Slight retooling and an extra section to Black and White or whatever I called it when I first put it up like a year ago. Point of this is to try to get back into writing a bit. As usual. CnC if you feel like it. Jiku Neon, away! 1-1 Spoiler In the middle of the sunlit hallway two students faced each other down amid the halted tide of onlookers. A thin bespectacled boy with short, dark brown, hair and matching eyes and a girl with light brown hair held in place with several clips and unrelenting, almost electric blue, eyes stuck out in the mess as the epicenter of the commotion. “No, I don’t want to go with you. Get it through your thick head already.” The girl shouted fiercely stamping her foot as she did so. She looked on the verge of hauling off and attacking the bewildered looking boy opposite her but she did not. She merely gesticulated with agitation and anger causing her short black skirt to flip about and sweep over her legs beneath her pastel pink hooded sweater. “I’m just confused is all I’m trying to say, you know listening would be a bit helpful on your part.” He tried to sound reasonable but couldn’t conceal the emotion in his voice. “No more of this ‘we’ stuff. I said I’d consider it and then turned you down, end of story. I don’t even want to look at you, Needy.” The girl continued her invective without missing a beat or showing the slightest bit of remorse or pity. “Erica.” The boy replied softly. He made several attempts to convince the girl to change the venue of their conversation; to most watching it was impossible to tell what he was doing. He reached out and caught hold of her sleeve in a gentle attempt to draw her back, only to have his hand forcefully removed with a quick swipe of hers. “Don’t use my name anymore you clingy freak!” Her voice was sharp and almost chilling as her eyes as she glared at him intensely. Suddenly she turned and began shoving people out of her way as she left the boy staring off in a daze as if he didn’t quite understand what had just happened. “Erica!” He called after her, angrily, as she pushed through the bewildered crowd as harshly and roughly as she‘d handled the boy behind her. “Loser.” She muttered to herself as she walked on. Soon the crowd was left behind her some still in shock at the turn of events, some just lacking of a better activity to turn to at the end of the school day. Either way it went Erica just kept on walking; anything to distance her from the confused, angry, and, by now, probably spiteful creature that once wanted to call itself her boyfriend. At the end of the hall she pushed open the heavy institutional metal doors and walked into the sunbathed walk between the two sides of the campus. “Come on, I go out with these guys less than twice and they think that there’s reason for us to act like more than strangers. Then they keep acting like they made a connection and I wasn’t just in it to get something out of them.” Suddenly a familiar voice pulled the girl from her internal monologue. “Hey--” A girl wearing a tasteful sky blue sundress and sporting electric blue hair even more piercing than Erica’s eyes appeared from behind one of the concrete pillars lining the outdoor walkway. “Not interested, just came off a bad breakup.” Erica replied sarcastically. “Stop lying. You love hurting those boys.” Said the blue haired girl with a winning smile. She skipped along beside her companion for several moments before she got a response. “I can’t say it isn’t funny, but in the end I must have a reason for it Fred, otherwise I wouldn’t do it.” “Lemme guess, ‘He’s not the guy that’ll get me all the stuff I want?’” Frederica chuckled. “No…” Erica muttered distractedly. “Whatever Ere. I’ve got practice, now behave yourself while I‘m gone.” Frederica bid her farewells rather ostentatiously before making an equally showy exit. “Later Fred.” Erica waved lukewarmly. Several seconds later she couldn’t help but burst out, “Damn, Frederica’s such a hypocrite about this, going and telling me that there’s something wrong with me when she does practically the same thing. Jeez.” Suddenly a familiar ring tone called her attention away from her fuming and to the device resting in her pocket. “Hello.” The voice on the other end was cool and deep, probably an older male in his forties. Erica did not respond to the strange voice and merely kept her breath stilled and listened closely until the voice continued without losing a step. “I assure this is neither a prank nor a solicitation. We are calling you to inform you that you’ve won the chance of a lifetime--” The phone snapped shut and returned to its place in her pocket. “This is bull.” Erica grumbled to herself. She continued walking in the warm afternoon sun. There was another call not two seconds later. “Come claim your prize at the following location…” The phone snapped shut again and a third call did not come. “Who’d actually go?” ----- “Hi.” Erica’s mother was in the earliest part of her forties and lived separate and estranged from her legal husband with whom she’d been