes and stories they had heard somewhere or another, accompanied only by the sound of the waves breaking far below them on the rocks.
   It was different from what she had expected, but she really didn’t mind.
   “I’ll admit, this isn’t exactly what I expected of tonight,” she admitted during a slight lull in the conversation. “But I like it. I’ve always enjoyed watching the sun set over the ocean. There’s just something calming about listening to the waves.” She took a sip of nectar from the glass in her hand, her thoughts far away.
   She always had enjoyed watching out over the sea. She hated Sunset Valley with a passion – she couldn’t stand the way the town was stagnating, too caught up in stereotypes and tradition – but even she had to admit, its oceans were gorgeous. Still, gorgeous oceans didn’t make up for everything that had happened in the town; for all the shit she had had to go through.
   “Yeah,” Edwin agreed, his eyes joining hers in looking over the ocean. “And of course, Sunset Valley has the best views. I honestly can’t imagine living anywhere else.”
   His words made Lyra still. The way he had said it…it was clear he harboured a lot of love for Sunset Valley. It was something that mystified her slightly. How could anybody love this godforsaken town? Were the people around her honestly that blind to the town’s faults?
   “I can,” she contradicted him. “Very easily.”
   “Oh,” he replied and looked away from her, allowing his eyes to drift over the ocean again.
   Silence fell between them, broken only by the waves sounding in the distance. For the first time that night, the silence was slightly uncomfortable.
   “Is it…because of what happened in the winter season?” Edwin asked hesitantly after several minutes. “With your father, I mean.”
   Lyra knocked her head back, downing the rest of the nectar in her glass. This was one topic she did not want to talk about.
   She wasn’t surprised he knew about it. Everybody in the damn town knew about it. The gossip about the events from that night had spread faster than a wildfire did through Appaloosa Plains during the dry season, and everyone had been shocked about it; lamenting the loss of such a great writer. Lyra was just glad nobody had come to their house to offer their condolences. Seemed like living in a known haunted house had some benefits.
   “As a matter of fact, no. It’s not. And what happened to my father has nothing to do with you,” she replied tersely.
   Edwin raised his hands in defence, trying to alleviate her anger.
   “Okay, I’m sorry. Let’s talk about something else instead,” he suggested. Lyra exhaled, trying to rein her temper in a bit. She allowed her tense muscles to relax marginally, choosing to pour herself another glass of nectar instead of continuing the argument.
   “So what do you have against the name ‘Spitfire’ in anyway?”
   …And of course the topic hadn’t really changed.
   “Nothing,” she replied curtly. “I just don’t like it when people call me that.”
   Somehow, Edwin managed to miss the warning signs, as he actually went and continued the topic.
   “Why not? I think it fits you pretty well,” he asked curiously, a slightly amused look on his face.
   “Yes, well, so did my dad.” The moment she said that she averted her eyes, immediately wishing she hadn’t said it. It was too personal. And she didn’t want to talk about her dad, or anything connected to him.
   Edwin drew in a sharp breath at that revelation.
   “Shit, Lyra, I’m sorry,” he immediately apologised, but the damage was already done. What had been a pleasant evening had been ruined by his inability to take a hint.
   She stood up, more than ready to end this farce.
   “You know what, Edwin, I don’t think this is going to work out,” she informed him irritably. She didn’t want to deal with this disaster of a date any further. “Please, just take me home.”
   The despondent expression on his face was almost enough to make her take back her request, but she stubbornly ignored it. He packed up the picnic and before long, they were on their way back to her house.
   The ride back was extremely uncomfortable; an awkward silence hanging between them. Lyra considered breaking the silence several times, but in the end, her pride always stopped her.
   She was beyond glad when they finally arrived at her house. She didn’t wait for him to do the whole chivalry thing, choosing instead to open her own door and stalk towards the house. Edwin followed her dejectedly, half a step behind her.
   She was about to storm into the house, desperate to get away from him, but she made the mistake of glancing at him for a second. He looked so much like a kicked puppy at that moment that she couldn’t get it over to heart to leave him without at least saying something to him.
   “Thank you for tonight,” she told him with a sigh. Sure, the date had ended a failure, but she would be lying if she said she hadn’t enjoyed at least a bit of it. She had actually enjoyed his company before that disastrous topic. Sure, he was a bit cocky and arrogant, but he had managed to make her laugh and smile. She couldn’t remember the last time she did so. “It wasn’t…entirely horrible.”
   The expression on his face was like the sun rising. His expression fell slightly after the initial shock of her words wore off and he shifted his weight, clearly wanting to say something. Lyra patiently waited for him, slightly bemused by his behaviour. He really was acting just like a puppy.
   “Then, would you, maybe, like, be up for another date?” he stammered nervously. “Like, when you’re ready.”
   In response, she did something she had never in a hundred lifetimes thought she’d do. She stood on the tips of her toes and placed her lips on his in a soft kiss. It took him a moment to respond, clearly caught by surprise, but when he did he reminded Lyra just how much of a good kisser he was.
   “I wouldn’t mind,” she answered his question when they finally broke the kiss, “but not too soon. I’ll call you.”
   She flashed him an impish smile and disappeared into the house, leaving him standing alone on the porch.
AN: …And generation 3 starts off with a bang. XD To be honest, this isn’t quite how I planned this chapter to go, but Edwin insisted on his date, so…he got his date. It was supposed to be a nice date. Then Lyra absolutely insisted on making a failure of it. I’m starting to doubt that Lyra is actually capable of having a conversation without having a fight somewhere during the course of it. I’m really enjoying her. She’s fun to write.
Oh yeah, I got tired of censoring things, so I decided to use the adult content warning from this generation onwards. Lyra’s words and actions aren’t exactly child-friendly.