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.