married for seventeen years. The two had separated earlier that year and moved to different cities in order to stay away from each other. Her father moved miles and miles away, the only reason Erica knew he was still alive was the check he sent every month to cover what he felt was necessary to replace him. Her mother on the other hand moved to the closest city, not more than ten miles from their old house and set up there like nothing had happened, like she’d always been a single mother. Erica never knew the exact reasons; she only knew that she was with her mother because her father didn’t put up a fight when she expressed a desire to stay in the same school. Every time that she met either of them Erica couldn’t help but feel that they had only married and were only separated because neither one had the slightest bit of a sense of self control. The upshot of it all to her was that it was why she went from living in a large house in the suburbs to a small apartment in the city. “Hey Mom.” “You’re back early.” The brown haired woman observed. “I have nothing better to do, sorry to disappoint.” Erica bantered as she watched her mother looking over bills through a pair of new reading glasses. “It’s nice to see you sometimes.” The woman replied without looking up. “I’ll only be around during those times then.” Erica answered with a scoff and with that she was off to the kitchen where she found a dismal lack of nourishment. She looked over at the woman she’d been living with and started violently when she suddenly picked up the thread of conversation again. “You know what I mean.” “I assure you I don’t if I said anything wrong before.” Erica almost made a face but managed to suppress the urge and sat down at the table with a chair between herself and her mother. “Sure.” The older woman replied sarcastically as she threw a sneaky look out of the corner of her eye. “So you need anything?” Erica asked. “You could get the clothes washed while you’re being such a dutiful child.” The woman said without hesitation. “So now that we finally have quality time to spend with each other you‘d rather send me out on some errand?” Erica argued knowing what was to come already. “You’ll have to grow up eventually and I have to be going myself, so you need something to keep yourself occupied with.” With those final words the reading glasses were off and so was her mother. In less than five seconds the brown haired woman was packed to go and out the door. “Got it.” Erica said to the closed door as she sat leaning on the table. It was a common practice for her mother to leave for her second job at about this time in the afternoon. Part of the reason why Erica’s father and mother never got along was because of her mother’s insistence on holding multiple jobs at once. The lack of quality time that Erica jested about had more truth to it than she’d have liked. Erica finally decided to get all of her chores and obligations cleared before her mother came home early the next morning. First she carried all of the laundry down the street to the Laundromat, washed and dried it and began her burdened walk home several hours later. It wasn’t until this return trip that she encountered any complications in her schedule. Just as she turned the final corner and entered the last block back to her home she saw a familiar and unwelcome face. The face was an attractive one, framed by raven hair and accented with golden brown eyes and it belonged to the last boy that Erica had broken ties with before that morning. “Hey did you…” He started to speak to the girl but trailed off when he realized that what he saw was Erica lugging around a sack full of clothes. She dropped the bag where she was and jabbed her finger in his face and scowled angrily. “Get out of my face, first Needy now Creepy, what did I do to deserve all this crap?” She practically shouted at him from only a few inches away. “You were the one who accepted--” When he began to speak again Erica clicked her tongue in agitation and grasped his collar firmly. “Then I deliberately, very clearly and rudely crushed all hopes of more interaction between us. Or did I mess that up?” She said, bringing her face closer and raising her voice louder with every word. “I wouldn’t--” He began indignantly. “Let’s make this as painfully clear as possible. I hate you. I never liked you. I only ever wanted to go out with you because you were popular and free. Now that I’ve had that fleeting wish fulfilled, I never want to see your face again if I can possibly avoid it.” She suddenly let him go or, rather, she pushed him away and turned to pick up her load. “You’re gonna die alone if you treat everyone like this.” The boy replied as spitefully as he could manage. He looked to be on the verge of snapping at her furiously even as he spoke, but he remained the gentleman and kept his tone and hands where they were. “I’ve lived alone, that is all that follows. Now, away before I call the police or something.” She said shooing him like he was an insect. “Whatever, have a nice life alone.” He smirked and gave mock salute and then he was gone. Once she was sure he was out of earshot Erica spoke again. “I’ll be sure to do that.” ----- “Live alone?” The smooth firm voice sounded familiar, but Erica couldn’t place the face that went along with it at all. The man that was speaking to her looked to be in his thirties or forties and dressed himself in a pure black suit with the characteristic butler’s coattails. He surely wasn’t anyone she’d met, but it was someone she’d heard. Either way he was standing between her and the path to her home and Erica didn’t like that, his sudden question or anything about him. “I‘ll scream.” She threatened as she backed away with her grip on the grocery bags loosened, ready to ditch them and run. “We”, He said, disregarding her and advancing further. “Mean anything to you?” “Might as well mean you”, Erica scowled and readied herself to kick the man as hard as possible when suddenly he hopped back, shifted his gaze to the half moon above them and began speaking dramatically. “We are all but cells within a single body and yet we all aspire to be greater than the sum of its parts.” He stole a glance back at the girl with dazzled eyes and a slightly breathless sigh. In response she continued to scowl. “Not interested”, Erica insisted, still ready to fight. The man simply laughed and withdrew a single object from his lapel pocket, it was small and coin shaped, hardly distinguishable from any ordinary quarter at that distance. “But you are, I assure you, which is why I present you with this Emblematic Token.” With that he pressed the quarter sized disc into her hand and closed her fingers over it with a polite smile. “Do with it as you choose, the time limit, though, is seven days, now then I shall take my leave as a representative of the Netherworld Casino and Hotel.” Erica opened her hand again and without fully dropping her gaze to look at it fingered the poker chip she’d been handed. It was smooth and cool on one face but on the other face it was warm as if it had been lying on a stove and had an engraving of some grotesquely devilish figure across its surface. It inspired a certain feeling, no, it impressed itself upon her being more as a sensibility than a distinct feeling, like something acquired over a period of time that only becomes clear and visible when put under the right light. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good, that much she could be sure of. Still she couldn’t bring herself to just hurl the disc back at the man. “Not interested…” She said even though she knew the strange man had left long ago. Erica walked soberly the rest of the way back to her apartment after the incident. She wasn’t sure what had happened or what she could do about it, it had unsettled her down to her very core. It made her nervous and anxious just to think of it. Just as she reached her front door she ran into the worst possible person. “Oh hey. Erica, it’s been awhile.” It was another boy, the only perceivable difference was that being near this one always gave her headaches. Just seeing him looking down at her from seven inches up through his amber eyes was enough to make her sick. “I’ve been busy, Hughes, and I suppose you have been too.” Erica dropped her eyes to the side and bowed her head slightly, anyone else may have seen this as somewhat shy, maybe even demure, but her neighbor simply smiled and played along. “How formal of you; still, I can’t say you’re wrong. So how has the being busy thing been going for you?” As he spoke he leaned down to her side to get a look at her face, which by this point was beginning to get red. “As well as can be expected”, She said continuing to avoid eye contact as he got closer. Suddenly she jerked away and stepped back, her head was pounding, her throat felt dry, everything was going wrong this time. “Are you alright?” He took a step back himself and tried his best to sound soothing. “I’d better be getting inside.” She held up her grocery bags, both as an excuse and a way to cover her face. “I’ll see you later, I guess.” She was already gone but he stood next to the closed door just long enough to say, “Yeah, we should meet up sometime. Erica.” As she stood listening with her body pressed up against the door Erica breathed a single word. “No.” 1-2 Spoiler The next day Erica felt entirely at a loss. Everything that wasn’t going her way was calling attention to itself at once and nothing was going her way. So she decided to take a personal day and sleep through her 3rd period World History class in the hopes that there would be some respite in the dreamless unconsciousness of midday dozing. “Hey.” Frederica pushed her face in front of Erica’s before repeating herself and poking her friend repeatedly and arousing her from her half upright doze. “Hey Ere, you’ve been pretty zoned out recently. I mean I know that it’s been boring since you stopped breaking toys, but it’s no reason to act like there’s nothing going on out here.” “Shut up. I was thinking.” Erica answered almost angrily as she lifted her forehead off of her hand and rested her chin in its place. She hadn’t really been thinking of anything in particular but it was more than slightly irritated that Frederica knew it too. “Of what?” Federica pried, knowing she’d eventually crack the oddly persistent nut that was Erica. “Of things.” The other girl tried to be dismissive and aloof but only ended up sounding even more annoyed. “Of what things in particular?” “Toys partly, since you brought them up anyways.” Erica sighed. It wouldn’t do anything to avoid Frederica, she’d just persist longer and make a general nuisance of herself. “Finally gonna kick the habit for good?” The blue haired girl smiled brightly. “Yeah.” Erica turned her head away to look out the window. Was that really her plan? “Why’s that?” “No idea.” Then it came to her. “I probably couldn’t pull it off again anyways. Needy, Creepy, and the rest are sure to tell everyone about what a bad person I am now that I‘ve shown my ugly ways in public and they have credibility.” It was a good idea to stop after all. “There’s a limit to how stupid people can be you know. So are you seeing why it was such silly thing to do to begin with?” Frederica smiled and shook her head with the look of a teacher showing a child the folly of trying to add two and two into eight. “No. I don’t regret it. It’s definitely better this way.” Erica shook her head. As she thought about it, it did make more sense to cast herself in the role of the villain. A repulsive and evil being wouldn‘t have to worry about what people thought, a unanimous vote of detestation or an ignorant ambivalence, either way there was no one to please. “I don’t see how making yourself public enemy number on does anything to help your situation. You should be apologizing and trying to cut losses.” Frederica sighed with exasperation. “What situation am I in where I’d be losing so much?” Erica retorted. “You should know.” “That doesn’t really help me.” Talking to Frederica always had one of two effects. On the one hand it was common for her to make everything seem cheerier and at the very least better than it is, but in cases like this one she proved to only accentuate every wrong with Erica’s life and display them like an exhibition. “It should, I haven’t said anything about it until now out of respect for your privacy but you don’t seem to like keeping it to yourself either. I really think you shouldn’t let what happened between you and that guy effect you so much.” She took up a tone similar to Erica’s as she spoke. Now everything was laid bare and neither one seemed to like it. “I am supposed to just go on like nothing happened then?” Erica burst out suddenly. There were other people around, but she didn’t care anymore. They could listen if they wanted to, talk about it even, it made no difference to her what anyone thought or said. She was fine with being cast as anything so long as it wasn’t herself. “Then I am supposed to pretend that everything is just like before?” “That might not be the best thing…” Frederica didn’t know what to say to it, when it came down to the main point, no one knew what to say, that’s why they had avoided it so long. “Then what would be? I’m open to suggestions here but all I seem to ever get from anyone is, ‘Try something else.’ That’s not helpful Fred; it’s really not helpful.” “I’m really sorry but that’s all I can say. I don‘t really know what‘s best and I don‘t want to make things worse…” “Neither do I.” “That’s why you’ve got to keep on trying right?” “It’s all anyone could do I guess.” Suddenly the girl pushed herself up from her seat and cast a glance towards the door. “Now I feel depressed, I knew talking to you was a mistake.” “You don’t really feel that way, do you?” Erica didn’t respond, she only walked slowly to the door. She wanted to look back but she had nothing to say. No answer, no remark, nothing at all. The girl wasn’t ready to have this conversation again, no matter what she did it all came down to the same thing: she wasn’t moving on. She wanted to, she had to, and yet the situation remained static. Whether she went home, went to sleep, woke up, and did it all over again everything would be the same unless she did something. So she went home as she did every day. ----- Erica felt the vibrating in her pocket long before the ring tone sounded and withdrew the small device from its place just long enough to see the familiar number of the solicitor that sent to butler to her and hang up on the call. “Another call from them?” She grimaced, her day thus far hadn’t been anything short of terrible and having so much of a reminder to look forward to made it all the worse. In the pit of her stomach she could feel the same uneasiness begin to grow again. The feeling didn’t go away either. As she walked home each step felt like it got heavier with nervousness and stress. Suddenly, she heard someone behind her. She made a quick turn to see who was there and stopped dead for a moment. “Hey, Erica.” It was her neighbor again, only this time he was walking beside his girlfriend. “Hi Justin. Hi Kira.” Erica responded quickly as she could. “So how are you doing?” Justin asked. He looked concerned, but he always looked concerned about everyone; it wasn’t anything special to have him worry. The special thing was when he wasn’t somehow concerned. “Fine.” She answered tersely. “I heard you broke up with another guy. Was he too slow to keep up with you, Spartan girl?” Kira chimed in happily. Erica didn’t like Kira. There were several reasons for this but at this point Erica just didn’t like her sense of humor at all. “Nothing like that.” She answered softly. “Then what was it like?” Kira persisted. No one was going to give up without a fight today it seemed to Erica. “I had personal problems, alright?” Erica only barely kept herself from snapping at the girl but she did manage to keep at least a civil tone. Kira merely shrugged it off and bounced to another topic at her whim. “Alright. Well, me and Justin were just going to grab a bite and we’d be glad to have you along.” She said it, but Erica couldn’t tell if she was trying to be earnest or facetious with her offer. “I’m sorry but I have other things to do right now.” She finally decided that whether she knew what Kira meant by it the result would be the same so it would be the best thing to stay away from those two. “Would you like to meet up another time? I feel like I haven’t seen you at all since summer ended.” “Quit fucking around you dumb bitch! You know that I don‘t want to see you of all people ever again!” was what Erica wanted to say to the girl, but she knew nothing would come of losing her temper at Kira. It was entirely possible that she was trying to make peace with her. “Yeah, I’d really like that.” Erica forced a smile and said her farewells with an apologetic air. “I really do have to go. Have fun guys.” “You’ll have fun with us too later right?” Kira asked playfully. “Yes.” Erica replied through clenched teeth. As soon as they’d appeared the two were off and away. Erica wanted to heave a sigh of relief, but she wasn’t relieved at all, she just felt everything that she’d held back pressing against the inside of her chest and nearly threw up right on the spot. Soon the feeling passed though; everything passed by rather quickly recently Erica thought to herself. “It can’t be helped.” She said aloud to reaffirm her own feelings. Then she shook her head and continued on her way back home. Everything seemed like it as getting back to business as usual, which was a reason to be relieved for Erica, but then Kira and Justin came back into view. It was just out of the corner of her eyed but Erica could easily tell it was the two of them holding hands and laughing together. It wasn’t an unusual sight since they started going out, Erica knew and acknowledged this, but it was still slightly perturbing to see them. The thing that Erica hated to see most was when they kissed. Though it shouldn’t have seemed any more unnatural than anything else Erica could help but clench her fists and run off as fast as she could when she saw it, she didn’t care where or how long it would take to get there as long as it wasn’t anywhere near them. So she ran. She ran for what seemed like hours, past her home, past the familiar stretch of city, on she ran until she could hardly take in a breath. Then she came to rest in the alley just outside some of the more upscale apartments. “I’m disgusting.” Erica grit her teeth and blinked back tears as she pressed her body against the alley wall in a feeble attempt to balance herself. “I’m so utterly disgusting.” She finally broke down and began to sob and slip slowly down the wall until she was on her knees with head in her hands. “I’m so completely and irrevocably disgusting.” She knew that she shouldn’t break down over nothing, she knew it in her head, but at the same time her body wouldn’t accept it. Her chest felt heavy, like a great mass was drawing in every ounce of her being and collapsing her body from the inside. Her head wouldn’t stop aching and pounding with the pointless rush of blood from her quickly beating heart. Worst of all, her arms and legs wouldn’t move anymore, no matter how hard she tried to get up and run home, she couldn’t muster up any strength at all. Soon after she‘d begun, her tears dried and her sobbing died down. Even after that she began to laugh at herself; at her own weakness and absurdity. But none of it made her feel any better. “No wonder he can’t accept me, I’m just worthless.” For what felt like hours Erica sat there, curled up in a ball and hoping that she’d disappear. Eventually, after it sank in that there was no hope of that she would simply disappear, Erica got to her feet and brushed herself off. It was close to getting dark by then and probably any other place would have been dangerous. The girl swept her brown hair out of her face and dabbed her face for tears, she couldn’t let anyone see this side of her. Not Fred, not Justin, no one should see her like this. When she examined her face in a window it looked tired and slightly bedraggled but not as bad as it had before. The brown haired girl laughed at herself again, it wasn’t worth all of the trouble was it? “I’m really pathetic aren’t I?” She said aloud. It wasn’t as refreshing as she’d thought it would be. Just then her phone rang, this time with a different tone, Fred was calling her. Without thinking she answered. “Hey.” Erica wanted to kick herself the second the words escaped her lips. But there was nothing more to do but press on through the mistakes, like always. So she didn’t hang up or pretend that it was the wrong number, the blue eyed girl just looked around briefly before starting back on her way home. “Where are you?” Fred asked. She was concerned and slightly nervous. “I don’t really know, I made a little mistake and got turned around a while ago, but I think I’m headed in the right direction.” Erica laughed shallowly. If nothing else, the whole thing was a reason to laugh, even if it was at herself, again. “Ere, that’s a big deal. You should try to legit find out where you are.” Fred was still serious, she was perpetually intentionally obtuse and always making Erica guilty for not being a better person. But, now wasn’t the time to care or think it was just the time to walk and talk and laugh along the way. “I’m fine, phone’s have GPS’s in them yeah? If I get too lost you can file a missing persons report and—” “Shut up.” The other girl demanded abruptly. “What, it’s not like—” Erica tried to diffuse her friend before this ended up like the last conversation they had. “Stop lying to me. If you don’t want to talk, then don’t talk. If you do, then say something you actually mean.” The brown haired girl stopped in her tracks, looked around and sighed. “Alright, I’m in a chatty mood so I’ll tell you. I’m about twelve blocks from where I should be this time of day and I was crying out behind some apartments. Pathetic. I should be over this. I should have been over this years ago. I know it and yet… I still act so pathetically.” The brown haired girl waited with bated breath, wondering what kind of bad reaction she’d incited this time. “It’s not pathetic for a person to cry over losing someone they loved.” “Did I even know what love was back then? Do I know what it means now? I have no way of understanding that.” Erica countered quickly, she’d thought this all through while she was stuck in the hospital over the summer, and there was nothing about this that Fred could further illuminate with a few minutes conversation. “You didn’t do anything wrong.” Fred was sounding downcast and apologetic. She was always right and was always sorry for it. “Then why does he feel so indifferent towards me? I could deal with being hated, lots of people hate me. In fact I’d prefer it, because I’d have a better motivation to avoid him.” “No one really hates you, you know?” Now she was being encouraging. “You never answered my question.” The blue eyed girl replied with a bit more edge to her voice than before. “But still, you’re a nice girl and if he is happy with just Kira then it’s his loss then.” “You know that’s a lie. If he’d chosen me out of pity or obligation then he’d regret it until he couldn’t stand it anymore and I’d get rejected that way instead. Kira’s the perfect girl for him—no, that’s not it entirely. It’s more like she’s just better than me, special.” Erica laughed wryly again. She was beginning to recognize her surroundings more and got a certain sense of confidence out of it. “She’s a normal girl just like you or me.” “Right now that might be true, but you know why she’s even come here.” “That doesn’t matter!” She practically shrieked into the phone. Erica merely waited for her friend to finish. “There’s no reason to compare yourself with her based on the opinion of one stupid guy! There is nothing wrong with you!” Erica was silent for a moment afterwards. The longer she fought, the worse it felt and yet she kept doing it for some kind of sick high she got from feeling like she was right for once. “Isn’t it obvious that you’re wrong? People with nothing wrong with them don’t sit around in their rooms sobbing about things like this.” “You can change that can’t you? If you hate it so much.” The blue haired girl insisted. “I don’t know what to do. Trying to build an office without knowing anything about structural engineering is impossible. Trying to make this thing better without knowing how to fix it is impossible.” “You’re over thinking it again.” “How so?” Erica asked. She didn’t have an answer thought out this time. It was something she hadn’t thought about in the hospital. It was something that she’d never considered at all. “It’s a problem that’s only in your head. That means you can fix it if you really want to.“ “Just by trying? Fat chance of that happening. What I need isn’t inspiration, or support, it’s for someone to tell me what I’m supposed to do and where I can go from here.” “I don’t know that.” Fred finally conceded with defeat in her voice. “I know.” Erica replied with a similar tone.